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July 23, 2018 | by  | in PGSA |
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Postgrad Informer

Kia Ora Postgrads,
As a PhD student in my final year of research, I’ve found myself taking a moment to think about what I’d do differently if I were to embark on this journey again, and specifically how I have become far more proficient at knowing when to quit.
Now I definitely don’t mean quit and give up, rather “this isn’t working and I need to try something else” kind of quit. It can be difficult as students to know when to speak up and determine that something isn’t working. Your supervisor may have all the brilliant ideas that seem straightforward, but at the end of the day you’re the one on the shop floor, so what do you do when it doesn’t work?
It’s important to understand that “quitting” and moving onto a different idea/version/trial in research isn’t a bad thing. Often you’ll uncover something that works differently and answers the question anyway, allowing you to come full circle. When your “full circle” turns out to be more like a squiggly limp line, focus in on your research question to ask yourself “how is this helping me answer my thesis question?” Sometimes getting a fresh perspective and talking to your colleagues will lead you to a different way to proceed.
Research at any stage can be long, hard, and frustrating. It’s full of amazing achievements and wonderful highs of discovery and enlightenment, but usually those aren’t the parts that keep you up at night. If I could go back and give myself a two minute talk prior to embarking on PhD life, ensuring I was working on the skills to determine when I needed to change tack would be a key point. When you pour your heart and soul into an idea, it can be hard to step back and acknowledge that “that one” didn’t work.
I urge you to let those go, remind yourself of your key question, and take a fresh look. I can almost guarantee you’ll find a new solution.

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