A happy Master thesis: Progress and appropriation even before the PhD
Feelings of being stuck, of not knowing where we’re going, self-doubt, guilt… are not exclusive to the doctoral thesis journey. Despite their smaller scope, other long projects with little feedback or structure (like a master thesis) share the same motivational pitfalls and may induce the same kind of uncomfortable experience at times. In this two-part post series, we review key advice and simple practices which could also be useful to help us face these capstone projects. But these can also be very useful if you are a PhD student just starting out!
PhD tool: Map out your PhD
We know that steady everyday progress is a crucial factor in finishing a PhD. In previous posts, we have seen productivity techniques to support us in taking more of these daily steps. Yet, a lot of walking does not necessarily get us anywhere. We need to know that we are actually getting past key reference points, closer to our final destination. In this post, I propose a diagramming exercise to map out key obstacles, milestones and the “everyday fuel” that propels us past them in our journey towards PhD completion.
Advising for progress: tips for PhD supervisors
In a previous post, we have seen the crucial role that having a sense of progress plays, not only in the productivity, but also in the engagement and persistence of a PhD student towards the doctorate. While this recognition (and the practices to “make progress visible” we saw) put a big emphasis on the student as the main active agent, PhD students are not the only actors in this play. Is there anything that doctoral supervisors can do to help? In this post, I go over some of the same management research on progress and our own evidence from the field, looking at what supervisors can do to support their students in perceiving continuous progress that eventually leads to a finished doctoral thesis.
Cultivating the progress loop in your PhD
Have you ever felt like you are “stuck” in your PhD, making no progress, or going in circles? If so, you are in good company – most PhD students report such experience at one time or another during their doctoral process. The normalcy of this experience, however, should not make us dismiss it as unimportant. In this post I review research that speaks to the importance of this sense of progress (or the lack of it) to our engagement with work and the eventual completion (or dropping out) of the PhD. The post also reviews several everyday practices to cultivate your own sense of progress.