This month, I was a guest writer for the Researchista blog. In a total of four posts, I wrote about some questions and challenges that are common in a PhD project. This post provides a brief summary of what I discussed, with a link to each of the four posts if you want to read more.
Setting the bar (too) high
A certain output (end terms) is expected at the end of a PhD project. One thing that not rarely stresses out a PhD candidate is that these end terms are translated – by the candidate but in quite some cases also by supervisors – in a rather linear fashion, as in: “four years four chapters, hence first chapter ready at the end of the first year.” It is important to keep in mind that a lot of time in the first 1-1.5 years is typically spent on orientation, getting used to working with people in the new project and environment, designing and setting things up, additional networking and training, and in many cases a variety of activities more. In most cases, supervisors have enough experience to realize that the relation between time on the project and output from the project is typically a non-linear one with more output realized in the second half of the project. To read more, see the first part (until Q&A) in this post:
Writing for the first time
What usually does not help in getting a lot of output in the first part of a PhD project is that writing a chapter for a PhD thesis requires a certain skillset that is acquired only with writing experience and – what can help greatly – appropriate support from supervisors, friends, colleagues, and others. Writing a PhD chapter is very different from writing notes and summaries as we do during our studies that precede a PhD project. A good chapter does not present a study as a rather isolated piece of information but tells a story that can be anchored as a narrative in a (growing) series of stories on the topic under study. After all, research is rarely if ever carried out in a vacuum. Finally, doing a PhD is not about others telling you what to do; it is about learning to make sense of input coming from different perspectives in such a way that helps you to tell a coherent story. To read more, see the first part (until Q&A) in this post:
Language, meaning, and perspective
Writer’s block, deadlines, and stress are more common among writers than you may thing at first. Add to this that many of us write about their work in their second or third language, and it becomes easy to understand that writing takes some effort and patience. What can make the writing experience more pleasant is working on a topic we feel comfortable with and find worth writing about, finding good sparring partners along the way, and setting clear goals and monitoring your progress towards these goals as you go. And, last but not least, enjoy your breaks, for sometimes that is what we need to see how to advance where we got stuck for a while. To read more, see this post:
The question is what is the question
Whether it comes to interviews, experiments, mixed-methods approaches, or other methods, there is little meaning in doing something if there is no question that calls for it. Using a method for the sake of using a method rarely results in research that moves a field forward; you are unlikely to find what you are not looking for. Whichever method, design or combinations thereof you are considering, there is a metaphorical bridge between question (purpose), data collection, and analysis; it is good to keep that bridge in mind throughout the entire journey from core question to reporting the study in a chapter or article. To read more, see this post:
Each of the four posts previously referred to except for the third one discuss some additional issues you may have been thinking about in the Q&A section, check it out! And for more Researchista posts, check:
Have a great day!