Why People Quit Big Projects (And How Not To!)

The below fantastic article from ThesisWhisperer.com is aimed at graduate students, but really pertains to anyone who is struggling, or has struggled, with a big project. (Just substitute “boss” for “supervisor” if needed!) Thanks to the the Thesis Whisperer herself, Dr. Inger Mewburn, Director of Research Training at the Australian National University, for kind permission to reprint. I've edited it for brevity, added some formatting, and also annotated it with some of my own thoughts and solutions. And your own thoughts and feedback are always welcome. - Hillary Why do people quit the PhD? by Dr. Inger Mewburn As it turns out, we already know quite a lot about why people quit their PhD. In her 2006 paper, “The Changing Environment for Doctoral Education in Australia”, Margot Pearson summarises prior research, mainly conducted in the United States, and names a complex set of interlocking factors: research mode (full time / part time or movement between the two) structure of the … [Read more...]

Lessons from a Struggling Math Student

Math teacher Ben Orlin has all the usual complaints about students. They don't do their work, don't show up for help, and settle for memorizing facts instead of working to truly understand the material. Unlike many teachers, however, he knows better than to label his students as lazy and unmotivated—in part because he once walked in their shoes. In an essay of compelling honesty and empathy, he writes about how he himself once struggled during a class on topology (the funky science of shapes and spaces), and took refuge in the very same procrastinating behaviors he sees in students. His story demonstrates many features of perfectionism, including: 1) How Blindsiding Makes Things Worse Orlin: “Thanks to a childhood of absurd privilege, I entered college well-prepared. As a sophomore in the weed-out class for Yale math majors, I earned the high score on the final exam. After that, it seemed plausible to me that I’d never fail at anything mathematical.” When Orlin did start failing, therefore, he was … [Read more...]

I’m Offering a Powerful and Economical Online Class/TeleCoaching Bundle at The Loft

Super-thrilled to be teaching an online class at The Loft, one of the world's premier community writing programs, starting September 30. Even more thrilled to be offering a class/coaching bundle. The class will set you up for greater productivity; the 40 minutes of individualized telephone coaching will personalize the class information and help you amplify the result. All students also get a free e-book of The 7 Secrets of the Prolific. More info. For more classes (online, Boston, and Hyannis) check out my Events Page. … [Read more...]

Inger Mewburn on Racism in Academia

A very good and honest piece from Inger Mewburn, a.k.a., The Thesis Whisperer, about waking up to racism in academia, and her own white privilege: At the time Joe and I were both looking for more permanent work in academia. It has to be said that neither of us were having much luck. I barely waited to put in my lunch order before debriefing him on my latest unsuccessful job interview. Once again, I had been passed over for a man who, I felt, was less qualified to do the teaching than I was. It was my 5th knock back and I was beginning to seriously question my sanity. At the time I didn’t understand that people don’t get jobs in academia just because they are good at stuff like teaching. Connections, histories, reputations – they all matter. Now it’s perfectly obvious why a professor, who had run out of soft money, would make sure his best research assistant got hired, but at the time I blamed it all on the gender thing (I still don’t think I was entirely wrong to do so). So I got my rant on to Joe, who ate … [Read more...]