Avoid This Mindset If You Want to Win over PhD

If you look at the attrition rate in PhD programmes, you will be surprised to know that around half of the candidates fail to win over their PhD. This majorly happens because of their improper focus and mindset. However, we do not want you to make the same mistake. Thus, we share a few tips to help you avoid a wrong course of action and set your mind right to achieve your PhD degree successfully.

  • Excessive attention to grades: While it is important to focus on your coursework, stop bothering excessively about grades. At the PhD level, you must balance your coursework and your extensive research work that demands most of your time. Do not get distracted by spending a significant amount of time on coursework and moving away from real objectives.
  • Wide learning: There is definitely a good amount of learning involved when you pursue a PhD programme. However, ensure that you are doing focused learning that is oriented towards achieving your thesis goals. Avoid learning widely and attending classes that do not contribute much to your goals. You will end up wasting time and developing stress later when work submission deadlines start approaching.
  • Achieving perfection: It will be in your best interest not to become a perfectionist. While a bright PhD student should aim at perfection, it should be targeted within a limit. For instance, if you start polishing your PhD thesis until you achieve perfection, then you will not stop doing that, as perfection has no limits. This will keep other important tasks at the backseat.
  • Procrastination: Avoid developing stress that mostly occurs in PhD students because of procrastination. Do not have a mindset that tells you to complete things at the end moment because you are good at it. Even the brightest students tend to procrastinate and fail when they have multiple tasks to handle together.
  • Treating PhD like a job: If you think that your PhD institution is like a school or office, come out of that mindset. PhD is a demanding academic programme that asks you to devote your days and nights, as well as weekends. Therefore, you have to be completely flexible with your schedule and time. It cannot be a regular job where you spend 8-9 hours at work.

Our final word is that you should neither aim too high nor too low when it comes to achieving your PhD goals. You should stay focused on research and manage your time efficiently on various tasks. This will help you achieve the real milestones and win over your PhD.

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How to write your thesis with clarity?

The purpose of writing is to communicate an idea in a lucid and precise manner. For your writing to be effective you must first organize your thoughts as to what are you want to say. Then write sentences such that you are able to express those thoughts in the straight-forward and simplest language possible. Because if a sentence is too verbose your thoughts get lost in the massive tangle of words, which then makes your academic writing really incomprehensible. You are already writing on a niche topic which is not very familiar to the general audience or even to members of your own field. For the reading to be enjoyable it should not lose coherence in the verbosity. It could be an esoteric idea but the style of your academic writing should be such that you are able to engage the attention of your reader.

Clarity in your thesis can be brought up with the comprehensible sentence structure, organization, and correct grammar. To accomplish this you have to first be aware and then master the techniques of good writing such as organizing each chapter into paragraphs, and leading the reader into the body of the content through the proper use of topic sentence, always giving them a hint of what is to come, but never revealing enough. Thus compelling them to read more of your dissertation.

A paragraph needs five sentences: an introductory sentence or a topic sentence, followed by three supporting sentences, and a concluding sentence. Every paragraph is built on one main idea and the supporting sentences providing detail and argument to support the topic sentence. A complete paragraph must have the concluding sentence that reinforces the main theme of the topic sentence.

Punctuations are incredibly important to make your thesis read meaningfully. Punctuations give the intended meaning to the language. Wrong use or placement of colons and semicolons, apostrophes and commas can convert the sentence into complete nonsense. Commas are really the worst villains when it comes to punctuations. Commas are essential they work as the pauses and changes in tones of the voice much like when we are speaking. Punctuation error can turn the whole writing into something gibberish.

Don’t be reluctant in putting this extra effort as it will improve the quality of your writing by several notches. Along with that you should also know exactly the purpose of what it is you are trying to accomplish through your writing.

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How to write winning grant application for PhD funding?

Confidence and perfection in work play vital role in convincing another person about abilities an individual has and his assessment is done accordingly. It is important to understand the target of any activity. Grants are funding amount given to facilitate the completion of crucial tasks which would benefit larger section of society. To get grant application approved, it is required to understand interests of the funding body. A PhD candidate should be aware of the fact that his grant application seeking funds needs to convince the funding bodies that your proposed research is important for advancement of knowledge. It should be written in a compelling way to let the funding bodies trust your capacity to do research within a limited time frame.

Seeking external funding in the form of grant is a general practice followed by PhD candidates. PhD candidates should know the mindset of funding bodies, that is, on what basis his research will be assessed and how will his research be examined. He needs to present long term vision in his grant application about his proposed research which is for the betterment of society to funding bodies.

