Learn the Unwritten Rules of PhD Research
There are plenty of good students who have difficulty getting through PhD programs. In many cases, it isn’t because they aren’t smart enough or haven’t studied enough. It is because they don’t understand the system and the way it works, and they aren’t familiar with many of the unwritten rules of PhD research.
That is understandable as they are unwritten rules and some may even vary from institution to institution. Although many of these “rules” may be different depending on your program there are some things you can do that will help your overall success in a PhD program.
Two of the most important of these are:
- To get good answers to your PhD thesis research questions you need to sit down over a drink/coffee or whatever is appropriate with the right person. That won’t be another student. It may be a supervisor whose students always do well or an exceptionally helpful librarian or anybody else in the know. An informal conversation with somebody familiar with the institution and out of your program can provide vital information.
- Diplomacy and knowing when to remain silent – A new PhD student is at the bottom of the pecking order, and there is definitely a pecking order. As the new kid, sometimes it is better to remain silent even when you are correct. Not annoying the wrong person can save you plenty of headaches.
Some Practical Tips to Help with PhD Research Methods
Sometimes the unwritten rules of PhD research are more like tips or suggestions than rules. The following are a few tips that can be useful when working on your PhD research project:
- Keep an annotated bibliography for your personal use. Including all the usual bibliographic information, the date you read the paper and notes on what you found interesting, influential or relevant.
- Don’t use big words if you aren’t absolutely sure of the meaning. A big word used incorrectly will make you look like an idiot.
- Write something even if it’s incorrect. This changes your task from writing to rewriting or editing which is often easier than starting with nothing.
- A PhD degree is a pass/fail. Learn to recognize when you have enough.
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