PhD – The Messy Desk
By Prakash Hegade
Copyright 2016 Prakash Hegade
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please ask them to download an additional copy for each recipient. Please do not use the contents of this book without the author’s permission and reference.
For any query or questions kindly mail: [email protected]
This book is organized into two parts.
‘Part A’ talks about the non technical details and ‘Part B’ talks about the higher level details of the technical work. Needless to say it does not get into any deep technicalities nor does it float things into thin air. They make sense, in the right appropriate way, very much in the level suited to any PhD student. This book does not have any contents page or index page. The idea is simple. You just need to begin from page 1 and go till it keeps your interest. Once read, it will stay with you. You might not need to read them again! LOL. I know what you are thinking right now! Now you see, that’s why this book is a free download. Read it till it keeps your interest.
Like the name suggests, it’s a messy desk. There is no way that you can keep the desk clean. Wear some dirty socks and perfume and get going!
Also, the thoughts here are to a great extent debatable. One could argue or vary with differences. I would totally agree and buy that as well. But for now let us agree to disagree and keep rolling.
The Research Poem
Here is what we can classify research in four lines, as you move ahead along the different phases:
You do, and don’t know what not.
You do, and don’t know what.
You do, and do know what not.
You do, and do know what.
Okay, so you decided to have a Permanent Head Damage! Isn’t it? So why you want a PhD! Does it mean that? Very much! Needless I say all that, PhD is one hell of an exciting journey. This book will reveal all the encounters one will undergo. It’s more like being arrested for no reason and no one is giving you the bail!
So, what next? How do I come out of this prison? Nopes! There is no coming out! The only hope is that,
Can you make that prison as a better place to live in?
Can you make that place the one you own and make it look striking?
Can you build a wrapper around it so that it is more welcoming and attracts one towards it?
Well, there is more! You should read ahead. Go on!
101. The Initiate
Research is such a pain in the ass. But it’s double the pleasure when you get to sit on it.
The thought of ‘I want a PhD’ is itself a great initiate. It takes a lot of unsaid sacrifices for that, and after that. The next intriguing thought that comes up in mind is ‘giving up’! Unless, there is a very demanding situation for that, the suggestion is that you give a long good bye to the thought of ‘giving up’!
Is PhD for everyone? There are all kinds of saying that they are for the tolerant ones, they are for the ones who have sacrificed their social life, they are for the geeky ones, etc etc but Nah! Sure that isn’t the case. It’s for anyone who wants to contribute to research community. The contribution can be a tribute that ‘this is going to work’ or ‘this is not going to work’. PhD teaches a lot of things to see life in a better perception. If you have made your mind to get a PhD, then well done! You are going to be a contributor to the society. Hold on to that thought.
Congratulations! The initiate is going to be one of the better decisions you took in your life. One decision, that will make you sob and smile at the same time.
102. The Journey
Stays forever, Like forever!
In the course of this journey, one finds love (atleast with books), gets married, have a job change, have kids, get promotions, use a stick to walk and many things amidst, with mostly all or subset of this. But the journey of PhD will continue. Somewhere in between you will also get an official letter saying you have completed the program and now you can prefix a Dr. to your name. But the journey will continue.
That is why it is very important to pick a right problem. It should be the food for the upcoming few decades. Research is like marrying the hectic and it makes one feel completely comfortable with it. It’s totally okay if you have spent a lot of time freezing your problem definition. For something that will totally stick and stitch with you, you better have a sturdy thread and needle.
The other thing is, it’s not the only thing we are carrying. We already have a lot of luggage which is already heavy. This is going to be a fancy bag which we shall pick up now and then. There are going to be breaks in between, some personal issues, some lost interest, some many things that will keep you away from this fancy bag. But you know the feeling you get talking to your best friend even after years, right? It feels like you had met yesterday, isn’t it? So is this PhD. Though you give a break, it feels like yesterday you had stopped working. Remember that taking a break is different from giving up. I would highly suggest not even to think of the latter case. In case always say you are taking a break and will catch up soon. And you should.
103. The Guide
He is not a superman! He is yet another you!
One of the major challenges apart from having a problem definition is having a guide. People say a lot of things. May be the person is good, isn’t, a torture, a maniac, easy going and people have a lot of opinions to share. But, ignore them all. Look at the best one who is matching your frequency. You need to kind of find another you, to whatever extent.
