Ethical dilemmas are part and parcel of a PhD. I get it! But sometimes when I sit down and think about my PhD topic, I feel like mine really is fraught with a number of really complicated ethical dilemmas that are built into the fabric of the subject matter.
One of the hardest things for me about a PhD is the lack of concrete achievements. In work there were always things I had to get to someone by a deadline that were either good enough, or they were substandard and needed redone, but shortly after needing to be redone they had to be done. Done done. Similarly with previous studies there were essays and exams, there were things that were final, and there were grades that told me how I was doing. PhDs are different to that.
So this week I have been trying think and read about methods and methodologies, and as per usual when I start a new mini lit review I am confused.
Currently I am working with two research questions:
1. Why do LGBT+ young people have heightened rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviours when compared to their cisgender, heterosexual peers?
2. Does social connectedness, isolation, and broadly a sense of community influence those suicidal thoughts and behaviours, and if so how?
And a kind of whispered third question which goes something like this:
3. What kind of prevention and/or intervention work might help?
Every four weeks I write a mini literature review for my supervisors, they read through it, give me some written feedback, and then we discuss it. It’s been really helpful for getting me to write and research in the way expected in public health (which I had no clue about). Mostly the mini lit reviews have been about me working out what topic I want to focus on, coming to common understandings of topics with my supervisors, and finding away to justify my focus and my definitions. But I am really excited at the moment because I am getting to focus on theory and methods, and starting to think about what I am going to do for my field work.
Sometimes, when I am writing about my topic, I want to be polemic.
I spend most of my days reading about LGBT+ youth suicide. Some days it’s about the prevalence of it, some days it about risk and protective factors, some days it’s about the theories that try to explain it. I am really lucky because I love my project and I really believe that it has the potential to contribute new understanding to a topic super close to my own heart, and so I am really, really committed to it. But, sometimes, I just want to write in capital letters across the page:
This research is important because it is not good enough that LGBT+ young people face disproportionately high rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviours when compared to cishet youths – I am concerned, I want this to improve, and you should too!
But I don’t because that would be unprofessional, and as someone told me the other day ‘you always write for your external examiner’, and I don’t think Prof External Examiner would be very impressed. That is why I have this blog! Continue reading