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PHD Degree Series 1: The Steps to get a PHD


In this series, we will discuss the PHD degree related topics. The material is based on the research system of Australia. It can also be widely applied to other region research systems such as USA and Asian countries. In this series 1, we will first discuss the steps to obtain a PHD degree.

Choose a Supervisor


First of all, you should find a supervisor who will gives you the offer. Normally, they are your teachers when your take the bachelor or master degree. You can choose a preferred teacher and check their website to see what’s their current research topics.

You can also choose a supervisor from other universities. They are always the professor of famous universities. Or they are top ranked in the research area which you are interested.

Choose a Topic


Once you decided the supervisor, you should choose an interested topic. This one of the most difficult part in research. If you are lucky (personal opinion), your supervisor has some interested research topics that provide you for select. In most cases, you should find the research topic by yourself.

In the following sections, we will discuss the research schedules. These steps can also decide the topic you chosen. Normally, the research topic which is chosen initially is changed during the research schedules.

Literary Review

The purpose of literary review is to let you know the background knowledge and the latest progress in the potential topics you will choose. This is also a very hard part in the research.

A key challenge of literary review is that students know what have done by the authors of the papers they read, but doesn’t know the motivation and the differences of the different work. Hereby, students need to improve the summarize ability and comparison skills.

Find Research Problems

When you read enough papers, you should have some feeling about the problems of existing research work. These problems could be the missed content or the problems with too many assumptions. Again, these problems normally need the solid comparison based on the read papers.

Find Challenges

Challenges are the most tough part in research. You must find the scientific difficulties to solve the problems you found. These difficulties should be theoretical and universal. It can be widely applied to the general problems instead of a individual problem.

Decide the Solutions

Once you defined the challenges, you need to propose the potential solutions. These solutions should have theory support that can solve the challenges you found.

Conduct Research

In this stage, you should design your research that normally includes algorithms design, experiments and data analysis.

Algorithms design is based on the solutions you proposed but needs to be modified so that they can be applied in your problems.

Experiments and data analysis can be conducted either one before the other. Some research is based on experiment and then analyse the experiment result to conclude a mathematical model. While some others analyse the solution theoretically firstly and then utlises experiment to  verify the analyse result.

Write Papers


Research paper is one of the evaluation value of a researcher. We found many PHD students are not suffering from their research but from the paper writing. Research paper can be submitted to conference or journal. Normally journal paper is hard to get accepted than conference paper. Moreover, in some countries such as China don’t take account conference paper into the research outcome.

Most PHD students are good at talking about “what they have done” but not good at discussing “why they did it”. This is because they have gotten along well with learn knowledge from other resources but are weak in proposing new ideas and motivations by using their words.

Write Thesis

A PHD degree normally takes about 3 to 5 years. Students need to prepare their research thesis on the third year or fourth year.

A thesis normally consists of 4 parts:

  1. Introduction: explain the motivation and background of the research.
  2. Literary review: present the state of art about the research.
  3. Research work: the real research work to solve the problems. This part can be 2 or 3 chapters based on the problems that are proposed.
  4. Conclusion: conclude the research.
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