As cliche as it may sound, my PhD journey at the Stanford University in US was mayhem. You may be studying with a bunch of scholars in the same field with the same supervisor, but every PhD research is different with its own set of aim and objectives. With a different aim to research, the methods to be adopted and subsequent findings are going to vary drastically with other researchers. My research was different from that of my fellow candidates, which meant I only had my supervisor to guide me throughout.
It is not uncommon for the doctoral researchers to re-think their decision to choose the field at some point of their PhD research journey. My PhD journey was not as exciting and inspiring as I had thought before applying for it. It was full of mixed experiences, emotions, and challenges along the way for me to overcome. It all came a full circle in the end when the chair accepted my dissertation which made me cry out of joy and contentment. The overwhelming emotion was of happiness. While I found the concept of calling it a ‘journey’ vague, I would personally prefer to call it a ‘quest’. Since a journey is more like a pleasant trip, while the quest or hunt for the answer to the research question is not really pleasing.
Comparing the hardships of my doctoral days will not make me feel any better about those times when I wanted to cry my heart out and give up on my research. As though the structure of PhD is similar in UK and US with a little difference, I knew the importance of the proposal of my research. While anywhere in the world the proposal is the blueprint of the thesis, in the US, it is the first three chapters of the dissertation. I had to be very sure with the introduction, literature review, and the research methodology, I was going to adopt in my research. The proposal explains how I plan to go with my research and builds confidence with the chair to trust me. I had to sell my Social Science research plan and explain the need and worth of the study I had proposed.
Before proposing the idea of research to the University, I used to spend my days behind the laptop screen and in the library surrounded by endless shelves of books. Getting through the literature pertaining to the subject and finding a valid research question was the first step I took for my PhD. My supervisor advised and guided me to identify, examine, and evaluate the literature meticulously. Even though a PhD involves original research, the literature review helps in demonstrating his/her scholarly skills. It tells you what prior researchers have found out and how it will be useful to you.
By the end of a long time, which felt like eternity, I had complete knowledge (at least as per me!) of my research area and a proposal ready for University chair. I knew that conducting the research and analysing the data will yield the results and findings for my research, thus, completing my dissertation. But the process was not as easy as read. Some days I couldn’t concentrate on the results, while on some days, I couldn’t match up with the writing speed. Producing an original dissertation with more than 50,000 words gave me several sleepless nights and wearying days. The pressure took a toll on me once I began writing the assembled chapters of my research. I had to redraft the whole matter to make it long enough to present it to the chair and not include vague or redundant content. I even had to take help from dissertation editing experts to get my dissertation right.
With all the courage I could gather, I presented it to the chair and waited for their approval like a lunatic. Howsoever, it got accepted (after a few revisions of course), and I graduated with my PhD from Stanford University after a perfect defense session of my dissertation.