So you want to be a researcher..huh? (Part II)

Today, I will discuss on how to find a doctoral position in a foreign or home university. The charm of studying and conducting research on foreign soil is always interesting so as to say. Because, as solitary student, one would tend to easily slip into the illusion that foreign PhD’s are instant boost to career. Let’s first clarify a few of the myths;

(P.S. This post is not for the born geniuses, if you are any of these close the browser page and move on. But, if you are like me, hard-working to the core, read on the experiences as I recount to you.)

  • ImageA foreign doctoral degree will give you a cutting edge in job market? – Yes, it can, provided you have done your homework well. With homework what I mean is that you are well experienced in terms of previous working experience. My definition of well experienced is a number equal to or greater than 8 years in the topic of your research. Folk’s believe me, this is the most important bit. If you are not suitably experienced and you our straight out of a College or University armed with a degree with a happy smile on your face and you are thinking of enrolling into a PhD, don’t do it. Unless, you are a born genius, please don’t even think about it. I have reason to it. Look, PhD is a loner’s life. As I mentioned in my previous article, only if you are in love with your topic of interest you will sail through easily. Because, when you enrol into a doctoral programme, worldwide a common protocol is followed and that is you begin your journey by conducting a literature review of all the research-paper’s published till date in your topic of interest. So, if you do not have any previous working experience then your mind will not be able to help you with the keywords to search for relevant text/research papers in various databases and then you will be jinxed
  • ImageForeign University will give me a Research Assistantship (R.A.)-  Ensure before enrolling into a PhD programme that you will be able to secure a RA position as soon as you begin your programme of study because if this isn’t clarified in the beginning and you reach and you don’t get it, again you are jinxed (believe me, I almost have to stop myself from using that F**** word because this blog is my baby and I don’t feel like tarnishing it..). Sometimes, your supervisor suggests that it will give you a RA position but for that you will have to prove your mettle. And that’s where your writing, inter-personal skills and everything else will be handy.Generally, the public universities have the option of RA to provide to a candidate but to secure that position you really have to burn the midnight oil. It will be easy for you to secure a RA position provided you already have a few publications to your name if not then you must work hard and prove to your supervisor that you deserve it.
  • ImageHow to find a PhD position in an University? You begin by a reconnaissance survey. How do you that’s the million dollar question. Answer is simple, first find your topic, then create a list of all the Universities who are working in your field of interest worldwide. Now, sit back put on your thinking hat and write a damn good proposal that introduces your topic. It could be roughly 6-8 pages long. Mine was 8 pages long. I had spent more than 3 months just writing the proposal. My proposal focused more on the literature review and what is new or novel that I’m suggesting. This novelty of idea comes only if you have invested a lot of time in conducting a scientific way of literature review.  In my next post, I will discuss on how to write a proposal including literature review. Post this, you write a formal cover letter in which you introduce yourself to the University. Next, browse to the potential University web-portal and search for relevant Professor’s/Lecturer’s who are working in your field of interest. Once you have identified them, send them your cover letter along with your intended research proposal. And then wait….wait….Do a follow-up once a month from the time of sending your email with them, just a small gentle reminder. And yes, the most important part, for heaven’s sake create a professional email address and no funky or jazzy one.. Because academicians are very strict about it. Do not be disheartened if you don’t receive a reply in the very first month for that’s common.
  • Hooray! I have nailed it. My research proposal has been accepted, what to do next?                              Congratulations! Welcome to hell. Just joking. Well, this is something you should have done earlier but its still not late. Go back to the University website and check out the research profile of your intended supervisor. What you are looking for is his research career, his publications history and how many current and former research candidates it has supervised. This will give you a brief idea on whom you are dealing with, what’s the person like. Always remember, your supervisor is merely a guide who is going to show you the way therefore a healthy and conducive relationship with that person is a mandate. That does not mean that you will engage yourself in the complicated process of boot-licking…! I believe this will be a good time to ask your potential supervisor up-front on the sources of his funding such that you can then figure out from him if you will be able to secure an RA position later on or not.

The aforementioned were a few common issue’s that most every research student faces in the beginning. This is not exhaustive, yet if you were able to find an answer to your question then do leave your comment here.