Side Quests

I love a good open world video game.

They often feature a big map to explore, an interesting story and characters to follow, missions to complete, a character to develop and more. What I like most of all is a world to fall into that’s different from our own.

Another common feature of these sorts of games is side quests: optional, shorter storylines that aren’t essential for completing the main game. If in the main story you’re hunting for clues or tracking down a villain, a side quest might involve simply helping someone out or collecting something you need.

Side quests also bestow rewards: more experience points to level up your character, a benefit that’s unobtainable somewhere else in the game or sometimes just a satisfying piece of the story or detail about the world.

Take some time to consider the side quests of your PhD journey as you prepare for your viva:

  • When have you productively diverted from the main path of your research?
  • How did that help you and what did you learn?
  • What have been the most rewarding times you’ve had during your PhD years?

The real world isn’t always like video games. We can’t see XP numbers. We can’t naturally apply stat boosts or perks. We have to reflect. We have to look back and see.

While you will have progressed through the main track of your PhD journey, you will have also benefitted from the side quests you’ve been on. In preparation for your viva, take some time to realise how you’ve got to where you are now.