This is to tell the world, and specially propsective PhD students, that the second year of PhD is hell. A little warning for friends.
Because all the illusions and optimism of the first year are gone. You have to reckon that you won't change the world in 3 years. You realize how much hard work and perspiration it takes to write 500 original and meaningful words. You feel bound by conventions, whose reason to be only slowly dawn to you. You have no vision of how the thesis could look like and what it might be good for. Your colleagues are doing fieldwork in all parts of the world and you find yourself left alone with a pile of interviews (to be conducted).
This is pure pain and suffering. In the second year of PhD you join a church if you haven't done so before. You stop believing in Positivism; we call it "enlarging the horizon", becoming more open-minded by force of circumstances. You realize that the world is far more complex than you thought before. You realize how limited science is to understand the world. When your supervisor doesn't help, you call on Nossa Senhora de Fátima.
That's the learning outcomes of the second year. As the second year comes to a close you hopefully realize that you have reached almost 25% of your work in 2/3 of the study time. That makes you very happy indeed, because you thought you had achieved even less.
Full of a new enthusiasm you draw plans for the remaining research, inlcuding a completely new literature review, learning new methods and approaching the whole problem from a new angle. It is worth a couple of years of work, but that doesn't matter. The good thing is that you finally know what to research, and accept that no one cares about your Why.
Of course it's a bit scary to see the mountains of work for the 3rd year, but nevermind. Promise to go to Fátima and be faithful.