To be or not to be… a researcher?

To be or not to be… a researcher. That´s the question!

identity issues? Well, as part of the PhD experience I have definitively been crafting a new identity: an identity which represents the practices and self of being  a learner, an academic, and a researcher. In these almost two years as a PhD student I have struggled first to understand what it means to be a PhD student and then trying to be one. What do I have to do as a a PhD student? How do I have to be and behave as such?  Am I doing research? I have made these questions  to myself many times, and the answers have been different according to the specific moment in time.  But no matter what I have felt uneasy, insecure and uncertain about who I am or who I am becoming.

Today I see that I am in the process of becoming; I am learning to be a researcher; I am crafting a researcher’s identity. In this process from time to time I have felt miserable in this new being and I have wondered if being a researcher is “being miserable ” why I would  want such a thing for my life. I came to Australia to fulfill a long desired goal: to do research on EFL teacher education in Chile and contribute for improvement in my country. I knew that doing a PhD was not an easy thing, on the contrary, that it was a challenging experience and I was willing to face difficulties and overcome problems. But “suffering” was not in my plans.

I felt miserable before I left for Rome to attend the Iscar Conference Rome 2011 and present part of my research. When collecting data I felt so happy and useful doing my work that I was eager to go back to my office and analyse the data. I came back  and the field researcher became the PhD student again. I returned to my desktop PC and  started  looking at the interviews, documents and notes I  had. I wanted to make sense of all this, but everything seemed so obscure. Coding, decoding, going back to the theory, thinking, reflecting, reading, writing… all that and I felt that I didn’t know what I was doing. What was the data telling me? What was I looking at?  And on top of that I had to produce a conference paper in a couple of weeks. I started feeling bad, bitter and blue. I was suffering, and I didn’t want to.  A couple of days before I left for Rome I wished something happened and in the end I would not go to the conference.

On the plane I changed my mind and decided to stop suffering and start enjoying all the good and positive things  I wasn’t going through and all the ones which were about to come. I was the only one who could make my life happier and attending Iscar was the best that could happen to me, a dream come true! I was not mistaken when I thought so on the plane. Iscar Conference Rome 2011 has been one of the most inspiring experiences as a researcher to be. I experienced first hand that being a researcher is NOT being miserable and has nothing to do with suffering. On the contrary, I met happy researchers committed to make the world a better place. I could see collaboration in practice and a supportive atmosphere in which I could present my work and share ideas, receive criticism and suggestions gladly. I felt that I was a researcher. I belonged to that gang!

Now I am back at my office again and I have to continue analysing the data. I have  to continue doing my research. After two years as a PhD student and just now I have realised that I am in the process of becoming a researcher. I am in transit and accepting the transformation happily.

See my presentation at Iscar here

About Malba Barahona

Educational researcher, language educator. PhD from Australian National University. Passionate bushwalker and mountain lover. I procrastinate reading fiction, hiking, doing yoga, riding, having a beer and more recently decolonizing my existence. I write in English and Spanish in different blogs especially with the purpose of encouraging my students to write.


  1. Jose R

    Me alegro Malba que hayas tenido una grata experiencia en la conferencia de Roma. Yo acabo de llegar a casa después de asistir durante tres días al congreso de ecología europeo. Te puedo asegurar que han sido tres días enormemente estimulantes científica- y personalmente hablando.
    Te deseo lo mejor en estos dos años que te quedan como estudiante de doctorado y el resto que te quedarán como la Dr. Barahona🙂

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