How do i know my ph d process is getting into trouble
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How do I know, my Ph.D. process is getting into trouble?. by Attila Ondi April 16, 2002. Typical Ph.D. process (1/2). Deciding to get a Ph.D. Getting into school Choosing courses Making your “Plan” Finding your Advisor Choosing a Topic . Typical Ph.D. process (2/2).

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How do I know, my Ph.D. process is getting into trouble?

by Attila Ondi

April 16, 2002

Typical Ph.D. process (1/2)

  • Deciding to get a Ph.D.

  • Getting into school

  • Choosing courses

  • Making your “Plan”

  • Finding your Advisor

  • Choosing a Topic

Typical Ph.D. process (2/2)

  • Picking a Committee

  • Taking the Breadth Exam

  • Taking the Depth Exam

  • Writing your Proposal

  • Working on your Dissertation Topic

  • Defending your Dissertation

Useful Tips (1/2)

  • Stress Management

  • Time Management

  • Avoid Perfectionism

  • Avoid Procrastination

  • Study Techniques

Useful Tips (2/2)

  • Research

  • Organization aids, tools

  • Bonus: Publishing

  • Bonus: Network of helpful people

Typical Ph.D. processDeciding to get a Ph.D.Getting into school

We have already passed these 

Typical Ph.D. processChoosing courses

  • Two directions:

    • The more related to your dissertation topic, the better

    • As broad as possible

  • Pay attention to the breadth exam as well

  • Talk to students/faculty to find the “best” ones

  • Seek out good professors

  • Find courses that interest you

Typical Ph.D. processProblems around courses

What can go wrong?

  • Choosing a course which is not what you wanted

  • Selecting all demanding courses in one semester

  • “Spread yourself too thin”

    • Too many commitments in addition to courses

    • Course vs. work

  • Getting bad marks

Typical Ph.D. processMaking your “Plan”

Plan your progress well before

  • You can prepare yourself

  • But don’t stick yourself very rigidly to it

    • Courses can “disappear”

    • New, interesting courses

    • Your point of view can change

  • An example

Typical Ph.D. processFinding your Advisor (1/3)

  • Look for an Advisor

    • with whom you have a common interest of dissertation topic

    • with whom you can agree about your “Plan”

    • you like

    • you would like to work with

    • who has time to help you

  • [S]he will help with your research

Typical Ph.D. processFinding your Advisor (2/3)

  • You can change your Advisor as many times as you want

    but you have to persuade your new Advisor

  • and remember: you have at most 7 years to finish your Ph.D. studies

Typical Ph.D. processFinding your Advisor (3/3)

  • Most Ph.D. students switch Advisors at least once

  • possible causes:

    • somebody else is doing the same topic

    • they find the topic too broad/narrow

    • a problem that cannot be solved

    • Advisor doesn’t want (or incapable) to continue

Typical Ph.D. processProblems around your Advisor

What can go wrong?

  • You can’t get along with your Advisor

  • Your Advisor

    • doesn’t have enough time for you

    • changes his/her research interests

    • requests too much work form you

  • You rely too much on your Advisor to do the work that is your responsibility

  • Your Advisor is not available for some period of time – regularly

Typical Ph.D. processChoosing a Topic

Find a topic that

  • interests you

    • Talk with others to pick up ideas

    • Explore topics – ideas can came to others

  • is not yet developed

    may require some research

  • nobody is working on it at the University

  • broad enough for a Ph.D. Dissertation

  • but not too broad

    ask others and your Advisor

Typical Ph.D. processProblems around your Topic (1/2)

  • What can go wrong?

    • You don’t know the research area to identify the research problems

    • Choosing a Topic that is beyond your ability to resolve

      May be the result of improper knowledge in that area

    • Your Topic is too narrow/broad

      • Discuss it with your Advisor

      • Read specific journals, magazines – they are narrow enough

Typical Ph.D. processProblems around your Topic (2/2)

  • What can go wrong? (cont.)

    • Your Advisor doesn’t give enough/good guidance for the directions

    • You talk to the same people all the time – always similar kind of ideas

    • Depending on you and your Advisor – you may need some pressure for results

Typical Ph.D. processPick a Committee (1/2)

  • What is the committee for?

