This post is dedicated to all those who wish to pursue doctoral studies but are unsure about it or in a dilemma to go for it or not. Many of my students have contacted me to know more about Ph.D. and the challenges that they would encounter during their studies. In this post, I would introduce you to the Ph.D. journey and a few tips to succeed at it.
Undergoing a Ph.D. will enhance your subject knowledge, but it is primarily a research degree. You will learn how to implement research projects and you will be able to contribute to science with the findings/outcomes of your doctoral research. So, you don’t have to do a Ph.D. if you only want to expand your subject knowledge but if you are equally interested in undertaking research in the future.
Doctoral research comes with many challenges such as finding the right supervisor & right University with enough exposure and opportunities to learn, identifying a crucial yet novel perspective in your area, trying to bridge the gap in your specific field, preparing an acceptable research proposal, applying for funds and grants, and effectively communicating your results to your scientific community.
Many students are confused between joining Ph.D. in their native country or going abroad. I feel both are good options as far as you can learn and expand your skills during your doctoral research. Finding the right guide is the first step towards a successful Ph.D. I have come across instances where doctoral students had to quit their Ph.D. because of unsupportive supervisors. A good tip would be to research your potential supervisors’ records, their expertise, their publications, and successful grants. Then connect to their ongoing doctoral students before deciding on a supervisor. The University also plays a significant role in a successful Ph.D. You should check how many Ph.D. candidates are on roll in that University, is there any system for the Ph.D. program, what are the timelines, what are the mandatory outcomes, what are your responsibilities during your study period, and how many international collaborations do your supervisor and University have? These things are important to consider because you will imbibe the research culture prevalent in your university and will grow with each opportunity.
I want to emphasize the fact that Ph.D. is a self-learning process. Your supervisor may give some directions and guidance, but it is ultimately your efforts that will make it successful. If you are determined to learn something new every day, then you will make a great difference in your skills by the end of your doctoral program. I will highlight a few skills that I started learning when I joined Ph.D. I started with learning to write effective emails, writing research proposals, and literature review, then I kept writing and re-writing manuscripts and grants applications. I learned different forms of data analysis and different research methodologies, data management, and organizing data. I also learned to communicate more efficiently and speak in public. I learned the importance of networking and perseverance in a Ph.D.
The skill that you must develop as a researcher is to write! On the first day of my Ph.D., my supervisor advised me that I will be recognized for my writings. I took that advice very seriously and it paid off. Now I enjoy writing, I write manuscripts, letters, emails, blogs, tweets, applications. Never underestimate the effort you must put in to enhance your writing. It is your voice as a researcher. I was also very fortunate to have such supervisors who kept training me to write clearly.
I have also written about other skills that you must develop as a researcher in my other post: https://scienceiq.blog/2021/02/20/ways-to-build-your-research-profile/
So, you should go for Ph.D. if you are interested in research and personal development. Nevertheless, it is mandatory for any academic position so if you want to pursue academics as your career then you will have to do a Ph.D. I hope this post would have helped you identify your passion for research and decide your goals.