Common Myths about Doing PhD and the Truth Behind
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Common Myths about Doing PhD and the Truth Behind

There are a lot of myths and fallacies surrounding the world of PhDs. Some of them may have advantages, but some of them are just plain myths. In this article, we will tackle ten of these myths and try to explain the advantages and disadvantages, if any. If these myths have no truth at all, we will also dispel them and provide you with real insight into the real world of becoming a Ph.D. and what it truly means.

Myth 1: You’ve got to be intelligent

This is perhaps the most common myth everyone believes. With the likes of Steven Hawking, Albert Einstein, and Niels Bohr dominating the world of Ph.D., it is no wonder that the standards are immensely set high. Given these names alone, many would come to believe that intelligence is one of the main requirements for a person to become a Ph.D. student, let alone graduate with the degree. However, this is not true.

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Intelligent is not the right word for it, at least. It isn’t even close to that. The main ingredient to becoming a Ph.D. student and graduate is diligent. One has to be diligent in taking this path. It is far off more vital than what’s inside your brain – which by the way can be obtained and mastered if you have the diligence to study regularly and read on materials and other readings vigilantly.

To add, if you are not intelligent, how would you even get past your master’s program – or even undergraduate course? Something else must have been there, and we bet it’s your diligence.

Myth 2: It’s the road to becoming only an inventor/scientist

While it is true that most Ph.D. degree holders go out and become successful inventors or scientists, it is false to assume that you need to be an inventor or scientist if you ever take the Ph.D. road. In fact, have you ever wondered if any of them started inventing life-changing ideas during their studies? High chances are there are none.

Remember that the main goal of a Ph.D. program is to improve, develop, or boost your research skills, thus turning you into an exceptional researcher. Ph.D. isn’t just about greatness or striving hard to make that overambitious idea a reality. Having this mentality will only make you look bad in the eyes of the people who will mentor you – your supervisor and the examiners. On the contrary, having this mindset will make you look like you are not in sync with reality.

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Just remember one thing: Your time to shine will come. For now, just be patient and do your best to get a stable academic position.

Myth 3: Only A Ph.D. dissertation will ensure your academic career

We cannot deny that a lot of Ph.D. students give high regards for their dissertations. This is especially true if you want a career in the academia or the Industry. For them, such dissertations would pave the way for them to the academic world.

This is partially true since a high-quality dissertation containing strong publication material is an asset. BUT. This is only just a piece of the puzzle. It is not your ticket to a career. Entering the academia or industry requires so much more than just a dissertation, even if you regard it as your masterpiece.

Other points that could help you get in that career path are making solid connections with other researchers in your field, working on your attendance and appearances (e.g., attending conferences), and continuously working toward publishing new material during your Ph.D. program. Having all these might just make you a winner.

Myth 4: It’s all about grades

Remember one thing, this is not your high school and it’s not mandatory for you to be a topper or an extraordinarily outstanding student to get a Ph.D. degree. It isn’t just about grades. It’s all about persistence. If you are determined that you want a Ph.D. degree, you can get it. But of course be it your Bachelors, Masters or Ph.D. you need to put in some effort, genuine effort from your end.

Myth 5: Your Ph.D. thesis should be a priority

Ph.D. candidates often get confused in prioritizing their task. They think that a Ph.D. thesis is their priority. And in this process, they ignore the actual research which they are pursuing.

The entire purpose of doing a Ph.D. is to innovate and find out something which nobody has done it ever. Many a time even a small breakthrough may seem silly to you, but actually, it can be a stepping stone to the next researcher who will refer to your Ph.D. thesis, that’s why you should prioritize your research first.

Of course, write your thesis but you should understand, that the purpose of your thesis is to progress in your research work and that is where this myth should be broken. Now your research should be at priority & Ph.D. thesis definitely should follow next.

Myth 6: University rankings should be taken seriously when deciding where to study

Most of those who go for Ph.D. programs choose schools that have high rankings, especially those who don’t have so many ideas about the schools from far-flung places. While this is the first step, this should be always the deciding factor.

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Choosing a university based on ranking is a flawed strategy.

