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Supervisor Comments or Are PhD Students Masochists?

Remember my post about how confusing it is when each supervisor tells you something different about the same paragraph/sentence/section – particularly if these comments are contradictory? An experience, every PhD student I had talked to made.

Now listen (or rather read) to this:

My supervisors are really good in getting back to me quickly with comments, so after not having gotten any comments on my analysis chapter from supervisor one. I started to become a little nervous and anxious AND I learned something – I missed these contradiction! Can you imagine!? I even asked my supervisor one, why I did not get comments and got the answer: as not to confuse you! AND guess what?! I took up the offer to get the comments nevertheless!

Because not having them made me realize that I find all the confusion and the bitching at my computer and occasionally my blog, are utterly and entirely helpful. The struggle I have with these comments seem to kick start my learning and insights – and boy does it hurt. You surely made the experience of enthusiastic flinching, desperate outcries of: “But this is not what I meant!”,

embarrassed sobs while looking for a nice shiny hole in the ground, and the





occasional happy dance when one of the comments features an elaborate: “Good!”










There is a paradigm in educational sciences that states that contradictions and friction offer learning opportunities [Lernanlässe] (meanwhile supported by some neuroscientific research, such as the interest-deprivation model). Now if that is true, and it is also true that undertaking a PhD is a heuristic quest of one kind or another, and PhD students volunteer to undertake this quest, it seems congruously to conclude that PhD students have a slight masochistic tendency. Doesn’t it?

Categories: Teaching

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Nathalie Sheridan

1 reply

  1. we are masochists. i am not happy unless i’m stuck in a nasty dank hell of my own making. but it is nice to know there are others. community! i’m happy to find another disserator…


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