I’m a young graduate student in the physical sciences. As far as I can tell, the purpose of graduate school is to learn to become an independent researcher. This means becoming a good writer, solving novel problems, publishing good papers and becoming an expert in your field.

The trouble is that these goals are horribly vague. I have no clear idea how to get from my current skill level to that of an “independent researcher”. There is some mix of learning from a textbook, reading papers, attending classes and coming up with new ideas. But I find it hard to break it down into subtasks and be deliberate with my time. Instead I find myself wandering from textbook to textbook, learning this and that, solving this small problem and that small problem, wondering if I am really spending my time on the right things.

In many other domains, it’s easy to tell if you are getting better on a short-term basis. For example, in bowling you can practice and see if your score goes up. In chess, if your rating goes up. In music, if you’re hitting the notes. But in research there is no such metric. This leads me to feel discouraged and unsure of my progress and myself.

What are general, realistic research goals that I can set on a daily, weekly and monthly basis?

Some of my ideas are setting a target for: number of papers read, number of practice problems solved from a textbook, number of hours spent writing about a technical topic, number of hours worked in a state of deep concentration.

The most relevant question I could find is here: Is it possible to measure/evaluate one's progress or development in quantitative terms?

I am writing a thesis and i got not help from my consultant. i would be grateful if anyone can help me with the start that how to i write my thesis .i have a topic and i got the material but i dont know how to incorporate this? lets say i have found a thesis same as mine and i can use the references they have but how to use them in mine. do i have to rephrase those lines .i mean i sound so dumb but it will be great help to know how to start with. i am writing my thesis about leadership. thank you in advance.please ignore my cluelessness in this regard.

I began my PhD in October 2016 following my master’s degree. I have been progressing quite well in terms of the work but I want to address and take up some other (but related) problems for my PhD. Unfortunately, the curriculum of my PhD is such that I ain’t allowed to do what I want to do fully! This makes me dissatisfied at times. I have read several papers in the area of my interest and I always felt that I would be more suited to “that” kind of work instead of the one I am currently doing. Besides, another important aspect is I come from a not very sound financial background. I have to take care of my parents as well with whatever little salary I get as a PhD student (India). Besides, I also need to pay for my Bachelor’s educational loan from this money itself.

So the situation right now is as follows–1. I have applied and also received a fully funded PhD offer from a prestigious research group at the University of Oslo in the field of my choice (that I always wanted to work on). This would have immediate positive impact on my personal life because I would be more stable financially (I already how much would it cost and how much I would be paid) and besides I would be happy with my work. 2. This would also mean that I have to speak to my present supervisor about it who doesn’t know much details. I have spoken to him about this many times in the past. At least I guess he understands my financial constraints. He himself asked and suggested me to move into jobs (if I get any with my master’s) or PhD abroad. But, I guess he never took it very seriously that I would think of leaving one day! Now, I do not know what will be his reaction. He seems to be a nice and friendly guy and quite motivated regarding my work here. However, I do not exactly share his sentiments mainly because of the above two reasons.

I wish I could have put it in a simpler form but I would appreciate if anyone can kindly suggest me what should I say to my advisor? I want to do it as early as possible.

PS- I am from a reputed research institute in India.

Long story short, I was sick for most of my undergraduate career and because of this had to withdraw twice. The grades I had at my university were very bad.

I’m finally at a point where my health is becoming stable, but I’m now faced with the repercussions of not having any relevant experience or the grades to help me gain experience, like research positions.

I’m really interested in psychological research, but I’m not sure how to convince professors to give me a chance. I thought about returning to university and focusing on getting good grades to show for. Can I take up my own small, personal research projects to also show for? I don’t know what I’d do yet but it’s worth a shot.

I conducted a study a while back that I’m writing a manuscript on for publication.

The study was broken down into 5 different parts. Let’s call them parts A, B, C, D, and E for simplicity.

Suppose that parts A through D were all connected to each other, but part E only provided descriptive data from a set of items that hasn’t even been tested for Cronbach’s alpha. I included part E more or less out of sheer curiosity, but it presents no reliable data or relevant information to the understanding of parts A through D. It also isn’t important in replicating the study, nor does it counter any findings in parts A through D. In other words, it’s more of an extension to the first four parts, but not directly related to the findings of them.

Is it necessary to include part E in the manuscript (i.e., in the methods, results, and discussion sections) since parts A through E were administered in the same overall study?
Or is it okay to simply not report parts of the study, so long as it does not bias the results of the parts you are reporting?

Note, by highly technical skills I mean anything that isn’t directly taught by your course (i.e. programming/coding, use of specialist lab equipment, mathematical expertise)

I am student of Earth Sciences/Geography within the UK.

I’m planning on doing a masters and in brainstorming ideas for my application’s thesis proposal, I often run up against the issue of lacking specific technical skills needed to conduct the study. Should I let this hamper me? I worry I’m restricting my potential by only choosing topics in which I can wholly conduct every step of the research/analysis independently.

