Inside Ph.D Student’s Mind

Adib-ShomadM. Adib Abdushomad, GJA

When I was stuck writing about my thesis I was trying to do something else which nothing to do with my thesis. The inside of Ph.D mind’s story is a collection of my own feeling during my study which was actually happening to me for several times. I wrote mostly into Indonesian how I felt at that time as well as in English with the assistance of Flinders counselor when I faced such challenges.  This paragraph derived from my conversation with Lisa on how to deal my study progress. What should I do when I got stuck, Lisa? She said “stay sitting and talking about yourself such as;  “I will keep sitting may be not doing anything or I will sit here and try to do anything as I can, even though its only one sentence or paragraph”. The important thing is keep writing. You can not do something that you like (such as got to beach, open your fb, etc) unless you finished your writing schedule. I found that sometimes we need to treat our-self just like a kid with reward and punishment.  

Off course we could not write a perfect sentence and we tend to write rubbish thing for the first time but that ok. But you just keep going, and keep going. After two for hours you have done sitting in front of the computer, and all of them total rubbish, but you have done for two hours as you promised yourself and then you can GO!  The main thing is that you have done 2-4 hours as promised to discipline yourself (well done, Adib. I said to myself).  And then the next day you comeback and you look at your chapter, what you have done so far. May be you said, I am still stuck but you have got to see what you wrote yesterday. Probably there is something that I can cut and paste, change this and that etc. Eventually your brain starts connected and work with your theses.   I might need to cut a big of that chapter, this sentence, and so on. The important thing is produce writing for theses everyday.

Part of the the discipline is to have strong motivation and not to give up and say: ‘’I will not write a perfect word or sentence, just keep writing.  Because if you do not practice it, you will not able to produce a perfect word”.   This why most of the Ph. D student said that when they stuck, they tends to do other thing which is non-thesis, such as cooking or cleaning. This is something that you have to stop, Adib!  You do not need to hate yourself just keep moving or going.

So part of doing this whole of the project is how to discipline about yourself, how to put your thinking together, how to push through even though it getting harder. PhD is not only about writing, it also about the learning, such as when you feel stuck about this, how can you move forward with this thing?

Sometimes you have too much idea in your head, and how its link together it’s a bit confusing!!  Therefore, to handle this problem just put the idea into the paper not on your head! Do not hold it into your head, the problem with this, is that you tend to come out with perfect but you did not do anything. Come out the writing first and then you can play with it.

Another most important thing is that you have to set up a clear time table for your Ph.D. And if you still do not have any idea coming out from the period of the time, you need to promise to do it and sit down with it! Because if you give up and then you do the other thing, it will not clarify or making connection with your theses. It will just go around without any progressing. So part of the discipline is to set up a clear time, Tuesday morning or every morning from 5-6 and 10-12 at night for instance. When you finish that you can do something and you will feel enjoy with it.

My way of doing the thesis was that if I did not do 2-4 hours each day for my theses, I will not finish my theses. Sometimes I did not get up more than 2 hours that is required because I like it. The strong message is that don’t get up from your desk (remember the story of Rector UGM, previous PhD student who lock his chairs while he was doing his theses, I motivates myself). Let me just put something down, pray and istighfar in front of the desk, let me just put something down! I am not going to get out from my chair until I finish the time and get something to write it down. Be discipline with this, eventually the idea will coming down. I regularly put some Salonpas, or Koyo into my body to make myself wake up!

 When start writing, do this!

Ask yourself. What am I going to say in here, what is the main key themes and how do I put the detail, rather than to say that I would like to write each chapter perfectly (usually that does not work). Just start with that making heading (key themes) and provide details.

You main jobs is not the other stuff, your main job is writing! Therefore produce writing is the key issue in here. Keep pulling yourself back! When you attempt to do the other stuff not theses stuff!

“Suffer yourself until you write down your PhD theses) !! “ (my mind said that to motivate myself)

When you do the suffer (Ph.D) things, you can do the other things as the reward. It is not the other way around. Don’t use the other thing to fill your PhD time, use the other thing as reward for your PhD time!!   

Remember when the first time you are doing your assignment. It seems you want to read more and more as you want to get more explanation. Eventually you have to stop reading and start writing. For you current situation, now is not reading time, it writing time. You have got a lot of idea in your head that need to be put it down with some sort of logical format.

Finally after I submitted my thesis on September 2013, now I can  tell the story that the key success of Ph.D study is to believe that we can finish it. Even though, I still can not believe it (because it just like a dream), as my daughter wrote a later to me and said ; ” Dear Abah (father), this card is a congratulation card. This is why I made this card for you. It is because you have finished your thesis. Even though I still do not believe it “.  I was so amazed with her ability to express her opinion. In other words, “we can not even see the finish line, when we start. But we have got to believe that one day we will reach the finish line”. As my supervisor always says; ” don not worry you will get there!. For me, “divine intervention” is also important to be considered to finish such long and very tough journey. We need to always seek blessing from Allah swt (God the Almighty), the most holy to help us to finish the Ph.D study.

Therefore, from the above explanation, regarding to my Ph.D journey, I am sure that my story has a lot of in common with other people who have finished their Ph.D,–the difficulties they have been through, being not confident with completing theses, self sabotage, wanted to quit most of time–, etc. At the end of day, “you will get there”, it is exactly what you may have heard many times as long as you stick to it and press through you will finish the Ph.D journey. Be confident with yourself and pray to Allah swt (or do’a). They are most important tactics for doing a Ph.D. That is my “secret”, though it is not secret at all after all.



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