The PhD journey – life over 3,399 days


On March 29th, 2017 I was awarded my Doctorate of Philosophy from the University of South


Dr David Sweet with my ‘mate’ and special associate supervisor, Dr Nigel Starck.

Australia at the Graduating Ceremony.  The official conferral was in October 2016.  This higher degree research journey had numerous twists and turns, became frustrating, a joy (often in a few hours of each other), was challenging and above all I learnt so much.  I completed the PhD part-time, which prolonged the agony and the pleasure.  Probably the biggest learning curve has been accepting how little I know.  However, that understanding only opens up the options for further challenges in the realm of research.  Following are some of the (edited) highlights and challenges of my epic journey.

The journey

  • 3,399 days from start to completion
  • Started as a two volume Professional Doctorate
  • 83+ versions written
  • Wrote 230,000 words
  • Final version as a PhD is 109,728 words (inc footnotes and Reference List)
  • 52 people interviewed
  • 57 photographs used
  • 798 references
  • 230 other books devoured
  • Thesis examined by one Australian and one Canadian academic

Allied activities

  • 47 sessions with a PhD reading group
  • 6 papers accepted and published
  • 28 presentations delivered
  • 5 international conferences attended and papers presented
  • 182 books added to my own library
  • 2 bureaucratic challenges with the University
  • only spat the dummy a few times


  • 11 undergraduate Courses/Subjects taught
  • 5 Post Grad subjects taught
  • 1 honours supervised student to completion
  • 1 honours student advised to reconsider
  • 7 years teaching off-shore
  • 11 teaching trips to Hong Kong and Singapore
  • Mentored 7 students (2 international)

The Family

  • 2 more grandchildren – 5 in total
  • 4 weddings (3 as the photographer)
  • 2 – 90th birthdays celebrated
  • 1 Golden wedding anniversary celebrated (not mine)
  • 4 deaths, my 2 sisters, 1 brother-in-law, 1 19 year-old nephew
  • 5 hospital admissions for me
  • 10 days in ICU at Modbury hospital
  • 2010 – 7.5 hours of micro-surgery for cancer on my face
  • many other highs and lows of life as well
  • Produced 5 photo-books
  • Completed 10.5 hours of oral history interviews in addition to my PhD interviews

There is life after a PhD

  • Traded a caravan, purchased a Motor Home
  • Reduced teaching to 2-3 subjects
  • Working on 5 research projects
  • Research-Study tour to Berkeley (California), Concordia and Western Universities (Canada) is set for August 2017.

Almost there

About thirty minutes ago I submitted my thesis for examination.  Given the challenge to get this tome submitted before Christmas, ‘blogging’ has been a somewhat  poor relation in the past couple of months.  Marking student assignments, writing, toss in two presentations as well as the thesis, there was little time, or desire left to blog.

I have discovered that submitting a thesis for examination is a challenge as well.  It is a process of bureaucracy, getting it approved firstly by my supervisor(s), soft bound copies printed, paper-work, always the paper-work, filled out and signed and then physically depositing the three copies for examination.  Then it disappears in to the mysterious world of the Graduate Research Centre.

Then sometime later my two examiners will each have a copy posted to them, hopefully early in the new year.  One is here in Adelaide and the other in Canada.  All I know about them is what I have read of their CVs and the recommendation from my associate supervisor.  The reading and grading process can take three months.  The thesis is 90,000 words, plus the reference list, so it is not a short novel to read at leisure.  After the examiners have submitted their grade I then have about six weeks to reply to their comments (and modify the thesis) before it goes the the university academic board for confirmation.  So if all goes well I will be awarded my PhD later in 2016.

As for an update on my other research projects, the blogs will follow shortly.

Monday in Cebu

One of three campuses of the University of Cebu.

One of three campuses of the University of Cebu.

Well plans are just that, never locked in.  I had a day in the downtown area of Cebu and while I could write a few thousand words about this vibrant and interesting place however,  I thought it best to restrict it to my University of Cebu visit.  Not all universities are the same, yet they have commonalities.  Follow this link and experience a little of my day here. (Posted Monday July 13, 2015)

Never far from home

When I travel I love meeting people.  Different cultures, languages, places and nationalities.  Let’s put aside the fact that Europe is a melting pot of peoples from all over the world for a moment.  On the flight into Vienna the flight attendant’s girlfriend was on the same flight and she is from Adelaide.  In Vienna I met a tour guide from Sydney (Hop on Hop off) and his girlfriend is from Adelaide.  I’m assuming that they are different girls.  Today walking back from the Salzburg University I bumped into a guy who is studying at Flinders uni in Adelaide.  I was wearing a UniSA top, which got me entrance into some of the older areas of the university here.

