The little black cloud of research ennui


Mondays are my favourite day of the week. Each Monday, I get up at six (read: my alarm goes off at six and I roll out of bed any time between six and twenty past) and make the commute to uni. Once there, I spend a few hours holed up in the office, working in silence until one of my office mates arrives. We enjoy shooting the breeze for a bit and then it’s back to work for another “few hours of power.”

My Mondays might sound like your idea of hell. Perhaps you’re a night owl or work best surrounded by people? I confess I’m more of a morning person, but even I find the 6am(ish) starts a challenge. I also really enjoy being in our shared office and am definitely guilty of gas-bagging or asking questions a bit too much on occasion :). Despite this, my Mondays really work for me. There is something almost magical about them; my to-do lists get completed, my thesis word count starts to look a bit healthier  and the thinking about knotty questions finally happens.  For me, I think my Monday productivity is result of a fresh start to the week, scheduling time to write and tweak my studies and having to make sure I put in quality work so I don’t feel guilty leaving early to attend a dance class! Whatever the reason, these Mondays (and sometimes Wednesdays and Fridays) of power have recently led to some positive outcomes: I designed half my measure, finished the bulk of an assignment, recruited participants and wrote a grant application, three-quarters of two manuscripts and a modification request. All in a month. I was sickeningly productive. Everything was peachy….

Cue the plot twist…

I’ve now hit a period of research ennui.  Every PhD student I know has hit a period of research ennui; the state of being simultaneously excited about where you’ve come but daunted by where you have to go.  It’s as if a little black cloud of research angst rolled in without anyone noticing and regardless of age, stage and research topic we were all caught without an umbrella as the heavens opened. I’ve gotten caught in a light shower of it myself, but it’s still annoying.

English: rain

English: rain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What came down in the shower for me was the need to face some knotty research questions  and fill a black hole sized gap in the literature in order to create a measure. On the one hand things are going well with my research because my studies have clarified what is going on and have this has practical applications. On the other hand however, I now need to run at least two more studies, figure out how to make them methodologically sound despite the meagre supporting literature available and then make an educated guess and leap of faith in designing my measure. It’s all a little scary. To be honest, it’s not the challenges these pose, the uncertainty or the need to really stretch myself that bothers me though. More than anything it’s catching myself second guessing my ability to make it all happen that annoys me.  So you know what little black cloud? Begone, because I’ve decided to make it all happen. Blue skies ahead.

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1 Comment

Filed under A day in the life, Clinical Phd, Reflections, Research, thesis

One response to “The little black cloud of research ennui

  1. Pingback: 2013: The year in review | Honourable Mentions

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