Dealing with feedback from your supervisors - the emotional side

Gepubliceerd op 26 januari 2024 om 12:00

In this previous blog, we wrote about how to deal with feedback from your supervisors in terms of content as a PhD student. Practical tips are always helpful, but especially when you have just started as a PhD student, receiving feedback can also evoke some feelings. In this blog, we discuss the emotional side of dealing with feedback from your supervisors and other co-authors.

Don’t get discouraged

When you receive feedback from multiple supervisors, especially in the same document, it can be an overwhelming sight. When you work in Word and use the trackchanges function, you often see a multicolored text on your screen because of all the text adjustments made by the various co-authors. Sometimes it looks like there is nothing left of your original text. And on top of that there are a whole bunch of comments in the margins. You could easily become discouraged, but do not let that be the case! If you start by calmly reading through the feedback, you will see that there are often many small, easily adjustable suggestions among them. The comments will usually also contain what your supervisors already liked about your paper! If you subsequently start with accepting the text changes, it often looks a lot clearer already.

Don’t resist, be an optimist

Sometimes the substantive feedback you receive can be tough, because your paper really needs some improvement. It is alright to be upset about that, but try not to get into a mode of resistance. That is a waste of your own time and energy, and it is also unpleasant for your supervisors and co-authors, who have put effort into your paper. Instead, try to remain optimistic and in a 'learning mode', in order to be able to work constructively with all the suggestions for improvement. The great thing is that with all those tips from your supervisors, co-authors and of course your own diligent work, you will end up with a great paper. As a doctoral student and the first author, you get to shine with that!

Don't take it personally

Getting feedback is never meant as a personal attack. Receiving feedback is not a reflection of how good or bad you are. Feedback is only meant to make the research (article) that all of you are working so hard on as good as possible. No one expects you to already know everything and be able to do everything when you are writing your first papers as a PhD student. Getting feedback is just one of the ways you gain knowledge. Besides: feedback comes with the job of researcher.

Lifelong learning

Perhaps you are eagerly awaiting the moment when, as a postdoctoral researcher, you can write your articles independently, and no longer have to deal with feedback. If that is the case, we are sorry to disappoint you. As a postdoc, senior researcher and even as a professor, you will still receive feedback on the papers you write. After all, you hardly ever write a paper alone, and everyone brings their own knowledge, expertise, skills and insights to the table. That is why you always work on research together. By giving each other feedback, you learn from each other and ultimately arrive at the best result. No one is too old or too wise to learn from someone else. It wouldn't be good for science either if everyone was done learning after their PhD, right?

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