Having a research document helps to write better research papers

It would not be uncommon to sit in front of a blank screen, clueless when you start to write a research paper. It is quite natural that it may not occur to you what you intended to write in your paper or something you had read somewhere that you wanted to incorporate. In addition, you may have sometimes got stuck with finding a reference you have lost somewhere or perhaps all the content that you desired or thought to incorporate in your research is scattered around in a way you don’t know how to compile or put together.

I am sure you have faced these kind of problems often and hence learning to create a research document is important for you and it can be of great help. Now what is the way to create a research document and what are the ways in which you can organise your research?

 Firstly you must write an essay plan before you actually initiate writing an academic essay.  This is what we call as a research document. It becomes your guide and fundamental base upon which you rest the organisation of your research. Your essay plan has the bullet points or dot points which you plan to incorporate in your essay as different sub heads. As you keep reading content, it is a good idea to jot down the information along the way. It really isn’t necessary that you have to type everything. All that is required is relevant and important information in the essay. Once you have done that, at a later stage you can add your own notes or elaborate on the content as per your requirement.  This approach is a very beneficial approach and this research document that you create would be very helpful for you in the following ways:

  1. You don’t have to rely on or strain your memory to retain every small little detail
  2. At the time of writing, all  information will be there with you without anything important getting left out
  3. Facts distortion would not happen
  4. When you elaborate each fact with your own extension, you would clearly know which part is your content and which has been taken from sources
  5. It helps to organise ideas better
  6. While you are doing this,  you can work around creating your own reference list too simultaneously so you are not piled up with work at the later stage for creating the entire reference chapter from a scratch

What are the feelings of the PhD scholars?

Till the stage of your post graduate education, you get a lot of structuring done for you. The syllabi, modules, time schedules, specified books, practical sessions, experiments and so on re given to you on the platter. Only the execution part is expected from you.   Nobody tests your learnings and knowledge outside the peripheries of the established syllabi so you very conveniently know what you got to study and how much. The moment you step into the PhD programme, you got to take the responsibility for your own task, unlike all your prior academic experiences. You would surely have people to help you and guide  you, officially and unofficially but end of the day what is to be done and in what capacity is your own responsibility and all the mistakes that you make, knowingly or unknowingly, specified  or unspecified are all yours to take blame for.

 A PhD scholar sometimes feels lost as he isn’t traversing a path that has been taken up by others earlier on.  Expectation such as having to initiate discussions, constructive arguments or learning initiatives can sometimes make  you feel overwhelmed as not every scholar feels accomplished enough to  know what is to be done when and may feel lost or confused with expectations and opportunities flooding from all directions.

When research students enter the system as scholars. They feel motivate enough to do a research that is noticeable for outstanding contribution in their field of study.  However, for most of them, by the time they reach the completion of the course, all that they care for is to get the degree. In all the interim years, the enthusiasm gets dampened by lots of demands and expectations for conducting repetitive tasks on everyday basis. More so when the surrounding environment is such where everyone just cares about their own work and have nothing to do with others. Sometime scholars feel their own image getting lost under the pressure of immense demands. However, they must learn to come out of the pressure carve themselves out as competent professionals who are confident of their own knowledge and at the same time know that boundaries that have been set for them. The journey of a PhD scholar is a transition or growth of a dependent student into an independent, confident and achiever who knows precisely what is expected of him in that given environment.

How to Select a Format for Scientific Papers

The good news is that scientific papers do not have a hard line format. There is a generalised format that can be customised and modified as per the requirements of the researcher. However you need to follow the guidelines that the institute provides as the requirements vary from one to another.

The format depends largely on the type of research that one is doing and there are a couple of sources from which guidelines for format can be sought:

  1. Modules by International Associations: for all scientific subjects, there is a body of international association that exists that works as a model for the relevant discipline which is followed internationally in all institutions that teach that discipline. For instance, psychology researchers need to follow the guideline of APA( American Psychology Association)
  2. Manual by the university/institution: A lot of universities, in an attempt to create their own distinguishing mark, create their own subjective research standards. They give a detailed set of guidelines to the researchers to follow.  You need to go through the manual to understand which format to follow, these days the universities do give online access to research paper formats as well.
  3. Research guide: research guide, particularly an experienced research guide is someone who can guide you in following the proper format. They know the requirements of the university and in addition they also know the rules of research with all the publications they may have in their kitty and the previous supervisions they might have done. It indeed is first hand guidance in terms of format that you can get and it is an informal source if your supervisor is accessible and you have informal relations with him.
  4. Journal: if you have your journal chosen where you want to try sending your paper for publication, then you need to follow the specific format they have set for themselves as otherwise you may not be able to get approval from the journal for publication. Sometimes the journals reject the paper because or formatting issues and sometimes they may resend to incorporate formatting guidelines, in whichever case, o you must meticulously follow the research guidelines that have been set by the chosen journal.

