Over the course of the summer, I have been diligently working on my honors thesis. I will still be working on completing it this fall, but my goal was to get as much accomplished over the summer as possible. The fall semester will be very busy for me because not only is it my last semester of college, but I will also be applying to graduate schools.
This past week I had the opportunity to present my research during a lab meeting. I created a PowerPoint describing the entire study, including descriptions of variables and graphs. I am not a good public speaker and I get extremely nervous. Not to mention that I was presenting research to people who actually know what they are talking about! It is quite different to explain my research to my friends versus my lab who is filled with intelligent graduate students who know the ins and outs of proper research. It’s safe to say I was freaking out…
My lab has a very positive atmosphere and I know that anything they say is said in order to help me, but it’s still hard to take criticism (even if it is constructive). When you’ve spent almost a year working on a project, it is really hard to hear what you should do differently and how it could’ve been done better. Nevertheless, I sat there and absorbed their suggestions. At first it was terrifying! I didn’t want to completely re-do my analyses, change variables, and tweak the format of my model. But it isn’t about what I want, it is about what makes my research better and increases the validity of my study. Therefore, I sat down and started to make the changes that were necessary. What seemed like a huge mess, wasn’t actually so bad. Luckily, I kept careful records of everything I had done and had the syntax that I previously used. All I really had to do was tweak some variables and run the analyses again. All in all, the adjustments only took about a week to finish. What I was originally afraid of, turned out to be a pretty simple fix. As for the criticisms, the lab was only looking out for my best interest. Instead of giving me a pat on my back for attempting such a difficult honors thesis and telling me everything was great, they treated me like they would treat one of their own. They gave me constructive criticism because they knew I could do it.
Criticism is always hard to take, and it might make you feel a little bad in the beginning. You might doubt everything you’ve done and feel defeated, but at the end of the day it will only make you better. It felt good to know my lab was astonished at the level of difficulty and caliber of my thesis. I am doing research that some graduate students don’t even understand. Criticism comes with the territory and it’s time we all learn to accept and grow from it.