On the contrary, what you should be looking for is the quality and the reputation of your potential supervisor in the academia. Remember that it is your supervisor who will be writing recommendation letters to future employers and who will be helping you get your funding. So instead of choosing a highly ranked institution, go for a highly ranked supervisor instead. Having that supervisor in a great-ranking university is just the bonus.

Myth 7: Ph.D. graduates who are jobless become “post-docs”

The usual notion of many people is that Ph.D. graduates often go for post-doctoral positions if they are unable to find jobs, either inside or outside academia. This is not the case.

The truth is that becoming a post-doc is actually a prerequisite for landing a stable academic or Industry position. Those that go for post-doctoral positions are those who have made it their goal to stay in the same research filed without experimenting with their career by going for Management degrees. In fact, you need to invest more than usual in terms of your Ph.D. research project as well as in creating connections with high-caliber researchers.

Myth 8: Having a Ph.D. is enough

Now, here comes the best part. People think having a Ph.D. is enough. And they always go for a non-funded Ph.D. The truth is if they do not have a scholarship, even if they finished the Ph.D., that Ph.D. is not enough. You must go for a scholarship funded Ph.D.

The benefit you get in case of a scholarship funded Ph.D. is you get your Ph.D. for virtually free and someone else is paying for your Ph.D.

Once you’ve got your Ph.D. And if you have qualified CSIR net OR GATE exam, that becomes an added advantage and you stand out of the crowd. So even if you’re going for a Ph.D., go for a funded Ph.D., take a scholarship, write CSIR NET exam. It’s not a big deal every year so many people qualify and even you can.

So make up your mind and always go for a funded Ph.D., not a non-funded one.

Myth 9: Getting a Ph.D. Degree is a lifelong process.

Getting a Ph.D. is not at all a lifelong process. People think you are going to work for seven to nine years on the same thing. And at the end, all you get is just one degree, a Ph.D. First of all, you need to understand that Ph.D. is not a degree, it’s an on the job training. Rather, I can say it’s a job. So if you are in a job, you’re getting paid and you are doing something which you love, there’s no harm in pursuing it. And as a job is a lifelong process, so why not Ph.D.?

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When it comes to seven to eight years, it flys by so quickly that you will feel that it was just yesterday that you started your Ph.D. And trust me if you are really good at your research, you have taken the right research topic, your guide is good and your institution is good, You may finish your Ph.D. degree in three years too. This is the biggest myth we all have that Ph.D. degree completion takes a decade and you end up wasting 10 years of your life.

No, it’s not, the fruits of success beyond Ph.D. is huge. It cannot be easily gotten. So you must go for a Ph.D. and try to finish it within three to four years and enjoy your life beyond that.

Myth 10: Ph.D. is Boring

Is it true? Is getting a Ph.D. degree really boring?

Well, for those who have not been into this side of the world, it is not common to hear them say that those who take up Ph.D. programs are only boring people. For them, it’s all about reading, reading, and reading. It’s about sitting in that dark corner, reading some materials and writing research or dissertations.

We’re sorry to disappoint you everyone, but getting into a Ph.D. program is not boring at all – not even close. Why? Because you’ve got a challenge take on and that is to let your creative juices overflow nonstop.

Plus, when that brilliant idea surfaces, you tend to even work hard and experiment on many things. In fact, the Ph.D. community is surrounded by vibrant students, and it is a pure joy to watch – it’s like watching a magic potion do its work. Of course, if you are among those who are pursuing Ph.D. out of passion and interest it can definitely never be a boring journey, but those who got into Ph.D. just because peers & friends suggested then sorry to say, you will definitely oppose my point.

So there you have it. Ten myths that many people have come to believe, especially those who have no idea whatsoever with regard to getting a Ph.D. or the events that take place in an academic community. We hope that these ten myths would somehow change the way you perceive Ph.D. students or yourself (if you are one). May this article serve as a mind opener for most of us “outsiders”.

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Shekhar Suman is the CEO & Managing Director of BioTecNika Info Labs Pvt Ltd, An avid reader who is passionate about Bio Sciences and has gifted us BioTecNika


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