What does it mean to be a PhD student? This question was asked in a recent Professional Talk held by the Centre for Postgraduate Studies and Research (CPSR) at Infrastructure University Kuala Lumpur (IUKL). Colourful responses were given by the audience. “It is an academic journey,” said a PhD student. “It is a process of acquiring advanced knowledge and sharing of experience,” said another student. “Problem…Problem…Problem” said another. Another audience member jokingly used the famous adage “PhD stands for Permanent Head Damage”.
The talk was delivered by Visiting Professor, Associate Professor Dr Nabilah Abdullah to an audience of over 80 postgraduate students – both PhD and Masters, several degree students and IUKL academics who aspire to do their PhDs and those already with PhDs. The talk was organized on 17 January 2019 at IUKL by CPSR under the Dean, Dr Norzita Yunus with collaboration of the Department of Human Sciences, under Head of Post Graduate Programme (HoPP) Education, Prof. Dr Siti Maziha Mustapha and HoPP Communication, Prof. Dr Faridah Ibrahim.
Assoc. Prof. Dr Nabilah, the Dean of the Department of Education, University Technology MARA, is currently a Visiting Professor at the Department of Arts and Education, Faculty of Business, Information and Human Sciences (FBIHS), IUKL.
PhD is the highest degree in the academic system and the purpose is an apprenticeship in research which marks the beginning of a professional academia, she explained. PhD is a “passage of rite”; it is an “adulting” process of a novice scholar who is reliant on his or her supervisor into an independent researcher.
Assoc. Prof. Dr Nabilah further added, students tend to view PhD as an avenue for independence and innovation, something that they must do to remain relevant and competitive.
Immaterial of how the term PhD is defined, it is a lonely journey towards the “final destination”. “You have to be physically, mentally and spiritually fit,” she suggested. Those who persevere will survive the challenges and go through the journey successfully.
She also offered several pointers for the audience. The general aptitude and attitude need to be correct. “You have to be independent, proactive, take up challenges positively, manage yourself well and persevere.”
Assoc. Prof. Dr Nabilah who is currently supervising PhD students both in UiTM and IUKL, has more than 30 years of experience in academia. She reminded students on several other research related areas, particularly the followings:
- Read widely within and across areas
- Know where to find and keep/file literature
- Understand the theoretical aspects of study
- Be able to disagree with justification
- Attend additional and relevant courses
- Polish writing and listening skills
- Keep to appointments
Students’ concern, she said should also include research-related factors such as publications, understanding the demand and expectations of supervisors as well as personal related areas such as their abilities, health and finance.
Assoc. Prof. Dr Nabilah ended her talk by sharing seven inspiring tips from Dr Laura Valadez-Martinez, Loughborough University:
- I’m stuck (Writer’s block; thinking needs time)
- There is more (books, methods, etc…but FOCUS is important)
- I have no motivation (Find what motivates you; tiny progress is important)
- I forgot what I did (Have a research diary)
- Not sure this is relevant (assure self-read originals, attend conferences)
- Importance of being connected
- What is the right way (find your own way)
It was a very fruitful professional talk!
Prof. Dr Faridah Ibrahim