Year Two of the PhD Journey
Hugo (Hao) Du
After successfully passing your first year APR, you should give yourself a big hug. I am sure that your research confidence will also have increased. At this stage you will be more used to your PhD life and enjoying this journey. However, this remarkable trip has just begun. More challenging tasks are waiting for you to accomplish them. Keep faith in your potential and keep working away at your research!
Compared with the first year, everything changes. Yes, everything! Your work becomes more independently and selective.
Let’s talk about the research aspects first, as after all, that is why we are here. I am sure by now you will have established a vast literature review file. You will be relatively familiar with the things we knew, but how about things we do not know? Yes, that is what you need to think and act on in your second year- it’s time to Design Your Own Research.
It is time to consider how to find out the answer to the unique research questions in your study. You need to carefully think about your research methodology in a straightforward way. What kind of methodology suits your research the best? Is only one single research methodology enough? Where can you collect the data? Who are the appropriate participants?…
So many factors need to be precisely organised. A notebook will help you better plan your study, or if you prefer to note everything on your laptop or smartphone, that’s totally fine too. Whatever works best for you, but just write down every single task in advance and plan your research.
You not only become more autonomous in your research plan, but you have more choice in the modules you take, unlike the first year in the HaSS faculty, where the courses are compulsory for you. Now you can choose any module you are interested in, as long as you have reached the required hours by the end of this academic year.
You will be amazed by the modules available, including photoshop, machine learning, computer language. These help you learn more valuable skills and make your CV look more professional. You register onto the modules that you fancy attending and enjoy building up your knowledge. By the way, apart from the study credits you will gain, some modules even provide authorised certifications. Most importantly, you don’t have to pay any additional fees to take these modules.
My attitude towards the PhD journey matured. It is difficult to describe but it’s more about the way I felt. The fear of uncertainty became less than in the first year. Learning how to wisely organise your time becomes one of the most essential skills you have to obtain. Almost every single day needs to be well-scheduled. You become used to listing every duty or appointment that you need to accomplish or meet and concentrating on what you need to do. Simple but not easy at all.
However, you just need to give yourself some time to adjust and not be upset if you only managed to finish a few tasks. It is not about how much you can do in one day, but sustaining your focus over time, so you keep doing the things you need to accomplish.
Networking is vital
Great things may be achieved with support from others. The PhD journey is always challenging, and sometimes we need help from other colleagues. Well-established networking will be a huge benefit in your research journey, and I am sure that you will be amazed by your obliging colleagues. It’s not only about helping each other – the best part of having well-established networking is stimulating new ideas through mutual communication and discussion. Besides, because we come from different research backgrounds, we learn about new research information at different times. Thus, keeping a good connection with other researchers is also conducive to the rapid dissemination and exchange of information.
Moreover, experiencing a range of emotions is very common during the PhD journey. Talking to your friends and family helps, but if the feelings are specifically related to your PhD, you may need to open your heart to one or two of your colleagues. Your colleagues will be able to empathise and possibly understand the context of where you are coming from. More importantly, they may be able to offer you solutions based on their experience. So try to build your network. Even an occasional drink with them is a great way to relieve some stress and lighten the load.
The second year is about striving to understand and integrating more deeply into the life of a PhD, but if you’re still feeling a little lost, it’s totally okay! Your progress may be slower than you would like, but just keep moving forward and be proud of yourself.
Last but not least, do not forget to submit your second year APR on time, and GOOD LUCK.
Stay calm and get your ducks in a row. You can do it!