I’m in the process of discussing my thesis proposal with my supervisory committee. Which means I’m getting some outside views on my research path from others who are not as vested in it as I am (or my supervisor is) but do want to see it succeed (they did join my committee after all).
It’s kind of a scary time, as my committee hasn’t been around for all the discussions, attempts, success and failures, and decisions about what paths to take and what ones to abandon. However, it also means that they’re in a great position to give me some unbiased feedback. And, so far, the feedback has been mostly positive. But, there’s also been good critical feedback in terms of other researchers to look up, papers to find, examples to use, etc.
It’s really easy to take any critiques of your work to heart, and feel like they’re critiquing you. And it’s a difficult, but necessary, skill to develop to learn how to separate those critiques from your own feelings.
There’s a Matchbox 20 song Mad Season that contains the following line:
I feel stupid, but I know it won’t last for long
I feel that this song is a great summary of how grad school often feels. And when you’re reading a review or getting feedback on your work it’s a feeling that you need to embrace. So maybe you missed something, but that’s why your asking for feedback. And now that you know what you’re missing, you can take the necessary steps to search it out.
Another great reason to have others read your work, is that you can think you’re being clear only to find out that others reading your work don’t agree. Or that your basing your work on a set of assumptions only to find out that others are reading it with a different set of assumptions which changes the relevance or meaning of success. And once these are pointed out, you can go back through and make sure you specify all assumptions and clarify any misleading sections.
For me, I know have a list of tasks which will allow me to broaden my knowledge on my research area (which is never a bad thing). And also comes at a good time, when my normal task list was finally almost finished (something I never thought would happen). And I’ll now look forward to these meetings a bit more (even if they continue to be a little scary).