starting the phd – comparing and contrasting papers

Wondering how to bring some of those texts you are reading together? Working with literatures always requires you to summarise, then compare and contrast various aspects of a text. This is a little exercise I often ask people to do right at the start of the PhD. It offers a way to practice a systematic comparison of texts.

It’s best to save this kind of very detailed exercise for the texts you want to work most closely with, but reduced versions of this exercise are a helpful way to get your head around a chunk of material you want to interrogate.



Posted in compare and contrast, literature review, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

defining a contribution – #studythewriting

So you are going to write a paper/book/thesis. You suspect – no, you know – that you’ll need to state your contribution at the outset so that the reader knows what to expect. So it will helpful, as part of your preparation for writing, to examine the ways in which other, perhaps more experienced, writers have accomplished this same task. This is going to mean studying some published texts.

Studying the writing of others requires looking not simply for the technicalities of their writing, but also the work that their writing does. In this post I’m going to ‘show’ how I approach a small chunk of text to see how it’s been constructed and to what ends. In this necessarily brief ‘show and tell’, I’m looking to see how two co-writers define their place in the field and the contribution to be made.

41b-N9JHl4L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The text I’ve chosen is the introduction to an edited book called Reconceptualising professional learning. Socio-material knowledges, practices and responsibilities. In this title the editors, Tara Fenwick and Monika Nerland, have flagged up that this book is not the same as all the other books about professional learning – it is a “reconceptualisation”.  An ambitious goal. They have located the book in a field of scholarship through their use of the term, “socio-material knowledges and practices” -this relates to particular theoretical approach. The title also signals that the editors perhaps have an imagined reader who, even if they are not yet knowledgeable about this particular field of study, understand at the start that this is what the book is about.

The opening three paragraphs of the Introduction set the stage for the rest of the book. The writers position the text, not simply within a particular field of study and on a specific topic, but against a dominant public policy agenda. I have copied the first three paragraphs below in ordinary font, with my subsequent, necessarily brief, commentary in italics.

Paragraph One:
We were driven to begin this book by conflicting emotions. On the one hand, we have been increasingly excited by the innovative research on professionals’ learning that has burgeoned in the last decade. This work has upended old orthodoxies and generated new worlds of nuance and analytic tools, working from early insights afforded through sociocultural approaches and a re-centering of practice as a significant mode for learning. The authors we have invited here represent a small portion of the many voices now reconceptualising professional learning.

The opening sentence talks about being “driven” and “conflicting emotions” and it’s not what one might expect in an academic text. Aren’t academic writers supposed to be dispassionate?  Not here. Through this opening gambit, the writers not only bid for the readers’ attention, they also suggest their own emotional, as well as intellectual, engagement with their topic. It’s something that they care about, a lot.
The writers then discuss the field of study, and the location of the book within it. They establish that there is a schism in the scholarly field – “On the one hand” – with an ongoing line of scholarship now disrupted by a new tradition. They and this book are part of the new. They then add some detail about the new, suggesting that it is better/more insightful – it’s “exciting’ work which has “upended old orthodoxies” to produce “new worlds of nuance”. This is evaluative writing in which the reader is left in no doubt about where the authors stand. The reader is told that the reason for the superiority of the new  is the focus on practice and the use of a particular theoretical orientation, sociocultural theory. The writers then suggest that readers ought not to expect to find any of the orthodoxy in the collection. They justify this omission, anticipating criticism, by suggesting that theirs is not a minority pursuit, this is only a “small selection” of what’s available. They suggest that there is so much of the “new” now being done that it is no longer necessary to go through the motions of representing the debate. It is legitimate to present this “new” work as a corpus.

Paragraph Two:
But, on the other hand, we must admit to feeling some despair. Large amounts of policy and curricula for professionals’ learning and assessment continue to be generated that use models long since debunked and abandoned by educationists: de-contextualised individual competencies, disembodied cognitive decision-making and de-materialised knowing and practice. Public policy in particular is notorious for responding to any new crisis of public service delivery by calling for training of individual practitioners. Professionals continue to be isolated, trained and measured, bracketing out the tangled webs of relations that constitute professionals’ practice and knowing, and ignoring all the research that is now showing not only how these webs work, but also how we can trace them and work with them to facilitate learning.

