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The Nordic PhD

Surviving and Succeeding

Edited By Christopher McMaster, Caterina Murphy and Jakob Rosenkrantz de Lasson

The Nordic PhD: Surviving and Succeeding is an edited book written for prospective and current doctoral students by a mix of doctoral students and those who have recently completed their doctorates. The premise is simple: if you could go back in time and talk with yourself when you began your studies, what advice would you give? Isn’t hindsight a bonus? If only I knew then what I know now!

The Nordic PhD: Surviving and Succeeding follows editions focused on study in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, the U.K., U.S., and South Africa. What sets The Nordic PhD: Surviving and Succeeding apart from many others on the market is its down-to-earth and practical approach. Furthermore, its originality also lies in the fact that it is grounded in the context of doctoral studies in the Nordic countries.

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Chapter Six: I Feel Like a Complete Idiot!: Starting a PhD Program in a New Field (Christine Cox Eriksson)


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I Feel Like a Complete Idiot!

Starting a PhD Program in a New Field



Many PhD candidates study a subject that they already know quite a bit about, perhaps even after earning a master’s degree, working or teaching in the field, or participating in a particular project. However, in some cases, a candidate is chosen for a specific position because they are deemed to possess certain qualities rather than extensive experience in a proposed field of study. I was that type of candidate and soon faced the challenge of being a novice in a field which was new for me.

In 2009, I became one of two doctoral students in a rather ambitious research project on children’s early language development and was to receive my degree in the field of Special Education. Most of my previous work experience had involved teaching languages to children as well as adults in a number of contexts. Of course, I was flattered and pleased to be chosen for the PhD project, but I did not anticipate that my journey would be such an emotional rollercoaster. How is it possible for an intelligent, well-educated person to feel like a complete idiot?

This chapter will highlight ways in which it is possible to overcome this feeling through gaining an understanding of the project, and of the field itself. Obviously, the colleagues...

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