Things to Ponder before doing Ph.D

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Difficulty Level: Research is not easy and Research is not for everyone. Likewise PhD is not easy and PhD is not for everyone. There is no recipe for good research. Some students expect or hope to be provided with step-by-step instructions or guidelines on how to find or tackle problems. That’s not how it works. Here are a few indications of what is involved.

Interest Level: The course aims to give the student in-depth knowledge of a single subject. All type of research and in detail study is to be done on a single subject. For this is necessary you are that interested in the subject.

Learning by thinking: The first rule of research is to think, think and think again. Never hesitate to throw your mind at anything. That should be the first thing you try. Before looking up a book or paper, before asking anyone, think. You can solve earlier year papers and experience the complexity or the ease in the course. This can make your decision further easier

Never be lazy about thinking. That’s how you build up understanding and develop a bag of techniques that you can use. Thinking is fun. If you don’t find it so, it’s an indication you are in the wrong business.

Natural learning: There are some students who, when shown some technical item, react, somehow naturally having good reactions and viewpoints, about the import of the item and what to do next. These are simply people who learn extremely well by example. Take up some natural learning by yourself.

Understanding versus knowledge: It is more important to understand well what you know than to know a lot. Successful research comes from having a good understanding, especially of the basics.

Questions before Doing PhD

With regard to how you fit into this research game

  • I think I’m a natural
  • I think I can pick it up fairly easily and like it
  • I think I can with effort learn the ways of this world and function in it
  • It’s like being on Mars, but I can stand it for a few years
  • I feel totally out of place with all these nerds; what am I doing here?

Conclusion: Unfortunately there are no paperbacks about this; we are on our own. Try to communicate as much as possible, and be honest. Solicit feedback when you need it. You are not only free to disagree, but encouraged to do so. Developing your own opinions and defending them is part of what you are expected to learn to do. If you don’t like a particular problem it is suggested you work on, say so and ask for something different. If you don’t see why it is important, ask for the motivation. The more honest and direct you are, the better we can progress.

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