The writers next establish the warrant for the book in policy and practice. They locate their concerns about the orthodoxy as it is currently manifest in social-professional life. The writers begin by referring again to their visceral response to the problem as they see it – policy-makers’ refusal to take on board current research understandings. They then outline the problem – the continued use of an outdated model – and its characteristics – before going on to suggest its consequences – professional isolation, training and measurement. They conclude by suggesting what the new lines of inquiry would bring to the table. Their use of adjectives such as “debunked”, “abandoned” and then “disembodied” and “de-materialised” constitute a strong critique. The use of ”notorious” ascribed to public policy is an appeal to the reader – don’t we too know this about policy respons, training as the answer to all things? The amplification of the critique is made through the use of contrasting descriptors – “isolated” and “bracketed out” for the problematic policy,  compared to “tangled webs” for their new approach.

Paragraph Three:
While this book is unlikely to halt such regressive sorts of currents, we are hoping that it might help accelerate the more promising counter currents. In this effort we are building on a special issue that we co—edited for the Journal of Education and Work (January 2012) entitled ‘Reconceptualising professional learning in a changing society’. Perhaps the different studies presented here will offer some useful language, concepts or methodological tools for those seeking to clear new paths of understanding. At the very least we aim to affirm the work of those professional educators and researchers struggling to reconceptualise professional learning to embrace its inherent messiness, its embodied materiality, and its cultural and historical dynamics.

The writers state what they hope to achieve in the book. They say firstly what they think the book won’t do. It wont’ change the world. Through referring to a previous special issue the writers simultaneously state their track record while also adding that disrupting the policy problem outlined in the previous paragraph is an ongoing project. They then specify what is on offer in the book – language, concepts and methodological tools – and offer their bottom line objective – to affirm the benefits of the approach they advocate. Through this they again position the book a “useful” “promising counter currents” (a swimming against the tide metaphor), “clearing new paths” (a metaphor which summons up images of impenetrable jungle or unexplored territory) –against all that is“regressive” and backward looking.

The notion of the book being new, grounded and better is maintained throughout the first three paragraphs and its is an integral part of the rhetorical thread holding them together.

In order to better understand how the writers have constructed their argument, and to feel how it might be to write in this way, it is also often very helpful to put your own content into the pre-existing syntax. You might also experiment with constructing a rhetorical thread of new/old throughout to see how this might work for you.

Sentence skeleton

1. I/we was/were driven to begin this book/paper/project by conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I/we have been increasingly excited by
the (name the kind of research/policy or practice) that has developed (over a given time period/in particular place/in a particular discipline or institution). This work has… (say what it has done in theory/method/practice in a couple of sentences).

2. But, on the other hand, I/we must admit to feeling some despair. (Now talk in two or three sentences about the ongoing research/policy practice you are critiquing – it does particular things with particular kinds of consequences, things that you want your work to answer back to. Say what these are.).

3. While this book/paper/project is unlikely to halt such (name problem in different words which add to what is already said), I am/we are hoping that it might help accelerate the more promising counter currents. In this effort, I am/we are building on (summarise track record). Perhaps this book/paper/project will (state a realistic outcome). At the very least, I/we aim to affirm the work of those… (return to talking about the research/policy/practice that excites you).

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conferencing your way through doctoral research

This is a guest post written by Julia Molinari. Julia teaches English for Academic Purposes at The University of Nottingham. Her PhD examines what is ‘academic’ about academic writing. Julia tweets as @serenissimaj and blogs as Academic Emergence

What follows are some structured reflections on choosing conferences during the doctoral research process. The aim is to make my own decision-making visible in the hope that it may resonate with and inform you.

Some background framing

Everybody has their own reasons for choosing and then attending conferences, and mine include attending conferences in order to present. This is partly because it is the only way I can get funding, but is also because I enjoy playing the game, not just watching it.


Secondly, my PhD is interdisciplinary, and draws on the fields of Higher Education (Social Science) and Philosophy (Humanities). This means that whatever conference I present at, I always have a huge amount of explaining to do because my audiences – so far – are unlikely to have read half of my literatures.

Thirdly, I have over 20 years teaching and interpreting experience to draw on: I think this needs saying because having the confidence to communicate at conferences does not ‘just happen’, it is a cumulative discursive stage-fright-avoiding practice.


