20 Tips for Finishing Your PhD Quickly

Being a doctoral researcher takes you on a path of intellectual enhancement where you can develop the power of eliciting changes on the society. Though, this path to successful completion of PhD education can be hard, demanding and backbreaking. From choosing a research topic, to pleasing your supervisors, to adjusting to the competitive environment and still capable of forming coherent thoughts are pretty much the sources of exhaustion. So how to make this impeccable journey quick and fun while keeping your interest intact? Following are the 20 tips that I found useful in completing PhD quickly. Let me know if I missed something of importance.

  1. Choose a doable topic: Picking up a topic is the easy part. Difficulty lies in changing that topic once you have already started your research. Here’s how, Alex Mackenzie faced this trouble in his grad school, second year: “After months of research, I was still unable to grasp the threshold concepts of my domain. At first, I was hesitant to change my topic as I’d have to start from the scratch. But here’s what I did, I picked a faction out of my topic which made it relatively convenient to proceed with my research. It did require a great deal of research initiative but with patience, I crossed this hurdle.” He further explains how to deal with such a problem: “Don’t try to go in depth to understand every aspect of your topic yet, it might turn real messy real soon and cloud your thoughts. Go easy on it and feel free to change it.”
  2. Write it down: What do you understand about your research? What are the challenges encountered in this domain of study? What can be the solutions? What are the limitations? Why is it important? Search the vault of your mind, think and write it all down. This will help you to form an outline for your abstract.
  3. Accurate title and abstract: Think of a title that is precise and provides with a clear interpretation of your idea. Same goes with the abstract. It should be accurate and to the point while covering all the critical points.
  4. Communicate with your supervisor: It is essentially important if you’re on board with you supervisor. After all they are the ones who can provide you with proper guidance. They can be overbearing, strict, absent or simply difficult. The best approach to overcome any issue you are struggling with your supervisor is to communicate with them. Be clear from the start and understand the expectations of your supervisor. Get their approval on your strategy and procedure with which you want to conduct your research.
  5. Go through the work of your supervisor and seniors: It will help you to build an outline for your dissertation and also give you an understanding of how to formulate the key elements of your research.
  6. Look for your support network: You might get challenged by some problems at any stage of your research where you find yourself incapable of solving it on your own. You should be able to get support when you need it. To be on the safer side, start the hunt for your support network from the very beginning. It can be your academic friends or staff members, your favourite teacher or anyone of relevant significance.
  7. Highlight relevant details: Sift through the research materials and highlight those factions which you find are of utmost importance to you. It will help you to focus on those relevant points and ease the level of difficulty.
  8. Present systematically: Align all the key elements and sections of your dissertation in an orderly and methodical manner. Define clear purpose of each and every section. You can use some open source management software’s like Endnote, Zotero and Mendeley which will guide you to manage and organize your research materials.
  9. Rest and reduce the stress: Sitting in front of screen at long hours will fry your brain. Stop, rest, relax and repeat. Go for a run and clear your head.
  10. Correct formatting: Format your work from the start so it may save your time at the end. YouTube videos can be really helpful to show you how to perform formatting in a specific layout on a specific page. Also, you can look out for Word Tutorials online which are proved to be very productive. You can also use Word’s track changes feature to help you monitor and track various type of versions of your research documents.
  11. Live a little: Shut down your laptop, get your mind off of work and go on a trip for a few days. Not only will it refresh your mind but also energize you into bringing more concentration to work.
  12. Don’t get intimidated by the competitive environment: You might get a feeling of aloofness, where you think that you don’t belong here. The pressure of work, deadlines, and expectations of your supervisors can be scary at times. Thomas A. Edison said “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” Feeling intimidated is just another aspect of a researcher’s journey. Giving up won’t be the solution, instead trying to adapt the atmosphere will lead you to a rewarding path.
  13. Attend conferences: This is a very good idea to boost up your confidence. Observe and listen to the findings of other researchers and comprehend the depth of their knowledge. Also, participate in the event by presenting your own paper and acquire feedback to enhance your skills.
  14. Get away from your phones: Don’t let phones and social websites distract you during the work hours.
  15. Say no to extra work: Get the extra load of work off your back. Do not indulge in any non-PhD work that might be given to you by your supervisor.
  16. Believe in healthy competition: Competing with your scholar mates is like a booster of energy and also makes the research work much more interesting. Participate in discussions, debates, conventions and dissertation workshops to create a healthy competition environment.
  17. Be prepared with a backup plan: You never know how and when things get ahead of your control and roadblock your plans. Always be ready with a backup to save you from crises.
  18. Set your priorities: If you’re indulged in another profession as well then you need to find a balance between your office hours and research. Don’t overwork yourself.
  19. Keep the negative thoughts away: After a year into PhD, things might turn blue. You may face writing problems or feel stuck up. Don’t be hopeless and just write. Take a paper and scribble everything in your head. Search for things that you find motivating and get back up to your work.
  20. Kill the work before it kills you: Do not get too lenient and comfortable with your research work. Be consistent in making progress towards finishing it. If you’re too involved in your social life and neglect your studies, you may face a pile of work to deal with in the end without any clue of how to do so. Miss few Saturday nights and I promise you’ll get loads of them after completing your PhD quickly.



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