The type of research: The type of research that you undertake will also determine the format you are going to follow. Qualitative research may have a different format as compared to the requirements of a quantitative research. Keep that in mind when you structure your research.

Bringing Quality in Your Thesis, Step By Step!

It is always easy to get into the comfort zone and become easy about doing the work and the laxity you show in your effort comes out in your productivity. A slow down starts coming to you naturally. Do not ignore this and take it as a signal to change your focus of work and get into the finer details to understand where you are going wrong. Pick up the most difficult challenge first.

The moment you are awake from your lax attitude, do not move forward but first try to make corrections in what you have written already. Edit it and put in all that you have missed putting earlier. Include the relevant references. Invest time and deep thought over what you wish to say next so that whatever further work you do is synced up with the previous one in terms of detailing and quality standards.

When writing thesis, it is also always good to look at the content from the perspective of the examiner. Anticipate the questions that he may put up for you so that you deal with the challenges while the concept is still fresh in your mind and not later.

Know and remember that it is ok to be slow and easy in between but the objective of doing so should be to go in the detail and bring the best possible perfection in your work. If you do your work well and ensure that you have taken care of the finer details before moving to the next section you will be surely able to create and maintain the standards of quality and minute details in the content throughout your thesis.

What is a good quality section of your thesis made up of? We have been repeatedly talking about quality standards in content, but what do we understand by this and what are the parameters of good quality?  Firstly, it needs all references in place with all bibliographic information. The editing and formatting should be such of the section that it looks like the final thesis. The tables and figures used should be well designed and well captioned. The content should be so written that it flows from one point to next without any gaps that need to be filled later when the concept isn’t fresh in the mind any more you cannot match up the detail you wrote earlier

Remember that all these things will have to be done at some point surely, if you do not handle these issues section wise, you would have to do it at the end, hard pressed against time. The choice is yours, do it section wise or leave it for the end!

Can We Do Something Even before Creating a Rough Draft?

The starting of the writing process is not very easy. People get stuck from where to begin and how to begin. As a researcher myself, my understanding is that people get stuck with writing in the beginning of the process only because they wish to be able create a document that is just perfect in the first go itself. Don’t you think we expect too much from ourselves by wanting to create the perfect choice of words, sentence structuring, spelling and grammar and streamlining ideas in a way that there wasn’t any scope and room for improvement?

This massive expectation from self is nothing but a journey towards downfall unlike motivation that we expect it to. It blocks up your writing at the initial stage itself as you keep feeling that you haven’t done your best and you could perhaps do so much better.

Calm down and relax by assuring yourself that it is ok if there is a scope of improvement in your document at the first stage and it is unreasonable to expect from any writer to create a perfect piece of writing at the initial stage itself. One needs to structure the work at before actually starting to write for which we all create a rough draft. But before that you need to be doing discovery. The discovery stage is an informal stage, but the foundation stage which creates the base for the developing a document whose strong base is very important as it gives you the freedom to explore and identify the purpose of what you want to say through your writing. When you are at the discovery stage, I suggest give a free hand to yourself to come out with whacky ideas without any inhibitions and bounding. The focus here should not be on accuracy of grammar and fonts. Rather, just discover from intrinsic and extrinsic sources the ideas that inspire you to create your document. Your brain needs to be trained to send ideas for you to compile and this is what discovery is all about. Once you have done your identification then think about the appropriate use of words, spellings and structuring so that gradually you can work around streamlining your ideas and filling the gaps.

Know that the tasks that appear the simplest are the most challenging and getting your ideas from your head onto the paper is the simplest way to have great accomplishments.

What Is A “Most Wanted” Supervisor Like?

Researchers face a lot of challenge with supervisors and all of us scholars are forever cribbing about the agonies we face at the hand of our supervisors. Compiling the suggestion of scholars and their problems, here is a list of the top ten qualities that each supervisor can have to get that “most wanted” supervisor tag:

1. Effective Communication Skills:  As a supervisor primarily it is very important to communicate clearly so that there are no misunderstandings or confusions created with your scholars. It helps to receive more correct and acceptable work from the subordinate if we are able to express effectively what we are seeking.