The affordances of conferences

Conferences afford opportunities that books, peers, and supervisors do not. Before starting the PhD, my reasons for wanting to present at conferences were altruistic, and were aimed at community-building: I presented snapshots of my action and practitioner research either alone or jointly, with a view to sharing ‘teaching practice’. Now, however, although my research is born of this teaching context, it is gradually evolving into a highly theoretical web of discourses, which means that I have to constantly rethink who I present to and, above all, WHY. Currently, my motivations are very selfish: I present in order to gauge reactions, and to be given suggestions on what else I could be reading.

Conferences also afford the chance to ‘hear’ the texts. Seeing, hearing, and trying to talk to the authors you are reading is invaluable because authors often say things in their conference presentations and interactions that they don’t say in their books: they also reveal personal insights and traits that can either turn you on or off them, which, either way, could be significant to the way you are reading them!

Choosing the right conference

The way I currently do this is by sourcing conferences that include plenary speakers who are key to my literature review. Since my PhD deals with two disciplines, no single presenter could ever address everything that would be relevant to me, so I try to be clear about what I hope to hear from them, and then contextualise this within my research design. This means that whatever is said in a presentation and whatever Q&As ensue, including my own, I need to be mindful of what is and isn’t relevant for me.

The conference programme – with details of all speakers – is clearly also crucial when it comes to choosing a conference, but plenary speakers are usually announced before the full programme is confirmed. This means that you can already get a sense of who else is likely to want to be at that conference which in turn allows you to book in advance and to benefit from early bird registration fees, travel, and accommodation.

Sourcing the right conference

When I first started my PhD, knowing what was going on where and when was hard. Previously, I had always relied on my professional ‘grapevine’ to get wind of what was happening on the conference scene. But then each of my supervisors gave me links to forums in Education and Philosophy, and I discovered social media, in the specific form of Twitter and Blogging.


I started following and interacting with relevant authors, university departments, people in my current field and people whose field I would like to be part of, and one ‘follow’ led to another until I had created my own tailor-made flows of information. This information includes having discovered LISTSERVES and Google Groups which you can join by email, allowing you to you receive information that has already been sharpened to your needs.

Final thoughts

Having said all of this, I still always feel like an outsider at conferences. This is partly because I am never sure how much I should be giving and how much I should be taking. It is also because when I go to conferences, I am neither a ‘pure’ educationalist or a ‘pure’ philosopher.


To cope with this disciplinary duality, I find myself drawing increasingly on my dual nationality: all my life I have been asked whether I feel more ‘British’ or more ‘Italian’, and my answer has always been that my unity is in being “both”. Similarly, what unifies and justifies my conference presence is that I am there because ‘I’ need to find things out, regardless of what others may be thinking. I suspect, however, that as I near the end of my PhD, more might be at stake, but by then, I hope to have built a solid enough platform on which to stand.

Posted in conference, Julia Molinari, PhD | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

#acwri strategy – start small, amplify, then rehearse

Acclaimed movie director Ridley Scott is a big fan of storyboards. He likes to start with thumbnail sketches which are then developed into a sketchy sequence. This is then worked up into a highly detailed storyboard. Scott focuses each frame on key visual features – he likes to work with light and shadow.

Once he has a storyboard, Scott uses it as the map for his filming. The storyboard illustrations guide the way in which each scene will be lit and shot, the angles that will be taken, what will be in the foreground and background. Sometimes of course these are changed on the day, but variations on the original story board are an improvement on something already in existence. Improvisation during filming is on the basis of something planned not being quite as good as imagined.

Before each daily shoot Scott always goes through the relevant frames in the storyboard, either talking it over with someone, or going over it mentally, step by step. He describes this as a rehearsal of what will happen when he is working on set.

Writers often work in similar ways. They may:

start small – the #acwri equivalent of thumbnails is a list of topics, perhaps written as bullet points, perhaps as a set of phrases on post it notes or cards – this is the stuff that needs to be covered, written in summary shorthand, organised in the right order.

amplify – the #acwri equivalent of developing a storyboard in detail is to assemble the material needed for each move in the argument. This might be through cumulative processes of free writing to a set of headings. It might be bringing together pieces or files of material  – analysed data, references, chunks of preexisting writing – around each heading.

rehearse – the #acrwi equivalent of the rehearsal could be writing a tiny text – a concise abstract – of the piece to be written. Or it could be talking through the argument with a writing mentor, peer-writing group, or with a colleague. Or it might be talking things through to yourself, perhaps while walking, swimming or doing something that doesn’t require much concentration.

