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abababa
Wednesday, 18 February 2015 at 4:39pm
Thursday, 28 May 2020 at 1:33am
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Thread: Psychology PhD

posted
28-May-20, 01:35
edited about 26 seconds later
by abababa
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posted about 3 days ago
I would think less in terms of bits of paper.

What matters when starting, or applying for a PhD, is a) knowledge, and b) passion. b) is considerably more important, because whilst knowledge is inevitably gained during a PhD, passion is usually more likely to be lost. It's very hard to gauge what you do or don't know, but I'd imagine in terms of optometry you know far more subjectively about patients, conditions, and their experiences, than many academics around the field.

I'd suggest you start reading academically on the field, and define a research question. This may seem little guidance but it's effectively what you'll get in more verbose form if you start a self-funded PhD. If you apply for a funded one and can say 'well I had this great RQ in mind - "...", but can see the interest in x... actually I remember reading an article that discussed x...', this will come across very well. If you find this reading painful/tedious (it is) it might help you decide if a PhD is a good fit before you commit. In general, if you can demonstrate knowledge and passion in the application and interview, most academics will listen regardless of 'on-paper' stuff.

You may find at some places there's an initial HR 'sift' that means lacking a piece of paper means an academic never sees your application, though this tends to be at the 'no undergrad degree' rather than the 'not quite the right degree' level. Irrespective I'd think very carefully before spending money on more qualifications if you're not convinced they'd be of intellectual value.

Thread: How strict are journals about word counts?

posted
28-May-20, 01:09
edited a moment later
by abababa
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posted about 3 days ago
Often, the lesser the journal, the stricter the count, but with some important provisos. I say this because a good venue won't kick out good science because it's expensive to print; a bad venue will accept bad science but only if it's cheap to print (or the author pays $ for extra pages).

Provisos: the academic reason for minimising word count is that good science doesn't need waffle. To an experienced academic, wordiness is often equated with 'there's no actual novel science here but they're trying to hide that fact in words'. There's an old quote I think attributed to Pascal - 'I'd have written a shorter letter, but didn't have enough time'. Point being, it's harder and more time-consuming to write succinctly. The clearer you are, the more any flaws are laid bare. As an author it's a routine struggle to cut things you've written, and appreciate the time wasn't wasted, but it's necessary if you want to write really good (or in target driven culture speak, 'well-cited') articles. The best articles start off far too long, and are carefully edited down.

Consider how long you, as a reader, spend reading articles in the same journal. Do you really appreciate - or even read - those extra 2000 words (which often repeat literature you know), or would you rather see clear and succinct method, results, & evidenced conclusions? Reducing length rarely makes an article lower quality, it's usually the opposite.

I would not aim to hit the word count out of fear of arbitrary rejection if it's a good journal, but because it's a likely indication your article is longer than a typical publication and therefore, unless there's (comparatively) some groundbreaking science going on, probably isn't as concise as it could be.

Thread: How to stay anonymous in paper for peer review

posted
23-May-20, 03:35
by abababa
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posted about 1 week ago
The general principle around anonymity is usually you should not blatantly or obviously disclose it, but you should not worry about going to great lengths to mask it; i.e, you shouldn't expect the reviewer to go to any lengths to identify you, as it's their job to assess in the spirit of anonymity. It's not usually meant to be a case of you preparing a paper that's bulletproof-anonymous, more that you shouldn't be sticking your identity/institution in the face of the reviewer in the hopes of preferential treatment.

It would, in my experience, be fine to mention the prior study, and that the work uses its data. You're still not stating you're the person that led both and it's entirely plausible a different researcher (or institution) used the data. The only times this has led me to reject are when the submission completely fails to notice it's meant to be anonymous and has names and affiliations on Page 1 (which is, sadly, not uncommon, though often the papers themselves that do this are typically either outright bad or rejects from elsewhere).

If you want to play it really safe, replace "Bloggs et al" with [redacted for anonymity] or similar on the submitted version. Unless the validity of the work utterly hinges on the reviewer being able to read Bloggs et al., this is a consistent and 'safe' way to handle it.

The other obvious fail-safe is to ask the journal editor, since ultimately it's going to depend on the journal.

Thread: Going around in circles and feel pretty lost

posted
16-May-20, 00:29
by abababa
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posted about 2 weeks ago
It's normal to feel like you hit a brick wall in the first year of a PhD. There is a 'hump' you need to get over, which is partly about developing your expertise, but also realising what you'd previously considered 'expertise' to, in fact, not be as total a mastery as a layperson expects ;)

It is essential to get over this hump, because students that struggle never really do; they lump together a thesis from general reading and a small user-study, but never develop the expertise and passion for a niche.

