If you’re lucky, there will be people around you advising your on your PhD journey.

Most often it’s your supervisors. They’re generally a great resource and can offer a wealth of experience and knowledge upon which you can draw. Often, they’ll be offering you advice and guidance that they think is in your best interest. 

But, from time to time, they’ll get it wrong. The advice they give may be the wrong advice, or you may feel like they don’t understand your project or have missed an important point. You may disagree with something they say or the direction in which they want you to take your research. 

A few interesting things happen at these junctures of disagreement. One, you are reminded that you know more about your project than your supervisor (and the further along the PhD journey you are the greater this disparity becomes). Second, you are accountable for the decisions you make in your PhD.

It’s your project, not theirs. 

This has an important implication. There will be times where you choose to over-rule or ignore the advice you’re given. This is an important milestone in your PhD journey, as it is when you start to flex your academic muscles. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground if you know the advice you’re given to be wrong, but be prepared to justify your divergence with reference to logic, the literature or your findings. Tell the supervisor why you think they are wrong, but do so diplomatically and in an academic way. Academia is fuelled by disagreement, so they won’t be offended if you can clearly articulate your case (but then again, be prepared to listen to their response and don’t be stubbornly insistent). 

When you have your viva and your examiner asks you why you made a particular decision you won’t be able to say ‘because my supervisor told me’. You are accountable and it is your project. Most of your time your supervisor knows best, but sometimes they don’t. 

Good luck. 

 

Hello, Doctor…

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