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Academic Courage

To be a researcher is undoubtedly to be a person of courage. This is something I am realizing more and more on my academic journey.

Courage of what kind? Well, courage to say something. That is the thing about the academic world: its really hard to be in it without having something to say. And its really hard to say something if you don’t have the courage to speak.

Any yet so much of a researcher’s environment militates against this necessary courage. Questions and doubts linger and agitate the mind. How do I compare to my colleagues? How will this thesis be received? Is it the kind of thing said in the kind of way that will gain the respect of my peers? Is it just controversial enough to be interesting without being so controversial that it offends?

Besides these, one can find oneself in paralysis by the sheer abundance of data and topics available for exploration. With all the vast detail and scope of my discipline, even if I have original thoughts, where do I begin in assimilating them? Assessing the landscape can leave the researcher frozen.

What is the answer to all these questions? What is the anecdote for paralysis? How do we begin to speak?

I’m not sure I have an answer, nor am I sure that one would really satisfy the gravity of the questions. But I do know this. At some point you have to stop caring what people think. You have to stop assessing all the data. You have to stop thinking about saying something and just say it.

To do this takes courage. And self-trust. Hey, you got accepted to the program, right? You clearly have some idea of when and what to say.

So take heart, researchers. Sure, have one eye on your critics as you write. Sure, keep collecting data.

But say something.

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