THE Scholarly Web

Weekly transmissions from the blogosphere

December 13, 2012

What kind of PhD student are you? asks doctoral candidate Constance Iloh on the University of Southern California's 21st Century Scholar blog. She believes that aspiring PhDs around the world can be slotted neatly into five groups that resonate way beyond the realms of academia.

First up is the "Oh You Study That? I Do Too!" PhD student. "This type of student is either interested in so many things that their interests seem to span their entire field of study, or they are on a lifelong quest to relate to everyone," Ms Iloh writes. "Nevertheless when you inquire what they are studying, you might be inundated with more topics than you bargained for."

She warns that students in this category could be conveying more confusion than clarity, and advises them to develop a "strong" pitch where they can communicate research 'concisely and in a manner that is cohesive rather than disparate".

Next is the "I am a Successful Procrastinator" group. Members of this classification have developed bad habits from their undergraduate days and persist in the belief that work improves as deadlines approach.

"Many of these students find procrastination to be an asset. I hate to break it to you (and myself) but this might be quite flawed and counter to your goals. Not only can this bring on unnecessary stress, it can also shorten time you could use to get valuable feedback."

The lesson here is simple: "Don't try to run against time. Use it to your advantage."

Third on the list are the PhD students who consider themselves "Kind of a Big Deal". "You might see them at conferences or on various forms of social media boasting about who they have collaborated with, what projects they are working on, and so on and so on," Ms Iloh writes.

"Never underestimate how easily these students can use any moment to draw attention to themselves." She advises that such students might want to spend a little more time "building up your 'academic swagger', rather than convincing everyone you have it".

Next up, the "Tired and Uninspired" students, who seem confused about how they ended up working towards a PhD. Such behaviour is contagious, the blog warns.

"After a conversation with them you yourself might feel tired and uninspired. If you are in need of motivation or an optimistic perspective, you more than likely might want to converse with someone else first."

A "hug or a nudge of encouragement" should be administered when encountering the tired or uninspired, with sleep and refocusing on purpose the only cure.

The "I Love Critiquing but I Hate Creating" PhD students complete the quintet.

"If you ever ask them to review some of your work, you might find red pen marking or track changes on every line. If you ask them what their ideas or contributions are, you might get silence."

The lesson here is that although a critical approach is healthy when consuming research, it is vital to produce something of your own. "Keep that in mind and hone in on opportunities to be a better creator of strong scholarship," Ms Iloh says.

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