“All PGR Students Should be Publishing all the Time”
This myth might be something that you hear from other students, academics, your own supervisor or it might just be something that you feel.
It is within our nature to compare ourselves with others. Because postgraduate research has so few hard and fast rules or structures and relies on you finding your own path, it can be difficult to assess how you are doing. Comparing your progress with that of your peers, is one obvious way of being able to measure your success.
While this makes sense, it is also something of a trap. While you and your peers are studying towards the same award, you will probably be working on very different projects. So you aren’t comparing like for like.
This is particularly the case when it comes to publishing your work in journals etc. If your peers are publishing more regularly than you, it can be easy to wonder if that is because their work is better – and in turn to begin to ruminate on whether or not your work is good enough.
Of course, there are good reasons to publish when you can. Seeing your work in a peer reviewed journal can reassure you that you are on the right track and your work is good. It can also boost your morale and raise your profile.
However, research does not happen in a predictable straight line. Some research designs will make it possible to produce publications on a frequent and regular basis. On other projects, you may not be clear on any of your findings until almost the very end, making it difficult to produce much publishable work before that point. This does not mean there is anything wrong with your design. The point of research at this level is not to produce lots of papers. Your job is to interrogate your research question, with the most appropriate methodology, to produce an original contribution to knowledge at the end of your project.
It can help to review your methodology and project plan and identify points in your project when you might have some publishable findings – the word might is important here. Research can be unpredictable, if the findings don’t materialise, it doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong. Once you’ve reviewed your project plan, it can help to produce a publication plan – even if some of your plan goes past the point of thesis submission.
You can use this to reassure yourself, your supervisor and anyone else who asks.