To try and give some practical advice, if you want to shape the PhD around web development, you could consider;

- Implementing (with a clear framework/underlying theory) an e-learning, e-health, or e-whatever intervention and assessing it's efficacy.
- Anything on e-learning obviously works well in a Uni setting. It's over-researched for this reason but there are gaps and it's legitimate work.
- Web usability isn't something you can approach naively (lot of work done), but it's not a solved problem.
- Web accessibility - same applies.
- You have a huge gap at the moment on covid + web use/habits!

It's tempting in CS to think programatically harder=better. Sitting up all night for 0.1% performance gain on a stack lit shader, genetic algorithm, or semantic query is very legitimate work, but it's not all CS is, and often understanding users might seem 'easier' intellectually, but it's very demanding work deserving of a PhD.

I'd say the important thing throughout is to understand that making something can be a big part of a PhD (and, to be honest, for a talented developer doing a PhD it's the bit they enjoy), but it's often not the most critical in a research sense - whatever you do should be fundamentally grounded in theory/methodology.

Thread: Mistake in my experiment

posted
16-May-20, 00:12
by abababa
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posted about 2 weeks ago
The most important thing for you to do at viva is acknowledge the error and demonstrate your understanding of it's implications.

I say this as an examiner (with the obvious proviso all examiners are not the same, but having worked with internals/externals I think I have a reasonable feel for the general consensus):

A 'perfect' thesis is not required to get a PhD. There needs to be a contribution to science, but it need not be groundbreaking.

More importantly, as an examiner, you're often asking the question 'is this person sufficiently skilled to be an independent researcher?'. Having made mistakes, realising them, and their implications, is not a bad thing.

The first big mistake you could make would be to attempt to defend flawed work at viva (or, to a lesser extent, be unaware of it). When this happens it's a big cause of difficult discussions when the candidate leaves the room, because someone who's either willing to 'fudge' data/results, or is abundantly naive, is not sufficiently skilled to be an independent researcher. The second big mistake is to defend conclusions data doesn't support - the classic being attempting to generalise to a population from a tiny sample. Often candidates worry too much on the 'need for a contribution' side and end up trying to defend a contribution their data doesn't support. Corrections issued are often about toning down the conclusions in this regard - because it's dangerous/damaging in academia to claim things that aren't proven.

Don't be 'might have' affected the results, be 'x study showed.... influence of this form of surveying'. The most important thing at viva in terms of outcome (to the limited degree you can influence it at that stage) is to be knowledgeable, confident, honest, and speaking like an academic, rather than someone desperately trying to fake it through a test.

Thread: Got requested to terminate my studies?

posted
11-Oct-19, 00:55
edited about 3 seconds later
by abababa
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posted about 7 months ago
In general, these decisions are made (or supposed to be made) with the student's best interests in mind.

If you didn't get up to speed on the background etc., the difficult decision for the University/panel is whether it's in your best interests to continue to study (and potentially pay) without a likely completion. If, based on progress to date, their consensus is you'd waste even more effort in a failed or never-submitted PhD, then it makes sense to terminate it for everyone involved.

You should appeal if you think you can genuinely put in the effort to solve the problems. If circumstances have changed and this is going to be the case, then you should appeal and state this case.

Your personal circumstances typically need to be formally reported to the University to 'count'. Many, many PhD students fail to do so because you can be in bed sick/depressed/bereaved etc. and still 'work' on a PhD (because you're not usually expected to be sat at a desk 9-5), which leads them to attempt to 'work through' these situations - then they are inevitably penalised because they've not formally been away. If you do take the route of appealing and continuing, and circumstances change again, I would make sure you approach it as though you had a 9-5 job and take formal leave of absence.

Thread: Viva Questions...

posted
11-Oct-19, 00:38
by abababa
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posted about 7 months ago
General questions usually mean either:

1) It's the start of the viva, and the examiners are trying to de-stress you a bit by giving you some easy questions which you googled in advance and can knock out of the park.

2) It's the end of the viva, it's gone well, and they're genuinely interested in your future plans, and how they could support.

There are really no right answers to these questions, in the sense of them meaningfully affecting the viva outcome, unless you really shoot yourself in the foot ('I definitely evolved as a researcher because I realised I could fake data and get away with it!').

The traps on the questions you list, broadly speaking, are:

- How has your view of the area changed? Trap: if it hasn't, you've learned nothing and found nothing out.

- What problems did you have? Trap: If no problems, is your thesis 100% flawless on this, or are you being naive?

- How have you changed? Trap: I am exactly the same as I was when I started with a Masters, but expect a PhD now. Explain what you have learned.