Prior step before seeking funds is to know about subject areas where funding has been recently done by a particular funder, because, it depends on funding bodies, whether they would want to invest into same subject as proposed research again or want to facilitate research in other varied subjects. With this, a PhD candidate will know probability of positive result of his grant application. Also, a vital point to consider is future plans of the funder while writing grant application.

Apart from the above-specified basics on writing grant application, a PhD candidate has to appear enthusiastic about his research work through his grant application. A one-page summary of his proposed research pushing on the point of how the grant will help him solve the purpose of research is an effective way.

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When to Overcome the Perfectionism

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

A lot of times, I read such motivational quotes and sayings for a little inspiration required to complete each chapter of my thesis. I have always been very enthusiastic about taking up the new challenges to explore my own limitations. And that is one of the reasons, why I chose to do Ph.D.! I knew it that Ph.D. thing could change my entire life, but still, I decided to go for it.

Why Did I?

Not because I lacked opportunities or I had nothing else to do but because I wanted to find where my threshold lies. So, I dived into Ph.D. and plunged into the research and everything, and there is where the real trouble began. Initially, I could not study a wide literature available on my area of specialization which means I wasn’t able to select a particular topic. I wasn’t bad at writing, but academic writing became Greek to me!

I remained a little (to say, actually a lot) upset with my writing skills and thence kept the deadlines on arm’s length. I could not complete anything on time. I would delay the assignment submissions, proposal writing, drafting thesis, and even the meetings with the advisor. Why?

To be honest, I always take a lot of time to complete each task with an aim to attain perfection. If I’m writing a story, I will spend more than fifteen sleepless nights eating up every word, reshaping the entire plot, or revising it. Remember “chase perfection”? All my life I have been chasing perfection which often resulted in long-delayed projects or even unpublished.

I’m pretty sure many other folks like me are suffering from the obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. A syndrome which is most often found in the writers (I believe) which hinders the rapid progress of the greatest works ever. So, the Wikipedia defines it as “a mental disorder where people feel the need to check things repeatedly, perform certain routines repeatedly (called “rituals”), or have certain thoughts repeatedly.”

And in my case, I would rework on the same research proposal every other day thinking it to be imperfect. I felt horrified as if each word or punctuation used in the inappropriate context will lead to a complete distortion of the supreme quality of my work (okay. Not so supreme perhaps). This feeling wouldn’t let me pin down a single word of my research proposal.

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Academic/Scientific Writing Tips – Series 1

 The most important thing in academic and scientific writing is the clarity in the content.  It is surely advisable to keep the language simple and not decorative in academic writing. The stress should be more on making sure that the concept and idea is clear. This can be done by keeping the sentences short and simple. In addition to that, when complicated sentences are there then greater chances of makings make mistakes.  If you decide to depend upon the online translation software, there are good chances that there may be grammatical errors.

If you look at the content from the perspective of the editor and reviewers,   you would know that they always prefer short and clear sentences, in contrast to the lengthy and complicated ones. But the important thing to keep in mind here is that academic writing is all about formal writing. Even though the preferred choice of sentences is short, they need to in a formal tone, necessarily. The more academic literature that you read, better will be your style of writing, for sure.

Correct usage of words is also very important when one talks of formal writing as it enriches and polishes the style of writing and the sentence structure to a great extent. Often, writers are unaware of the minute difference in the meaning of the words and their correct application. Some of the words with subtle differences are discussed here, for you to understand the usage of words better for more effective Academic/Scientific writing.

Distinction in the use of About and Approximately: We usually use the term “About” when we are not sure about the exact figure. The terms approximate is closer to accuracy, in comparison.  Though a lot of writers use these two terms interchangeably, they cannot be used like that. There is a small and precise difference in their use and that is how it is to be understood.  Usually with numbers that has not been rounded off to the closest ten is the one that is nearer to being accurate. Keeping that in mind, it is important to ensure that when quoting figures, the term about be used when the rounding off has been done and the given number is not very near to accuracy. However, when the estimated figure is precise and almost near to accuracy, it is always advised to use approximately.

Distinction in the use of About and Around: Here the difference is comparatively more clear as compared to the previous one. Again a lot of academic writers use these two terms as synonyms. This won’t be literally wrong to do so. It is acceptable to use them interchangeably. But the very clear difference between both is the preference of the reader. For the British reader, About is a better term and for the American reader, Around is more suitable and acceptable.

