Developing academic identity and communicating your research

Dear all

The group discussions will continue every Tuesday at 11:00-12:00, as an online get-together/webinar. Each discussion will focus on a topic related to doing research.
Today Tuesday 21.4.20 we will focus on perfectionism. To join use this link

You can get the link by going to the Graduate Schools website. and their tweeter account

Check my tweeter account tweeter account @Alicia_Psych

or send an email to


Developing academic identity and communicating your research

At first, it may feel rather challenging to approach other academics and professionals, particularly when starting to explore your chosen subject.

It takes time to build an identity as a doctoral researcher – someone who is developing professional skills and expertise in an academic setting.

Academic identity develops gradually as you transition from being familiar with a topic (for example, from your former studies) to becoming a mini expert in your field of interest.  Through practice, you gradually become a professional researcher as you engage in discussions with your supervisors and academics, and through conversations with experts in your professional field.

Part of becoming a professional researcher is to develop the ability to explain and interpret your findings as you develop your ideas and possible contributions.

In the beginning, your audience will be supervisors and your peers, and later it will be other researchers and experts who you encounter at conferences.

It is good to practice communicating to others how your research is progressing, and letting them know what you are finding out. Having to explain your ideas is an excellent way of developing your thinking, and it helps to identify what you are not clear about and to identify any gaps.

Presenting your research at a conference

It is a good idea to take advantage of opportunities to present your research at internal and external conferences. They offer a good opportunity to explain your research to an audience who does not know you.

Often doctoral researchers find it is challenging to present their ideas at conferences because they are still shaping their research.

Some may perceive that the experts have it all worked out and may not take the time to listen to somebody who is developing their research ideas.

However, most experienced researchers are happy to listen to new researchers in their field and to contribute to finessing their thinking. It is always good to remember that the ‘experts’ in your field were beginners once.

Think of your research as work in progress, and you can mention this at the beginning of your presentation. To boost your confidence, practise presenting your ideas to some of your peers or friends. They can ask you questions so that you can get used to having to deal with these in front of an audience. The practice will help to develop your ideas so that you can communicate your research clearly.

Managing first impressions

When first meeting experts at a conference you might be concerned about how they perceive you. Try not to compare yourself with their level of expertise. Remember that you are developing your expertise and that they also had to work hard to develop their’s.

Perhaps you feel that you are not ready, or that your work is not good enough and that you shouldn’t be at the conference.

Having these negative thoughts and mixed emotions has been referred to as impostor syndrome. To overcome these feelings, remind yourself that having doubts is normal. Then, reframe the situation by focusing on the opportunity to meet other professionals in your area. They will be interested in meeting new researchers in their field.

Strategies to build confidence

Practising self-reflection: take time to reflect on your thoughts and feelings. Reflect on what matters to you and keep your values in mind. As you review your work, acknowledge your efforts and notice the progress you are making.

Developing an optimistic attitude: this refers to maintaining an open mind and the hope it is possible that things can turn out better than you expect. By persevering with your efforts, you can manage the challenge and build your confidence for future conferences.

Maintaining an open mind: consider situations from different perspectives and look for alternative interpretations. For example, instead of viewing presenting at a conference as too challenging, think of it as an opportunity to develop your skills and expertise.

Adopting a “can do” approach: even if you are uncertain take the initiative and experiment taking a few steps. If you make a few mistakes, use them as an opportunity to adjust and improve your work.

Acknowledging your efforts: Even if you experience a few setbacks during your presentation, focus on the fact that you did take the opportunity to present, and that you learned something. The practice will help you to develop your skills, so that when you have another opportunity to present you can apply what you have learned.