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Research and Doing a Phd

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1 Research and Doing a Phd
Challenges of Research and Doing a Phd Ruzica Piskac, ABD

2 PhD Why? What? How?

3 Why a PhD? Research expands the frontiers of human knowledge.
Significant research achievements advance human civilization and improve the quality of our lives. PhD students are the person in charge – exciting projects, intellectual stimulation, collaboration with people!

4 Is a PhD for you? You want to do research.
You want to be at the knowledge frontier of a research domain. In today’s world, a PhD is a requirement to pursue a career in a research lab or in academia. Or you do a start-up based on your thesis research.

5 What is a PhD? You spend 3-5 years in a research lab, discovering new theorems, evidence, concepts, or algorithms that expand current knowledge. Theory Systems Applications

6 What does it entail? You start with getting familiar with the current state-of-the-art. You start developing your own ideas (with the help of other experts in the field). You “prove” your ideas and submit it to internationally peer-reviewed conferences and journals.

7 What does it entail? You continue to improve your results.
Your ideas In collaboration with other experts. You build your professional network. Colleagues in the lab Colleagues in the field You write your thesis.

8 What is a PhD thesis? Approximately 150 pages describing:
What the knowledge base was before. What your contributions to the knowledge base is. Why your contributions are relevant to the world.

9 What are typical career developments of PhDs
Provides greater lifelong freedom of movement and more independence. Typically less involved in corporate hierarchies. More emphasis on individual creativity. More self-starting and internally motivated.

10 What are typical career developments of PhDs
More focused on ideas and less on process, politics, or economics. Working on leading edge ideas and future products. Comfortable financially. Use a wide range of skills (design, analysis, synthesis, working with others …).

11 (Defining a thesis topic)
What? (Defining a thesis topic)

12 Preparatory steps What are the core dimensions of the field of research in which the thesis is situated? Which problems are still unsolved to date? Why do these areas need further exploration? How could this gap be filled? Is the problem solvable at all? Are these problems addressed in many previous approaches? Is it feasible to think that my thesis would greatly contribute to solving these problems? Is there room for improvement?

13 Preparatory steps What are the critical success factors? How can these risks be minimized? What are the worst case strategies; the worst expectable outcome? Are these problems addressed (possibly under a different name) in other communities and what are the results achieved in this context? Is it a hot topic or is it becoming already obsolete? What is the impact of a potential solution on the community? Which are the application scenarios in which this problem is relevant?

14 Defining the Thesis Topic
What are the main research questions? What is your approach better when compared with related approaches? What issues that are relevant to your problem space you do not solve in your thesis? What are the assumptions you make in your approach?

15 Solving the Problem What are the methods you (intend to) apply in your research (design research, case studies, user interviews, statistical methods etc.) What are the main actions which need to be carried on in order to achieve the desired results? What is the expected outcome? How does this outcome differ from related approaches (improve the performance of an algorithm, reduce the costs of a process, improve the usability of a method etc.)

16 Evaluation What methods do you use to validate your research?
What are the main target audience groups for your evaluation results? Who should be interested in the results of your research? What are the results of the evaluation procedure? How well does your approach perform compared to related solutions? Is there room for improvement? How could your solution be improved? Do your results have implications beyond the scope of the thesis and which are these implications?

17 Advice: Keep a Research Journal!
When you read an interesting article, note it in your journal [Kuther]: what was the research topic how did they study it what did they find ideas the authors suggest for further research what was striking about the article your own ideas

18 (Problems during PhD studies)
How? (Problems during PhD studies) 18

19 Overcoming Problems in PhD Studies
“Studying for a PhD can be a real roller coaster ride. A doctorate takes at least three years to complete and lots can go wrong during a student's doctoral study.” Alistair McCulloch

20 Overcoming Problems in PhD Studies
Problems With Identifying a Good Research Topic Problems With Data Collection Isolation Running out of Money Problems With a Supervisor What if Someone Publishes a Student’s Original Idea Before He Does?

21 ABD = "all but dissertation" stage
several studies have shown that the attrition rate in doctoral programs could be as high as 50 percent [Smallwood, 2004] Reasons: personal nature (financial difficulties, family obligations) academic nature (difficulty in coming up with adequate research topics or writer's block)

22 Supervision supervision plays a critical role in helping doctoral students to complete their degrees “supervision has to be seen as a form of teaching. Like other forms, it raises questions about curriculum, method, teacher/student interaction, and educational environment” [Connell, 1985]

23 Ideal Relationship Supervisor - Student
the graduate student receives constant and timely feedback on progress made this type of interaction and feedback can be accomplished in a variety of ways but it should be frequent enough to maintain a periodic dialogue on the issues and research questions raised by the investigative work conducted by the student the writing may not be as fluid and frequent as the supervisor might have expected but even in these circumstances, it is important to maintain a regular conversation to help the student continue the process of elaborating on a dissertation topic [Galbraith, 2003]

24 Literature Connell, R. W. (1985). How to supervise a PhD. Vestes, 2, Galbraith, M. W. (2003). The adult education professor as mentor: A means to enhance teaching and learning. Perspectives: The New York Journal of Adult Learning, 1(1), 9-20. Kuther, T. (2009). Getting Started in Research: Your Research Journal. Guide McCulloch, A. (2009). Overcoming Problems in Studying for a PhD. Graduate schools suite Smallwood, S. (2004, January 16). Doctor dropout. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 50.

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