Progress not perfection…I am not an Imposter

Guest blog post from Alli Coyle, PhD student and Administrative Officer.

When Louise, IAD Doctoral Training Manager, asked if I would guest write a few blog posts for the iad4phd WordPress I admittedly went to the one place I have written about my PhD experiences Alli Coyle from Scotland to Malawi.  My own blog features my experiences as a PhD research including of conducting fieldwork in Malawi.

Looking back over my own PhD experiences – I would be lying to say it wasn’t a bumpy ride. Still, I wouldn’t change a bit of it. The experience of doing a PhD is different for every individual and is very personal.

However, there are some commonalities, many PhD candidates (including me) and our supervisors, published academics and the people we often put on a pedestal suffer from Imposter’s Syndrome. It continues to surprise me that it’s not commonly talked about amongst PhD students and academic colleagues.

Imposter Syndrome – is the feeling of not really belonging, that you’ll be found out or don’t deserve to be doing a PhD.

As the PhD can be quite an isolating experience, it is also the case that we (PhD students) don’t often realise that others feel the same way. I recently completed the MOOC How to Survive Your PhD and I was amazed at the discussions around Imposters Syndrome, what it is and how to work through it.

There are three things to remember if you are feeling like an imposter

  1. You are not! Honestly, I know it may seem easy for me to say but You are not
  2. Your colleagues most likely feel the same way!
  3. Talk about it – with friends and colleagues

There is a good summing-up of some of the tips from the MOOC on the Graduate School Reading Room blog (University of Leicester)

The PhD experience is different for everyone. A colleague once said to me “the PhD is about progress not perfection’ – now this is something I remind myself of over and over again (the phrase is stuck on my fridge door).

Miss Alli Coyle

PhD Candidate, African Studies (post-viva)


Administrative Officer (Researcher Development), IAD


Three Minute Thesis: February Training for Tall Tales and Imposters

Guest Blog Post from Iain Davidson: Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Training Consultant

Why should you show your research work in three minutes to a live audience of complete strangers? Are you crazy? Why should you even attend a training course?

All that unfinished research, all those half written papers, all the ideas and experiments you are still working on? No, you are probably not ready.

But we you know you are, and now we want you to show us by stepping up to the stage, taking a deep breath, firing up a wonderful visual PowerPoint slide and telling us what it all means to you, and to society, in just three minutes. It’s as simple as that.

But your ‘imposter syndrome’* is your biggest challenge, not your eager audience.

The ‘imposter syndrome’ is the common belief amongst educated and thoughtful people that they are not ready to show their work and that they have still much to do to become that ideal research scientist, professor, designer or architect. Well, fine, except that day may never come because your ‘imposter’ will keep following and whispering in your ear. Until the time you turn round, face him and call him for what he is…a myth that is holding you back from being the best you can be.

Now we believe that time has come, because we need your vision now, not tomorrow.

The three minute thesis [3MT] competition is a myth busting reality check and a celebration of all your energy, enthusiasm, ideas and vision as a researcher.

In February we will be running two half-day training sessions for anyone who is considering taking on the 3MT challenge and banishing his or her myths for ever!

The two half-day training sessions will be held on Thursday the 18th and 25th February, more details here. PhD researchers from any discipline are encouraged to attend if serious about showing their work in the three-minute format. The training is lively, thought provoking, engaging and a great deal of fun. You should feel empowered to sign up for the challenge and be ready to deliver a three-minute pitch at your School finals sometime in the spring.

Past winners and participants have found taking part in this simple and creative academic sprint competition to be life changing in many different ways. Please read the wonderful blogs by our previous winners Mara, Emma and Chen Zhao for their enthusiasm and inspiration. Warning: entering the competition could change your life.

So don’t let the imposter stop you. Banish the winter blues and sign up for a life enhancing experience with very real personal, academic and career benefits.


More information on 3 Minute Thesis can be found herePrint