It seems like only yesterday I was a fresh-faced postgraduate excited about exploring the scientific frontier. Four years later I am a proud owner of a Ph.D. certificate, a little tired and worn down by all the academic challenges. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and share the hard-earned experience I now process. Since time-travel wasn`t my field of study, I am willing to impart my wisdom on other postgraduates at the beginning of their journey.
Get Used to Everything Going Wrong
However good you are at planning your experiments and research, you should get used to everything going wrong. Your lab results will turn out anything but what you were expecting. You won`t be able to find pertinent information in time. You will get too much data to be able to sift through in any manageable amount of time. That`s just the way the science works sometimes.
Know When to Stop Striving for Perfection
The thesis seems like an ultimate paper of your academic career. So there is nothing wrong with wanting it to be just right. However, perfectionism can play a cruel joke on you and prevent you from actually finishing your work. If you catch yourself thinking there is just one thing I want to make better, stop and get a second opinion. Whenever you are not sure your work is good enough, consider if it is at least 80% ideal. If it is, leave it be. The funniest thing is that when you look at your thesis a year later, you will notice dozens of glaring mistakes. But don`t be too worried about them, since no one else noticed them, and you were allowed to pass a viva.
Get Used to Receiving Hurtful Feedback
You and your consultant are the only people who actually understand what your research is about. That`s why when you first present it to outsiders, you are bound to get plenty of criticism. While constructive criticism is the main driving force behind your thesis getting better, do not get hung up on the negative comments. Be ready to stand your ground and protect your work and results if anyone discourages you from further research.
Don`t Give Up When the Thesis Is Almost Ready
If you don`t follow the previous advice, you are sure to get disappointed in your own work. At this point, you might be willing to give up and move forward with your life without finishing your postgraduate studies. Instead, take a step back and give yourself some time to reevaluate your thesis. Think about how many hours, days, weeks, and months you have spent on the research. Don`t let all that hard work go to waste. Remember the ultimate keep calm and carry on mantra. Follow it religiously until you get your groove back.
Don`t Freeze Up During the Presentation
Thesis presentation is the culmination of your postgraduate studies. When you realize just how crucial this step is, you will get nervous. Try to not freeze up during the presentation, especially during the Q&A section. Remember that you are the only person in the room who knows your dissertation in vivid detail. Stay confident in your knowledge and skills. And don`t be shy to dismiss any questions you can`t answer because they are not covered by your research. I hope these tips will help all the postgraduates out there who feel a little underwhelmed or discouraged during their studies. I sure wish someone would have shared these little nuggets of wisdom with me when I was still working on my thesis.