On a certain night during my PhD, I remember well I had a packet of tranquilizers and a bottle of vodka next to me. I was so stressed with my PhD that I was tempted to give it all up and explore the unexplored, the other side of life. Unfortunately I even popped the poison down, but immediately repented it. Sanity prevailed and I called a friend soon after committing the blunder. It brought back to me the realisation of feeling like a loser which I never was. Both I and my friend realised that I need a therapist and here the next day, I was sitting in a counselling session at a therapist. I thought that was the end of my PhD journey and I would quit it halfway through because I wasn’t resilient enough to deal with the pressure it brought along.
Almost all scholars talk about the physical labour and strenuous working that a Ph.D. requires, but not many talk about the psychological draining it does to one’s personality. It is embarrassing to bring it into the open ad it shows you as a week person who cannot endure the challenges of life but after all the years, I feel completely comfortable to talk about how burdened I felt with the PhD and the way it made me feel little and unequipped. Statistics says that approximately 50 per cent of the scholars are victims of depression which is around 4 times higher than the percentage of depression patients found in people not associated with higher academics
The general perception goes as that the psychological problems are for the week and when one feels trapped in bouts of anxiety and depression, seeking help or admitting it becomes very demeaning for the self-esteem. When all the efforts to manage depression do not generate results, a lot of PhD students beat themselves up. Do not get weighed down by this surmounting pressure of being a scholar. Work around keeping your psychological health as upbeat as your physical health. Seek help when needed. Remember that it is only the brave who can admit their weaknesses.
In my case, therapy came to rescue, and I did not give up but completed my PhD before deciding to quit the academia. I chose to become a writer and draw inspiration from the inner strength that I developed during the PhD struggle days and got the courage to mould my life the way I wanted to. So what are you waiting for?
Can we work around a holiday plan for PhD scholars? Where would it leave their work? Well, when I write this, I am on my annual leave as a PhD scholar, ironically. But I would also like to insist and say that it is working because of my supervisor. She has encouraged me to take breaks as long as I informed her well in advance and did not do it at the cost of my work. With her encouragement and clear discussion with her, it worked for me. But like how I said, it worked only because of her. Read between the lines. You get a holiday, if your supervisor thinks you need a holiday. How do we generalise this? We cannot but surely we can generalise the ways in which we can keep the bosses happy. After all, they are bosses for that stipulated tenure.
Having a supervisor, who is flexible and accommodating, I surely afford holidays and even if you are on a similar pedestal, do not forget some important, unsaid rules and regulations. You may get a break, but it needs to be a process. A step by step, informal process! Let me explain this better:
1. Always ask your supervisor your entitled annual leave.
2. Take her opinion on the most suitable time to take offs, so as to ensure that you wouldn’t do it at the cost of your work. Remember, this is critical and may affect your relations with her n a great way.
3. Know, or try to know, your supervisors leave schedule.
4. Ensure, commit and do finish all decided work before you zoom out into another world. Else in the eyes of the supervisor, it isn’t any less than a sin.
5. Whichever alien world you are into, remember there is an alien waiting you in another world that should know where you are and should be able to contact you. Yes, we do dislike our supervisors having your contact details on holidays, and fear them spoiling the mood, but we got to give them that right, privilege. If you are as lucky as me, he won’t disturb you on an official break , unless an emergency.
6. Do remember, there are some department formalities that need to be completed to avail the entitled holidays. Don’t leave any of that incomplete. In your absence, your supervisor is answerable for you and putting him in an awkward situation is outing your degree in one.
So in all, doing a PhD, gives you the right to have a normal human life. Live it up with some caution. That’s it!!
As you begin to take courses of a higher level, you may be distressed to find out that most of your scores are based on one major project in the entire course, which is your research paper. Moreover, you may have not written anything longer than a few pages. Here are a few tips to help you write a winning research paper.
Know what your guide wants
Before you can venture out into writing your research paper, you should consider knowing what your guide wants from you. Go through your assignment several times. Mark or underline the action words such as analyze, describe, compare, etc. that have been given to you. Find out whether your teacher wants you to present an argument and if so, you should provide support for your argument with regards to the research question. If you are not sure, talk to him or her right away.
Begin planning the paper
Begin by defining a good topic. If you do it well at the beginning, then it will save you a lot of time and some heartache later on. You would, however, need to remember to do some preliminary research before selecting a topic. Think of how long you want the essay to be and what your research guide expects from you. It is always a smart choice to talk to your research guide about your problems. In case your guide is not available, tell your classmate or your tutor the problems you are facing. Once you have decided the topic, you might be urged to jump in even though you would have to resist the urge to do so. Write down everything you know about the topic and then, prepare a list of questions that you would like answered in your research paper. Do not delay the writing process by dragging it on for weeks on end, but try to finish it off within a certain time.