The key to making these three steps work is to give them time. Getting sorted out for the act of writing is not something to be rushed. It may not feel as if this getting-ready-but-not-yet-writing is actually academic writing. It may feel as if it is putting off the Real Thing. Wrong.

Academic writing, like any creative act, is not simply located in the act of putting words on the page or screen. It is also all of the things that happen in order to make that particular stage of the writing go as well as it can. Sometimes you need to spend a lot of time in the “pre-writing” stage. 

It really is worth making time in your #acwri routine for the three Ridley Scott steps. 

Start small, amplify, rehearse. It’s worth a try in #AcWriMo, a great time to build up your personal repertoire of strategies for academic writing. 

Posted in academic writing, amplify and rehearse | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

things to do during your PhD – help to edit a special issue of a journal

This guest post is written by Jodie Pennacchia, a final year PhD researcher at The University of Nottingham, based jointly in the Schools of Education and Social Work and Social Policy. Jodie’s research focuses on the English school academies programme. Jodie tweets as @jpennacchia.

During my PhD I have been lucky enough to be involved in editing a special issue for the journal Critical Studies in Education, with my supervisor Pat Thomson, and colleagues Glenda McGregor and Martin Mills. This opportunity stemmed from a symposium that took place at the annual conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education in December 2015, where we came together to present work on alternative education provision from our national contexts. There were shared concerns across this work, particularly in relation to how questions of social justice are implicated in the policy, design and organisation of provision for young people ‘at the margins’ of education. It is this concern that we carry forward into the special issue, which presents current work from four countries with the aim of exploring issues of social justice in a variety of types and contexts of alternative education.

Here I want to share with you some of the ways I feel I have benefitted from this process, and to suggest how other doctoral researchers might go about getting involved in similar opportunities.

What did I learn?
Well, the hard work isn’t over yet, but the things that have stood out for me so far are:

The benefits of being a special issue ‘voyeur’: I appreciate that at first glimpse the idea of sending lots of emails between different groups of academics and noting decisions on a computer system may not have you all rushing to get involved in a special issue, but bear with me. There is no denying the considerable administrative content of this kind of undertaking, but what is uniquely beneficial about this opportunity is that you are well-positioned to observe the editorial decision-making, intellectual and creative judgements, and compromises that are being made in order to make the special issue as worthwhile a contribution as possible. This makes it a rich learning opportunity. I suppose it is also good practice at the balancing act that is necessary if you want to stay in academia (or get any job really). Being able to spin a particular set of plates -– the review, the journal article, the fieldwork, the teaching, the editing etc – seems to be a vital skill for a future in higher education. Here you get to dip your toe into the world of editing, try it on for size in a supportive context, and observe how more experienced academics do this particular set of activities. You learn both by observing and by doing.

Substantive and theoretical learning: This was an opportunity to develop my understanding of an area of research that is important to my doctoral thesis and future research, and to do so from the vantage point of different national contexts and a range of theoretical standpoints. It has enabled me to see how my own ideas might speak to other researchers and contexts, and where important differences might lie. It has also been an opportunity to see how more experienced researchers use theory to support their interrogation of educational policies and practices. I think this is a helpful way of expanding your own repertoire; thinking beyond the limits of the tools and approaches that might be privileged in your own department, university or indeed country.

The comfort of making the strange (and scary) familiar: I found that after working on the special issue I did not feel anxious about my first experience of submitting a paper to a journal. At an administrative level, I had become familiar with the online platform that journals use to manage the editorial process. More importantly, as a PhD student I have been privy to the usual horror stories of the ‘angry review’. What I was able to discern through the experience of working on a special issue was how committed reviewers are. Their main aim was to get the best possible work and contribution from the author, not to score intellectual points. I am not saying this will never happen, but I think it is reassuring to know that this is not the norm. Instead, a variety of styles of critique exist, and thoughtful review is integral to the development and quality of a paper.

Beginning to find your place, your community: This experience has been an important step in terms of beginning to find a place in an academic community. Working with people who share your core concerns is a great experience, as is getting to read and review work which voices these concerns in insightful and critical ways, seeking to move a field of study forward. It reveals some of the questions that still need to be addressed in your area of research, which provides a basis for beginning to think beyond the PhD, about future research projects you would like to be involved with.

Is this something you might like to do?
I recognise that being involved in a special issues is not necessarily something entirely within your control as a PhD student. Our opportunities are of course linked in part to the support of our supervisors, and in this respect I have been very lucky. However, there are some steps that I believe any PhD student could take that might lead them in the right direction.

