Monthly Archives: June 2016

Dissertation Writing Groups | Feedback and Motivation

Dissertation writing can be an isolating experience. The magnitude of the project can overwhelm. Dissertation writing groups—comprised of fellow dissertators who provide feedback—are a lifeline.

There are three kinds of writing groups:

The dissertation feedback groups I participated in as a doctoral student were instrumental in my success. They certainly improved my work. My productivity increased. In this blog post, I reprise and update the advice I compiled shortly after I graduated. [1]

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Yoda Was Wrong | It’s All About Try

Yoda, legendary teacher of Jedi knights, famously said, “Do or do not. There is no try.” This might be beneficial for training Jedi, but it is misleading for doctoral students and postdocs. For you, it is all about “Try.”

The binary “Do or Do not” frames the world in stark contrasts. Succeed or fail. Fly or crash. Blow up the Death Star or die. For us mere mortals, failure is not that consequential.

“Do Not.” It’s the decision not to attempt. Choose against testing long odds. Play it safe.

The “Do / Do Not” choice operates for many grad students. When failure seems to be around every corner, when hard work is unlikely to be rewarded, the choice “Do Not” is much easier to make. The high risk of failure acts as a deterrent. Inaction seems prudent.

“Why apply for that Fellowship/job/postdoc? I won’t get it?” “Why offer to run the local Pint of Science festival? I have never done anything like that before. It is sure to be a flop, distract me needlessly from my research, and incur the wrath of my advisor.” “Why apply for a postdoc as a digital humanities specialist? I don’t have all of the skills that they are asking for.”[1]

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Creative Confidence | Not Just for Artists

“Creativity” is not the sole purview of the artistically inclined. “Using your imagination to create something new in the world,” is the definition of creativity-evangelists Tom and David Kelley1. Researchers formulate new explanations, invent new products, conceive methods, and originate insights. Unquestionably creative.

Most of us, sadly, don’t see ourselves as creative. The truth is, say the Kelley brothers, “we are ALL creative.” We have deep reservoirs of creative potential waiting to be tapped.

Confidence, the feeling of self-assurance and trust in one’s ability, is a key ingredient. “Creative confidence is like a muscle,” they assert. With effort, experience, and deliberate practice, your confidence can grow. At the same time, your ability to be innovative and take risks will expand. In their book, Creative Confidence, (and a related TED talk) the Kelleys offer encouragement, examples, and practical tips.

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