PhD success: Dr Katrina Pritchard
I started my PhD part-time soon after handing in my MSc research project in 2003 and then, thanks to ESRC funding, was able to study full-time until submitting my thesis last October.
The focus of my thesis was the social construction of professional knowledge, and I was particularly interested investigating discourses about and of knowledge within the work of HR practitioners. I was lucky enough to obtain access for an ethnographic study within an HR department. This involved participant-observation over the course of a year during which I worked alongside different groups of HR practitioners within the department.
Rather than assuming knowledge is an individual cognitive possession, I explored what new insights can be generated if we consider knowledge as a local discursive achievement and knowing as discursively performed. Through a discourse analysis of observational, interview and documentary data, I explored the way in which different groups within the HR department constructed and positioned their expertise, particularly looking at what resources are used in order to demonstrate credibility. One aspect of my analysis involved investigating how individuals from different parts of the HR department talked about knowing people. I became particularly interested in the ways in which competing claims were played out and one potential application of this research is therefore a clearer understanding of the impact on HRM processes of the increasing differentiation of HR professional roles (a la Ulrich).
Each stage of the PhD presented new challenges, and my supervisor, Gillian Symon, kept me on track right through to the bitter end. Throughout, I've also been teaching on the MSc, which has been hugely enjoyable as our students really keep you on your toes. Since finishing my thesis, I've been juggling teaching at Birkbeck with lecturing part time at Kingston Business School and starting to write papers from my research. Gillian and I are also hoping to carry on working together and are in the early stages of shaping a research programme for which we hope to get funding in the not too distant future. I would just like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at Birkbeck; students, academic and support staff for all their support during my studies and, of course, the participants within the organization in which I conducted my research; I certainly couldn't have done it without them.
I am delighted to be back working at Birkbeck, where since September 2010 I have been a lecturer and programme director of the MSc HRD and Consultancy. I returned after spending two years working in the Employment Relations and Organizational Behaviour group at the London School of Economics as an LSE fellow, teaching research methods and HRM.
However, I carried on working with Gillian Symon on a British Academy funded research project on mobile email. Publications and conference papers arising from this and my other research can be found on my staff web page.