I have not had the time to post as much on my blog yet as I would like to. But there is a good reason for that. In two weeks' time I have what is more or less my only 'real' deadline before my final thesis is due to be submitted in October 2015. My university requires all PhD students to go through an upgrade process towards the end of their first year. This is to demonstrate that they have the necessary skills and a suitable project that can be completed in three or four years. When you first start you are registered as an MLitt (Master of Letters) student, and when you have successfully passed your upgrade you become a fully-fledged PhD student. In practice this means submitting a draft thesis chapter of about 10 000 words, which will be assessed by two internal examiners. You then have to defend your work along with a thesis outline, bibliography, and progress plan in a sort of interview called a viva - which is the same process you go through with your final thesis.
Although working on my upgrade means spending very little time in the lab I'm finding it a very useful process. I've chosen to submit a draft of my background chapter, which sets the context for my research. I'm writing about the historical development of the period, and ways in which we interpret identities in the past. In other words how do we work out who people were - both who (and what) they considered themselves to be, and who others thought they were? This is really at the core of my research, and I need to consider how we define a 'Viking'. What happened to those who came to England to settle? Did they consider themselves to be outsiders, who were different from the 'native' population? And if so, how was this difference shown, and for how long? And how did the newcomers (both the armies and the more peaceful settlers) interact with the locals
A lot has been written about this already; some excellent work, some not quite so good. So my current job is to wade through the literature and extract the most important arguments and resources. And this is what requires a lot of tea and some motivation from my muse, the Lego Viking woman residing on my desk.
Update, June 2013: I passed the upgrade!!