Take a risk: ‘A Ship in Harbor Is Safe, But that Is Not What Ships Are Built For’ 

This post is by Associate Professor Evonne Miller, Director of Research Training, Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology.

I can’t now remember where I first stumbled across this quote, but it has really resonated with me: “a Ship in Harbor Is Safe, But that Is Not What Ships Are Built For“.

The natural metaphorical interpretation of this adage is for us to ‘step outside our comfort zone‘, to be braver,  more adventurous and to take risks –  and as academics, I think ‘bravery’ is (or should be) a core part of our job description. We are paid for our ‘creative brains’ – to think critically, to pose new solutions and  brave ideas… yet often, we hold back (even if just slightly). Yet, if we are not careful, the day-to-day busyiness means that we can fall into a career ‘rut’: into a pattern where we stop stretching ourselves, we stop trying anything new in our research, writing or supervision practices – we rely on the same body of literature and repeating the same, familiar methodologies and data analyses.

If we are fortunate, our thesis supervision work helps grow and push our research boundaries, as we sail into new, unchartered conceptual, theoretical and methodological spaces.

But, if you find yourself always recommending that all your students always do one specific thing (e.g., one method of data collection or data analysis), I would suggest that – just maybe – its time to change course and try something different in your supervision practices (just once).  That might be running a monthly group supervision meeting (something I have been wanting to trial for awhile), or agreeing to co-supervise a student that you normally would not – or reading up about a different methodology or analysis, and trialing it with a student.

As we collaboratively work on growing our thesis supervision abilities, I challenge you to join me in identifying and trying something new in your supervision.  Indeed, even a ship in harbor may “rust and rot” – so lets leave the shore and take some risks!

Please share your ideas below and on twitter.

Image: Black and white photograph of an old ship in dry dock, from Brisbane Maritime Museum (photograph of an image, taken by Evonne Miller). 


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