How to Take Control Of Your Research & Ph.D. Dissertation
Isn’t this one of your headaches as a Research Student? Let’s simplify it today
I am going to tell you in a remarkably brief manner – writing your Ph.D. dissertation is a long and winding journey. It requires long hours of competitive research, comprehensive comparison of existing literature, and profound experimentations.
Personally, I must admit that throughout my online coaching career, I’ve seen many students who struggled with finding time and motivation to finish their Ph.D. dissertation. They lose interest and control through the process, which is an unfortunate scenario.
Writing a Ph.D. dissertation is unlike your experience getting a Master’s Degree where everything is very much like the traditional supervisor-student relationship. Expect it to be intricate and more like a master-apprentice relationship.
So in this article, I am going to share with you some practical tips on how you can stay on top of your plans and make sure that you’re in charge of your Ph.D. journey.
Tip 1: Determine the objectives of your thesis
Majority of Ph.D. students don’t have any clue what they’re doing during their freshmen year. So when they submit their first draft, it is not always perfect and will most likely be advised for revision. Don’t get frustrated when this happens, be open to criticism and accept that you are not perfect, in fact, no one is.
Your thesis objective defines the structure and direction of your thesis dissertation. It narrows down your research to more specific sections and topic discussions. This can take a while to get used to but here’s the hard truth – you are in charge of your research. So hang on and complete it.
No one else is expected to direct your research but you. Your supervisor will only be there to make suggestions, present possible questions, and guide your actual writing process. Even hands-on supervisors won’t be present during lab experiments and data gathering.
To craft, your objectives try to ask yourself these questions. What specific problems are you trying to address? What conclusion are you trying to achieve and convey to the potential readers? Are you trying to debug a program, discover new alternative medications, challenging a scientific assumption, or simply comparing existing literature?
Tip 2: Narrow down your research topic
Ph.D. dissertations are very specific. When your research is too broad, you could experience a lot of problems such as having too many information sources, lack of sufficient parameters, and difficulty in determining what to include and what to exclude.
Ph.D. dissertations have to be as particular as possible to prevent conflicting and remotely related ideas. Remember this, a manageable and presentable research is your key to getting a Ph.D. degree.
If you find narrowing your topic difficult, try to first start with a general topic. Then gradually break it down into smaller categories. Imagine yourself looking at your research topic through a microscope. You have to choose one lens through which to view and determine the components which will be the focus of your analysis.
However, be careful not to overly narrow down your research. When your research is too narrow, you will find it too hard to locate enough research data to support your study.
Tip 5: Choose your research materials wisely
Don’t let the books decide your thesis direction. I know there are quite a lot of current and reputable research materials out there, but it is you who is control. Once you’ve narrowed down your research topic, you will know exactly what materials to use.
For example, if your Ph.D. thesis is focused on biological research of genetically modified crops in India, then don’t waste time reading books that are focused on remote topics like “how old is the universe” or “how important it is to research about Mars” or “has Pluto stopped being a planet.”
If you let yourself drown in too many materials, you’ll mostly like succumbed to information overload or brain freeze. It’s like eating ice cream in full spoon, consistently for one minute. You’ll suddenly feel like your blood has stopped flowing, only to realize that you’ve already lost control in your Ph.D.
Tip 3: Take control of your schedule
Now is a good time to think about your schedule. When you start writing your Ph.D. thesis, your time will be tremendously divided into orientations, meetings, seminars, and research.
I’ve heard quite a lot of students struggle with writing because of a hectic schedule, especially for those who are also working. So I strongly suggest that you create a schedule. Set a time for your lab research and your study.
Check your schedule in advance to know when you can meet with your supervisor. Regarding writing, create a template regarding how often you are going to submit your work. How many pages are you expected to finish every week? What should you end during the first month? How often should you meet?
Tip 4: Observe ethical considerations when writing
As you research, you will discover quite a lot of authors publishing almost similar studies like yours. Often, you will get tempted to copy their ideas, especially when they’re too unique and interesting.
Of course, everyone wants to sound smart in their thesis. But hey, getting a Ph.D. is all about presenting your discovery and not about creating a patchwork of borrowed ideas.
What I am trying to say is that your work must be 100 percent original. To avoid plagiarism, make sure not to copy verbatim the work of an author. If you like a particular idea, you can have it paraphrased and then footnote your reference. If you want to use an entire paragraph, I advise that you use quotation mark and cite the author.
Remember that your thesis will be published in school journals. It is important to maintain academic integrity in the academia and avoid plagiarism. As a Ph.D. student, you are expected to know unethical conducts when writing a thesis because it is an imperative aspect of taking control of your Ph.D. journey.
Tip 6: Research like a pro
Have you ever had that nagging feeling that there might be more data out there that you’ve missed in your research? That there could be more related literature or experiments that could help with your data analysis?
When you have this feeling, then don’t stop researching. There is no algorithm to yield a complete Ph.D. dissertation other than taking control of your research.
When doing research, I always tell my students to create a system that can guide them through the process. First, of all, you have to set your preferences. Are you the type of a lab or field person? If you’re the first, then make sure to control your time and manner of doing experiments in the lab. If you’re the latter, make sure that you know the steps in doing field experiments and ask support from experts. Collect as much as specimens as you can and leave no stones unturned.
Next, what type of medium are you most comfortable with? Are you the type of person who is more comfortable with books or are you able to work with high-tech research materials like computers and databases?
Then, determine how you patch up data. Do you want your supervisor to look at raw data and get feedback? Or do you prefer to write from zero details and have it checked only when polished?
Tip 7: Create a game plan
Your relationship with your supervisor depends on your self-discipline. As I said, getting a Ph.D. is not like the traditional student-teacher relationship. So when you meet with your supervisor, don’t expect them to spoon feed you with information.
Before you turn up for a meeting, make it a habit to take note of the things for clarifications. Jot down important discoveries, thoughts, and idealizations. Take time to pull together an agenda and email your questions in advance so your supervisor will have time to prepare for quality feedback.
Tip 8: Know when to compromise and when to make a stand
I am telling you as early as now – your supervisor is only human. If you’re lucky enough, your relationship with your supervisor will run like a clockwork. But often, you can’t help it to be perfect.
Your supervisor can suddenly become elusive and will be hard to reach. He will be very busy with school administration and field trips. You will become a lesser priority, which can annoy you.
At some other point, your supervisor will not agree with your thesis proposal. He will have a different opinion on your research issues and will have an opposite perspective on how you should write your thesis.
Either way, you need to be very open-minded when dealing with your supervisor. Develop an understanding that your supervisor is not Superman or Wonder Woman. Supervisors have their weaknesses, and you may have to compromise professionally.
Listen to their directions and suggestions but if you feel like your idea is worth fighting, then don’t be afraid to make a friendly argument. On the other hand, acknowledge your mistakes and weak points, and rewrite your research content if you must.
So these are the practical tips on how you can take charge of getting your Ph.D. thesis done. The last thing I want to share with you – which I’ve proven to work all the time – is just to keep on pushing.
For sure there will be obstacles along your way. You’ll get tired and bored. Sometimes, you’ll feel like your supervisor has dominated your thesis or that time pressure has beaten the creativity out of you. But don’t give up. Always keep your head high because no one is in control of your success but you.
I hope you enjoyed reading my article today. Do you have any questions or additional tips you think can help Ph.D. students take control of their Ph.D. journey? Please feel free to drop your comments in the comment box, and I will be more than happy to respond to you personally.
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