As a PhD student you will probably not be the driving force behind a special issue, but you can be a willing and helpful contributor, which is an important first step. Key to getting this particular experience is meeting people whose research speaks to you. Attend the relevant conferences in your area of interest as soon as you can. Present if possible, but definitely attend. When you find people whose research grabs your attention, talk to them. Make an effort to stay in touch, whether via email or one of the numerous social media channels now available to us. Send them things they might be interested in. Introduce them to other people….

What I am getting at here is that you have to begin to form your own communities during your PhD. It is from these sorts of experiences that a symposium might stem, and perhaps give the grounding for a special issue, because you are building up a community of like-minded people to think with, learn from and write with. All, or any, of these things are a demanding, enjoyable and rich learning opportunity, which invite you to glimpse another aspect of academic work and to see if it is something you might want to be a part of post-PhD.

An early version of Thomson P and Pennacchia J (2015) “Disciplinary regimes of care and complementary alternative education” is online.

Posted in editing a journal, Jodie Pennacchia, journal, special issue | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

buffering your thesis

I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds it excruciatingly irritating to be in the middle of streaming a video or music and the computer stops and spins its little wheel while it downloads more data. Download download, sigh. And it always happens during the good bits. I’ve recently had to put signal boosters in the house in order to avoid too much of this wheelie-waiting around for the computer to do its thing.

Downloading, or pre-loading data, is also known as buffering because the  data goes into a particular part of the computer’s memory called the buffer so it’s named … well yes. So why buffering a thesis? Well, it’s because it’s really helpful to do the same kind of pre-loading, accumulating process when writing the Big Book or the kappa /kápa (that’s the Nordic name for the chapter that goes with the thesis by publication).

Buffering is a great strategy to use after you’ve arrived at your overall thesis plan and before you’ve begun to write. You may have used a storyboarding approach to sort out the structure of your thesis – to decide on the order of the moves in the argument that you want to make. Storyboarding is a process for moving ‘chunks’ of thesis material around until you find the most convincing and persuasive order, and often new sets of associations and connections.

You may have even turned this storyboard into short or long abstractsIMG_0351This is the list of short abstracts that I used for the most recent book. You can also see that I’ve jotted notes against some of the chapters as I realised things that had to be added or emphasised.

Of course I could have simply put this list on my desktop, but I find it’s sometimes helpful to use a combination of screen and material when writing. I find it useful to externalise the whole, as in this list which represents the entire book. As I write I continually see the text to be written as a discrete and physically separate object that I can still manipulate.

Once you’ve got your overall thesis in order, then it’s time to buffer – that is, it’s time to pre-load all of the material for the text, to collect together in one place all of the the bits, chunks and important stuff that you are going to need to write each chapter/section. You can do this buffering on screen of course. Or you could buffer in a much bigger way.

The picture below shows Dave McKenna’s thesis. Dave’s thesis plan ended as a wall of material. Yes, an entire wall.

mckenna wall

Dave put up, on a wall in his office, all the pieces he needed for his thesis, organised into the relevant chapters.

Dave is researching policy. He told me that he got the inspiration for sorting out his thesis in this way from seeing local government professionals who often worked in this way. Everything stuck up on a big board so that everyone could see what was being developed. And his thesis wall was very handy, Dave said,  for visibility/seeing the overall structure as he wrote. This “making visible” strategy took him through “the final push”.

Dave had, in my terms, buffered – he’d pre-loaded and put together the material for each section. He was able to move things around, between sections and within them. He could see associations and connections and finesse the internal chapter flow. You may notice that there are small red ticks on quite a lot of the pieces in the picture, which I take to mean that Dave may well have ticked things off as he wrote about them. So the wall was also a way of keeping track of what had been done.

Now of course you don’t have to take up a wall in your house and risk your paintwork in order to write your thesis. You don’t have to use paper and posits. However, one of the things I’ve learnt from working with artists is that something often happens when you work with objects that you can physically move and shuffle around.  So there may be some good reason for working with stuff and working big. But regardless of whether you do this kind of process digitally or materially, it’s the buffering-as-organising-the-writing process that’s helpful – and my point.