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The lures of a PhD Programme may not be as they Appear

A lot of students are lured into a Ph.D. programme, and most of them have some common reasons to do so. They all believe that the field is very lucrative, and it offers a whole lot of opportunities, both within as well as outside of the academia. Students keen on becoming research scholars, see a lot of placed people getting a six figure salary after completing their doctoral degree. That definitely becomes very tempting.

But there is more to the story that is not on the surface, and goes unnoticed by the aspiring scholars. It takes about four to six years to get a Ph.D. degree. It really isn’t necessary that the employment scenario and opportunities would remain the same as now, after a span of five years. Like how every product and service has a definite life cycle, so would the demand for academic doctors. You may be entering a saturated market after a span of five years, and may find a lot of difficulty getting the right kind of job that made you choose the journey in the first place.

Sometimes those scholars who drop out of a Ph.D. programme half way through, get wonderful job opportunities, and get more time to earn money, and go on an upscale journey of success. The bottom line to understand here is that one should not decide to get into the course looking at the present scenario. It may be, rather would be a changed scenario in five years’ time.

If you have so decided to get into a Ph.D. never do it for a wrong reason. If one of these are your reasons, you must rethink if you want to do your Ph.D. or no:

To impress you folks: If you feel that by earning a Ph.D. degree you would be able to impress your folks. Yes, you would be, but it would not be worth the kind of effort it requires. It is a lot of hard work, time spent, and money used that this wouldn’t be a lasting enough motivation to keep your driving force going on for five years.

To earn a lot of money: If you already are established in the industry or are a consultant, getting a Ph.D. would add figures to your pay package. It is tedious, time consuming, and at the same time very demanding without actually ensuring any monetary benefit.
So, what is your calling?

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Get persuasive while writing your thesis

It will be a dream come true for any researcher to see his guide engrossed by his thesis. What if the rationale of your thesis is so convincing that the reader understands, and agree with your view point? This would be amazing for any researcher, certainly!

 How do you do that?First of all, you need to be able to write persuasively, it is an art because to be able to create a win-win situation involves the application of logic and reasoning. You can write in a more swaying manner by having a critical perspective towards what you write and why you write.

 The reader can be attracted towards any write-up, by working on three aspects. These have been understood and absorbed by scholars since times immemorial.

Rationale: The logic put across in the writing should appeal and be justified to the reader.

Sentiment: The write up should stir up an emotion within the reader so that he is driven towards content more intellectually

Trust: The content should be aligned with the beliefs, and values of the reader so that he develops trust in the writer

As a scholar, when you write, you attempt to create an influential content, there are certain points that need to be followed necessarily:

  1. Clear all doubts: The thesis should be written with an intention to clear all doubts, instead of creating any. For every statement that can stir up doubt, there should be a corresponding evidence by the author. Readers would agree to logics, and rationale, and comply with requests when they are given reasons and their doubts are all clarified
  2. Stay focused: When writing, one should be totally clear about the points related to the topic. From the beginning of the content, till the end, there should be emphasis only on  topic, and nothing else
  3. Bring up all perspectives: An argument would have many perspectives. One must not let the contrasting viewpoint rest upon the reader’s imagination. All relevant aspects should be included and covered within the content to create a convincing thesis.
  4. Forecast with conviction: The most effective way to earn the faith of the reader is to give the reader some sight into the future, and do that with the support of proof and assertions mined from the subject matter.
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How to deal with PhD stress?

The name PhD in itself brings a lot of emotional stress that one has to go through from the beginning to the end of the PhD course. Stress begins getting more painful and adverse in the completion stage when PhD defence is approaching with a great pace. It has that capability to lower down your academic performance; be it research or thesis writing. Therefore, it must be avoided for the betterment of your health as well as the for boosting up your research rigour.

One common trait amongst all people who get a PhD is perseverance. You must know how to build your level of determination and skill to deal with stress to graduate successfully.  As a PhD candidate, you may have experienced one or a combination of the following traits at least once during the entire tenure:

1. Recurring doubt on your ability to work hard

2. Feeling overwhelmed with the workload

3. Sense that you are not exploiting your correct potential

4. Helplessness in not being able to concentrate

5. Lack of control over what is happening in life

6. Finding easy things also challenging

7. Persistent anxiety of failure

Firstly, these feelings are obvious and must be readily accepted. Without these feelings, the experience Of PhD wouldn’t be called a life learning experience as it should be. Though the emotions and experiences of doing a PhD may be generalised for all to an extent the way in which each scholar deals with the stress is entirely individualistic. Many of the scholars may handle the negativity and stress in both negative and positive way depending on his perspective, but the ultimate goal is to begin, endure and finish Your PhD for a reason which may differ for each person.Certainly, you must not ignore the depression and anxiety symptoms as they can proceed to become something grave and affect you in worst possible manner. Never feel inferior or loss of reputation when there is a need to ask for advice and help from a counsellor, family or any of your friends you think could help.