    • Helps you in your research

    • Examiners of your Depth exam

    • Decide if you pass or fail in the main points

      • proposal

      • breadth/depth exam

      • defending your Dissertation

Typical Ph.D. processPick a Committee (2/2)

  • How is the committee composed of?

    • Your Advisor (most likely, or someone from the department who is familiar with your topic)

    • 2 other professors from the department, who are somewhat related to your topic

    • One independent (outsider to the CS department) – again: related to your topic

Typical Ph.D. processProblems around the Committee

What can go wrong?

  • A committee member

    • leaves the University

    • goes for sabbatical

  • Personality conflicts

  • A committee member is too concerned about insignificant details

Typical Ph.D. processTaking the Breadth Exam

  • Same as Master’s, but:

    • 8 topic (4 subject area, pick 2 from each)

    • each at least 85%

  • If you don’t pass - second time: your last chance on that test

  • At most 4 “sitting”

  • Each test lasts 1.5 hours

  • You’re not required to take the corresponding courses, but that’s no excuse

Typical Ph.D. processTaking the Depth Exam

It’s about to show that you understand

  • the materials in your area

  • what is related to your research

  • know the current ideas to be able to come up with new (or better) ideas

    you need to be able to identify the weaknesses/flaws in the current work of your field

Typical Ph.D. processWriting your Proposal (1/2)

  • The Proposal allows others to

    • Evaluate the worth of the study

    • Make suggestions for improvement

  • It contains (these parts must be consistent)

    • Purpose (and justification) of the study

    • Step-by-step plan for the study

    • Research questions, hypotheses

    • Definitions

Typical Ph.D. processWriting your Proposal (2/2)

  • It contains (cont.)

    • Sample

    • Instrumentation

    • Procedural details

    • Internal validity

    • Data analysis

    • (Budget of expected costs)

Typical Ph.D. processProblems around your Proposal

What can go wrong?

  • You promise more than you can deliver

  • It’s not detailed enough

  • Your interests shifts to another direction (but still in the same topic)

Typical Ph.D. processWork on your Dissertation Topic

  • Be creative!

  • Work closely with people of similar interests

  • Writing your Dissertation

    • How to write a PhD Thesis

    • Writing or presenting your Thesis or Dissertation

Typical Ph.D. processDefending your Dissertation

It’s about to show that you are able to:

  • write detailed technical paper about a certain topic of your interest

  • defend your ideas against others

  • talk about your chosen topic

Typical Ph.D. processProblems around the Defense

What can go wrong?

  • The scientific level of your Dissertation is not high enough

    • Discuss with others

  • You are not familiar enough with the topic of your paper

    • How can it be? It’s your topic of research…

  • Your language skills are not on the top

    • Practice talking as much as possible

    • Practice holding presentations whenever you can

Useful TipsPossible Trouble #1

  • You are pushed down by great stress

  • Solution: Stress Management

Useful TipsStress Management (1/8)

  • Causes of stress

    • excessive workload

    • uncomfortable physical environment

    • not enough sleep

    • ill health

    • prolonged physical activity

    • financial difficulties

    • bad self image (“I’m too fat/dumb/ugly/…”)

Useful TipsStress Management (2/8)

  • Causes of stress (cont.)

    • a change in your living/working patterns

      • new flatmates

      • moving house

      • new job

      • living/working/studying in an environment that is not of your culture

      • living/working/studying using a second language

Useful TipsStress Management (3/8)

  • Causes of stress (cont.)

    • Hostile or uncomfortable emotional environments (e.g.: restructuring, redundancy)

    • break-up of a relationship

    • death or loss of a relative, friend or relation

Useful TipsStress Management (4/8)

  • Signs of stress

    • difficulties with sleep

    • loss of appetite

    • anxiety

    • irritability, hostility

    • feeling of helplessness

    • stomach aches

    • exhaustion

Useful TipsStress Management (5/8)

  • Signs of stress (cont.)

    • loss of concentration

    • chest pains

    • poor job/academic performance

    • headaches

    • withdrawal from others

    • sadness/depression

Useful TipsStress Management (6/8)

  • What to do about it?

    • Reduce stress in your life

      • Make sure you get enough exercise, sleep and nutrition

      • Take time out each day for rest and recreation for your social activities

      • Establish supportive relationships/friends

Useful TipsStress Management (7/8)

  • What to do about it? (cont.)

