Tips for PhD study!

  • 16 October 2012

Kia ora koutou, Here's some tips on doctoral study from Professor Charles Royal, Director of Nga Pae o te Maramatanga.

Be clear about why you are doing this study. Completing a research masterate or doctorate is a big ask. It requires a lot of your time and it will impact upon aspects of your life - family, social and so on. So be clear with yourself about why you are doing it. If you are doing it simply to get some letters after your name, forget it. If you are a Māori student, don't get suckered into the 'chosen one' myth or 'this is what your iwi wants of you'. You are the one doing the study. Do it for reasons that empower you.

Harmonising your study with your personal goals, your aspirations for yourself. The more you can align your personal goals with the research project, the more satisfying it will be.

Choose a topic you are passionate about! Choose a topic you really, really enjoy. Your research project is a big mountain to climb. You won’t get to the top if you get bored along the way.

Engage a good research supervisor. Get a good research mentor, someone who is genuinely interested in your topic and interested in you!

Focus your research through posing key questions. Make sure you figure out your key questions. A good research proposal is more than simply describing a topic or field or issue generally.

Good research is focused! And posing critical and key questions helps achieve focus.

Understand that methodology is absolutely and fundamentally important. Whether you are working in a discipline like physics or a field of study like Māori studies, the way you conduct your research, the methods you employ, the approach you take is fundamentally important.

Understand that research is fundamentally about the creation of new knowledge. Many students make the mistake that by simply describing what others have written, thought and understood is enough to complete a research project. Research is critically empowering activity for the individual for it finally asks what do you think? What is your solution to the problem at hand? What is your answer to the question you have posed for your research.

Appreciate the importance of literature reviews. Literature reviews are about you coming to an understanding the field or discipline in which you are working. More particularly it is about you understanding the latest and best thinking in your field which helps you describe in your own mind the frontier between what is known and what is not known.

Get talking, discussing, thinking, debating! Don't hide away! At times, it is very good to be on your own to think carefully through an issue or a problem. But at other times, it can be very helpful to share your questions, theories and frustrations with others, even those who have little knowledge or understanding of your field.