Conference Theme: Developing as a researcher through perseverance

  1. Developing as a Researcher

Researcher development is a key focus of research education. Researcher development, in a broader sense, is more than learning research methods, understanding a technique, or mastering statistical software. It is about building professional, personal, and social competencies that trigger research ideas, facilitate collaboration, create support networks, and promote a culture of active participation within a research community. Though the concept of researcher development is fairly new, it is gaining momentum and slowly being recognised as the way forward for universities to build the skills and attributes necessary for researchers to be more effective. While most higher learning institutions focus on research output, at BREC we dare to shift the focus to the researcher producing the output.

 

  1. Perseverance in Research

Conducting research in general, and completing a thesis in particular, does not come easily to most of us. Embarking on a higher degree by research (HDR) programme, i.e. Ph.D. or Master’s degree, can be a long and lonely journey that requires, among others, passion, vision, and most importantly “stamina”. This is because the research journey is full of obstacles of all kinds. If you have chosen this path and decided to take up the challenge, you are likely to face some of the ups and downs that are usually associated with higher research degrees.

The type of challenges and setbacks researchers and postgraduate students are likely to face depends on several factors. These include, but are not limited to, discipline, research project, institution, personnel abilities, supervisory team, support services, support networks, mode of study, social status…etc.

The list of challenges can be very long indeed, however the following are some of the most common among researchers and postgraduate students:

• Lack of motivation • Inadequate supervisory skills
• Poor time management • Lack of self-confidence
• Lack of peer support • Fear of failure
• Lack of institutional support • Poor research skills
• Loss of focus • Poor planning

Every year universities report the number of PhD completion and celebrate the achievement of their students, faculty and programs. This, however, is just half of the story. What universities choose not to report is the attrition rate among graduate students, which could be as high as 50%.

Doctoral students who fail to complete their study do so for many reasons and what complicates the matter even more is the fact that many of the above challenges are interrelated. For example, it is very likely that lack of self-confidence will lead to fear of failure which in itself may lead to lack of motivation, and then to loss of focus.

For most universities and supervisors, the major criteria for accepting students into their postgraduate programs is to demonstrate a certain level of mastery of research skills. There is no doubt that being equipped with some research skills is good for “take-off”, but that doesn’t always guaranty “safe landing”. Students may find adequate support when they face scholarly-related problems such as writing, conducting literature review, or identifying a gap. However, they may not receive the same support when students have lost focus, are demotivated or even depressed.

It is in this broader context that perseverance is seen as an important personal quality for researchers in general and postgraduate students in particular. To successfully complete their theses, students may need, from time to time, to fight alone and rely on their inner strengths and hidden capabilities. They also need to develop relationships from which they can seek support. As they progress and demonstrate resilience, they will be better able to take on leadership roles, and in turn support others through the challenges of a research degree.

This year’s conference offers an opportunity for participants to share and discuss all kinds of challenges that they face in the course of their research journey, and suggest effective strategies that help mitigate -if not avoid- the damage. There surely are many ways to respond and deal with such obstacles but perhaps the first line of defence is awareness: Awareness of self and awareness of potential challenges that lie ahead.

The main message of the conference would be: The decision is yours, the choice is yours, and the power is in your hands. Persevere, don’t give up!

We invite postgraduate students, researchers, research managers and supervisors to share their experiences and views on this important topic.

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