Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico
wheat in sunset-by-jacek-dylag-1903x558 ;

Moving beyond imposter syndrome and finding authorial voice

Language, Discourse and Communication PGR Blog
Angela Hakim

PhD Candidate, School of Education, Communication & Society, King's College London

05 April 2022

The first year of my doctoral studies can be summed up as a year experiencing intense feelings of imposter phenomenon, or what is commonly referred to as imposter syndrome.

In my first year, in every seminar I attended and for each piece of writing I submitted, I felt like a fraud, like I did not really belong, and that it was just a matter of time before everyone figured that out. This is likely a common feeling among PhD students and one which they can usually commiserate on over a cup of coffee in the graduate student lounge. In these not-so-normal times brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, the isolation of completing the first year of PhD studies online likely made my feelings of imposter syndrome worse.

Luckily, I survived the first year. I am sure the validation of surviving the first year and completing the upgrade process successfully has played a role in alleviating the feelings of inadequacy I felt as a first-year PhD student, but reflecting back, I think there are two instances, processes really, that have also played a significant role in relieving these feelings.

The first was reading Attia and Edge’s (2017) article entitled ‘Be(com)ing a reflexive researcher: a developmental approach to research methodology’. In addition to unpacking concepts around researcher reflexivity, Attia and Edge explore the idea of a ‘developmental approach’ to researcher development. Instead of only seeing it as a linear trajectory of moving from novice status to expert researcher, they understand this concept in terms of expanding the repertoires that researchers use over time and the growth researchers experience as a result of this expansion.

Before reading their article, I had not really considered the developmental process of becoming a researcher; rather, I felt pressure to already be a competent, confident researcher. – Angela Hakim, PhD Candidate

I felt this pressure each time I sat down to write. I felt it in selecting the right literature, in synthesising, and in drawing conclusions about this literature. I felt it in selecting a research approach and in deciding on the most appropriate data collection methods. I felt this pressure in adopting a confident voice in my writing, in presenting myself in my work as confident in each decision I made in the process of writing the dissertation.

While I received my fair share of feedback on my dissertation regarding areas to improve, this constructive feedback has ultimately made me more confident in presenting my work and in the decisions I have made throughout my PhD and in writing the dissertation. At some point, I began to view this feedback as a form of mentorship from my dissertation supervisors, just as Ferris (2019) describes regarding the role of feedback by thesis supervisors, and this was a turning point for me, a point at which I began to see the multiple rounds of feedback I was receiving as part of the normal process of mentorship of future academics.

Each of these experiences, processes rather than single instances, has helped me to move beyond the feelings associated with imposter syndrome – for the most part anyway. I share these experiences and my reflections on them here in the hopes that they might be helpful for other first-year PhD students experiencing the same feelings.

For me, reconceptualising the PhD experience as an apprenticeship and as a developmental process of becoming a researcher with a continually expanding repertoire has helped me to move beyond feelings of imposter syndrome and ultimately to feel comfortable in displaying a more confident sense of voice in my own writing.


Attia, M. & Edge, J. (2017) ‘Be(com)ing a reflexive researcher: a developmental approach to research methodology’ Open Review of Educational Research, 4 (1), 33-45.

Ferris, D. (2019) ‘Guiding junior scholars into and through the publication process’ in P. Habibe and K. Hyland (Eds.) Novice writers and scholarly publication: Authors, mentors and gatekeepers (pp. 215-232). Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.

In this story

Angela Hakim

Angela Hakim

PhD candidate

Language, Discourse and Communication PGR Blog

The LDC PGRs Blog is an initiative from PGR students in the Centre for Language, Discourse and Communication, to share reflective accounts of experiences as PGR students and early career…

Latest news