How to Keep your Doctorate on Track
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How to Keep your Doctorate on Track

Insights from Students’ and Supervisors’ Experiences

Edited by Keith Townsend, Mark N.K. Saunders, Rebecca Loudoun and Emily A. Morrison

The path of a doctoral student can feel challenging and isolating. This guide provides doctoral students with key ideas and support to kick-start a doctoral journey, inspire progress and complete their thesis or dissertation. Featuring observations from experienced supervisors, as well as the reflections of current and recent postgraduate researchers, this intimate and entertaining book offers vital insights into the critical moments in any doctoral experience.
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Chapter 7: When an orchestra misses its harmony (or how I learnt to work with my supervisors)

Mai Khanh Tran


The chapter uses the metaphor of sonata form to describe the life of the author’s doctoral thesis. Her first year somewhat resembled the first movement of a sonata, although difficulties in understanding both her supervisors’ expectations and the standard of work required led to a dramatic coda in which a surprising piece of critique caused a significant drop in her confidence. Moving to her second year, she experienced a number of crashes, ranging from epistemology and research directions to working style. However, the introduction of a new voice, in the form of a third supervisor, restored some harmony to the PhD composition. Further discordance arose in the third year, but the author concludes that the journey provided some memorable counterpoints that trained her to become a skilled composer, conductor, and performer of knowledge. These counterpoints inspire her to offer a few useful lessons for current and future PhD students.

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