    • If you find yourself starting to get stressed out

      • Take control by conscious relaxing – through physical exercise, breathing exercises or activities you enjoy

      • Be creative in your approach to tasks

      • Use some friends and take a team approach to problem solving

      • Talk with others about your anxieties and concerns

      • Don’t be afraid of asking for help

      • Accept your failures and move on

        no mistake, no progress

Useful TipsStress Management (8/8)

  • What to do about it? (cont.)

    • If you find yourself starting to get stressed out

      • Be encouraging and supportive of yourself.

      • Try to keep things in perspective

        If a situation is getting on top of you, step back, adjust your goals and take action: “I may not have time to research all I need but I’ll do what I can and get this task finished on time, and without penalty.”

      • Try looking at your situation as if it were someone else’s

        Think about the advice you would give them, and follow it yourself.

Useful TipsPossible Trouble #2

  • You find yourself far behind schedule

  • Solution: Time Management

Useful TipsTime Management (1/8)

  • Why people manage time poorly?

    • Poor time management is often due to underlying attitudes or beliefs

      • “I like leaving things till the last minute because I work best under pressure.”

      • “I only work best when I’m inspired.”

    • Good work need time for preparation and research, and the time at completion to assess and improve it

Useful TipsTime Management (2/8)

  • Why people manage time poorly? (cont.)

    • But don’t be a perfectionist

      good work requires good ‘down’ time as well, when you can replenish your resources

    • Trying to do everything for everybody often means you badly short-change yourself

      Often it’s simply a case of saying ‘No’.

    • If you hate rigid timetables – make them more flexible to allow things taking longer and for unexpected interruptions

Useful TipsTime Management (3/8)

  • Effective time management

    • It often requires a change in the way you think about and approach things

    • Writing a bunch of lists and timetables won’t help if you don’t implement them

    • So

      • STOP and assess your situation

      • be clear about what you want from it

      • then take definite steps to achieve those goals

Useful TipsTime Management (4/8)

  • Effective time management (cont.)

    • The key is planning

      • plan your whole year (or Term 1)

      • make sure to take all your needs into account

      • break your goals into small and achievable steps

      • create a list from these steps that you can tick off

      • prioritize these steps (e.g.: high, medium, low)

      • concentrate on the high priorities

      • review your priorities regularly

      • only adjust the flexible things, not the fixed (like lectures, work-time)

Useful TipsTime Management (5/8)

  • Possible time wasters

    • Internal

      • Procrastination

      • Unclear objectives

      • Failure to set up priorities

      • Crisis management

      • Failure to plan

      • Lack of self-discipline

      • Over committing

Useful TipsTime Management (6/8)

  • Possible time wasters (cont.)

    • Externals

      • Telephone interruptions

      • Visitors

      • Socializing

      • Lack of information

      • Communication breakdown

Useful TipsTime Management (7/8)

  • Helpful hints

    • Use pockets of time

      Ten minutes is great to review some notes or brainstorm ideas

    • Effective time is more important than quantity of time

      Early morning is often a good time to work: you are refreshed and no-one is about to distract you

    • When planning, be aware of your strengths and weaknesses

Useful TipsTime Management (8/8)

  • Helpful hints (cont.)

    • Find ways around the things that distracts you

      • If you’re distracted by the phone

        • get an answering-machine

        • ask someone to take a message

        • go where there are no phones, such as the library

      • If people distracts you define non-interruption times

        • close your door and put a sign on it

        • be firm about interruptions

          say: ‘No’ or ‘Can we meet in an hour?’

    • Keep your workspace uncluttered and work-oriented

Useful TipsPossible Trouble #3

  • Perfectionism

  • Solution: Change your behavior

Useful TipsAvoid Perfectionism (1/4)

  • The warning signs

    • All-or-nothing attitudes

      • “I have to be top of the class, otherwise what’s the point”

      • “Anything less than A is embarrassing.”

    • A sense of powerlessness

      “I spend far too many hours on a project and even hand it in late… because it just has to be perfect.”

    • A sense of failure

      “I have to work so hard that I don’t enjoy what I do and feel constantly guilty if I relax.”

