Points to know before you enroll for Ph.D.

By on June 7, 2014

The Doctor of Philosophy program or the Ph.D. program is a highly accredited research program done with the objective of exploring the unexplored and contributing significantly to academia. If you are planning to enroll for Ph.D., you have probably been given dozens of advice by your fellow colleagues, professors, family members, and friends. It becomes difficult to focus on the important ones, so before your start dreaming about your Ph.D. it is a good idea to go through these eleven points:

1. Ph.D. is different from any grad or post-grad program

Before enrolling in a Ph.D. program, you should realize that this is not a normal graduate program where you pick a supervisor at the beginning of your program; such arrangements may not work in a Ph.D. program. Choose a supervisor who you feel has a keen knowledge and interest in your area of research. The Ph.D. program requires meticulous research on the subject chosen by you and before you realize that your research is going nowhere, you may be looking for a new supervisor. You are going to regularly interact with your supervisor throughout your research tenure and he will be influencing your research to a great extent. So it is important to choose a supervisor that you are comfortable working with and who has a keen knowledge of your area of research. The supervisor plays the role of a friend, philosopher, and guide and apart from guiding throughout Ph.D. completion. The supervisor will help you in maintaining morale during times when things don’t work.

2. Chose a topic that you are confident to prove

Once you make up your mind to enroll for Ph.D., decide on the research topic. Keep your mind open for new research and topics down the line. Even if you believe that you are committed to a particular area of research, after five years of research you may end up with something that is not what you expected. Keep at least 3 topics in mind that you may eventually mold your research to. While selecting the topics, you should however ensure that enough secondary data is available and the topic is of relevance in the current scenario. It is a good idea to find out what other scholars are working on, in the same field.

3. Prepare a synopsis to enroll for Ph.D.

It is important for you to know that Ph.D. programs are completed in various stages. First, you submit the synopsis or proposal of the research, and when it is approved then only the thesis progresses. However, it is also important to understand that your synopsis approval might take some time as the supervisors go through it in detail. You might also be required to make minor modifications to the research topic you proposed. Although it happens rarely, the supervisor can reject the proposal as well asking you to choose an altogether different topic. Hence, as said earlier, it is always better to keep at least 3 topics.

4. Review existing literature before you enroll for Ph.D.

Once you get the approval for your synopsis, do not waste any time and start reviewing the existing literature. Time plays a crucial role in Ph.D. completion. Only writing the thesis is not enough; you should always leave enough time for proofreading and revisions. Time can be managed by using the Gantt chart as well which sets out a specific duration for every part of the thesis submission. Gantt chart can be of great help in managing time, only if it is followed rigidly.

  1. The first part of the literature can be based on a critical review of existing literature and the second part can involve empirical analysis. It is always better to use as many sources as you can. This will not only help you get a comprehensive view of the existing literature but also improves the scope of proving your argument.
  2. As stated earlier, when you start the actual work, you might find that the research is going somewhere else. Most of the time it happens because of information overloading i.e. when you try to write anything and everything that you find related to the topic. Hence, always try to retain your focus. Do not get blinded by vast amounts of data and sort out the relevant data on the basis of your research objectives.

5. Make a habit of proofreading and editing

Many a time during the course of your Ph.D., you will feel like leaving the course because your supervisor will ask you to modify the content. At all such times, you need to show patience and perseverance. Remember that supervisors are subject experts hence their level of knowledge is far higher. Also, they adopt a critical approach toward your paper to get the best out of you. Hence, their suggestions must be welcomed with a high learning spirit.

Avoid submitting anything to the supervisor without thorough proofreading. No matter how cautiously you worked on the thesis, mistakes always occur. There can be grammatical mistakes, lack of context in sentences, alignment mistakes, citation errors, and more.

The presentation of the paper is equally important as the content of the paper. Add a title page and table of contents at the beginning of your thesis. Also, support the theories with diagrams and the empirical survey with tables and graphs. Add an appendix to list all the tables and figures as well as the questionnaire and interview excerpts, if any. This will make the thesis look more presentable and help you accomplish your goal.

Present and defend your arguments

Thoroughly understand your paper to prepare a strong defense for scrutiny by the reviewer. Your reviewer will scrutinize every little detail and fact presented by you, especially in the introduction, research methodology, and conclusion chapters. You should stay prepared for cross-questions before appearing for defense and prepare a list of important points from your research that can help you guide the reviewer to ask the right questions.


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