Woman at rest – something different for a campus, which had Theology as a department.

Woman at rest – something different for a campus, which has Theology as a department.

Behind the stone walls and cobble stoned plazas is greenery and coolness conducive to learning.

Behind the stone walls and cobble stoned plazas is greenery and coolness conducive to learning.

Tonight I decided to walk into the cultural area of the city.  Wandering around I picked a cafe come restaurant at random for my dinner.  I had a choice of two seats, one next to a rather pretty young woman and the other was next to a young couple.  I have a suspicious nature.  Especially after a big smile.  An older guy, by himself, and a young woman almost too happy to see you.  I chose the couple.

The first twenty minutes or so, I could hear the couple chatting away and obviously they were also from Australia.  After some quick introductions, Skye and John are from Adelaide.  Skye teaches at Grange Primary, where my sister worked for many years.  John’s father is a retired South Australian Police officer.  Feeling creepy yet?  John’s father’s best ‘mate’ from his police days, John calls ‘uncle Alan’, and I trained with Alan for three years in the Police Academy  at Fort Largs.

Naturally things moved onto important issues such as ‘who do you barrack for (Aussie Rules Football)’?  None of us follow the Crows or the Power, so all was good.  What started out as a thirty minute dinner alone, finished with a two hour chat.

And why do I love to travel …. (Follow the link)

Inspiration comes from …


It has been a while since I posted, not because I haven’t had anything to write about, just that other priorities were important.  However, that is life.

During the past three weeks I have listened to twenty-nine final year students present on what, or who has inspired them and guided their passion to strive for a career and life after university.  They, in turn, have inspired me.  Most spoke of publicly successful business women and men, prominent sports people, authors and community leaders.  However, three were different – thus inspiring in a unique way.

Two students spoke of their father and how their examples of support, commitment and love continues to inspire them.  The third student could not relate to any person who had inspired her.  With an initial glance at the assignment, she considered that it was a ‘fluffy’ assessment and that she would not have to do much work to get a good mark.  That was until she actually though about the question as to whom inspired her.  She then discovered that it was not so easy.  Still she could have taken the easy option and picked some ‘high flyer’, conducted a little research and lied her way through her presentation.  However, she didn’t.  The value of ethical behaviour kicked in.  She talked of her challenges in understanding what inspiration was, what drives her to get up each morning, where she wants to go with her working life and what she wishes to contribute to the community.  She found the person who is passionate and inspirational – herself.

The smells of summer

Brighton UK the English heatwave was only 28C

Brighton UK the English heatwave was only 28C

Yes it has been hot today – about 38C (100F for the peeps who are not metric). This morning it was nice and relaxing, sitting at the Uni cafe, marking and reading assignments. Then I wandered inside to our regular three weekly PhD reading group. That was enjoyable as always. A coffee afterwards and a non-academic chat went well also. This was followed by a 30 minute chat with a good student over her assignments and career directions.
Then I went outside and was hit with the very dry heat of an Adelaidian afternoon in summer. Walking through the stands of big river red gums and other native bush to get to my air conditioned car I was surrounded by the heady aromas of eucalypt and flowering bottle brush, some wattle and melaleuca flowers as well. Makes one happy to be is such beautiful surroundings.

Have a fun weekend – I intend to.

Oxford update

I’m starting this post with an apology. Between infrequent internet access and spending all my time exploring and experiencing the wonders of travel, my writing has not eventuated as planned. London was hectic, busy and no time to rest. However, more on this later. The train trip to Oxford was quick and without any trauma. Checked into the hotel and discovered it was 200  meters from the Wolfson College Oxford University from where I am now writing. It is a beautiful day, but the various papers are holding my interest and keeping me inside. I present tomorrow (Sunday) morning. I am prepared but have to check that it all works.  One more practice.  A formal dinner tonight after a day of presentations.  However, I will not be drinking too much – tempted though as my favorite Scotch is available.  Hopefully an update shortly and a catchup with the travels from Brighton to London and around Oxford.