Useful TipsAvoid Perfectionism (2/4)

  • The warning signs (cont.)

    • A lack of growth

      “If someone takes issue with what I say in a meeting or tutorial, I won’t say anything after that.”

    • The need for approval

    • Being overcritical

      “If (s)he doesn’t turn up on time, (s)he doesn’t respect me enough.”

Useful TipsAvoid Perfectionism (3/4)

  • What to do about it?

    • Recognize your perfectionist behavior

    • Acknowledge it

    • Challenge it

      • Set realistic goals

      • Value the process as much as the result

      • Keep things in perspective

        Learn to distinguish which tasks are important and give the greatest return. Put effort into those tasks and be prepared to cut corners with the others

Useful TipsAvoid Perfectionism (4/4)

  • What to do about it? (cont.)

    • Acknowledge and learn form your mistakes

      • Remember: no mistakes, no progress.

      • Value people’s comments and criticism and learn from them

    • Be a self-supporter

      • “I’ll do this the best I can in these circumstances.”

      • “I know this isn’t the perfect answer to this exam question but I can at least say something which will get me marks.”

Useful TipsPossible Trouble #4

  • Procrastination

  • Solution: Change your behavior

Useful TipsAvoid Procrastination (1/5)

  • What is procrastination?

    • Procrastination is avoiding doing things which need doing

    • The more we procrastinate, the bigger the task ahead becomes, and the harder it is to take action

    • Failure to act can produce many undesirable feelings

      • guilt: “If only I had done such-and-such”

      • inadequacy: “I can’t do it”

      • stress and anxiety: “There’s never enough time…”

Useful TipsAvoid Procrastination (2/5)

  • Why we procrastinate?

    • setting up excessively high standards

      when you face with unrealistic goals, you put off doing your work

    • not seeing the relevance of the work

    • sometimes it’s unclear what is required

    • fear of the new and unknown

    • feeling that we don’t have the skills

Useful TipsAvoid Procrastination (3/5)

  • What to look out for?

    • Trouble ‘getting past go’

      “I start on the bits I like, for example, reading for an essay topic, but never get started on the parts I don’t – like the actual writing.”

    • Choices

      “In an exam I can’t decide which questions to answer, and the process of deciding is so paralyzing I don’t have enough time to do a good essay.”

Useful TipsAvoid Procrastination (4/5)

  • What to look out for? (cont.)

    • Substituting work

      • “I mean well, but instead of studying I’ll go off and do other things – anything! – to avoid getting on with it.”

      • “I’ll just do this a little bit, then I’ll do my stats assignment.”

    • Dramatics

      • “I take home bunch of work to do at the weekend but never actually touch them.”

      • “I have a friend who always goes on about how much (s)he has to do, how little time there is left. (S)he should talking about it and get started!”

Useful TipsAvoid Procrastination (5/5)

  • What to do about it?

    • Plan your time effectively

    • Do short, effective study periods and balance your study/work with recreation activities

    • Reward yourself after you have completed a task.

    • Assess your progress

      • Regularly refer back to your initial planning

      • Move on to a contingency plan if you strike problems

Useful TipsPossible Trouble #5

  • Having hard time with studying

  • Solution: Learn how to Study

Useful TipsStudy Techniques (1/10)

  • Pay attention

    • Do not divide your attention between several tasks

    • Continuous attention is limited in time

    • Spend some (planned) time to your “distracting” thoughts once in a while (break)

Useful TipsStudy Techniques (2/10)

  • Interpretation and Elaboration

    • Interpretation is “deep”

      • If you don’t understand, you won’t learn or remember

      • If you only ‘kinda’ understand, you’ll only ‘kinda’ learn or remember

      • If you thoroughly understand, you are able to elaborate

    • Elaboration is “broad”

      • Relate the parts to each other, to the whole or to other information

      • Provides variety

Useful TipsStudy Techniques (3/10)

  • Variation

    • Vary the way you think about the material

    • It leads to elaboration…

  • Spacing and Repetition

    • It’s better to study something, study something else and then return to the previous material

    • Spacing your study in this way is an easy way to increase variability

    • This creates repetition as well

Useful TipsStudy Techniques (4/10)