He should not impose you things. Research happens when you are working in a favorable environment. It cannot be created as it’s already with you. If the guide imposes his working methods on you it will mostly work out well, only if you can easily and openly adapt to it. Else it will spoil the research culture. It should not be a pain. He should give you the deliverables but not the format of delivery in detail. Research is not logistics. A lot of things need to happen with a free flying mind. A guide should let your mind wonder in forest, make you feel lost and then tell you where you can find the sunshine. If he keeps you in front of the sun you will lose your eyesight after a while. You cannot see and whatever your guide says, that will be the only direction which you can see. Well, it’s you doing research. Not your guide!
Be wise and pick someone where you both can sync quick. One small discussion and should put both of you on the same boat. Someone who doesn’t make you wait and wait to say ‘okay, go ahead!’, instead, someone who knows that you are going ahead and tells you when you aren’t. The summary is simple. Pick one who is another you!
104. The Community
The group of flies drowning in the same sea!
Do you have your community? There are lots of groups on many social networking sites who discuss about PhD related concerns. Hop in to those groups and be active part of it. Create a group around you as well. There is nothing better than interaction for a research student. Do you know the experts in your area? Did you ever drop a mail to them discussing your problem? Are you aware of the top conferences and state of art in the research area? Do you have a reading group? Do you debate a lot? Do you involve in group discussions of any kind on any topic? Do you read a lot? These are all the questions for which you should never have ‘no’ for an answer.
This having a community thing is like wearing a many pocket pants. When in problem, you will know which pocket to put hand in. There will always be a solution or path to the solution. The cool kick ass community where the beats of geeky talks always keep you motivated. If possible have a close friend who knows about your research. One who is ready to listen to you while in need. If he can give you suggestions then you are blessed. Else trust me; you will gain a lot of insights when you explain things to someone. While explaining you may shout out ‘Eureka, Eureka’ and rush back to your desk.
105. Art of Story Telling
The intuitions and perceptions of an idiot!
Don’t be a snail and bore the people around. One of the essential skills the research will and must get you is the art of storytelling. Whether you speak it or scribble it, keep it understandable.
Write frequently. You will know how shoddy the thinking is only when you put them into words. Write often. You will know how mistakenly you had misunderstood the things. Write regularly. You will know how worse you are in writing. Write repeatedly. You will know a better way of putting things.
Do you have a story to motivate others? People talk about all the stuff of storytelling and things. Do not work on the format of the story. Work on the contents of the story. The format and art will involuntarily follow. When you have worked on something intensely you will develop a very striking skill of narration. When you understand things in a deeper way it will naturally get you the ability to express it in the most understandable way. Your thoughts can motivate many readers and they might be able to connect to other things only because you gave a different perception to it. Follow your intuitions.
106. The Shitty Mess
The craps with a cap!
The hairs are mess, haven’t taken a bath, been out of shaving for a while now, unclean dresses, woow! Hold on! That’s not the mess I am talking about. It’s so un-cool for one to be so. There is no rule that a researches should look like a monk. He could look like a rapper as well. I mean, mess up the brain and head. Not how you look!
There is no hard born identity to a research student. There is no notion that a research student is a geeky fanatic who has given up his social life. Take no rules. Make a few of your own only to break them. You are slave to none and shall have none.
Have a number to measure the mess. Say after every thirty hours of effort you will measure the progress. If the progress is not satisfactory make some changes in working methods and styles. Now all these are self proclaimed and no one else will comment on it. Go with your comforts. Getting some physical exercises, following meditation, sleeping more, learning new techniques to control mind, taking a few online courses, developing a new hobby etc can all be part of the measures that will help you in exciting the brain.
107. The Motivation
That one thing and another and yet another!
What is the motivation that is keeping you and your research alive? You don’t have an answer for that? Really? Get one. This might change from time to time. But without the motivation, see! I would not have written all this if I had no source of motivation to do it. The need, the requirement, the necessity, the demand whatever be it, so be it but let there be it!
