26 Peer Support

There are many relations in the research process, but the most comprehensive one will be with those you can open up about the entire process: not just about what’s going well and the technical quibbles, but all of the worries which make up the research process. This type of support will hopefully come from your peers. If you are in honours at UBC (where this humble manual was created), you will meet weekly with a seminar of other students who are writing a thesis. Indeed, for many honours students, it is older peers that introduce them to the program.

Elsewhere in education, there is ample research which supports the efficacy of peer support. Peer support has been shown to help students adjust to campus, increase student satisfaction (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005; Tenenbaum, Crosby, & Gliner, 2001), and reduce stress and anxiety. But these benefits remain unclear when formulated abstractly. While the value or nature of a peer relationship cannot be reduced to a single framework, the simple fact of having another student who shares a common perspective (as has been also speculated by Collier, 2007) can be imperative for escaping the isolation of research.

Research in the humanities and social sciences can be an inherently lonely process. Most research is composed of literature reviews; and where human participants are involved, like in interviews or action research, the relationship does not require you to share your own struggles with the research process. The researcher is expected to listen, and to share only what is relevant for their audience: forcing much doubt, work, and agony to be done “behind-the-stage” of the final academic product. In order to ensure a sound and concise performance, this distinction is somewhat sensible. But it does add emphasis to what other researchers can do for each other. Peer-researchers are potential outlets for the behind-the-stage dilemmas and sideshows that affect ourselves and our research process. Likewise, in offering their own related experience, they could potentially spur on further thought and solutions to common problems in research. In this sharing, an understanding about the things which irk and assuage our research process can be given a fuller expression than is expressed by the thesis (final product) alone.

Peer-support requires a willingness to open yourself up before carefully negotiating what others are willing to give back. Once established with some, consider extending the boundaries of this confession circle with all the others in your cohort. You never know what assets another researcher can offer if allowed to participate in discussing the intricacies of their research. Opening up lines of communication amongst your fellow researchers will allow you to gain a better sense of other peoples working habits, including the ways they cope and the ways they persevere, providing you with points of comparison in which to consider your own tools for resilience.


Collier, P. (2017). Why Peer Mentoring is an effective approach for college student success. Metropolitan Universities, 28(3), pp. 9-19, https://doi.org/10.18060/21539

Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (1991). How college affects students: Findings and insights from twenty years of research. Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Tenenbaum, H. R., Crosby, F. J., & Gliner, M. D. (2001). Mentoring relationships in graduate school. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 59(3), 326-341.


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Practicing and Presenting Social Research Copyright © 2022 by Oral Robinson and Alexander Wilson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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