After three years of battling in a research that no one else may find interesting other than me, after going back and forth like a yo-yo across two countries, after 13 (or was it 12?) meetings with my foreign Supervisors and many more meetings with my local supervisor, after many months of trying to justify my hypotheses and (later) findings, after many more hours slouched in front of the computer eyeballing my data to see if there were any oddities, after countless model regressions and scrapping/modifying them whenever they don’t make sense, after drafting and re-drafting my chapters (where productivity is sometimes one lousy paragraph a day!), after many sleepless nights drenched in sheer frustration and talking myself to sleep, after countless trips down the street
talking to myself asking myself “what ifs” and thinking possible solutions to questions that may change after each meeting with the Supervisors (OK, the list goes on really).. I finally did it! I have actually completed my PhD! *moon walks*
I know to some people, a PhD or any other degree for that matter is no big deal. But to academicians, it sort of IS. Granted, a PhD is not really compulsory to be a great researcher, but it definitely gives an individual a solid foundation to be a decent one.
My PhD journey began in March 2007 when I enrolled in a pioneering doctorate program for faculty members in selected public universities in Malaysia. The program was called the Malaysia-Nottingham Doctoral Program (MNDP). I submitted my final draft on March 30th, 2010, was called for my viva on June 22nd, given three months to complete my minor corrections and re-submitted my thesis along with the corrections required on November 15th. As I’m writing this, I’m finally taking a breather (while it lasts because in a few more weeks the real life begins where I must start teaching AND researching all over again) before going back to the UK for my graduation on December 8th. So there, that should put all of this in perspective whenever I need a boost of self-confidence in the future , hehe..
Looking back, I do agree with some of the horror stories that I heard before furthering my studies. Since sharing is caring, below is a short list of the stories that seemed OTT at the time but utterly true in retrospect 🙂
- “Doing a PhD is like giving birth -you know it will end one day, just not sure when exactly and how long the pain is gonna be”! To be honest, male counterparts may find this description of a doctorate pain to be useless as they will never have the pleasure (really?) of experiencing labour pain, but trust us on this one. The duration, test of endurance, perseverance etc are eerily similar!
- “You will go through several phases of headaches throughout your PhD”. Yup. In my case, the headaches felt more like migraines being shot out in mini grenades as I went through the initial stages of defining my research questions & problems, choosing the right (very subjective here) research methodology, collecting my first-hand data, organizing those data, analyzing the data, understanding the data, re-analyzing ’em data (why the heck did I collect these data again??!), writing my findings, synthesizing my findings with past findings and writing the thesis.
- “There is no right or wrong in doing a PhD”. I found this very true indeed. You can read all the manuals in the world or listen to all sorts of advice about how to survive your PhD years but in the end, it all depends on what suits YOU best. Most people do their literature review first, then proceed with their questions, then only start to gather data etc -in other words, they follow the steps right to the T. But really, it’s not wrong to do some things backward or a bit jumbled up even if you think you’re crazy in doing it at the time.
- “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger”. OK, so this really isn’t one of those stories but I felt it apt under the circumstance, hehe.. This inspirational quote really lives up to its metaphor as I truly felt like a stronger person once all has been done. Not just physically strong, but more so emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.
Due to lapse of memory, these stories will be updated (much) later whenever they come to haunt my mind again 🙂
Btw, if anyone is wondering why I don’t talk about research or about work (though I do talk about my students, hehe..) is because blogging is a therapeutic way for me to unwind. It’s a hobby. I blog mainly to rant.