Motivation, dealing with stress and the good life when being a PhD

Course description

The overall aim of the course is twofold:

Creating insights about coping strategies for the good Ph.D. life: How to maintain your motivation throughout at Ph.D.-study in general and the writing process in particular
Increase awareness about stress, stressors and what stress does to you: How short-term stress can both be positive for you and long-term stress affect you negatively



Following this course will help you understand better what you need to do in order to thrive in the Ph.D. process and increase your capabilities for mastering stress.


Background and content:

The main idea of the course is to provide an interpretive backdrop for the PhD-process and how it will affect you on a personal level.

This course provides an understanding on three fundamental qualities/need that needs to be in place in order for Ph.D. students to thrive professionally and personally. These are competence, social relatedness and autonomy. These needs are described in Deci & Ryan’s Self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000, 2017). SDT forms the theoretical background for what hinders and promotes the fulfilling Ph.D. experience.

In addition, the course focus on promoting an understanding of the student’s own role in creating research self-efficacy. This is particularly interesting in relation to academic writing skills, but also in relation to involve in more daring and innovative fields of research. We will use specific writing skills/techniques as tools for achieving more productive writing.

In order to achieve a fulfilling Ph.D. experience and research self-efficacy, the course focuses on understanding stress in a constructive way. Short-term stress can be seen as a strong contributor to overcome difficult tasks. It is long-term stress that can be seen as dangerous. The consequences of long-term stress are (besides a number of physiological effects) low self-esteem and low self-efficacy.

Course convenor: Anne Kirketerp, Psychologist, Ph.d.

Former head of professional development at the Centre for entrepreneurship and Innovation at Aarhus university and head of research at VIA UC. Currently researcher, author and speaker. In addition, external lecturer in positive psychology at the AU and several other learning and research institutions.



Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercice of control. New York: Freeman

Bandura, A. (1994). Self-Efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior,  4,

71-81. New York: Academic Press.

Csikszentmihalyi, C. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper and Row, New


Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2017). Self-Determination Theory: Basic Psychological Needs in Motivation, Development, and Wellness. The Guildford Press.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The 'what' and 'why' of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. (2015). Psychological Inquiry, 11, 227-268.

Sapolsky, R. M. Stress and the brain: individual variability and the inverted-U Nature Neuroscience 18, 1344–1346

Sapolsky, R.M. (2012): The Psychology of Stress:

Sarasvathy, S. D. (2003). Entrepreneurship as a science of the artificial. Journal of Economic

Psychology, 24, 203-220.

Sarasvathy, S. D. (2004). Making It Happen: Beyond Theories of the Firm to Theories of Firm

Design. Entrepreneurship: Theory & Practice, 28, 519-531.

Sarasvathy, S. D. (2008). Effectuation: Elements of Entrepreneurial Expertise, Cheltenham,     

Edward Elgar.

Sarasvathy, S. D. (2001a). Causation and Effectuation: Toward a Theoretical Shift from Economic Inevitability to Entrepreneurial Contingency. Academy of Management Review, 26, 243-264.

Seligmann, M. E. P. (1975). Helplessness, on depression development and Death. Freeman

and Company, San Francisco


Place: AAU Aalborg 19 March 8.30 – 14.30. 20 March 9.30 – 14.30

ECTS: 1,5

Registration: Please register no later than the 26 February by e-mail to Anne Lone Bråten (Limited number of seats: 15)