By PhDs, For PhDs - Lessons from research scholars' personal journey

A survival guide to upcoming PhD scholars on the course, based on experiential reflections of experts from various fields in PhD


Bravo to all those who have completed/are pursuing a PhD

It takes a lot of courage to even decide to pursue a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) that usually takes 4-5 years and while seeing the world around rapidly paces ahead. Doing a doctorate demands extra effort, patience and sacrifice. Along with this, there may also be a number of professional and personal challenges to encounter along the way. We present experiential reflections of those who have done a PhD to give you a better idea of the life of a PhD Researcher. 

On Applying and preparing for Ph.D. qualifying exams by 

  • Dr. Ram Shankar Uraon - “Aspiring research scholars should qualify UGC JRF, and then the JRF candidate can register for Ph.D. in any of the Central Universities and also receive fellowship which will be a great financial support for those pursuing the research. Things to remember: 1. Select the best institute/university which provides necessary resources and infrastructure to carry out the research and opportunities to participate in seminars and workshops. 2. Select a research guide who has done excellent work on your proposed research area and published papers in the high impact factor international journals.” 

  • Soumi Chatterjee - “I am currently in the Ph.D. fourth year, after doing M.A. and M.Phil from the same university, JNU.During M.A. days I learned a lot which got stagnated in Ph.D. life. I understood we should not opt for a stable career option if we dream high. I could have changed my university to another one, may be a better one to learn something new or just explore.” 

  • Mohsin Khan - “The PhD journey starts prior to admission in Ph.D. itself. The first thing I would like to suggest for every research aspirant is to make a list of the institutions that awe you, understand what it takes to secure admission and then try to get in there.” 

On choice of & engaging with PhD Guide/Supervisor

  • Anurag Sharma - “It is often said that choose your PhD supervisor more carefully than choosing your life partner. He/ She is the one whom you will look up to when you feel down the barrel.  It is very important to have a supervisor who has broader knowledge of your field and who excites you. He will be the one who will be your mentor, adviser and also a voice of reason, so make sure it’s a voice you’ll want to hear.” 

  • Dr. Ram Shankar Uraon - “Scholar should interact with the research guide continuously and update about the progress of the research. Frequent interaction and engagement will help scholars to move the research in the right direction and identify the errors in the research and also help for the timely rectification.”  

  • Soumi Chatterjee - “The quality of research sometimes depends on our mental health and rapport we built with our guide. It’s better to be an independent researcher with the discussion and validation from the guide as they may not be able to give time always.”

On choosing the topic for PhD dissertation

  • Anurag Sharma - “Every field has diverse subfields and it is very important to understand what field you want to contribute in. It is never a good idea to look for the field after the admission. Does this kind of work excite you? Because enthusiasm/ excitement is the only thing that keeps you motivated when you do not get results as per your expectations.”

  • Dr. Ram Shankar Uraon - “Always choose the topic which is contemporary as well as a new area of research, it will help scholars to find the appropriate research gap and pursue research in a new area which will eventually help to publish paper in an impact factor journal. Before choosing the research topic, scholars should conduct a thorough literature review and deliberation with the subject experts to find out the current research trends.”

On writing and publishing thesis

  • Mohsin Khan - “It’s never too early to start writing your thesis. Write and show your work to your supervisor as you go - even if you don’t end up using your early work, it’s good practice and a way to get ideas organized in your head. Break your thesis down into SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely) goals. You will be more productive if your to-do list reads “draft first paragraph of the results” rather than “write chapter 1”. Many small actions lead to one complete thesis. The best thesis is a finished thesis.

  • Dr. Ram Shankar Uraon - “Always target high impact factor journal to publish the paper. The publication in the impact factor journals help you to reach the scholars/audience nationally and internationally. This will also help you to establish as an eminent scholar in your field. Though the publication in high quality journal take longer time, but it helps scholars to land jobs in the premier institutions. The presentation of the paper in the well-recognized conferences will help you to learn, make a good network and provide opportunities for collaboration.”

On challenges and work-life Balance

  • Pushpinder Kaur - here through this audio clip shared her experiences and challenges particularly the practical work-life oriented challenges that PhD Scholars need to surmount to successfully complete their doctorate. Prof. Pushpinder Kaur's audio message

On staying motivated throughout

  • Soumi Chatterjee - “We don’t have a frequent evolution process in Ph.D., it is hard to stay motivated for 5-7 years on the same research problem. We can’t see our achievement or success after doing a laborious job and the end is very far. It is not a job of a guide to push us every time with deadlines rather we should stay sincere, give ourselves deadlines and work sustainably before time and reward ourselves after completion of every agenda.”

  • Anurag Sharma - “I feel the most important thing for a scholar is to choose his/her PhD topic. It is never a good idea to look for the field after the admission. Does this kind of work excite you? Because enthusiasm/ excitement is the only thing that keeps you motivated when you do not get results as per your expectations. There may everyone is settled but you are spending your whole day with a laptop in a room because you have not gotten a significant result. This is when your enthusiasm and your love with your field comes into play.”

  • Mohsin Khan - “Pursuing PhD is a journey in itself with so many learnings, revelations and rewards. It's the only time in your life that you can spend 100% of your working time learning and conducting research, finding out new things, given the freedom to explore new areas of work/practice and also get paid for all this while, without too many administrative or other obligations. It's all we want to do because of the intellectual gratification it brings, the thrill of exploration, the freedom to make your own work schedule, travel places and meet various people, the joy of being in a community of like-minded people and the hope that we can actually contribute to knowledge creation.”

Interested to know more details from the  individual experts?

Watch out for the individual essays on the topic from each of the contributing authors to be published. 

Drafted by Mridhula with valued experiential inputs from:- 

  • Pushpinder Kaur, PhD in Law, Assistant Professor, KCL Institute of Laws, Jalandhar, Punjab  (Audio-podcast)

  • Anurag Sharma, PhD in Biostatistics (2017), Delhi University, who also teaches MBA & DNB Students, New Delhi

  • Dr. Ram Shankar Uraon, Assistant Professor, Institute of Management Studies, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi

  • Soumi Chatterjee, Ph.D. 4th year, Geography, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

  • Mohsin Khan, Assistant Professor who recently successfully defended and concluded his PhD from Pondicherry University

The opinions, beliefs and views expressed by the various authors and forum participants on this website are personal and do not reflect the opinions, beliefs and views of or Genval Consulting Group Private Limited or any of its Partners.
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