One fine day you will get an opportunity to address a few hundred’s or may be thousands. How can you get them motivated? What motivated you can be a thread that will also motivate others. Several motivations at different points of time will get more of it. Amidst when you have lot of things to say and before you forget them all document them and release it as an ebook, like I did with this one. Even if one reader benefits from it, all the efforts will be totally worth it. It could cycle up later.
It’s the ups and downs journey. You need a motivation to come down when you start flying with fake wings before you fall down. You need a motivation when to fall down and hit the ground abruptly to rise back again. There will be many fine mornings to prove you that you were wrong. You need a motivation to catch a new train when you know the journey you took wasn’t right. At times you will have to change the mode of transport and at times you will have to change the route itself. All you need is a motivation.
108. The Plans
The unplanned, breakable plan of plans!
Do you know why the chapters here are numbered from 101 to 110? Because there are still 100 unsaid things which I should have told you before telling them all and there are thousands of things which need to be yet told later. How do organize all? Plans! Have some plans.
Make the plans to know that they are hardly going to be followed. There will be some emergencies that might come up at any point of time. Research is all about unexpected turns. It is bound to ruin your plans. But having a plan shows you direction. Make plans of different kinds. Once make monthly, once daily, once weekly, once fortnightly and once work with no plans. Have a clear yearly plan on what you will achieve at the end of a year. No matter what, either it should be done or agreeable valid justification of why it was not. Have a hard or a soft copy of your plan. Measure your progress.
Note down your goals and deadlines. Have a systematic plan to submit a paper to a top conference. Your paper should be ready atleast a month before the deadline. Though it never works out that way it will still force you to work in a direction. Have your goals written down clearly. Plan!
109. The Research phases
The faces and phases!
Do you know what a systematic survey is? Have you identified the start of art papers in your domain? Do you know what a literature survey is? Do you know about future predictions made in that domain? Do you have a reading list? Do have a design in mind that is not put in paper yet? Do you think of algorithms? Can you sit on a mountain top and still think of a solution to the problem?
In the beginning you will have less or no idea of what you will be doing ahead. Your initial phase has to be so much strong that once you finish your literature survey, you should know where to halt in every phase of design. There could be some new reads that might happen but most of it should be in your head or documented. Check out the various phases the university mandates for the completion of the program. Have them clearly transformed and written down as per your convince. Plan out with estimates for each task and deliverable. Nothing is going to happen overnight. Every night’s little contribution is going to finally build up your thesis. Start writing your thesis from day one.
You read something, you document it. You code something, you document it. You always have a working thesis document. It helps you in getting a clear picture of where you stand and what more time can be expected. Plan to finish it before the problem becomes outdated!
110. The Rest
Don’t rest until you have completed the rest!
Can you explain your problem to your family? What is the societal impact of your research? Getting a degree is a different issue. You don’t want to have a thesis which will catch dust on a shelf in few months isn’t it? It better bring some reforms into the society.
Talk often with your guide. Express your ideas and get the feedback. Make sure often that you are on the right track. Get your guide excited. Show the excitement that you have in your problem. Research is not a burden. It is an enjoyment. If you show that excitement to your guide, he will follow it as well. Feel free to take suggestions from as many as possible. Interact with people as many as possible. Read PhD comics. Laugh at yourself. Life isn’t that bad as well. If you get a lemon, don’t just prepare lemonade, instead prepare a mock tail.
Stay open to possibilities. Along with PhD degree you will have a many owned responsibilities. Well, identify and get them done. Trust me; it’s a unique journey for everyone. You can enjoy only if you live yours and know that it is special. So, don’t think too much on anything. Everything will fly by. You make sure that you have picked the right wings to fly.
Get, Set, And Keep Flying!
Though I have written so much, I still feel there is a lot more left out. But I can’t identify what. It’s just there and I feel that you know it! So, happy endings it is. A lot said and a lot more which was supposed to be said is already known.
Yay! For any queries or any thoughts or any kind of debate feel free to reach me at: [email protected]
Before I close the curtain, I would like to thank Vishwanath Telsang for being part of my research journey and listening to all my crap patiently and for being so supportive.
So, what next? How do I come out of this prison? Nopes! There is no coming out! The only hope is that, Can you make that prison as a better place to live in? Can you make that place the one you own and make it look striking? Can you build a wrapper around it so that it is more welcoming and attracts one towards it? Well, there is more! You should read ahead. Go on!