For example, my undergraduate dissertation required large datasets and modifying open-source software, meaning I independently taught my self to code. Another student looked at microfossils which required the use of a spectrometer.

Although both of skills were not taught to us, I independently taught my self to code while uni staff operated the spectrometer machine for my peer, meaning he didn’t have to learn it.

If I want to study, say, microplastics in fish, will I need to be able know how to use the required lab equipment and interpret the results or is it acceptable to outsource this?


To word my question another way, University thesis: How can you utilise highly technical skills without falling into the rut of teaching your self everything from scratch?

I taught my self coding for the sake of my undergraduate dissertation, at the cost of a loss of free time which could be spent on my area of study (Earth Science, not Computer Science). Coding is not the direction I want to take in life despite the effort to learn it. I, therefore, do not want to invest so heavily in another one-off skill for my masters.

My two main concerns are:

  • Restricting my potential research topics to studies which I can wholly conduct and interpret each research technique.
  • Become stuck teaching my self a skill which I do not desire to follow up in the future (i.e. a statistical technique, coding, lab equip)
  • Use up a lot of time independently learning said technique

Real life example

In the question linked here, a SE user discusses how during his masters two programmers were hired to help with programming. Would it be reasonable to request the university for someone to help with a skill I’ve not been taught (i.e. coding or high-level statistics) for my master’s thesis?

As a new researcher, I am in the following situation in mathematics research:

I read paper X, a short paper published in a low-mid tier journal, and found a way to improve and extend the result. The technique I used to extend the result is a different approach to the problem, but not that mathematically technical. However, even though the mathematical extensions are (arguably) trivial, the extensions open the door to a much broader approach to my field. They also open the door up for interesting simple examples that were previously unable to be produced.

I am currently writing up my findings of the original extension in a paper. In this paper, I correctly reference paper X when necessary. From an ethical point of view, it is crystal clear what I did and didn’t do.

1) Is it bad to compare to one single paper often in a paper?
2) What is a good way to tell whether a result is incremental or not?
3) Some of the arguments in paper X need slight modifications under my extension. Is it okay to repeat some of their ideas in my proofs (with clear citation/credit of course)?

Another problem arising from 2): I have another, much more interesting result because of this extension that I have not published. However, this result moves in a different mathematical direction and therefore, I sort of want to write a separate paper on it. I am faced with the following dilemma. I could reasonably do one of the following:

I) Write a longer paper and work to bring the ideas together.
Pros: My separation from paper X is much more obvious and seen as less incremental.
Cons: I mix two different ideas and risk the paper telling too many stories.

II) Vaguely hint at the second result in the first paper. If I do this, the problem is that if my hint is too vague, it will make my first result seem uninteresting. If it is too specific, I risk showing someone else my idea and having them “beat me to the punch.”
Pros: Sticks to one story, but provides additional motivation.
Cons: May make the first result seem too weak.

I apologize if this post is nonspecific, but I imagine others have faced this problem in their relative fields. How did you resolve this dilemma? I realize I have to figure out the answers myself, but how did you figure out the answers to these questions when you were facing this dilemma yourself?

Thank you.

My supervisor told me to select an article so that I implement that as my graduate research undertaking. After a year, I am in a deadlock now. Reasons:

  1. the article is abstractly written (apparently, the writer didn’t write the article very clearly in order to stop it from being replicated).
  2. my supervisor is prepared to do nothing. His opinion is it’s my job, and I am the only one who should come up with the solution.

Now, I have several questions:

  1. Is there any other alternative way to undertake a graduate research rather than implementing a published research article (this form of research seems to be very rigid in nature, as I need to replicate the exact result which has been talked about in the article)?
  2. What precautions could have I taken in order to avoid any more deadlock in future (as I am planning to change my graduate school due to livelihood-related issues)?

My doctoral supervisor is very helpful and I really enjoy working with him on various problems. I have officially entered my second year of doctoral research this month. During discussions, I get few basic (probably, ‘technically silly’ as I would put it) questions that occur to me at times. But, I don’t ask these question to him as he might think I am ‘dumb’ and I lack technical fundamentals. Then, I suffer a lot on the topic by crawling in the books, internet; sometimes I find answers to my questions, sometimes I don’t. I get annoyed with myself sometimes.

There are many supervisors and Ph.D. students out here in academia.SE. Could you please suggest me on the following questions:

  • Should I ask such questions at all during a discussion with him?
  • How would a supervisor feel about a doctoral student asking such dumb questions? (This part might be opinion-based. I would like to see some experience to interpret my situation.)

Note: The questions are related to the research he has pioneered in. It is not always true that I would find the answers to my so called ‘silly’ questions by Googling. Many research papers don’t even bother to contain such internal details on the topic. The only possibility is either I figure out myself or ask my supervisor.

Some (un)related questions (in different situations and contexts):