Wednesday, February 11, 2015

So, You’re Starting a PhD?

English: Mathematics formulas () in a PhD thes...
Mathematics formulas in a PhD thesis (Photo: Wikipedia)
: http://thesiswhisperer.com/2015/02/11/6425/
 
This month, all around Australia, there will be a whole crop of PhD students starting their degree. It’s an exciting time, but a nerve-wracking one as well. Here’s another post to help you start your journey!

This post is by Erika Harris, PhD Candidate. Erika has a Master’s degree in Education, General Education and has worked in instructional design and development in both corporate and higher education settings in the U.S & Australia. 

Currently Erika is an educational developer, elearning, for RMIT designing online and hybrid courses working with academics in the higher education and vocational education sectors. 

In this post Erika reflects on the advice given about why NOT to do a PhD and why you would still give it a go anyway.

I am a new PhD student, and have been reading and conversing with current and past PhD students and have come to the sad conclusion that there are more cons to doing a PhD than there are pros.

The cons include the fact that a PhD can:
  1. take over your life
  2. stop you from having time with your family
  3. stop you from exercising
  4. get you into a mental funk
  5. mentally exhaust you
  6. create obstacles in relationships (both professional and personal)
  7. suck up all of your waking moments
  8. make you feel guilty when you are not working on you PhD
  9. make you feel guilty when taking a break
  10. seep into your every waking and sleeping moments of thought
  11. question your intelligence
  12. question your confidence
  13. realizing that I have to learn to play the PhD game
The pros of completing a PhD include the fact that a PhD can:
  • help me gain confidence
  • open up career doors
  • provide a sense of accomplishment
  • show my children that life-long learning is a part of their life too
  • first person in my entire family to reach this level of education
And that’s all I have for the pros. I understand that many readers of this post will say ‘wait, there are so many more pros to completing a PhD’, that may be so for the reader, but maybe not for me. I would like to know about more the pros for completing a PhD, so if you have more please let me know.

With that said, although I have only five pros, and 13 cons, why on earth would I complete one? That’s a very good question. One that I needed to think about before I wrote this post. For me, there are two very personal reasons why:
  1. I want my children to understand that learning is life-long. That mom is doing her ‘homework’ while they are doing theirs. As they are in primary school, we are all sitting together in the evening and getting our ‘homework’ done. Even if they don’t attend university when they are older, I am hoping to instil in them a quest for learning that doesn’t have to end, ever.
  2. Being first in my family to reach this level of education is important to me. Simple as that.
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It seems that in the beginning it’s like when I was pregnant. I had so many other women come up to me and tell me their horror stories about being pregnant. Stories that I didn’t want to hear about. It’s the same with the PhD.

I have had many conversations with people who have only told me about their horror stories of completing a PhD. It’s like, I will do it anyway, whether it’s going to be good - bad - or otherwise, but most of the journey will be up to me, and I will be in the driver’s seat navigating this journey.

Of course, there will be obstacles placed in my way that I will have no control over, but ultimately I am the person who has chosen to go down the PhD route, so I will do my best to maintain control.

It’s possible that this control comes from naiveté of not knowing the PhD journey. It’s possible that my optimism comes from excitement on being on this journey. Maybe it’s just the newness of it all. I certainly do know that I don’t want my PhD to take over my life; I do know that I want to complete it.

I do know that I don’t want it to take years (and I mean years) to complete it. I do know that I want my children to come along this journey with me.

I also know that I want to hear about the great stories and great journeys and all the pros of doing a PhD. So if any one has any good stories, please share them. I think that many new PhD candidates need to hear about those great stories, and not just the difficult/tough/hard/sad stories that are out there.

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