11 October 2017




There is something deeply comforting about knowing that no matter how niche your enthusiasm may be, there are others willing to grapple alongside you. This was my first impression of academia, and after six post-grad years flailing around the other side of the Pacific, it’s this impression that tipped me towards graduate school.

So after packing not one, but two sets of glasses and my favorite coffee beans and moving back to Canada, I think it’s safe to say that I was eager. Anxieties aside, I was eager to speak with like-minds, challenge assumptions and generally, understand the world even a tiny bit more.

And so, my fellow grappling first-years, I invite you to consider the following in embarking on your research:

Personal investment


The problem with heavy emotional investment: there’s no room for flexibility! My eagerness to challenge assumptions meant I wasn’t prepared to have mine torn apart (or at least deeply massaged). But while the need to be aware of one’s own biases in research is obvious, the line between passion and bias is not often so. In other words:

When should we stand by what we think to be true, and when do we willingly set it aside?

Fear of interpretation

Gripping my copy of Letters to a Young Contrarian, I'll say this: voicing one's ideas is a tactful skill. This skill is not always welcome, and in truth, is not always a given right. It's also not always successful; it is fraught with opportunity to be mis- and reinterpreted. It can be scary to reconcile this thought in academia, where everything one puts forth is open to critique. I can't help but picture researchers as existentialists, coping with potential alienation as part of the human condition.

Could we find remedy in priming ourselves for a communicative approach to research before the work begins?

Place-finding and representation

In a world fraught with identity politics, and in a field with a poor record when it comes to representation, I feel the need to clarify my background with every statement I make. But like many others in an increasingly complex society, my identity does not fall into one, two, or even several neat boxes. At the same time, I cannot trivialize the importance of representation, nor the sometimes inconvenient fact that we are all individuals raised within certain cultures and beliefs that are bound to express themselves in our actions.

In entering the academic realm, how can we suitably acknowledge the complexities of our own identity in addressing cultural topics?

As you can see, open-ended questions are my thing. If you’re further along your research path and have wisdom to spare, share away!

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