The Post-Meeting Effect and How To Make the Most of It
Meetings associated with planning, conducting and writing up research tend to be a fact of life for thesis and dissertation students. Meetings with your supervisor or primary mentor will ideally be frequent. Meetings with other members of your committee on an individual basis may take place occasionally, and at least one meeting with all the members of your committee is usually required. Even if these meetings feel informal, the discussions that take place are professional. They focus on your work and are likely to leave you with strong responses of both an emotional and intellectual nature. At times these responses are not as positive as you might have hoped, but they can generally be put to good use and contribute to the overall progress of your research and writing.
Most ideal, at least in initial appearances, are the meetings with a supervisor or mentor in which a student’s work is discussed or shared and everything the student is doing or writing is approved and perhaps praised. Such meetings are exciting, encouraging and uplifting and may make you feel as though you could take a bull by the horns, wrap the whole world up tidily in your favourite theory or solve every problem ever encountered in your subject area or even your entire discipline. It is far from realistic or productive to retain illusions of this kind no matter how pleasing they may be, and rest assured that the feeling will pass, but while it remains, it can be effectively harnessed. Perhaps there is some necessary aspect of your intended research that makes you shudder over its enormity or complexity. If so, use that feeling of invincibility as inspiration to begin, and do it right away. A fine meal with wine and a decadent dessert to celebrate your successful meeting are certainly in order, but stop at the library first to take advantage of your enthusiasm and sink your teeth into the edge of that enormous chunk of daunting work. Once the glow of the meeting has faded, you will be very glad that you did.
Much more frequent are meetings that leave you feeling unsettled because some or all of the ideas and procedures you thought excellent have met with criticism. Criticism is an essential part of modern scholarship and, in the best of circumstances, it serves to help academic and scientific researchers and authors identify problems and improve their research and writing. Unfortunately, the dissatisfaction felt when a scholar encounters such criticism can extend far beyond the problems identified and cast a shadow over the project as a whole, occasionally causing the student to question his or her abilities. Negative feelings of this kind can be overcome by a process of rational and thoughtful assessment that focuses with precision on the aspects of your work identified as problematic. Keep in mind that these aspects of your work are usually much fewer, smaller and more isolated than your initial response may allow and that improving those aspects will also enhance the parts of your work that are already effective.
If you apply the critical mindset created by more trying meetings to establish a plan of attack to eliminate problems and write the best thesis or dissertation you can, your approach may be far more effective than it would be after one of those desirable ego-caressing meetings. However, do be sure to allow yourself reflection on the anticipated changes for long enough that the immediate emotional response has eased a little – you do not want to be so brutal that you throw the baby out with the bath water!
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