Why would you embark on PhD studies?

It is always a good idea to establish a healthy relationship with your study leader, and you should approach him or her for assistance as often as you possibly can. However, they always have lots of work and limited time. That is where I am hoping to save you and your study leader time and energy through this series of articles on research methodology.

I don’t think you would have even searched for a topic on PhD studies if you were not the inquisitive type.

You don’t need to be a nerd to be a good academic researcher. All you need is the “right” reason for embarking on post-graduate studies. I guess what I am saying is that you need to be motivated to study.

Here are some reasons why one would study towards a PhD:

  1. To add value. In my opinion, the most important reason why you would embark on post-graduate studies should be to contribute. On PhD level, you will need to create something from which society or at least a section of society will benefit.

You might develop new knowledge, new procedures to do a job, new medicine, new ways in which to solve problems, a new philosophy, etc.

  • To pursue your interests. Don’t try to do research on something that you know nothing or little about and in which you are not interested.

It will be so much easier and so much more fun to study something about what you already have expert knowledge and with which you already have ample experience.

Without knowing it you will have done a lot of research already and you will probably already be an expert on the topic of your research if it is something that you are interested in.

Then again, most academic wizards have a way of developing an interest in a problem or a topic once they have decided to study it. Besides, after a year or two of intensive research, you might well know more about the topic of your research than your study leader.

  • Status value. Regardless of whether you are interested in the topic of your research or not, you will probably wish to obtain a PhD because of its status value.
  • For the sake of others. You might wish to make your parents happy, impress your children or spouse.
  • To improve your self-image. Regardless of whether it was your intention, obtaining a PhD will probably improve your self-image.
  • To improve your job situation. A PhD can help you find the job of your dreams, to be promoted, to earn a higher salary.
  • For the piece of paper? Here is a word of caution – never embark on post-graduate studies for the sake of the piece of paper. Studying on any level should first and foremost be about gaining additional knowledge and skills, not about getting a certificate that you can frame and hang on your office wall.

If it is just the certificate that you are interested in, you can just as well buy your PhD on the internet.

Focusing on the piece of paper rather than on the improvement of your knowledge and skills can lead to serious humiliation, embarrassment for you and your loved ones.

Your employer and colleagues at work will expect you to perform better once you have obtained your PhD. If you can’t they will catch you out.

You might be demoted or lose your job. If you obtained your PhD illegally you might even end up in jail.

It will not help to apply psychological pressure on your study leader, for example by accusing him or her of discrimination if they do not accept the work that you submit.

  • I’ve heard a professor say that people of a certain profile will never pass his course.
  • I’ve also witnessed a professor who was really upset because a student accused her of discrimination because she would not accept his submission, even though the submission was clearly not up to standard.

Study leaders who discriminate are the exception and you should get rid of them as early as possible during your studies or perhaps even before starting your studies if you can.

Here you will need to be absolutely objective and fair, because if you lose a good study leader who gives you quality feedback you might destroy your chances of successfully completing your studies.

In summary, you should do research on a topic that you are familiar with and you will need to focus on creating new knowledge, procedures, philosophy, etc. There is, however, nothing wrong with improving your marketability, your image, your status and so on.

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