I hate academic research. And my academic research in particular. And I think that by the time you're in the dissertation stage, if you hate your research with a passion and can't motivate yourself to work on it at all, you should consider other options. Because that is what you will be working on for the foreseeable future. And while you may not love your future job like crazy, it's ridiculous to think that you have to take a job in which you utterly despise the major task you will be doing. Especially if you have options - and with an advanced degree, you do have options.
I've mentioned before that due to the constraints of my discipline's focus, I've had to shift my dissertation topic away from the problems/questions I was really interested in, into something more palatable to my discipline and my advisors. Ultimately, I wound up with a project I'm proud of and think is important for someone to work on ... but one that I am not at all interested in.
Also, I am interested in research that has at least the potential of having a real-world impact. This is frowned upon in my discipline, and many others in the humanities and social sciences. Those "real world" problems are not seen as worthy of our time. We focus on theory.
So I have had to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about how my research fits into narrow, abstract theories, and how my results relate to those abstract theories that have no relevance to the real world. In short, I have to focus on research outcomes I have no interest in.
It's devolved to the point where I resent every single second that I have to spend with my research. I find it uninteresting and pointless, and absolutely dread sitting down to work on it. This commenter at a blog entry about graduate school sums it up in a way I really relate to:
It's not a matter of time [that determines whether I'm going to drop out of grad school] - it's a matter of writing a bullshit thesis on a core area of linguistics. My original topic was the structure of the french syllable. How do I put this? "I don't care." That probably describes it best.I relate to this quote so, so much. It's not a matter of not being in the mood to do research, or of "not wanting to go to work" that day. I've actually grown to hate my project, and my topic, and to not even care enough about the outcomes to even take time thinking about it.
If I have to finish my dissertation to take whatever job I wind up getting, so be it. I will plug my nose and finish, and take my degree and run.
But I've realized now that I do not want do to this research anymore ... and definitely not for the rest of my career, which is what would happen if I took an academic job. I'd write new papers based on my dissertation data, and re-analyze my data to address different questions, and basically be caught up in the minutae of this project for another decade or so while I worked toward tenure or to get a better job.
Well ... I have been in school far too long, and have gained too many skills, to spend the next ten years digging deeper and deeper into a project that I already have little to no interest in, and that I literally have to force myself to sit down and work on for a couple of hours. No thanks. I'll take my degree and my research training, and go find a job where I can work on projects that interest me ... or at least projects that I don't actively hate.
I may not love my next job, but I don't want to hate it. And I hate my academic research. So I'm done with my academic research.
Ed. Note: If this post resonates with you and you're thinking about trying to jump ship from academia, check out our website, which offers advice, support, and resource links for people who are unhappy with their lives in academia and are possibly looking for a way out: http://www.howtoleaveacademia.com.
Also, we have just published an e-book of stories and advice from postacademics ("Moving On: Essays on the Aftermath of Leaving Academia"), which can be purchased on Amazon at this link.
Go check out these additional free/cheap resources - we're here to help! -JC