Posts

One particularly nasty myth about the successful PhD

Tired, Lotte looks down at her notes and then up again to the full version at her computer screen. For the past four days she has been completely submerged in writing this chapter. Her hair is a mess, she slept little and she has not been outside for two days. She has always worked this way, but as she approaches the end of her PhD, the pressure to deliver and perform rises.

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How to escape perfectionism as an excellent researcher

If you want an academic career, you have to excel at so many levels. First and foremost you must show an excellent publication record, with many articles preferably in A status journals. Then there is teaching and supervising students: requires high quality lectures, committed availability, personal feedback, but hardly the time to prepare and deliver. Not to mention being the nice, helpful colleague (or partner, or parent). If you are not up to par with these standards, you fail. At least that is how many early career researchers think.

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A Taoist tip for doing research

Sometimes when you are trying to focus on a research puzzle, or when you open up a document to write that methods section you have been avoiding for a while, you may notice your mind flittering everywhere in stead of concentrating at the task you sat down to do. This constantly happened to Chris* as he was finishing his thesis. So he came to me and asked: “How can I create more focus and improve my motivation in this final thesis stage?”

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How to take a punch like a Stoic in academia

Doing science is about researching and then going public with your findings. If you keep your findings to yourself, you are just privately musing, but not doing scientific research. However, going public with your research can be daunting, especially for PhD’s. What to do when you are scared to show your first piece of writing to your supervisor? When you dread nasty questions about your presentation at a conference? Or when you feel ready to quit because you just received stinging criticism from a reviewer on that article of yours with the top results of your research? Here is a bit on how to face criticism without letting it take you down.

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Vrijheid en expert zijn

Rianne is net gepromoveerd en heeft meteen een mooie onderzoeksbaan in het bedrijfsleven aangeboden gekregen. Ze komt bij mij omdat ze bewuster wil kiezen en richting geven aan loopbaan om niet langer door te kabbelen in het geijkte, gegeven pad. Ondanks de grote successen van de afgelopen maanden met haar promotie en vervolg-baan twijfelt ze sterk aan haar eigen capaciteiten. Zo zegt ze: “50% van mijn proefschrift was wel goed, maar van de andere helft vraag ik me af wanneer ze uitvinden dat het niet zo geweldig is?” Ze denkt daarbij: “Anderen zijn toch beter dan ik.”

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Powers and pitfalls of introvert researchers

A Ted talk by Susan Cain on the power of introverts got me thinking about finding a balance between the power and pitfalls of introversion as a researcher. Cain argues passionately that valuable deep thought and truly creative and innovative ideas can only bubble to the surface if given enough quietness and solitude. Yet, she points out our society is increasingly organized to promote a more extrovert approach to cooperation, group work and outgoing interaction. The academic environment traditionally respects and fosters quiet contemplation, especially for PhD candidates and postdocs, but even here pressure increases to go public with your ideas: to publish, to participate in conferences, and to valorize their knowledge by reaching out to the general public and cooperate with many organizations.

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Schrijfblokkade of afrondings-angst

Als Marieke (niet haar echte naam) bij me komt, zit ze vast bij het schrijven van haar masterscriptie. Ze ervaart hoge tijdsdruk door de deadline en prestatiedruk omdat het een eindwerkstuk van haar opleiding is. Dat herkent ze van haar bachelorscriptie. Ze reageert net als toen door chaotisch bezig te zijn: ze springt van links naar rechts in haar tekst en schrijft her en der stukjes  zonder overzicht van het geheel, zonder duidelijke structuur. Ook vlucht ze weg voor deze moeilijke klus. Ze vindt allerlei uitvluchten: van de boodschappen tot de was, van een kopje thee tot internet. Vervolgens baalt ze van zichzelf omdat ze niet gedaan heeft wat ze zich had voorgenomen. Ik raad haar aan om elke dag eens stil te staan bij wat er wel goed ging: waar is ze tevreden over?

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