Every week, The Sassy Scientist answers a question on geodynamics, related topics, academic life, the universe or anything in between with a healthy dose of sarcasm. Do you have a question for The Sassy Scientist? Submit your question here.
I feel like an imposter when doing research. Any tips?
Own it. First, get yourself into a place where you feel as uncomfortable as you can about your research. Rationalise yourself down the drain. Stop just before you get an actual depression. Then, list all the things you are doing in your research. Why are you taking these specific steps to prove that specific research question? Is it worth to look into this research question? Why are you looking at this detail, but are you simplifying that process? Why are you allowed to do so? Do your results/conclusions have a fundamental impact on other research? Is that research flawed, or did those authors simply overlook details they did not yet know existed but you can now prove are a fundamental part of the process? Et cetera, et cetera…
Hopefully you have stepped over the threshold of self-scrutiny after this cathartic exercise and found that what you’re doing actually makes sense. If you’re still hovering in a bleak realm, howling with self-doubt, try this: force yourself into a conversation with a friendly face in your research department (no, not your supervisors or direct colleagues!) and explain to them what you do. Do they get it and think that your research is worth the effort? If the answer is no, circle back to the first paragraph and look for the question you have not properly answered yet. If you cannot convince yourself by preparing legitimate answers to these questions, think of some new proper responses.
Still insecure? One final tip: buck up! We’ve all been insecure, the rest of us can simply hide it better. Fake it till you make it!
The Sassy Scientist
PS: This post was written as a cathartic exercise.