Buffering, getting all of the stuff together before you start writing, minimizes the interruptions to your thinking and writing. It means you don’t get stymied half way through something really interesting by the equivalent of the little spinning wheel – the point where you have to drop everything  to search for something obvious. The truth is that you’re probably going to have spin the wheels/stop writing sometimes anyway – as you write you’ll inevitably remember things you maybe hadn’t thought would be important at the start. But buffering the obvious things at the outset is a good way to make sure you keep the number of frantic searches to a minimum.

And there is also, as Dave suggests, a pleasing whole-ness about seeing the entire thesis laid out in front of you, with lots of content filling out each section. This is reassuring. Yes, there is a thesis there. I have loads of material, I know what I’m going to say.

Buffering. Sorting yourself out. Getting organised for the writing task to come. It doesn’t really matter what you call it. It’s a good strategy. See how it can work for you.

PS. Huge thanks to Dave KcKenna @localopolis for the picture of his thesis wall which, he tells me, is no more. I’m always keen to see pics of the strategies that people use to write their thesis, so do let me know if you have any to share.

Posted in abstracts, buffering the thesis, Dave McKenna, storyboarding, thesis | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

why do I feel afraid to share my journal paper with the wider world? is this Imposter Syndrome?

This is an anonymous guest post from a PhD researcher. She is seeking advice about her current #acwri situation. 

I was first introduced to the imposter syndrome almost two years ago. I never thought it would touch me; I am highly confident, a high achiever (top of the class), and I thought I was doing very well as a doctoral researcher too.

Something changed however in the past few months. I entered into my third year, and with data collection completed, I started writing chapters. And this was the turning point. I started receiving comments from my supervisors which were all criticisms, though I have to admit though most were constructive. I was told repeatedly that my writing and understanding was not of PhD standard, and that I seriously needed to improve. It was at the same time I was writing a journal paper based on my findings, which to my utter surprise was accepted at a very well respected journal.

I always thought I would be ecstatic when my first journal paper would be published, especially if I managed to publish it whilst I was still doing my PhD. However, when I received the news, I did not feel happy; I was void of emotion. This was because of months of reviewing the paper, and then receiving a very long list of corrections, I felt had taken all the joy out of it.

The more worrying part however is that not only do I now feel like I have very little confidence in my academic abilities, but I also feel anxious to share my published paper with other academics and members of the public. The findings are not ground breaking; but it could be disseminated to the public, and may be of interests to some parts of the media. However, I do not feel like sharing it because I feel that I will face more criticism and scrutiny, which frankly I have had enough of. I know it has been reviewed by four highly respected peer reviewers in my field, and accepted in a well-respected journal, but I still feel that it may be perceived to “not be good enough”, and someone tomorrow may criticise it in public, or god forbid, say it is complete utter nonsense.

I have been trying to understand why I feel this way. I think there are a few factors:
+  I have been receiving very critical feedback from my supervisors, most of which is very constructive, and will make me a better researcher. But I also need to be reminded of the parts of my work which I am doing very well. Next to the list I have been told to write about my common mistakes; I need to write a list of what I am doing well.
+  I have always been a high achiever. It is difficult to suddenly realise that actually some of my work and understanding is a bit “rubbish”. Feeling “not good enough” or even “stupid” is something I am not used to
+  I need to remind myself that I am still in training to become a researcher. My work cannot be perfect at this point, or else I would not need supervisors or need examiners to examine my thesis.
+  ‘Criticism’ in my head needs to change to ‘feedback’ – a close of friend of mine who is a senior leader told me recently that I need to change my perspective: criticism should be viewed as feedback, and not criticism. I am working on that!

I am hoping the imposter syndrome is just a very short phase for me. However, I have read that this syndrome affects not only doctoral students but also more experienced academics. This is worrying for me; because I would love to stay in academia, but I am not prepared to stay in academia if I am going to constantly feel like my work is not good enough (there will come a point where it will start affecting my self-esteem!). I believe research is required to explore the underlying factors, so that we can address the root causes of this syndrome, instead of just trying to treat it when it appears.

My purpose for writing this was not just to share my frustration, but I wanted to reach out to other doctoral students, early career researchers and academics to ask and discuss:
1. Have any of you ever felt the imposter syndrome?
a. What were the main factors that lead to you feeling this way?
b. How did you come out of it?
2. Do you have to accept that in academia there will be some/many occasions where you will feel a bit “stupid/not good enough”?
3. Did you feel a bit afraid or anxious to share your journal paper with the wider public? What did you do?

Can you help? Please write in the comments box below.

Posted in academic writing | Tagged , , | 31 Comments