 You must keep this constant thought in your mind that once you have crossed the defence stage, all these negative thoughts and feelings would fade away leaving the imprint of your amazing PhD journey. You may find it tough but necessary not to let it take an overwhelming control over you.

Visualise that two decades from the completion of your PhD you will be going back into retrospect with the positivity of having crossed a challenging phase of your life with your perseverance and will power. There will be no more negativity, frustration, stress or anxiety instead all these PhD miseries would pay off by the end. So, next time if PhD blues cover you as demonic, keep yourself calm and say “Nothing Lasts Forever”.

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Analysing Data: A Fairly Straight Forward Job

After defining the research problem, developing the sampling plan, preparing the questionnaire, the real work begins right after data is collected. Data analysis may sound drastic but in fact, this is the simplest job you do in PhD.

The entire process of analysing data can be divided into three major steps:

  1. Data cleaning and preparation
  2. Descriptive analysis of data
  3. Hypotheses testing and models1.Data Cleaning and Preparation: This stage involves the verification of the data for accuracy, cleaning out the data that is redundant, feeding the data in the computer, data transformation and creating a database that integrates the different measures together.

    2. Descriptive analysis of data: This is the mandatory stage of any study, like the previous one. Whatever are the objectives and hypotheses of your study, descriptive statistics is done to bring out the basic features of the study. Thus, it becomes the pre-requisite for when you are analysing quantitative data. hrough this, you can bring out the graphical analysis which is a comprehensive description of the data. In the preliminary stage, descriptive statistics can be voluminous, but the researcher has to tactfully select and organise them into clear tables and graphs bringing out only the most relevant information.

  1. Hypotheses testing and models: This is the third and final stage involved in data analysis. It does so for questions, models or the hypotheses of the study. The scope of this stage is much more than the previous stage of descriptive statistics. In descriptive statistics, we only bring out the facts that are existing in our collected data instead of going beyond data. While, in the case of hypotheses testing and models, on the basis of the collected data we come to conclusion and findings of the general population.

Make sure you write the results, findings, and conclusion chapter clearly instead of bombarding the reader with a lot of information. You may attach the extensive analysis in the appendices and present only the critical analysis summary in the report which is linked to your objectives and hypotheses of the study.

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How to give feedback for a Research Paper?

There will be times when you would be working on combined research papers or co-authoring with other researchers. These may be one of the situations, when you will be expected to give your feedback to others from time to time. Of course, when you have to do that task, you want your feedback to be just but at the same time be affirming and not humiliating. In addition, it has to be helpfully critical and not crushingly negative.

You need to consider a few points. Let us discuss ways in which you can organise your thoughts better and they are helpful for different stages, when you are creating your feedback.

To begin with, firstly, sum up the main argument of the paper in your own words. When the author gets to know your version of the same, he is able to get a 360 degree viewpoint where interpretation can be matched with the intention. Next thing you need to do is to tell the author about what good he has done to the manuscript by identifying the strengths of the document. Do not forget to include in your feedback, the various pointers that would incline the readers towards this manuscript. It can surely be a good checklist for them.

After having covered the positive aspects of the paper, you can move to the negative areas of the document, where you think the author has the scope to improvise in context of the quality of the document, formatting, grammar et al. Firstly, see the rationale of the paper. Is the author providing a convincing rationale for the document whereby they have emphasised on what they are going to do in the document? Has he presented the significance of the paper, highlighting the novel contribution it would be making in the academia?

After having seen the literature and the justification of the literature, your feedback should necessarily include a thorough review of the research design. It should be explained clearly with sufficient detailing. Give your suggestions for improvement where you think there is necessity and possibility. The paper has to be well structured and the subheads should be connected in a flow. Wherever you feel there is an abrupt change in the flow, you must include your feedback with suggestions on how better flow can be achieved.

Within all these broader evaluation criteria, look for headings, subheading, conclusion, suggestions and recommendations and scope for further research. A powerful start should also have a powerful ending.

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