Newbie jitters? Or absolute mistake?


I recently started PhD, slightly delayed for various reasons. I'm having a "What the hell have I done?" moment.
I'm a scientist who's moved into looking at qualitative aspects of what I've previously studied. It's basically psychology veering to sociology at this point. Oh my God, what have I done? it's a whole new methodology, paradigm, theoretical frameworks, way of working. My previous knowledge and experience help me not at all.
Starting later, I'm out of sync and don't feel I'm part of a cohort. I'm a black sheep in the sense that my work is quite different to most of the group I'm in. I have some methods training booked in and supervisor happily believes I'll "pick it up". Plus the usual overwhelm at the whole project

Please give me some words of wisdom and/or encouragement and/or hope and/or harsh truth


Not a mistake! While it is terrifying now, it is what a PhD is - effectively an apprenticeship to learn and put into practice research. There is always a lot of learning to do along the way, even if you stay within your subject area. The principles of doing research well apply to both qualitative and quantitative studies, you may just need to embrace a different perspective or approach. While it may not feel helpful now, having experience in more quantitative research will help you be critical in doing so, and you will be better rounded for seeing both sides. To start, don't try to understand everything, focus on scoping what you need to understand for your project and building on that.

Don't let your research being different limit your interaction with your cohort. I found myself in a similar situation, thinking my cohort would judge my work as less good in some way, but when I tried to integrate I found the opposite. They were excited to talk about how research with methods that I was using could be used to support or test their own theories. When talking to them (attend seminars, gatherings, etc), focus on the subject that unifies you (understanding human behaviour) and draw links to show how you are working on two sides of the same coin.


Hi there,

You're only a few months in right? What you're feeling is perfectly normal at the moment. There are a whole range of qualitative methods, can I ask which ones you are including in your research?

By the time you finish your research, you are going to be seen as a really strong candidate for a post-doc research associate or any other related position. You are going to have the knowledge and confidence to design, lead and conduct research using both quantitative and qualitative methods.

I understand there are less maps and rules on how to do qualitative research but there are ways to do so. Have you considered triangulated research methods? There are also many research articles on how to better design and build methodological rigour into qualitative projects.

PM me if you have any questions, no matter how big or small. I'm a qualitative methods specialist with experience in thematic analysis, critical discourse analysis and a ton of qualitative interviewing experience.

Good luck,