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This is What It Takes to Complete PhD Degree

 You will learn what is the most important quality and goals that are required to complete PhD degree. This is Part 5 of 5 of the PhD Experience series.

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Time Allocation for PhD

How people allocate research time varies enormously, not only from person to person, but, for a given person, from week to week or quarter to quarter.

Some people work on an inspiration or deadline-driven basis, sometimes putting in long hours, then doing nothing for a few days.

Others maintain a steady schedule, coming to the lab at a certain time in the morning and leaving a certain time in the evening.

Neither is right or wrong or better or worse; it is a question of finding what works best for you.

As an advisor, what I look for is long-term productivity.

A successful Ph.D student should typically display some degree of productivity and progress over the course of a reasonably long period, like a summer, a quarter, or more typically, a year.

This would include signs of increased understanding, confidence and maturity, and some visible output or “deliverable”, like a complete paper.

It is not unusual if on a particular day, or even week, you don’t find yourself inclined to do much research.

Take time off now and then; if you find you can’t concentrate, a vacation might do more good than trying to sit in the lab and push yourself to work.

You come back refreshed and productivity increases.

I don’t want to “micro-manage”: how you allocate time on a short-term basis is up to you. But if a long period passes without significant progress, you should worry, and talk to me about it.

If you don’t know whether you are making “enough” progress, ask. Don’t be shy about that.

Above I discussed how time allocation varies across people and their moods, and how the long-term and short-term views differ.

With those discussions in mind, it is still useful, both for me and for you, to get a sense of how you allocate time or other resources to research.

I am not trying to “check up” on you!

Rather this information will give both of us some sense of your productivity. It will help me to “extrapolate”, meaning guage your progress towards completing the Ph.D by a certain date.

Remember that the time in the question below is to be taken on the average, across a long period, like a summer or a quarter or even a year.

Approximately how many hours a week do you spend on research, in an “average” week? Include time spent thinking about research problems, writing technical papers, or discussing research topics with other people including your advisor.

  1. 0–5 hours
  2. 5–10 hours
  3. 10–15 hours
  4. 15–20 hours
  5. 20–25 hours
  6. 25–30 hours
  7. 30–40 hours
  8. Over 40 hours

Working with others

Good research needs a social context.

You learn better and produce more by interacting with others.

Besides of course talking to your advisor, talk to other students and engage in joint work with them. Of course you must find a good balance between your own pace and that of others: there is a happy medium between too solitary and too social.

How often do you have technical discussions with other students?

  1. More than once a day
  2. Once a day
  3. Once a week
  4. Once a month
  5. Once a quarter
  6. Never

Besides interactions within the department, try to build up outside contacts and co-workers. You meet people at conferences or while at summer jobs. You might be able to interact profitably with them later.

Long-Term Productivity

PhD demands long-term productivity. That’s something you don’t get from theoretical based education.

This not only applies to PhD, to be successful in any under-takings in your life, can you show sustained interest for long-term.

This blog is a perfect example. Age of Happy Schools Blog is about 2291 days (give or take few days).

Number of published is over 3000. That’s more than 1 article per day for last 6+ years.

So, the question to you :  Do you have long-term productivity or can you learn to be productive for longer period’s of time?

Let me look from a different perspective. If you think you lack long-term productivity, then you should do PhD. Now you know what it takes to complete PhD Degree.

1 Comment

  1. Alejandra on November 1, 2013 at 5:45 PM

    “you shouldn’t”, at the end, that sentence before the last one.
    ‘If you think you lack long-term productivity, then you should do PhD’, it should be “you shouldn’t”.
    There are some minor errors in these texts. But in general it is a great article. Currently I am a master student in biotechnology, this is my last year and I am trying to decide if a PhD is right for me. This series of posts have helped me a lot in my analysis. Thank you 🙂

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