Thursday, 8 November 2018

How to Become a Doctorate: 9 Habits for Successful PhD Years

Universities are complicated places.

Whether you are taking a PhD programme or any other course, it is a life changing moment. It is a transition from one level to another and in the process you are growing, enlightening and leaping ahead academically and socially.

Being a PhD scholar means you are in charge of your academic and career success. You have been bold enough to choose a path that requires dedication and focussed mind.

Most of the courses pursued before PhD is a pre-defined coursework where time is spent in simply finishing it as opposed to PhD where a lot of thinking goes behind an action. It is no more about memorising terms and concepts. The orientation is now questioning and analysis.

There is no set path or coursework. Each scholar chooses their own topic, depth of research and methodology. Thus, a PhD scholar themselves reflect upon their choices and defend it in front of the interviewing panel.

I have previously dealt with so many topics related to PhD, such as, written tests, interview, research proposal, relationship with supervisor, and so on.

But there is still a gamut of information and pointers that needs to be understood for having successful and happy PhD years.

Whether you plan to finish your PhD in 3 years or 10, it doesn't matter because all scholars have to manage academic life, social activities, money and budgeting, relationship with faculty professors, involvement and networking for future assistance and so much more.

In my quest to give more information to budding scholars, I teach

9 Habits for Successful PhD Years

  1. Discover - Discover boundaries of your area of research, expand out of comfort zone, take book knowledge to field works and see whether the out-of-date printed words are valid or not.
  2. Be Active - Visit your supervisor and other faculty members from time to time in office hours and develop a healthy relationship with them. Don't forget, like most cases you might become a colleague to them in a just a few years.
  3. Plan - Own a planner in which you can manage your time and energy. Write down the amount of time you wish to dedicate to a particular chapter, when to meet supervisor, when to take field trips, where to conduct interviews, when to visit libraries, etc. In order to keep your goals in place, think about the end of your university days and a degree in hand. (click to read The Best Planners of 2019)
  4. Meet Supervisor's Expectations - professors expect students to keep up with the past and current knowledge. When meeting supervisor if you fumble and lack materials to show your progress, it just puts them off and with time you will lose their trust over you and your ability to complete PhD. Therefore, be enthusiastic about what you have read till date, show the design of your tentative chapters and assignments, and argue on what an author wrote in a book.
  5. Accept Minor Failures - Despite being obedient and studious, there will be times when words of your supervisor will hurt and discourage you. You have been so used to success and doing well, that getting criticism on your work may put you off. At that time, sit with your advisors, friends or anyone and ask for help. If you don't change your work pattern and thinking you will be making the same mistakes your supervisor pointed out. You must incorporate supervisor's priorities and take their knowledge into consideration before building an argument.
  6. Visit Libraries - Libraries are sources of books that are hard to find if sought outside. Plus, they offer you an atmosphere to study. Moreover, libraries are modernized nowadays and other than books provide the facility of computers and other technologies. Several journals and research databases that need subscriptions are already taken cared by universities and you are free to access and download any number of articles. If you tried googling those articles, you will have to face a paywall.
  7. Enrich Yourself - Take advantage of the activities that are going on in the university. Surround yourself with influential people. Enroll yourself in off-campus voluntary job or camp. PhD doesn't entail peeking into books and notes at all times. Go for the on-campus theater or movie shows, political demonstrations, dance programs, literary festivals, etc.  Enjoy your PhD years and time at university.
  8. Budgeting - PhD can be expensive and so each scholar must think about budgeting and means to secure a financial aid. While, some scholars work from home and do not need to pay for hostel and food rents, others are leaving their home towns and pay for all kinds of expenses that come with staying away from home. In order to self-support you may have to take up a part-time job. There are a lot of costs related to PhD, such as, university and tuition fees; library memberships; laptop; frequent spending on photocopy, binding and printouts; bills on house and food rents; emergencies like medical; and everyday means of commute. So, spend your money carefully and look critically at where your money is being wasted. Make smarter choices. However, budgeting doesn't mean sucking all the fun out from campus life. Keep a budget for malls, movies, parties, shopping, etc. One of the best source of financial aid is taking grants, scholarships and fellowships from concerned organizations. From time to time government and non-government schemes come out for PhD scholars that not only covers monthly expenses, but also takes care of books, stationery, travel and field trips. Therefore, seek information about scholarships and money grants, and just when you know you are eligible for it, apply!
  9. Live on-Campus - living on-campus is much more comfortable and cheaper than living off-campus. The university happens to provide hostels and canteen facilities in much subsidised rates than you can ever find outside. Also, do not forget the easy access to classmates, professors, departments and library that you can have with living on-campus. Imagine saving so much on daily commute from your house to university. Moreover, you are also sitting in the hub of all activities that goes on in the campus. You will be far more involved in university and gain a much better experience.

So, these are the 9 essential habits that makes you enjoy and attain a much better time while you are doing PhD.

PhD requires you to think broadly. Grow Intellectually. And develop habits that helps you learn and inculcate research skills, and problem solving ability from different perspectives.

Therefore, throughout your PhD years, engage yourself with different think tanks, people and peers. These connections will help you in future.

Click to read the previous step: Ways to Build Student-Supervisor Relationship
Click to read the next step: How To Not Quit PhD and Be Motivated


  1. Thanks for the advice, useful, cheers!

    1. Thank you for your kind words. Helping others is what I aim.

  2. Thank you for the timely advise

    1. Extremely glad that my pointers could help you.