- What surprised you? Trap: If nothing you discovered was scientifically unknown or unexpected, how is this research? Think of surprised not in the literal 'gasp' sense, but in the 'I found something new out' sense.

- What would you do differently? See 'What problems did you have'. Trap: Attempting to argue your PhD is completely flawless. Slightly flawed with awareness of flaws is a PhD; Flaws with a complete lack of awareness of these flaws is a possible fail.

Thread: Part time and funding - advice needed

posted
08-Oct-19, 03:30
edited about 19 seconds later
by abababa
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posted about 7 months ago
1) I would not personally recommend a distance learning PhD, because they sound a bit like cash-grab teaching for minimal effort on the (virtual) supervisor's part. It perhaps depends on why you want to do it; if it's for a job in research afterwards, you'll need to make connections, which will be incredibly hard if your actual contact with the research community is a bi-monthly skype call. You will be paying a lot of money, so the support, and more importantly the opportunities to network, are something to evaluate.

2&3) Basically; in the UK, academics apply for funding from councils/trusts/companies/whatever moves, not students. If an academic is successful and has nobody lined up (hence the importance of networking opportunities as per 1), then they will tend to advertise a paid studentship on jobs.ac.uk. This will rarely be part-time though. Universities also invest directly in studentships, however, they're usually full time because, cynically, for the Uni the purpose of the investment is to get on-time (3 year) completions for league tables.

4) It is worth noting it is very rare for a student that starts self-funded to get offered funding down the line. Perhaps the odd 'extra work' opportunity (e.g. teaching), but because most funded opportunities are linked to projects that start and end in a PhD lifecycle, you can't move onto one halfway through easily.

5) If you are self-funding I would firmly consider yourself the customer at the application stage (though, not necessarily at the supervision stage, as your supervisor will be doing it for the teaching/research, not the income, which will go straight to a nebulous university pot). I would consider: whether there's a substantial active team researching what you're doing; the track record of the potential supervisor(s); whether there are active related projects within the group; whether there are other PhD students; & the ranking of the University.

Hope this helps.

Thread: possible outcomes of minor corrections

posted
27-Sep-19, 22:41
by abababa
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posted about 8 months ago
I say it can't be bounced because I asked, as examiner for a UK university, when a corrected thesis landed on my desk with the corrections done very poorly (or not at all in some cases).

This put me in a position of either failing a PhD completely because of minor issues, or effectively passing it still with minor issues.

I passed it, because it seemed the considerably lesser of two evils. I'd think most examiners would lean the same way. Nobody wants to take 3+ years of someone's work and throw it in the bin, unless it's patently damaging to academia if they don't (e.g. it's faked data, completely nonsensical, zero contribution, dangerously misleading conclusions, etc.).

This is not a bad policy per se, as the alternative could lead to worst-case scenarios where corrections end up as an endless and increasingly subjective back-and-forth.

The student doesn't 'win' in that scenario, though, because they're then going to go on and publish a thesis with errors, which may haunt them for the rest of their career. Really, at the point of submitting corrections, if you feel happy to have it published with your name on as (probably) the only PhD you'll ever do, and as the culmination of 3+ years of work, you're probably in the right place.

Thread: possible outcomes of minor corrections

posted
26-Sep-19, 01:06
by abababa
Avatar for abababa
posted about 8 months ago
Corrections in most (possibly all) UK universities cannot be 'bounced back'; they're a pass or fail.

In a way the advice above about 'genuine effort' is true but should be taken with caution. From an examiner's perspective, they've seen a thesis that was more-or-less-ok, but needed correcting. If you put yourself in their shoes - would you then fail a student's 3+ years of work because there was still a typo?

That said; if the typo is in the title of the thesis and there's a general vibe of 'I completely ignored all the feedback you gave me after volunteering the time to carefully examine my thesis', there is an obvious risk there. Yet of course this seldom happens, because most students will spend the time to address the corrections rather than take this risk.

In my experience in UK academia it's untrue that only the internal reviews minor corrections though I'm sure there may well be Universities where this is the case.

Thread: PhD Fellowship is lower than I was told

posted
26-Sep-19, 00:50
by abababa
Avatar for abababa
posted about 8 months ago
Do always ask.

Your supervisor (or any academic in general) will usually support students in getting the best stipend they can. Often it falls off their radar if the student never raises it; it's not them actively blocking you getting more money, it's just that they're not aware. It's not greedy, ungrateful, or inappropriate to ask for a higher stipend. It may or may not be possible, but if you don't politely ask, and gently push, it will not happen.

