One of my academic-leisure-hobbies (pardon the deliberate tautology) is to chat with PhD students who are well advanced beyond the point I am at the moment – which is the end of my first year. I am one of those staunch believers in “you don’t have to reinvent the wheel” when someone has worn the dungarees, done the work and paid the price for you?
This is what I mean. The PhD process is just what it is – a process; while the experience may be unique to individuals, there are underlying points of parity that cut across everyone, such as:
WE all have to WRITE!
WE all have to engage in CRITICAL THINKING
WE all have to pursue existing literature in our respective fields, and what’s more, keep on top of it (updated)
WE all have to do just do what we do, be PhD Students – *insert your preferred definition here*
I got chatting with a PhD student in my department recently and generally asked about her research and how it was going in terms of writing. I’ll call her Cindy*(not real name). I didn’t bargain for the profound nugget of deep academic wisdom that dropped in my bare hands from that simple conversation. At the risk of sounding like I am exaggerating, what she told me had not really occurred to me in that manner before. Okay, I’ll get on with it…
She told me how majority of what you’ve written in your first or perhaps even second year may not feature in the final draft of your thesis upon submission. I had heard PhD students say this a lot and it always got me 😦 perplexed – I always tended to wish it away in my heart.
But then upon spotting my downcast features, Cindy quickly went on to assure me that it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. She explained that although all that chunk of text didn’t make it into her thesis, she found it a strong pool to draw from at conferences for instance. When someone challenges her about taking a particular path instead of an alternative. Cindy said, “I can confidently respond that I did consider this path at some point in my research, and this is why it didn’t work.”
Is that deep or is that deep?
‘No knowledge is definitely a waste’ is an obvious cliché that slides off the tongue as easily as “hey”, but being re-assured that though stuff gets chucked out of your thesis for word count limitation or any other reason, it is still going to be of value to one’s long-term knowledge base…I thought this was pretty much worth blogging about.
This post written by Tomi Oladepo and was originally published in 2013.
If you would like to find out more about Tomi’s research interests follow her blog Stylish Academic.