Written by Dr. J.P. Nel, D. Com, D. Phil
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.
You can read the articles for free on my blog at www.intgrty.co.za.
Or you can watch my videos at https://www.mentornetonline.co.za. Access to videos will cost one US Dollar per video.
I will post more than a hundred videos on academic research.
You can enroll for a course in research methodology if you wish. This will cost some money, though.
Why would you embark on studies for a master’s degree or a Ph. D.?
I don’t think you would have even searched for a topic on Master’s or Ph. D. level 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 masters degree or a Ph. D.:
To add value. In my opinion, the most important reason why you would embark on post-graduate studies should be to contribute.
On Ph. D. 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.
On masters degree level, you will need to demonstrate the ability to conduct research and to master knowledge, philosophies and concepts on a post-graduate level.
To pursue your interests. Do not try to do research on something that you know nothing or little about.
Also, do not embark on studies on a topic in which you are not interested.
It will be much easier and more fun to study something about which 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 masters degree or a Ph. D. because of its status value.
There is nothing wrong with this.
We all need a little recognition and we need people to like, respect, and envy us.
For the sake of others. You might wish to make your parents proud.
You might want to set a good example for your children and motivate them to also study hard.
You might want to impress your spouse or show him or her that you are not a loser after all.
To improve your self-image. Regardless of whether it was your intention, obtaining a masters degree or a Ph. D. will probably improve your self-image.
To improve your job situation. A masters degree or a Ph. D. 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 – it is mostly not a good idea to embark on post-graduate studies for the sake of the piece of paper.
Then again, you might have good reasons why you need or would like to get 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 Ph. D. on the internet.
Focusing on the piece of paper rather than on the improvement of your knowledge and skills can backfire.
Your employer and colleagues at work will expect you to perform better once you have obtained your masters degree or Ph. D.
If you cannot, they will catch you out.
You might even be demoted or lose your job.
If you obtained a masters degree or Ph. D. illegally you might end up in jail.
There is only one safe way in which to obtain a masters degree or Ph. D. and that is through hard work.
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.
Study leaders who discriminate are the exception and they don’t last long at most universities.
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 enjoying life.