On how to stay afloat

In my previous post I have talked about the helpfulness of peer-review, and this is a continuation which will talk about why in thesis writing “not making any waves” and keeping quiet may be a dangerous approach.

Following the theme of aquatic metaphors, there is a saying in Russian language “Спасение утопающих – это дело самих утопающих”, which roughly translates as “Saving the drowning people is the business of those drowning people”. It expresses the individualistic notion prevalent in the modern society that you have to cope with your problems on your own. This is an issue faced by many young researchers writing their theses, including myself. However, as Sulushash Iksanovna aptly puts it “Do not struggle alone”, because sometimes reaching out and even simply discussing your concerns will help you by letting talk them through, creating the possibility of a solution coming to you in the process. Previously-discussed peer review is one of the, but not the only form of asking for help.

If you feel that you are going under – do not be ashamed to admit that you are struggling and ask for advice from your supervisors or peers. For me, one of the biggest obstacles so far has been dealing with the quantitative data as part of my mixed-methods study. The feeling of helplessness and confusion overwhelmed me, rendering me unable to produce any meaningful content for a period of time.

What really helped me in this situation was asking for advice and help from my peers, who are also doing mixed-method studies. I approached several of them, and they explained some of the things I was confused about, especially in dealing with SPSS. Understanding that they can also be confused about certain aspects and discussing our approaches and talking about our studies produced many a revelation about my own work. This process enabled me to further pursue my aims with the new knowledge we have created in our discussions, as well as the invaluable advice and moral support that each of them provided during this collaborative journey. Please, do make waves and you will not drown when there are helping hands reaching down from the countless safety rafts around you.

BBC America. (2017). Planet Earth: Blue Planet II | Radiohead & Hans Zimmer – (ocean) bloom [Video file]. Retrieved April 03, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2f9SItUEtJ8 ]

2 thoughts on “On how to stay afloat

  1. You may have a future career as a counselor! This is a well-crafted personal reflection that communicates clearly the fact that students shouldn’t suffer in silence. Yes, a master’s program can cause suffering, and maybe part of it is by design as your professors and instructors challenge you to do things you didn’t think you could do. But, the strategies we develop to cope, many of which involve the support of our peers, are just as important as the academic knowledge we gain in the process.

    PS- David Attenborough’s voice can soothe anyone, so thanks for sharing the video!

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  2. Good point, Soothsayer! I remember how Dr Kerimkulova would repeat those words, so I’ve been practising what she preached. It’s a good thing MA1 has a Whatsapp chat to share concerns both academic and personal. In some cases, we meet up since almost everyone lives on the same floor. Can’t imagine what it would be like if we didn’t have a fixed group like most undergraduates here.
    As for the things you mentioned about your thesis writing, I see those coming, too. *shivers* Glad you’ve found your lifebuoy. Good luck!

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