2. Adaptability: the world is dynamic and at a very rapid pace. The efficient supervisors keep up with the pace and keep updating their norms and rules and not get stuck with redundant old aged practices. Accommodating with needs and requirements of the scholars is a sign of a good and preferred supervisor.

3. Become a mentor: A mentor is someone who does not restrict his wisdom to himself and shares it with his students. Share your experiences, learning and knowledge with them in a way that it simplifies their journey and helps them to improvise their performance. It would help to make your bond with them stronger.

4. Exemplify: Being someone who always delegates tasks and responsibility creates some kind of negativity in the scholar, taking up projects yourself is a way to set example for others that hard work and effort is imperative. Take challenge about how any work is important and show others how it can be done perfectly. It would earn you a lot of respect.

5. Accessibility: If the scholars feel a sense of hesitation in approaching their supervisor then it isn’t good news. An efficient supervisor makes sure that there is enough accessibility and openness between him and his scholars to approach without any hitch, whatever be the issue of discussion.

6. Positivity and consideration:  positivity keeps one grounded and modest so brings in consideration about the wellbeing of the scholars and know that they have a life beyond PhD.  With this perspective, you would be rational when settling deadlines and improve the productivity of the scholars.

7. Constructive criticism:  Criticism is necessary but it should be proportionate to the mistake and should be always with the intention to improvise the quality of the document rather than belittle the scholar is always taken in the right spirit.

So , here goes the list and do hand it over to your supervisor to simplify your life or adopt if you are one of those nasty supervisor.

Ways to cope up with writing a PhD

All Phd students go through the same stuff and set of struggles and almost all of them cope up fine with it.

Know and accept that a PhD is difficult and you need’nt beat yourself up for it. It is not everyone who gets to do a Phd. To get onto the course in itself is an echievement and then as you accomplish each and every stage, you keep adding on to your list of accomplishments.

You wouldn’t for sure find a person who would tell you it is easy  because  it really is  not. Had it been then everyone would be doing a phD only. Isnt it? The struggle it involves makes it a degree worth achieving. Going through bouts and phases of underlying panics, missing texts, confusions and so on is an expected part of a PhD. Everytime you hear that you arent the only one and everyone goes through a similar struggle, there is a sense of respite.   I can compare this example to running a marathon. Half way through when you feel that you are stucck in the middle of nowhere and you cant escape, you look at the faces of  the co runners and a similar expression on their faces gives  you a sense of respite and then you know that soon you would reach the finishing line and that would  be the end of it.

My tips here for you may sound very cliché and boring but they arent anything to do with academics. There is so much moderation that you can do with your day to day life schedule and  alter it in a way to suit your PhD challenges that it would actually make a difference in the way you feel.

1. Eat a healthy diet: Keep healthy snacks around and eat food that boosts up your metabolism in a way that your energy levels are high  and you don’t feel sluggish
2. Take deserving breaks:  Taking short and regular is not actually eating up the productive time, it is rather make you more productive. Get up from your desk, look out of the window or just stroll around for a while to give your mind and body rest it needs.
3. Burn it out: Keep your good habit, if you have, of being a runner or a gym buddy. If nothing else a good brisk walk is enough to renergise the cellsc and activate your mind and body.
4. Reward yourself: there isnt a better way to enhance productivity than to acknowledge your hard work and reward yourself for your accomplishments, even if noone else does or is bothered.

The Structure for the Methodology Chapter

  1. Problem: The methodology chapter follows the literature review. To bring up more clarity and bring back the focus it is always better to recap the main problem that you are dealing with in your research. It is important to succinctly define the problem that you are primarily addressing in the research.

  2. Approach: The approach that you are following for the purpose of primary research needs to be overviewed in the next stage of the structure. The different aspects that need to be catered to here are the rationale, justification, sampling etc. It should not have any kind of ambiguity so that when the reader reads he is ensured that the writer is completely synced with the nuances of the methodology.

  3. Antecedence: it is a good idea to compare the methodology adopted by you with other researches that are similar in your area. Finding similar studies and reviewing them does lend a lot of authority to your research and makes the methodology more concrete.

  4. Validation: It is necessary to give believable reasons for the chosen methodology in your research which is also termed as justification. It is all the more necessary when you have adopted a new or unique type of methodology. A thorough and rigorous justification does add a lot of weight to the research.

