Am I ready for MPhil/PhD Research: Self Checklist

Am I Ready to Embark on my Thesis/Dissertation Research? Self-Checklist.

This checklist will help evaluate your status of preparation for embarking on your thesis research. If you have not carefully gone through this list, be prepared for depression and discouragement during your research:

  1. I know the difference between a thesis and a project.  A project tries to solve a single “instance” of problem, a thesis proposes a solution to a “class” of problems using some theory or model.
  2. I know the difference between an MS/MPhil and a PhD.
  3. I have gone through various self-help blogs like this one on research, thesis guidelines and help material available on other websites such as this, and the material available at my university’s office of graduate research. 
  4. I am aware of the thesis/dissertation objectives. I know What does it Mean to be a PhD and am aware of “myths” of specialization and departmental scope of expertise
  5. I have read the article What is a Thesis Statement and its Role in PhD-MS Research. I understand the significance of this detailed post and have written a summary of what I have understood from this article.
  6. I have read the article What is a Problem Statement and its role in MS-PhD Research.
  7. I have seen topics of thesis done at other universities and have a list of topics in my selected area. I understand the requirements for coming up with topics of thesis? I have read How to Select an MPhil/PhD Research Topic.
  8. I know  How to Read a Research Paper. I have surveyed at least 40-50 research papers of recognized journals in my research courses and am thoroughly familiar with their research objectives and methodology. 
  9. I know what is meant by thesis statement, problem statement, approach and state of art. I can identify these in a couple of hours of study of a research paper. I have extracted these items from the papers that I have surveyed. 
  10. I have made a clear time commitment and I spend reasonable time and effort on my thesis/dissertation research. A full-time research student should be able to finish an MPhil Thesis in six to nine months time, and a PhD dissertation research in about 2 years excluding the course work. I know that 6 credit hours of research enrollment means at least 18 hours of self-study time per week. I am committed to spending at least 135 clock hours of time for every 3 credit hour enrollment. During the last year of my PhD research I would be allocating double this time per week. 
  11. I know Why PhD is Difficult to Complete and Why there are so many ABDs. As described in this post, I have factored the potential sources of emotional distress from areas related to my academic research as well as areas unrelated to my research (children, spouse, family, job, health, etc). 
  12. I have scheduled my thesis/dissertation research schedule in a way that it is not conflicting with a major project or engagement elsewhere. 
  13. I know the relationship between Progress and Mood/Psychology of a PhD Student. I know how the motivation decreases exponentially when I am not doing my work. I also know how depression increases exponentially when I am not making progress. 
  14. I write down the summary of any thing I do related to my research, whether it is the website that I have gone to, the paper that I have read, or book chapter that I have consulted. I know the meaning of “I have not read if I have not written”
  15. I am regular in meeting with the adviser. 
  16. I have seen a few copies of successful thesis/dissertation documents of some good US universities and thesis proposals. 
  17. I have studied in detail the anatomy of at least one thesis/dissertation of a top university 
  18. I am following the schedule that I submitted along with the thesis/dissertation enrollment form. 
  19. I am aware of the technical writing rules and make a conscious effort to write clear, correct and concise English. 
  20. I have made a schedule and a time line by focusing on the following dates (i) When would I present my proposal/synopsis? (ii) When would I defend my thesis?

Organizing Your Research Work: Your Research Folder

Research is about organizing and planning your progress and
plan of work. If you want to complete your deliverables as soon as possible you
need to prepare a research folder and keep it with you whenever you visit your supervisor for research advising. The research folder should contain:
  1. A section where you keep all the references, interesting articles, topics of recent conferences, call for papers, and web addresses related to your area of interest.
  2. A section where you keep the list of papers that you have summarized and are in the process of summarizing,
  3. Summary of reviewed papers.
  4. List of problem statements, list of thesis statements, list of approaches/methodologies, list of open issues/problems.
  5. Photocopies of papers that you have reviewed.
It will be a great source of comfort to you when you see the
size of this folder increasing.
If you are already maintaining the Research Folder, then ensure:
  • Does
    it contain the copies of all the papers that were selected?
  • Does
    it contain all the summaries?
  • Does
    it contain a bibliography?
  • Does
    it contain a list of  web-sites that
    you have found useful?
  • Do you
    have the list of conferences, journals, magazines, discussion groups where
    topics relevant to your area are covered? 
  • Does it contain the topic of the area of
    research and any material that you have submitted to the supervisors?
Please note that EndNote does all of this for you, however, it will not give you the psychological support of seeing physically the amount of work that you have done. 

[Initially written in 2005 and distributed to research students as Guidelines for MS Research. Several updates and links to other articles that need to be followed added later]

See Also:

See Also:

What is PhD?

Why PhD is Difficult: 

Starting with your PhD

Reading Research and Writing your Research
Qualitative Learning from a PhD


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