What is common in writing your first PhD manuscript and planning your wedding?

– Experiences from an early stage researcher in Nursing Science

I am very happy to take part on writing this blog maintained by the Finnish Doctoral Education Network in Nursing Science. I am an early stage researcher (Nursing Science) in the Doctoral Programme of Health Sciences in the University of Eastern Finland (UEF). My study focuses on higher education students’ health behavior and Internet use with a health promotion perspective. In this blog post, I am going to share my experiences from my research journey from becoming an early stage researcher to writing my first PhD –manuscript, and to planning my summer wedding alongside the doctoral studies. Surprisingly, these things have a lot of common features!

My way to become an early stage researcher involved taking many steps and gathering experience of the research world. Also the support from my husband-to-be was essential in the process. First, as shown in the comic picture above, I thought my PhD –journey would last approximately seven years (and it might still!). Looking back, I think that the journey actually began before I completed my Health Science’s Master’s studies in Nursing Science, in nurse teacher education in 2014. I believe this is so because I gathered research assistant work experience from national and international health research projects in the UEF. Due to these “research oriented years”, I luckily met researchers and teachers from the field of health behavior research, and visited them also in conferences and on work journeys abroad. In December 2014, I started my doctoral studies and continued working in research projects and got also teaching experience. And in the meantime, I continuously planned my PhD -research together with my supervisors and tried to find different perspectives to my research, in a way of trying to “look forward, in to the future”. But then, at the late of 2015, I got an opportunity to join my research topic to a national health research project on higher education students’ health, led by the Finnish Student Health Service (FSHS), which I think boosted my PhD -journey. After through discussions, we successfully started to plan and conduct research collaboration. Thus, encouraged by my supervisors, in 2016 I decided to apply for the second time for the early stage researcher position in my doctoral programme and was happily surprised to be chosen to the position. Since January 2017, I have been able to work fulltime in UEF with my research. I think that all the previous work experience and the conversations with the researchers really helped me to get the position. In addition, I believe that the fact that my future husband has walked these steps with me since 2012, has given me strength to work and follow my dreams. So my journey on entering to the PhD studies and to the future marriage varies a bit from the comic picture above!

Rotating back to present time, I am currently writing my first research manuscript based on research results obtained. Eventhough I have enjoyed the fulltime researcher position, I have to admit experiencing a lot of mixed emotions during this first manuscript writing process. I have had feelings from excitement to writers block, from great ideas appearing late at night to creating manuscript tables at the early hours of morning. I have also thought a lot, on which part of the manuscript should I start my writing process on and how to write academic English. However, I feel very happy that my supervisors have been there to support and encourage me in finding these answers. Also I think my doctoral studies in my doctoral programme have also been very useful in the process. The doctoral course offering is very good and versatile, you only need to consider on what time of your research phase you enroll to those courses. But in between the above mentioned “research emotions”, I think that these emotions get sometimes mixed with the “wedding emotions” I am currently planning… so yes, I can relate to the comic picture on how my marriage and PhD studies began! Also recently I have recognized that there are a lot of similarities between planning your wedding and writing your manuscript, can you imagine!

Accordingly, I am going to introduce to you ten features, which I think are common in manuscript writing process and in planning your wedding. And yes, I am doing both of them at the first time. Please feel free to comment! :

  1. Do not rush.
  2. Plan the “big picture” carefully from the beginning.
  3. Be precise with your steps and choices, consider different options.
  4. Read and learn from others.
  5. Talk about your steps with other people –is your doing realistic?
  6. Address comments from others carefully – they are here to help, not criticise.
  7. Think about the money, how much does it cost to do it?
  8. Remember, that you are not doing this alone.
  9. Make a good first impression –you only get one shot.
  10. Promise yourself that you will enjoy the day, when it is official!

Deciding on where to start this blog, I chose to follow the letters from familiar “IMRAD” –structure; “Introduction”, “Methods”, “Results” and “Discussion”. Did you notice that? Obviously it follows me everywhere… I actually just discovered that it even applies to my wedding planning: “Invitations”, “Marriage”, “Reception”, “aisle” and “Dress”.  Oh no! And as a summary for this blog, I must say that I agree with some parts of the comic picture above, but hey, lets not talk about the years or typical length, lets focus on to the journey!


Best greetings from the University of Eastern Finland,
Hanna Miettinen (soon Rouvinen)

Ps. I wish all of you readers’ sunny summer and best of luck with your research and studies!