  5. Reliability and validity: In all kinds of research, irrespective of the genre, issues that are linked to reliability and validity have to be discussed explicitly. Reliability and validity takes care of accuracy, precision, and error scope in the research.

  6. Sampling: Sampling is important enough to be dealt as a separate sub topic and needs to be given that special attention that it deserves. Sample size has a strong influence on statistical significance and the researcher has to be very cautious and alter when mentioning this in the methodology.

  7. Appendix: There is a lot of material to be added to the methodology chapter that has indirect relevance and has to be added to the end of the dissertation writing in the appendices section. Generally questionnaires and related content can be placed here for reference.

  8. Generalisation of data: each data set has certain scope of generalisation and it should be included in the chapter in terms of the scope of generalisation of data. The more your data has generalised applicability, the wider its use and importance of your research.

The Methodology Chapter Never Gets Accepted in the First Time. Why?

The methods chapter is one chapter that is examined very carefully by the examiners. The doctorate degree is predominantly a degree that is seen as research training and that’s why it is considered very important by the examiner to ensure that the researcher is thorough with handling the technical stuff with aplomb. As an examiner, he would look for certain things, particularly in the methodology chapter and would reject the methodology chapter or ask for a redo because of some specific points. They are:

  1. Does the researcher clearly know the difference between methodology and methods chapter?

  2. He has not given clear meaning of the technical terminology used and their association with the current theme of the topic

  3. There is lack of coherence between the methodology and the theoretical framework and the research tradition that has been presented in the study

  4. The researcher has not brought up the debates in the research tradition upon which the entire study is based.

  5. It is important that the methodology has to fit the research question presented. It has to be justified in the chapter very clearly. If there is lack of explanation for choosing a specific methodology is alignment with the research question then the examiner cannot find the fit and he may reject the chapter

  6. The research design has to fit up with the methodological approach

  7. The presented Literature review in the proposal/thesis has to be the foundation for the creation of the methodology chapter and it is important that it is positively justified through the references to the relevant literatures

  8. Each research is a master piece in itself and no tow researches can be identical as always the element of subjectivity would get inserted by the researcher. It is important that at the time of creating the methodology chapter, the researcher has to consider his own positioning and how it would add subjectivity and influence the results of the study. What would be the pros and cons of the contribution of the researcher?

  9. The methodology chapter has to clearly explain that the data that will be produced, how it would answer the research question and whether and how it is sufficient to answer them. If it doesn’t have convincing explanation then the methodology chapter can fall flat on its face.

The methodology chapter should be treated as the most crucial chapter in the entire dissertation document and should be handled in a much focused manner.

Your Preparation for Your PhD VIVA

Oral examinations are more threatening than the written ones and we don’t have an exception here when we talk of the PhD VIVA. I don’t see too many reasons to be really petrified of the PhD VIVA. It is of course natural to feel some anxiety and I think that is symptom which in a good context, indicates that you care about your performance. However, the anxiety has to be eustress and not distress. The best way that you done feel negatively anxious about your PhD VIVA is to very clearly know its purpose and to be also well prepared for the same. The main objective of a VIVA is to give you an opportunity to defend your research, your thesis. It really isn’t a standalone examination and surely only your VIVA cannot decide whether you would pass or fail in your PhD.

Remember if your thesis has good standards and has innovative and worthy research, it may be already decided to pass your thesis, even before the VIVA. So your preparation for this oral examination starts from the first day when you start your research as submitting a well written thesis is the first thing to be done. Have confidence in the arguments that you have presented as that would go a long way in preparing you well for the VIVA. Keep in mind these few things for best results in your VIVA:

  • Be very thorough with the argument you have presented and how it is contributing in the existing body of research.

  • When you do your preparation and rehearsal, look at it from a third person perspective to get a holistic picture. Seeing it as someone else’s research also helps you to understand how would the examiner look at it.

  • Identify the strengths of your research and know the weaknesses. Keep awareness about the practical weaknesses in your research and what kind of scope it leaves or creates for future research is also important.

  • If your supervisor agrees, try to do a mock VIVA, rehearsals always instill more confidence

  • Do make an attempt to explain your thesis to a person who has the knowledge and interest in your subject but is a not a researcher. You would understand the perspective of a layman which is imperative for a researcher to know of defences in the VIVA

  • Try to be spontaneous and natural rather than mugged up, remember it is your work and nobody understands it better than you do so there isn’t a need to be artificial in the VIVA. Refer the thesis if you so need to in the VIVA.

If you have some tips for better performance in VIVA, do share with us.