How much do other people's opinions matter to you?


I was wondering- how much do you let other people's opinions about your PhD topic and methodology bother you?

A while ago I went to go see the university statistician, and despite there being no issues with the proposed statistics, he tore my entire project to pieces, basically saying it was a waste of time and pointless. As my supervisor pointed out, the stats guy is a statistician, not a psychologist, and probably just didn't understand the background and aims of the project, but I still ended up in tears, thinking 'what if he's right?'. It really knocked my confidence and I began to have doubts about what I was doing. Then yesterday I was at my NHS ethical approval board meeting, and they had nothing but positive feedback on everything about the study, and how worthwhile they all thought it was, and I came out on a complete high (even better, the stats guy was there to hear all the positive feedback, which made me happy- childish, I know)! Whilst I have nothing but enthusiasm for my project, my feelings about it often seem to hinge on other people's evaluations of it, whether or not they are involved in the project. Do other people feel like this?! Cheers, KB


======= Date Modified 19 Jun 2009 11:13:26 =======
You are not alone in this - I do feel like that sometimes - it is natural as in the end our work is meant to be appraised by others and we are anxious to meet the required standard . In principle, just like you, I am enthusastic about my project and do not necessarily expect others to like it as much as I do, but I do "expect" them to acknowledge the findings of the research.. and sometimes I find that takes a bit of effort (to convince people).. I suppose that it part of the deal, too and it is important to learn how to deal with negative criticism, but yes, I also feel that other people's evaluation can affect how I feel about the topic/work.


Clashes over methodology between stats people and psycologists (and others) applying the stats to real data with all it's messiness and constraints is a recurring problem and one I have had throughout my PhD. I've also had wildly differing feedback on my methodology. I was feeling fairly confident but then I just got a total roasting from someone over a draft paper I've just written, largely over the data analysis. Now I know what the weakness in my analysis is and I have done what I can and that's that. It is often about being able to see the bigger picture without getting bogged down in the actual indiviual numbers and confidece intervals. I still feel on the verge of tears over it though. Some people are entirely by-the-book data driven and heaven help you if you stray from The Path.

Keep the faith Keenbean:-x


I suppose at the end of the day we want people to appreciate our work as we put so much effort into it which is often unseen and for it then to be torn to shreds is very hard to take and does knock your confidence!  I had a similar thing as I went to an ask a stats guy about something to do with the stats I was going to use to get a handle on the basics and he didn't seem to think much of the method or seem to know that much about it and couldn't see what I was trying to do! He was out with my subject as the method is quite a standard method so I would suggest sticking with people from your own field to help you deal with the stats as they know it and understand it better than a statistician who doesn't have the background to your subject!  We also have to deal with criticism constructively as sometimes it helps for people to debate and point you in directions you wouldn't have thought of but negative criticism is still very hard to take especially if you feel it's unfair but we have to be able to defend our work.  I think it'll come with increasing knowledge and confidence that will allow us to do this.


Every expert is gonna be throwing rocks from their ivory towers! That stats guy is what he does i.e. just another number!

Our research is dependent on established methodologies but remember that as part of creating novelty, some methodologies are tweeked. So, yes they will be different and yes, they will have flaws. But as scary as it sounds, we probably have the best opinion of how to treat our subject matter and how to gather more information. You have confirmation that you are on the right course ... if Stato heard this, maybe he might have a better idea now of your project and might revise his original opinion. Failing all this, write a mail to the stats guy thanking him for his opinion but that you are using Case Study instead :-P

At some stage, you have to just say "I know what I am doing - trust me!"


======= Date Modified 19 Jun 2009 16:05:13 =======
Cheers guys, it does help to know I'm not the only one!

I tend to take criticism and suggestions reasonably well usually, but then it usually comes from someone who knows what they're on about, and when I think about it, they are almost always right! At the moment I am in first year, and the stats guy was checking my project proposal before it was sent to the NHS for ethical approval (my project involves testing patients with Alzheimer's disease who can't necessarily give consent for themselves, so there are no end of procedures to go through before I can start testing). I don't mind my stats being criticised at all, I appreciate that we all need a little stats help from time to time (or more often!)- it was more the absolute tearing apart of my entire project, the aims, the measures, the implications....I walked into the NHS ethics meeting yesterday terrified that they were all going to be of the same opinion and I wouldn't get approval to go ahead. Thus when I came out and they were all so enthusiastic about it I was thrilled. But I wish my own confidence and trust in what I'm doing wasn't so dependent on these events!!

Ah well, I can get on with now and try to stop stressing so much!

Best wishes guys, KB


I got some quite severe criticism, and very unexpected, from a writing tutor. I expected criticisms about the writing, but then she started questioning my whole methodology and assumptions. I was confident she was wrong, and uninformed, but I wasn't with it enough at the time to argue back. However it prompted me to make sure I'd addressed such concerns in the opening chapters of my thesis, tightening things up even more, and thus covering myself. My supervisors thought her concerns were totally unfounded. Still shook me a bit, but I turned it into something positive.

Generally though I'm very confident about my work, and its value. Might not always be able to enunciate that (which could be a problem in a viva!), but generally fine.


I know how you feel, this has happened to me soooo many times unfortunately!!! And yes it really bothered me at first! But you get used to it after 4 years lol... The thing is people who are not in your field may not 'get' what you're doing... I am guessing that a statistician thinks pretty differently to the way a psychologist does! My thing is (without giving too much away!) that my research is in e-learning - I'm from the 'techie' side and so are my supervisors, but I end up talking to a lot of people in education too as that's a big part of my research. The die-hard, old-school types don't get what I'm doing AT ALL... I came across one particularly nasty person that really made me want to quit back in year one. You just need to remind yourself that they don't have a clue about your area and therefore can be pretty narrow-minded!


Bilbo's post just reminded me of something else that another supervisor told me once... There was this student that he had who had just finished her thesis and gave it to someone to proofread - they were from a different field and told her she had used the wrong methodology. The girl actually tried to quit there and then, without submitting (imagine, at the very end!) but the supervisor talked her out of it. Of course she submitted and it was fine, the methodology was totally right for her area. So in other words, be careful whose "advice" you listen to!


I totally relate to this feeling. I did a seminar for my school a few months ago and had an interesting experience. My field is social science related and my research is based on qualitative methodology. There was a Prof there who specialises in quant methods and he made a really snide comment about my methodology suggesting that I should have an even sample by age, ethnicity etc. My research is with a very, very hard to reach population group so it really isn't possible to be picky, and because he doesn't do research with hard to reach populations using qualitative methods, he just didn't understand. Since he is a Prof I felt uncomfortable challenging his comments and just mumbled 'thanks for the suggestion, i'll have a think about that' (this was my first ever presentation so I was pretty nervous), but 3 other senior academics in the audience jumped in and took him apart basically telling him he was wrong! It was a great moment, although I wish I had just said it myself because I knew what he was suggesting was wrong.

I think really don't worry too much about what others say if they are from a completely different discipline. Sometimes they just don't understand. I think people who are genuine in wanting to help you will firstly ask you about why YOU think this approach works, and then question it appropriately if they don't agree instead of just condemning it as wrong. Anyone who says your project is a waste of time and pointless sounds bitter and unprofessional in my opinion.

Good luck!