Hard Confessions of a Doctoral Student
As I write this piece, I am sick in bed nursing a a fever while grappling with a paper that’s way past due. It’s not just any paper, but an assignment that requires me to propose quantitative tools (that’s MATH for the rest of us) for analysis. It’s not easy, but I do it because: 1) it’s required under the course outline and 2) heck, I’m enjoying it!
Welcome to the life of a doctoral student. And I guess, everyone who is at this level has the same predicament. Juggling time can be a challenging exercise. Unless you are in it full time, mastering time management is something you have to deal with on a regular basis. For students who work full time like me, it can be excruciating to meet all work and school deadlines. But hey, no pain no gain, right?
When I attended the UP Open University (UPOU) orientation for the Doctor of Communications course in July this year, we met Rey Ardamoy who was one of the 2 students graduating this year. He spoke about his experiences as a doctoral student at UPOU and as an expat in China. His experiences during the whole course of the study helped give me that frame of mind which I needed.
“It’s all about reflection,” he said, something was passed to him by his adviser, Dr. Jean Saludadez.
So here I am, several months later, reflecting on my proposed dissertation paper, thinking about how I am going to relate all my chosen variables for the topic. And with quantitative research, I need to correlate and test these variables to look for strengths, weaknesses and what have you. For a person who finds Math a challenge, it can be a real difficult exercise. But then I know the concepts well enough to understand how they work, and that is good enough for me.
Taking higher studies (a doctoral degree at that) requires you to read lots of literature. You really have to, so for those who hate to read, then it is simply not the course for you. A doctoral degree is basically research work, and that means sifting through scholastic papers and studies of related literature. There is no substitute for it. Google and a host of search engines do make life easier, but it doesn’t mean that you can cut-paste everything you find. You have to learn how to discern which paper makes it to your paper and which doesn’t.
Participating in discussions. Again, no substitute. Somebody else’s idea will always be better than yours. At UPOU, there is no spoon-feeding. The courses are structured in such a way that the learnings are based on the student’s exchanges. It is student-centric, so you are expected to contribute to forum discussions. I admit some personal challenges here, because I only feel the need to participate when I’ve read enough of the topic to contribute something to the forum.
Consulting with peers and advisers. Another sound advice we got during the orientation. You really have to touch base with peers and your adviser to fine tune your topic. You can’t know everything, so you have to get help. The professors at UPOU, for instance, are very approachable and will be very agreeable to give you sound advice. Never be afraid to take the opportunity. If you have to set up an appointment, do it (I have yet to set up mine though, since I still need to polish my paper before I seek advice). Get all the support you need. Attending the orientation was very helpful because it gave me an idea of what the people were like face-to-face, a real take-off from the mostly online instructions we have as a distance learning student.
Any kind of learning can be difficult. To say that distance learning is easy is utterly FALSE. In fact, it is all the more challenging because you have to brace yourself with the situation of studying at your own pace, your own resources, and with little detailed instruction on how to go about it. So whoever said online learning is easier has simply not tried it yet.
Learning is a journey–enjoy it! Learning is a process, not a cross or burden. So enjoy every minute of it.
As I bring my article to a close, I am back in my zone. The fever is down, but I still have joint paints everywhere. I’m back to my reflections again.