Third year of PhD
“Permanent Head Damage (PHD) is shining at full boom: I have become short sighted, lost my memory, lost some hair with white blob at root (so I have to change my hair style), grown fatter: my inchoate SIX packs have been replaced by one big integrated pack, I have less time for my friends and family (I apologise, but one day you will be proud of me..;p)”
Well this is the abstract of what I am doing nowadays. This is my final year, and now I am worried a bit about the work and the final viva. I asked my supervisor about the work and he said it is fine, you will not have any problem; however, the anxiety is natural. I have made a couple of contributions (though none of them qualify for the Nobel Prize), published a couple of conference papers, and have learnt a lot. I worked on 2-3 loosely connected areas and now I am thinking which part of the work will contribute to, as they say “the killer results section”. So I have vast experience gained after spending a lot of time, amd I can safely give the following guidelines to the new PhD students:
1- The first 9 months are really for your basic work, get an area (or at most two) in which you will make some contribution. You may not find any “gap” in research over that area; however, it will help you if you have some map for it. It will be helpful if you choose an area which is appropriate to the skills you already have.
2- The 9 month viva (conducted between 9-12 months) is planned to check that you have understood the problem (literature review) and know where to go (possible area), you are enthusiastic about research and know how to do it, and you have adequate skills (e.g. writing, presentation etc). Usually it is not very tough and lasts for 1 hour.
3- The 9-18 months are set up for methodology (how you solve the problem, if there is any gap? Can you solve the problem from different angles? Can you find some weaknesses of the existing work? ), development, and building the road map with your supervisor. You must have access to the dataset(s) and proficiency with the tool(s) and language(s) you are using. You must plan a conference paper before going to your transfer report.
4- You have your transfer viva (conducted between 18-24 months, but it may vary from group to group, supervisor to supervisor, and of course student to student) aiming to check that, the problem you are working on is worth researching, you have a vivid methodology to solve the problem (which is unique or at least different from the literature), you have some initial encouraging results, you know where you are going, and finally you have enough work to do in the rest of the PhD. Usually, it is tough: you should expect a hard time from both assessors – the examiner and your supervisor, and it lasts for two hours. An important point is that both assessors want a coherent well=structured report, without any inconsistencies.
5- From 18 months to 24 months you should concentrate on the “short-terms” plans made in your transfer report, and “work hard”.
6- In your third year, concentrate on the “long-term” plans made in your transfer report, and “work smart”.
Finally, I must say that research means you give something interesting to the rest of the world. A simple example is, if a pedestrian asks you the way to the city centre and there are three roads A, B, and C. Let’s assume you do not know the way, but you know that A will not go to the high street, you can still tell the pedestrian “I do not know the exact way, but road A will not guide you towards the high street”.
Apart from that I have made a New Year resolution—PhD, Learning, and Gym. Furthermore, I have added an important point to the dictionary: “Just do it, do not plan too much!”
Happy new year everyone,
Warm wishes from Musi…;)