Adversity is your ally (and so are obstacles)

At my workshops with universities and research organisations, we tend to spend quite a lot of time on an exercise called „Jumping Obstacles“ (based on the card deck „75 tools for creative thinking“ by Cordoba Rubino/Hazenberg/Huisman, by the way). This has proven to be very helpful; and if you’re interested in the science behind this, you might want to read about Gabrielle Oettingen’s research: it shows that plain positive thinking is actually harmful, but having a vision and combining this with developing a strategy to deal with upcoming obstacles will help enormously with reaching one’s goals.

Yet obstacles are much more than just a hindrance to deal with, something to get over. Actually the obstacles are what can make your work good, more than just solid – remarkable. This may sound ridiculous at first, but there is a reason to it. Weiterlesen

To get to the desired end, you have to forget about it

So you want to write a doctoral thesis or something similar? First of all you need to know where you’re headed; otherwise you’ll never get there:

  • You really have to know why you want to do this. The more complex, hard and time-consuming the project, the more important this will be.
  • You have to know your goal: what is it you aim for?
  • You have to know what this means for the text you are trying to produce: which criteria will it need to meet?

Yet at the same time you have to be aware that „writing“ actually means two completely different things: the text as an outcome, and the process leading to it. I assume you want to produce the best text possible. What must seem like a paradox to you is the central point of good writing:

To produce a really great text, quite often you will have to forget about all criteria for that when working your way towards it. Weiterlesen

Write like a pro: workshop with GIGA Hamburg

In October and November I’ll be heading north again: for a workshop with GIGA Hamburg.

GIGA, the German Institute of Global and Area Studies, is an independent social science research institute and member of the Leibniz association. There they have a very impressive concept of providing their incoming doctoral students with a number of workshops to give them the best possible start. I will give one of these workshops: Weiterlesen

Choosing a PhD subject: there’s more to it than THE tells you!

On their Facebook site, academics.com have posted a link to a Times Higher Education piece on choosing a PhD subject.

This article contains some useful tips, but I don’t think it suitable for general guidance on the issue – probably because it focuses too heavily on the thesis as an outcome, instead of the process leading to it. And some of the statements are just wrong: like the advice to go for an empirical study rather than a theoretical one, because a PhD student is considered too young to come up with a major breakthrough. This is just bollocks! Some major scientific discoveries have been made as part of a doctoral thesis, and people have even won Nobel prizes for their theses. So, be a proper academic: don’t believe everything you see, even if it is said to come from an expert.

I coach academic writers of all levels and fields, mostly doctoral students though, and I give workshops on how to succeed with your PhD thesis for universities and international PhD events. Based on my experience and a lot of research into everything that can help with writing one’s thesis, from psychology to agile project management, I’d recommend a more systematic approach to make sure you get off on the right foot. So here you go: Weiterlesen