Guest Post by Anu (PhD Student at University of New Mexico)
Scientific research (PhD Degree) is neither easy not hard. It needs persistence, patience and polite collaborative efforts to reach the goals.
- Difference Between Bachelors, Masters vs PhD (in pictures)
Major steps involved are problem discovery and defining to write a hypothesis followed by data collection, analysis and organization that would help in describing the significance of results and its future applications.
Problem discovery and defining
Finding a problem requires knowledge as to what needs to be answered in a specific area. Therefore, prior to selecting a problem, selecting a topic is emphasized.
It is advisable to select an area as your focus of interest, in which funds are available.
Generally, the research interest of the professor you join for doctoral studies becomes your area of interest.
Often Professors have grants to pursue a specific problem. Therefore, most PhD students do not discover a new problem.
Few students who do, their professors are in the process of writing grants and your idea might be used to fund your research.
Further, defining a problem needs literature survey and support to describe the importance of the problem and its solution. Problem is presented as a question.
After defining the problem and its possible solutions as results, one of the most promising, feasible and predictable solution is adapted as a hypothesis. Hypothesis is a hypothetical statement presented as an answer to the question.
Feasibility of the hypothesis is considered most important in the research world regardless of it being proved or disproved. During the course of research, hypothesis undergoes several rounds of changes, modifications and turns.
The final version can be completely different from the initial one or remain exactly the same.
Data collection, analysis and organization
Series of experiments are conducted to find answers to a problem. These experimental data are deeply analyzed and organized to form a story to present them as evidences for a predicted outcome.
Data collection takes majority of the time in research. A PhD student takes longer because of enormous time utilized in learning the skills in acquiring the data.
However, it is advised to maintain data in highly organized manner. Often a hard copy and multiple soft copies are important to ensure prevention from any form of data loss.
Results, its significance and future application
No research is a waste. However, it is evaluated on the basis of its significant implications and applications in future. Hence, it is considered utmost important to present applications of the research, its benefits along with its limitations.
Suggesting troubleshooting for the current limitations is highly recommended. Being optimistic with defining future applications is a good sign, however, over-optimism is strongly not recommended.
Research is a never ending process
Research is a long lasting, never ending process. With every new finding, more problems and questions come up. It is a very intellectual, strong and brave decision to figure out where to stop and pursue one direction.
There is a fine line between good ending and abrupt ending in any story. Therefore, I consider this task as the most difficult part in research.
Seeking help from experienced people to guide you in finding the best direction is always favorable. I wish you find your direction.
Continued – How to Select PhD Committee Members