I have seen numerous PhD candidates highly obsessed with PhD, research and, dissertation, and this obsession either leads to success or depression. Working for long and extended hours on your Ph.D. research and be alert at the same time is next to impossible. Neither it is healthy nor is it producible to get seated and focus on writing or reading for such long duration of time. Entering into the final sphere of ‘academia’ is enough to leave you baffled. Here, you require intensive reading, writing, research and outreach. Once you board on this excursion, you, by no means, are supposed to leave and go back. If you chose Ph.D. for valid and good reasons; you want to learn, contribute to the human knowledge, and enjoy this new phase, then it is a one-way road where you can’t even turn or look back for a while since Ph.D. push you and your genre to the extreme. BUT who makes the decision of your success and rejection after such hard work?
Your actions. Your methodology. Your attitude. You!
By ‘you’, I mean your positive or negative (which is obnoxious) stance towards your PhD programme. No doubt there are many stumbling blocks to it, which demands toil every day. But just a few reminders and a bit confidence can bring an end to all your worries & stress.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that academics play a crucial role in the overall development and health of an individual. Research reveals that students of higher education (Masters/ PhD) are more likely to become depressed and unable to bear the psychological pressure. (Wisconsin Department of Health Service, 2009, P-00066).
The figure shows the mistakes generally PhD candidates do which might result in depression and prevent you from making progress. But I will discuss the two most common accidental mistakes that no one tells you to avoid:
Minimal coordination between supervisor and supervisee
A supervisor or mentor is allotted to you, inaugurating your PhD journey. Supervisor and supervisee share a very crucial relationship where one inculcates the study, research, and writing skills for the entire development, in the other. However, there are cases where either supervisor or supervisee is indifferent to each other. Supervisor plays not only an advisory role but also an evaluative role, thus it is a hard job for them to manage these two altogether. And since PhD candidate is already very baffled and confused entering the new sphere of academia (s)he is unable to fulfill the expectations of the supervisor. It results in lack of communication among them or supervisor becomes dominant with the student as a mere disciple unable to create anything anew. It means the very initial step is taken wrong and turned to a false step.
Make your supervisor aware of his importance to your PhD. Ask your supervisor for guidance for literature search, topic selection, refinement, and support in making management plans for future etcetera to come in good terms with him/her. It shows that his approval is all you need to move on with. More he gets to know his importance, more you progress with your dissertation. Be patient, calm and composed and trust your supervisor. Mark his comments & criticism on your drafts, try to improve it next time. Supervisor’s support and evaluation is the main pillar of your PhD. DO NOT undervalue his comments, criticism, and evaluation!
Leaf through scholarly journals randomly
Contrary to popular belief, doing research today is more challenging than preceding era. The reason made me believe it is that earlier, you could go to library and publications easily (although it was tiring) and found what you are looking for. You would make an outline of your paper, try to focus on the need and requirement of research roaming around library. Those were the days where libraries used to be a center of all intellects discussing and reading the old pile of books & papers. No, I do not mean that doing PhD and research in 20th century was easy- of course not. It was almost impossible for you to get into numerous libraries in quest of that perfect book. But what I’m trying to convey is that you were not offered much options or choices available back then. And today, technology brought generation to the point where doing research is never too easy. You have got hands over libraries, journals, articles, everything across the globe with just a click on the internet. No more struggles to find that perfect book which can do wonders to you. There are e-journals, e-books, and pdfs of research papers free of cost. Read, analyze, and write.
This is the reason why PhD candidates generally get lost in research and investigation. They read hundreds of research papers and material through internet on the same topic, then inter-related topics, end up writing irrelevant information, references and so on. It not only results in a bunch of irrelevant papers in contrast with the dissertation/thesis topic but also breaks the flow of your thoughts and ideas. Thus, e-research can proved to be disastrous for all those who fail to keep their minds focused.
What can be done to narrow down focus and research material?
Ask yourself few questions before you sit with your laptop, pen, and paper. Try to figure out the reasons behind your reading-
- What are you looking for?
- What is your topic about?
- What could be the specific areas associated with topic which people are not much aware of?
- What do you want to comprehend?
- Do you want to use the text for your own theory or methodology?
- How can I make readers interested in my thesis?
These are just few examples of how you can list questions and answer all of them in your thesis with only necessary information. Take a pen and paper, list all the necessary questions that can be raised from your planned research and then research wisely. Only look for the answers of your questions. Internet can make you go round and round and get you nowhere, no matter how much time you spend, how informative and valid papers you find. However, it is up to you which mode you find better to research- through internet or paper publications.
PhD’s most crucial component is writing dissertation which is discipline-specified, and time-specified. It brings the new personality in you, as an author (believe it or not), regardless of your proficiency in language in the concerned language. Ultimately, it will leave you as an author, researcher, mastering the subject matter of individual academic discipline.