11 things to know before you enroll yourself for PhD.

By Ankita Agarwal on June 7, 2014

The Doctor of Philosophy program or the PhD. program is a highly accredited research program done with the objective of exploring the unexplored and contribute significantly to academia. If you are planning to enrol yourself into a PhD program, 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 PhD. it is a good idea to go through these eleven points:

  1. Before enrolling for a PhD. program, you should realize that this is not a normal graduate program where you pick a supervisor in the beginning of your program; such arrangements may not work in a PhD. program. Choose a supervisor who you feel has a keen knowledge and interest in your area of research. The PhD. 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 to work with and has a keen knowledge in your area of research. Supervisor plays the role of friend, philosopher and guide and apart from guiding throughout in PhD. completion. The supervisor will help you in maintaining the morale during times when things don’t work.
  2. Once you make your mind for the PhD., next you need to decide the research topic. Keep your mind open for new researches 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 professors are working on, in the same field.
  3. As soon as you decide the supervisor and the research topic, it is time to start the real work. Here it is important for you to know that PhD. 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 in the research topic you had proposed. Although it happens rarely, but the supervisor can reject the proposal as well asking you to chose an altogether different topic. Hence, as said earlier, it is always better to keep at least 3 topics in mind.
  4. Once you get the approval for your synopsis, do not waste any time and start gathering the data for your research. Time plays crucial role in PhD. completion. Only writing the thesis is not enough; you should always leave enough time margins for editing and revisions. Time can be managed through using the Gantt chart as well which sets out specific duration for every part of thesis submission. Gantt chart can be of great help in managing time, only if it is followed rigidly.
  5. You should also know that PhD. thesis is written into two parts:
    1. First part comprises introduction and literature review.
    2. While second part includes research methodology, analysis, and conclusion.
  6. First part of the thesis is entirely based upon secondary data but the second part involves 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 your research but also improves the scope of securing good grades.
  7. As stated earlier, when you start the actual work, you might find that the research is going somewhere else. Most of the times it happens because of data 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 with vast amounts of data and sort out the relevant data on the basis of your research objectives.
  8. Many times during the course of PhD., 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 towards your submissions to get the best out of you. Hence, their suggestions must be welcomed with high learning spirit.
  9. Yet another point that you should note is never submit anything to the supervisor without editing and proofreading. No matter how cautiously you had worked on the thesis, human errors always occur. There may be content errors, grammatical errors, sentence formation errors, alignment and other formatting related errors, referencing errors which can be rectified during editing and proofreading. Hence it is always advisable to take the help of a professional proofreader and editor to avoid any such mistakes.
  10. Like it is often said, “first impression is the last impression”, similarly presentation of the thesis is equally important as writing the thesis. You should add a title page and table of contents in the beginning of your thesis. Also, support the theories with diagrams and the empirical survey with tables and graphs. Do not forget to acknowledge the sources of data in referencing. Add 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. Many times such aspects are overlooked but that can be a major mistake by any PhD. scholar.
  11. Until now have concentrated on the writing of the thesis but you also need to defend your thesis. Here you will be asked to justify your thesis before multiple supervisors. Your supervisor will scrutinize every little detail inserted by you especially in the introduction, research methodology, and conclusion chapters. You should stay prepared for cross-questioning and do not get nervous. Revise your thesis before appearing for defense and prepare a list of important points identified during research. This will help you handle the questions during thesis defense.


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