Waging your way through research process

Researchnig, especially doing a PhD is a lonely process, most of the time. Almost half of the students who enrol in PhD gives up in the process it seems. Some gets side tracked, the work just gets just too elusive, the burden of all the reading and/or getting into writing becomes daunting.

There are many temptations when you are doing research or engaged in creative production. There are many ways to avoid doing what you ought to do. There are always more things to read; more and more ideas to chase; more people to talk with; more coffees to drink. There is always temptations; always ways to avoid the hard yard. Maybe that’s not all too bad all the time.

It does take discipline to sit down and get yourself work through it; to set yourself tasks and get through that. We are told experienced researchers are not any better than postgraduates when it comes to nailing the work. From what they say, they suffer through it; retreat into one more week of reading, one more day of searching, a couple more articles to review, some more research, you name it.

You can delude yourself into finding the perfect paper to help you set out the theoretical framework, methodological framework, so that you can dump your fieldwork into it, hoping that the thesis will magically appear. It doesn’t work like that, we are told — and I’d like to believe that.

We have to craft our own way through it. There are some better pathways, there are some worse pathways. That’s what supervisors are there for. Talk to them regularly.

When your supervisor says paint, paint, paint, or write, write, write, that’s what we should think about doing. Understand that sitting that side of the qualification is much easier, they are able to understand what it takes to do it.

What’s important is to keep in mind that we are not going to create miracles. It’s just a written piece of document with some arguments, justifications, resoning and coherent discussions. What were are todl is that we should be able to work through a reasonable problem, a reasonable project, in a reasonable period of time. Five years is long enough to do that. Make it shorter if possible.

“Don’t waste a life. It’s a qualification after all. It’s a part of stage of your life. Not your entire life.”

That last piece of advice makes it over simplified and kind of reduces the significance of the whole process in a way. But I guess it’s great advice. Three or four years is in fact quite long. One cannot produce a thesis overnight. Turning research into a thesis takes effort. It can be a daunting experience. Why put through it longer than it is needed?

What really matters is the ability to move from part to part, with the realization that we will be nudged along through them, sometimes pushed – we might not like all of it, but in the end it will be worth it – that we hope!


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I write as I think. I think as I write.

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