It was not until I started writing up the results for a manuscript that I was suddenly and dramatically struck with most certain clarity!
Upon reflection of my research study I found myself starting to question every decision made. This microscopic scrutinisation effortlessly highlighted every flaw, leaving me with a heavy sinking feeling.
In hindsight I can see a far more rigorous study design that would’ve allowed a more useful analysis, resulting with a bigger impact. I can’t help but wonder why I hadn’t thought of these strategies while designing the study. I feel bad that I pursued these ideas without being questioned or being pushed to do better.
I’m not saying that my studies have been a waste of time, in fact the results are novel and interesting. It’s just that when you see the flaws and know you could’ve done better you can’t help but feel a little disappointed in yourself.
The thing I’m learning about research is that there is no perfect study design. The more you read and learn the more you realise there is always a better way to conduct the studies. When working with human subjects there are always complexities in the study design that doesn’t allow for a perfect scenario. Rigorous designs are compromised to follow ethical and logistical considerations. What we set out to do often morphs into something different but feasible.
Hugh Kearns offers support to PhD students and researchers, stating that “Research is not a straight line. There will be setbacks and failures.
Not nice but that’s research. Doesn’t mean you’re a bad researcher.” https://twitter.com/ithinkwellHugh/status/849158534054981632
Learning that no research is ever perfect and we can always strive to do better is a good mantra to follow as a PhD candidate.
p.s. I am also learning not to beat myself up for the flaws in my work
p.p.s. When feeling down, I recommend spending quality time with a friend of the furry kind 🙂