At this point you’re either rolling your eyes and wondering if I’ve finally lost it, or expecting me to put on some green make up and do a funny voice that sounds vaguely reminiscent of Fozzie Bear mixing his words up, or both. (If you hadn’t put two and two together, Frank Oz voiced both Fozzie and Yoda, amongst others). In fact you’re probably expecting me to say “Do. Or do not. There is no try”. And in the interests of full disclosure, I have both said this to students, and said this to students whilst doing the voice. But as a discussion point for today, it would be far too obvious.
Yoda is full of great advice, much of which is surprisingly relevant for researchers, although it might need some interpretation. For example, “Adventure. Hm. Excitement. Hm. A Jedi craves not these things…” could be interpreted as advice that you should control the risks in your project and that you should be mindful of the variables in your experimental work. In this way you will collect good quality data in a safe and timely way. “Through the Force, things you will see. Other places. The future…the past.” The Force might almost be research… “The dark side clouds everything. Impossible to see the future is.”
And of course “Always two there are, no more, no less. A master and an apprentice.” Although these days it’s more like always five there are – four masters and one apprentice. “Clear your mind must be, if you are to find the villains behind this plot.” Obviously what Yoda meant to say was “Clear your mind must be, if you are to find the answer to your research question.” You must believe that you will complete – if you don’t believe, “That is why you fail”.
But the whole point about this series of blog-posts is writing a thesis: “Always pass on what you have learned”. Yoda doesn’t have that much to say about the mechanics of writing, but he embodies an important aspect of writing up: the Mentor. Not all mentors speak in riddles, but their main priority is to get you to think about your work, to engage with it, to be the best researcher you can and, someday, maybe, be a Grand Master of the Jedi Council…er…a great supervisor/mentor too. So next time your mentor asks you a question, think about two things. One do they really want to know the answer, or are they trying to make you think about your research on another level, and two, what does this question mean for writing up your thesis.
And remember, even when you’ve written up, submitted and defended – “Much to learn you still have…my old padawan. … This is just the beginning!”