“It pushed me just that little bit harder.”
I first learned about the Ken Inglis Prize through an email the Australian Historical Association (AHA) sent out to postgraduate students who had attended the AHA Conference in Brisbane in July, 2014. It was good timing as I had been wondering if I would try and turn the paper I had presented at the conference into an article. The Prize was an added incentive and it pushed me just that little bit harder to try my hand at writing a standalone academic article, as opposed to a piece of writing destined for a larger thesis.
In the long run, I was surprised to find that it was a more challenging task than first imagined. Even though the main ideas from my presentation were all there, I was aware that I needed to produce a piece of writing that would be up to a standard accepted by Australian Historical Studies, who provided the academic referees for the Prize. It was certainly a good learning experience from that perspective, and one that will be invaluable should I manage to forge a career for myself in academia post-Ph.D.
Of course, in addition to the experience gained, there was a great feeling of achievement when I received the news that I had been awarded the Prize. Having never won anything before, it was a bit of a surprise, but fantastic to learn that all the hard work I had put into the paper had been worthwhile. More importantly, it was particularly reassuring to know that academics from outside my university also thought my research and the writing I had produced from it were of a high standard. Getting good feedback from supervisors is one thing, but when two blind reviewers respond positively to something you have produced, it really is a fantastic feeling and an encouraging validation of the quality of your work. Now, I have found, the real test is to maintain the standard that has been set throughout the rest of my postgraduate study.
Even if things had gone another way and the Prize had been awarded to someone else, I would not have been disappointed with having participated either. After all, the conditions of the Prize not only push entrants to present a paper at one of the top history conferences in Australia, but to go on and turn that paper into a more detailed article. The main ideas are already in the original piece, so why not try and expand on them and have them shared with a larger audience? It is a challenge getting them down in a form suitable for publication, but at the end of it, you have produced a good-quality piece ready for submission even if the paper does not win. Writing a Ph.D. thesis is a long and arduous task, so it is good to be able to accumulate little victories along the way to break it all up. That can include presenting at conferences, organizing events, and writing articles. You may even win a prize for your efforts.