You will often hear people tell you that a doctoral degree is a huge commitment. They will make their apprehensions clear through verbal or non-verbal expressions. I will be honest, I was pretty unhappy with the way people would tell me that I shouldn’t do a Ph.D. unless I lack an iota of doubt. Back then, when I had only started applying for Ph.D. programs, I was quite reactive to these suggestions. However, I gradually realized that there is so much that a person must consider before he does his Ph.D.
Bringing all my lessons to this article, I have decided to consolidate my advice over here. There are 5 things I was told to consider, and I will convey the same to you. These are simple suggestions and can do a great deal of work in clearing your confusion.
You will have to research a lot
If you thought researching a Ph.D. program is all about looking up the official websites of the universities of your choice, then you need more guidance. It is necessary that you go beyond what is available on the official pages. In order to be doubly sure of your decision, you will have to corroborate the claims made on the website with the data available outside. You should consult students from those universities, career consultants, check on the public forums where students help each other and analyze the rankings. Ph.D. is a task that will take years of your life and is among the most laborious endeavors for an academician. So, research well.
Avoid a Ph.D. when you are not sure of your area
It is perfectly alright to have breathing space between your post-graduation and doctoral program. We all are vulnerable to burnout, and failing to take breaks in between can impact our performance in our endeavors. Many times, people discontinue education and work. Getting a job and working at it for some time can get you the right experience and reasonable time to deliberate on your area of interest. If you jump on the Ph.D. bandwagon without any idea of where you want to go, then you will end up with many problems. Your guide will not be there to spoonfeed you; you have to find a way for yourself!
You have the freedom to choose
You will often come across people suggesting that you have to necessarily carry forward the area of interest as was in your post-graduate school. No, this is not the case at all. In fact, you have the liberty to deviate if need be. For instance, you might have taken a study of black money in politics as part of your dissertation work during post-graduation but you can take a topic on whistleblowing or mergers and acquisitions in your Ph.D. program. A doctoral study is basically a research degree; just know the broad area of interest and you can experiment around.
The need for a good guide is never overstated
It is important to maintain cordiality and reciprocity with your guide. You should most likely be allotted a guide by the administration or can get a chance to choose one for yourself subject to conditions. Whatever the case may be, know that your guide is going to be your academic companion for three to four years, and she is going to steer the direction of your research. Poor relations with the guide can put you in a difficult position; you must respond to her queries on time, address her issues with the research seriously, and respect her among many other things. Of course, that being said, you should be very forthcoming about your own inputs and expect to be treated with equal respect from the other side.
It is going to be hectic
Once you enroll yourself in a good Ph.D. program, you will sign up for years of research. Even if it is doctrinal research, do not expect to be let off the hook. Ph.D. supervisors are generally strict about the quality of research, and very rightly so. Academia has very stringent rules and regulations regarding the quality of research including originality and contribution. Unless your Ph.D. offers some solid contribution to scholarship, you haven’t really done your part right. This can very well affect your career prospects. So, be ready for hectic schedules, writing papers after papers, attending conferences, spending hours in the lab, and doing corrections among many other things.
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