Here's another collection of my forum postings. Again I cover a lot of area, all of which relates in some way to doing a PhD. I hope that you find the book interesting and that some of the ideas expressed herein are useful to you.
The subtitle of this book - "More postings of a serving PhD student" - came about partly as a description of the contents, that is, they are more postings from various web forums. Also it satisfies my delight in words that have multiple meanings. 'Serving' has three relevant meanings here. Firstly, 'serving' refers to doing ones time and duty in an important position such as that of a diplomat or in the armed services. It can also refer, of course, to 'doing time' in prison. I feel that, in one or other of these senses (take your pick), I am 'serving' my time as a PhD student. Secondly, it can refer to delivering something to a person, such as a meal. I see this book as 'serving' up some interesting bits to you, the reader. I am 'serving' the postings up to you for your delectation.
In learning to be a PhD student one has to learn many things. Learning to do research and write up the results is one very important part. However, learning to overcome the problems is another. The problems that have to be coped with are similar to those that one suffers in everyday life, but they seem more focussed when doing a PhD. According to the literature many PhD students give up and drop out due to stress and worry causing depression. Thus it is important to be able to defuse them when necessary. Learning to cope with the problems will also help you in everyday life.
Here I don’t discuss the learning to do research or writing – there are plenty of places where they can be learnt. Rather I discuss the problems of stress, worry, and other things. I would argue that knowing what they are like and learning to cope with them is another important skill that comes from doing a PhD.
Being a PhD student takes up a large part of one’s life. It is not something that should be undertaken merely on a whim. One must be committed to getting the PhD, or the stress and worry isn’t worth it. On the other hand, the rewards are worth striving for.
Being stressed is an inherent part of the PhD candidature. There the stress of trying to get work done, the stress of waiting for comments on the work, the stress of trying to get one’s work published, the stress of giving seminars. All these add up to a lot of stress. There’s not much that can be done about it except try to keep it from getting out of hand by taking breaks and learning to relax. To combat the stress learning to relax is an important factor. You should always discuss your stress with your supervisor – after all, s/he is there to help you succeed and get your PhD.
Alongside the stress of the PhD there’s the constant worry about whether it will all come to a satisfactory end, whether one’s work is good enough, interpreting one’s supervisor’s wishes and suggestions. Again, there’s not much that can be done about it except learning to live with it. If you aren’t the worrying type of person you are lucky. On the other hand, the worry does act as an incentive to get on with the work to get it over and done with. Again, learning to relax will help with the worry, as will talking about your problems to your supervisor.
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