Regarding Marie Curie ITNs, as you probably know the reason they offer a higher salary/stipend is they require international (and usually intersectoral) mobility, so they're in effect providing researchers with a financial incentive to do something they wouldn't otherwise want to do. This can work fantastically in some cases (usually where everybody knows each other beforehand); but can be an absolute disaster in others, so if you felt it wasn't right for you, you very probably made the right decision.

Thread: At what stage do you approach potential supervisors?

posted
23-Sep-19, 22:15
by abababa
Avatar for abababa
posted about 8 months ago
If you are self-funded, you will probably find many doors are open.

The best advice I could give would be to treat the whole process as a two-way interview. You don't need to be too afraid of rejection or sending a bad proposal, what you do need to worry about is paying a small fortune for a supervisor that doesn't engage with you leading to a drawn out, isolated part-time PhD.

That said - strategically - consider sending the proposal to a few places that you're the least interested in first. If you get no answer or negative feedback (or even positive suggestions), you can take this onboard before sending it to the places you're most interested in.

Thread: Examiners judging my research on the wrong elements?

posted
20-Sep-19, 03:15
edited about 23 seconds later
by abababa
Avatar for abababa
posted about 8 months ago
It's a bit worrying to see CS and maths viewed as completely different things. I'd think - perhaps optimistically - what they're trying to nudge you towards is a good PhD with a robust theoretical grounding, and to achieve and communicate this without a reasonable grasp of the core bits of maths would be nigh-impossible.

It is a very common problem in CS that PhDs can tend to focus on what's hard, rather than what's research (research is a subset of hard!). It's very easy in computer science to spend a lot of time programming something that's complex, but this doesn't automatically mean it's research - and the trap there is you can feel like you're doing something worthwhile because it's hard and time consuming, rather than because it's good science.

This goes double if you're working with a company, because they can sometimes tend to focus and feed-back based on what they need - a practical solution - rather than what it contributes to science - a PhD.

The good news is you're still at an early stage and can consider and react. As an internal review, there is typically little to be gained from complaining about or contesting the process if the result is a 'pass but do some extra work on this' (much easier and more productive to do the work than go through a complaint process). I would instead try to clarify why they feel it's relevant to your research, and approach that discussion very open-mindedly.

Thread: Dissertation Partner being published but not me-same data

posted
30-Aug-19, 03:15
edited about 17 seconds later
by abababa
Avatar for abababa
posted about 9 months ago
There are no generic rules about publication credit in academia, only general perceptions of what is/isn't cool (which varies between groups, institutions, and disciplines).

It sounds like you had a significant role in the work related to the potential output. Author credit to me would seem appropriate. This is probably an introduction to politics, in academia. In my experience, navigate as follows...

1) Are you sure you're being excluded from the output, as you're working forwards from a worst case scenario, it seems. Unless barriers are being put up I would just speak to the colleague and supervisor in terms of 'so I heard there's a plan to publish the data I helped collect? Just let me know what I can input to the paper' (and input your name as a co-author while you do it!) as this is a) helpful and b) not needlessly confrontational. Possibly do this with the supervisor first as they're far less likely to be massively invested in it, and your colleague is likely to follow their direction.

2) If it seems like they want to deliberately exclude you or incredibly pent-up on who co-authors what, then either a) they're jerks, and are needlessly burning bridges on the basis that having 1 additional author on a paper will meaningfully impact their careers; or b) there's a consensus you didn't meaningfully contribute and are trying to leech credit. In either case, you'd need to consider then confront and state your case very carefully.

Folks can probably advise in more detail on 2) but I'd really make sure 1) isn't the case first.

Thread: Apply for a PhD when already enrolled

posted
16-May-19, 01:13
by abababa
Avatar for abababa
posted about 1 year ago
Yes, you *can* but I'd think carefully about:

a) Can you shape the current PhD to be what you want to do? If not, why not? If it's that is has restrictive funding requirements - and you're happy to give these up - it would be a good reason. If it's something more nebulous (don't *think* prof would let you do it), be careful these are certainties rather than assumptions before proceeding.

b) Accept that a PhD is often monotonous, repetitive, hard work. This is not a 'bad' PhD, it's often the nature of research. Switching topic will not magically fix this - you'll just realise the thing you thought was interesting is also monotonous, repetitive, hard work to investigate rigorously. Of course, this is a cynical perspective - the ideal situation is you're down the pub on a Friday explaining why what sounds as boring as hell to everyone else is super-interesting - because you're finding the monotonous, repetitive, hard work compelling.

c) It would be up to you, I'd presume, whether you disclose that you're currently doing a PhD elsewhere. As a supervisor I'd rather someone be up-front and explain why they want to switch - and be trying to assess if a) or b) above apply. I'd try to answer these questions to yourself, convincingly, so you can be up front and make the same convincing argument on the application, or rethink things.
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