How creative are research studies? What can be done to make them more creative? LUM has met Samuel West, who is not only a doctoral student, but who actually does research on creativity.
Samuel West had worked as a psychologist for many years when he decided four years ago to do a PhD. Now he is looking back on his research studies, which will soon be finished, and doesn’t regret it, although his time in academia has not been like he thought it would be from the start.
“I had a romantic idea of academia as a slightly nerdy but highly intellectual environment, full of inspiring conversations with people from different disciplines”, says Samuel West.
He doesn’t feel that it’s been like that. He describes the departmental environment as resembling a basic structure within which everyone is doing their own thing.
“If you work on a project together then obviously you interact with each other. Otherwise you don’t.”
For Samuel West, it has been very important to keep one foot outside the University. It is mostly there he finds his creative power.
“However, not everyone can have one foot outside academia while doing a PhD”, he says, mentioning what he thinks is a brilliant idea by another doctoral student to rent a space in an office with cartoonists in order to gain creative inspiration.
There is not much of that at research seminars, in his view:
“The research seminars are the place where you are disciplined.”
However, he has received a lot of support and inspiration from his supervisors and the little network of creativity researchers to which he belongs.
“They practise what they preach and try to find fun and relaxed forums to discuss research”, he says.
He hopes that the creativity during his research studies will follow a U-shaped curve. First you are full of ideas. Then you learn the framework for you discipline and feel like your creativity has been stifled. After that, once you have got to know your field, you can become creative in an academic manner. Samuel West is currently trying to interpret statistics and feels anything but creative, but he hopes that will change once his thesis has been submitted.
“I still have a lot of exciting ideas that I want to explore, but I’m not going to fight to stay in academia at any cost.”
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