I just had my VIVA this Tuesday, and passed with very minor corrections. Just want to post an encouraging message to all of you who some days find no meaning on the PhD, think about quitting, or are just demoralised once in a while, I went to lots of ups and downs too, the PhD is a roller coaster! but it can be done, and it can be finished.
I don't think there is a magic advice, or a formula that applies to everyone, but here are some tips that I think might help:
1. Writing up will take you longer than you think (I found that rule applies to almost everyone!). Don't underestimate the time you need. I would say a month per chapter (considering a 7-8 chapter thesis) plus a month for editing, checking, proofreading, etc. Dont underestimate the time your supervisor will take to read your thesis!
2. If you need help, ask for it! The PhD is yours, so dont expect your supervisor or other people to care for it more than you. If you are lost, or need help regarding something, ask for it! You'll be surprised by the willingness of some "experts" to discuss with you. Doing a PhD doesnt mean that you need to know it all, it also mean that you learn how to be a researcher, and that research sometimes involves collaboration.
3. Stick to it. Be stubborn, dont let go, dont give up. YOU CAN DO IT.
4. Exercise, have friends outside academia, eat well, travel, have a hobby.... in summary... have a life as normal as possible besides the PhD
5. Treat it like a job! With deadlines, with responsibilities, at the end, you are getting paid for doing it, right? Which job would pay you without results? If your supervisor doesnt put deadlines, do it yourself! How about finishing a chapter by the end of the month?
6. Talk with your supervisor. Even if you think you have nothing to talk about, try to write down questions, worries. Try to make him/her agree on a monthly meeting. It makes the road less lonelier.. and sometimes, you can be surprised that they actually know something!
7. Write your literature review while you are on the road. I hope I this did! For every paper that you read, write a brief summary, pros and cons, what is the key aspect. If you dont do this when you read the paper, you will, certainly, have to re-read it at the end, when you are writing up and when you have no time.
8. Dont worry about "novelty". Novelty is a a tricky concept in academia. Is not about discovering the cure of cancer, or nuclear fision, or a new interpretation of gravity. Novelty is about your own critical analysis of a problem, or a method. Novelty is something no one said, thought or tried before. But that something can be very small.
Good luck! Enjoy your PhDs! It can be done!
P.S. If doing a PhD really is hurting you.... quit! I've seen people reallychanging, and becoming depressed. A PhD is not all in life, a PhD lifestyle is not for all... and a PhD is not the only road for success. Quitting sometimes requires more bravery than staying!
Excellent post by the way. It is exactly the kind of post that a lot of people on this forum will find very uplifting.
I left my PHD a couple of years back and I may well have another crack in a few years ( I must be mad). A PhD is seen as quite an important qualification for people in the field I'm about to jump into ( new job starting in September ) I am currently on an Msc course and am now beginning to get a much better idea of what I'd be interested in working on for a PhD and can now clearly see how a PhD will fit into my future career. I should think my second attempt will be a lot more successful ( hopefully) given that I would be a lot more focused should I jump into the fray again. ill just have to wait and see though
I suppose the main message you are putting across for Phders is about discipline. e.g respecting the task at hand but at the same time respecting the need for a balanced life style. I think no PhD is worth it if it takes over your life for 3-4 years and striking the balance so that it doesn't happen, appears to be the hardest part of a PhD. I know many people doing PhD's at different universities who have very balanced lifestyles and are successful in their PhD studies but for every one of these people there are 3-4 more other people who have to fight tooth and nail for every scrap of their PhD degree: working anywhere from 12-15 hours a day, pulling their hair out and executing the daily ritual of head banging and talking to the photocopier. In the majority of these cases this shouldn't be necessary but I suppose not every PhD student is comparable as every project will have different demands depending on factors such as: ( crap or non existent supervision, lab politics, overly ambitious and ill planned project or just that the student isnt very well suited to research topic) Having said that, the advice given the advice given in this post is an excellent guide for any PhDer!!
I would echo your comment about the importance of asking for help and chasing people down. I didnt do this in my first PhD and its certainly a contributing factor to why mine went down the toilet. there are always a lot of people around you who can greatly facilitate your learning as a PhD student but if you don't ask you wont receive
Congratulations...It's so inspiring to read this thread. I know that there are people who do it, fortunately or unfortunately I have too many of them around to be expected anything less of me. Therefore it is so hard for me to accept my failures time to time. Your tips were really very helpful. I personally experienced the part of forgetting everything I read about a lot of paper and the painstaking effort to re-read them while I have to submit a report. I do think that I will start writing along right now since I have 15 months left.
I also have a bad habit of not going to my supervisors without any 'complete' product and I am also a perfectionist. This makes my meeting with my supervisors quite rare, though they seem to be quite helpful.
So, I will now try to rescue my project, because I know that my friends are positive about its prospect.
Thanks again for the inspiring post!!
Hi, jst wanted to pick your brains - sorry, I will post a seperate thread also, so no pressure to answer - point 7. lit review, you say to write a brief summary of every article you read, I am grappling with this at the moment, do you do it in note format or a more academic report, so you can cut and paste, just wondering how detailed this needs to be and what should be in there - thanks :-)
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