  • Organization and Structure

    • A little demo

      • List the months of year

      • Now list them in alphabetical order

    • Pay attention to the structure before you begin to study

    • After reading, think about the structure that works best for you

    • Review the main points

      Pay attention how they fit together

Useful TipsStudy Techniques (5/10)

  • Visualization and Mental Reinstatement

    • The mnemonic technique

      Visualize the study material in a ‘funny’ way

    • During the remembering (e.g.: a test) mentally place yourself to the context you were in, while studying

      • physical context

      • mental context

Useful TipsStudy Techniques (6/10)

  • Generate and Retrieve

    • Generate the information

      • before you begin to learn

      • you’ve already learned

        Even if you generate wrong, I’ll be easier to remember next time after you corrected yourself

    • Throw away your highlighter!

      • Generate the information and correct yourself instead

      • If you feel bad without notes, record them on the margins

Useful TipsStudy Techniques (7/10)

  • Generate and Retrieve (cont.)

    • It will take much longer

      • But you’ll notice, you already know the information you are about to learn

      • You spend your time much more effectively

    • Try to answer the questions asked during courses

      Even if your answer is wrong…

    • Review your notes soon after the course

      You have a high chance to remember something you’ve left out

Useful TipsStudy Techniques (8/10)

  • Generate and Retrieve (cont.)

    • Retrieval practice provides very effective feedback

      • You’ll know if you know the material, or you need to study some more

      • Use your coursebook, notes to correct yourself

      • Just reading over the notes is not enough

      • Write your answers down

        • It takes much more time,

        • but it’s much better to remember after (because you see it again, while you write),

        • and you are simulating exam circumstances

Useful TipsStudy Techniques (9/10)

  • Some general tips

    • Prepare yourself to like the material

    • Set apart time for study regularly during the semester

    • Do extra exercises (it’s generation…)

    • Keep up-to-date with the lectures

    • Try to study with others

      • They can point out information you would miss

      • But you need to study alone as well

Useful TipsStudy Techniques (10/10)

  • Note taking tips

    • Listen for the main points

    • Write down key words and phrases

    • Make sure your figures/diagrams are clear

    • Develop your abbreviation system that you can understand easily

    • Separate your personal comments from the ‘official’ information

Useful TipsPossible Trouble #6

  • Problems with managing your research

  • Solution: Project Management

    I’ll talk about it next time…

Useful TipsResearch (1/4)

  • Research skills

    • Task Definition

    • Information Seeking Strategies

    • Use of Information

    • Synthesis

    • Evaluation

Useful TipsResearch (2/4)

  • Life cycle of creative endeavors

    • Routine

    • Desire for change

    • A raw idea is refined into a goal

    • Further refined into a concrete objective

    • Implementation problems identified

    • Plan is made

    • The work is carried out

    • (The result is exploited)

Useful TipsResearch (3/4)

  • Creativity: the ability to produce something new/better through imaginative skills

    • Divergent thinking

      • Develop an interest in a variety of different things

      • Be open to new ideas

    • Convergent thinking

      • Concentrate on the problem to be solved

      • Motivation

Useful TipsResearch (4/4)

  • Obstacles to creativity

    • Stress

    • Routines

    • Beliefs + Ego

    • Tiredness

    • Getting too involved with the problem

    • Having conflicting goals and objectives

    • Demands for quick production of results

    • Strong emotions

Useful TipsBonus: Publishing

Kwan Choi:

How to publish in top journals

Useful TipsBonus: Networking

Phil Agre:

Networking on the Network:

A Guide to Professional Skills for PhD Students

Any Questions?

References (2/3)

  • A few words about Stress Management

  • A few words about Time Management

  • A few words about Perfectionism

  • A few words about Procrastination

    Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

  • The Science of Studying Effectively

    Patricia deWinstanley

  • The Life Cycle of Creative Endeavors

    Richard K. Moore

  • How to Design & Evaluate Research in Education

    Jack R. Fraenkel, Norman E. Wallen

  • Q Manual

    Morgan, C.T. and Deese, J.

References (3/3)

  • Study Skills

  • Manage your time

    Florida Institute of technology

  • How to write a PhD Thesis

    Joe Wolfe

  • Writing or presenting your thesis or dissertation

    S. Joseph Levine

  • Information Problem Solving

    Jonathan Lew

  • Creativity Basics

    Charles Cave

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