“I think that many PhD students are aware of the term ‘impostor syndrome’ and many suffer from it. It is helpful to put words to that shrinking feeling that your work isn’t ‘good enough’ and to recognize that others feel the same, but that doesn’t make it easy to shrug off.”
PhD researcher, University of Canberra
What is impostor syndrome?
Impostor syndrome is the term used to describe feeling like an impostor or ‘fraud’, that you don’t deserve your status, and that your successes are simply down to chance. It’s normally attributed to highly qualified individuals (like researchers), so it may come as no surprise that the topic is becoming increasingly discussed in academia. As one article in The Times Higher Education observes, “Impostor syndrome is rampant throughout academia.” There are also blog posts and *almost* daily tweets about the phenomenon.
So, what exactly does impostor syndrome look like? Why is it so often discussed in academia? Are some individuals more prone to these feelings of self-doubt than others? And what steps can you take to combat impostor syndrome if you do experience it during your research?
Catch up on our Twitter discussion: #tandftalk
We hosted a live Twitter discussion to answer all these questions and more, facing impostor syndrome head-on. We were join by panellists based in Australia and the UK, who shared their experiences and advice.
Read all the tweets gathered into one storify, with thoughts, reflections and practical tips on impostor syndrome and researcher identity.
Meet our panel
Jonathan O’Donnell, Research Whisperer at the College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University, Australia, @researchwhisper
Jonathan and Tseen Khoo jointly run Research Whisperer, a popular blog (and twitter account) dedicated to discussion around doing research in academia. Each week they explore a range of topics, from finding funding to building up a good academic track-record. Four days a week, Jonathan helps artists, educators, social scientists and humanities scholars at RMIT University with their research funding applications. The rest of the time he works on his PhD, on the topic of crowdfunding as a method of raising research funds.
Dr Katie Wheat leads a variety of projects to support the professional development of researchers as Training and Resources Development Manager at Vitae. Recent projects have included exploring what it means to be an ‘open researcher’, and how to develop the next generation of researchers and academic leaders. Previously, Katie was a postdoctoral researcher in psychology and cognitive neuroscience, and co-founded the #ECRchat Twitter chat for early career researchers.
Lilia Mantai, PhD researcher, Department of Educational Studies, Macquarie University, Australia, @LiliaMantai
Lilia has recently submitted a PhD on researcher identity development in doctoral students. She is currently an Associate Editor for the Higher Education Research and Development journal, and has worked at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, in various roles over the last seven years. Her research experience and interests include undergraduate research in Australia, PhD student housing, professional and academic identity constructions of Education and PhD graduates, online learning and teaching, online resources for PhD supervision, and doctoral student and early career researcher support.
Petra Kolić, PhD researcher, lecturer in the Department of Exercise & Sports Science, Manchester Metropolitan University, @Pe_K89
Petra is a lecturer in the Department of Exercise & Sport Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University, and an early-career researcher, currently completing her doctoral research. With a background in competitive figure skating, Petra has strong interest in elite sporting environments. To complete her PhD, she is currently studying the impact of high performance coach education in the UK. Petra’s research is of qualitative nature, which sits well with her interest in how people define themselves and engage in social interactions. Petra has experience in conducting ethnographic fieldwork, working with stakeholders and presenting her research at international conferences.
Listen to our podcast
Check out our podcast series: 15 minutes to develop your research career for practical tips and insights for researchers looking to develop their career.
Starring interviews with David Uribe from European University Association and Mark Proctor, Academic Development Officer at the University of Sunderland, Episode 4 takes a closer look at impostor syndrome and the challenges facing researchers today.
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