Spotlight on the RDF: “Perseverance”

In one of our occasional series of spotlights, we take a closer look at a specific descriptor from the RDF, in this case one which will be particularly useful 21 days into #AcWriMo!

In this series of “Spotlight on…” posts, we’ll be delving into the detail of the descriptors in Vitae‘s Researcher Development Framework (RDF).  Each one of the sixty-three descriptors is a characteristic of an excellent researcher, and we’ll be looking at how UoB PGRs can develop these characteristics.

Elizabeth Warren
Elizabeth Warren: “Nevertheless, she persisted”

Perseverance is a valuable quality for a research programme, so much so that one of its synonyms is specifically mentioned in the Seven Secrets of Highly Successful Research Students:  “a PhD is 10% intelligence and 90% persistence”.   Perseverance requires self-discipline and motivation in general, but also specifically refers to your response when things go wrong.  

The RDF puts perseverance in domain B (personal effectiveness) and sub-domain B1 (personal qualities) and the five phases of development for this descriptor are:

1. – 2.  Demonstrates self-discipline, motivation and thoroughness; Perseveres in the face of obstacles and set-backs but benefits from peer, supervisor or leader support. Is developing some resilience; Deals effectively with the routine aspects of research.

3.  Perseveres through difficulties while supporting others; Is resilient.

4.  Perseveres steadfastly and leads the way for others.

5.  Dedicated and stimulated by obstacles and challenges.

Remember, as PGRs, we are looking to develop phases 1 and 2, so there is not yet an expectation that we need to be supporting or leading others through their difficulties, only that we are learning how we ourselves can develop the quality of perseverance.  There are (as usual) some clues in the RDF descriptor to help us find ways to persevere.

  • Self-discipline.  Sometimes you just don’t want to do what needs to be done, or you can’t see your way forward.  Good planning and project management can help you focus on your key priorities and help you see the value in the tasks you need to do today.
  • Motivation.  We have talked before about ways to maintain your enthusiasm and motivation throughout your programme.
  • Thoroughness.  When things get tricky, it can be useful to look more closely at what you’re doing; to go back a bit and try again with a more systematic approach; to review your notes and add in more detail.  This close attention to detail may reveal the solution to your challenges.
  • Peer support.  Perseverance will often require a little outside help, and sharing your experience with those around you can help you find your own way to a solution, or a peer may have some pertinent advice.  Either way, make sure that you are nurturing your peer support network throughout your programme – the events at Westmere are brilliant for expanding your PGR network.
  • Supervisor support.  Is your supervisor helping you to overcome set-backs?  They should be able to give you some strategies to tackle your research problems.  If you don’t feel that you’re getting useful support, can you ask more targeted questions to elicit the strategies/support you need?  Find out more about nurturing your supervisory relationship.
  • Develop resilience. Resilience and perseverance are closely related.  Mind have some great advice on developing resilience.
  • Routine.  A lot of research work is repetitive and routine.  How do you maintain momentum when your work feels routine?  It can be helpful here to remember the big picture – focus on your overall goals and how this work feeds into achieving those.  And be kind to yourself – repetitive work goes faster overall with regular breaks.

What challenges have you encountered during your research programme and how have you persevered to overcome these?  What are your top tips on becoming resilient as a researcher?

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