Ronald Robertson

Aaronn Avit Ajeng, PhD

Postdoctoral Researcher
  • Email (Work/Ads)aaronnavit@um.edu.my
  • AffiliationUniversiti Malaya (UM)
  • ExpertiseBiology and Biochemistry
  • Contact No(+60)14-970 xxxx

Staying Motivated and Productive Through The Course of Your PhD Program

This posting has been long overdue,  and because I have been busy with job and my research project, I have not been able to update the blog as frequently as I once did. A year after enrolling as a Master of Science (MSc) student at the Faculty, I was offered a conversion programme to the PhD programme in molecular biology and biochemistry at the University of Malaya. But, that will be a different posting for another time. The focus of today's article is on keeping motivated and productive while pursuing a PhD or doctorate degree.

According to a meta-analysis published Nature,  

23,500 PhD students in North America, Australia, Europe, and Asia, 24% of all PhD students exhibited clinically significant indications of depression."

Depression among PhD candidates is nothing new; in fact, it is frequently cited as one of the main causes of the rising rate of PhD student dropouts. A PhD course is entirely in research mode, which implies that students attending the course must perform their own experiments or studies with little to no supervision, unlike undergraduate study levels or coursework Masters. Prior to being admitted for a PhD at several universities, students must complete a number of courses with a Failing Grade at B. How crazy is that?!

It is undeniable that earning a PhD is difficult, with a tons of workload and countless sleepless nights only to conduct research or produce write-ups. But how can one stay motivated and productive throughout a PhD programme? As a second year PhD student, I am called to share several tips on this topic, hoping they would be helpful for prospective students who are looking into enrolling to a PhD programme.

1. Join Support Groups for Postgraduates

People with similar problems come together in a support group to talk about what's bothering them. They are able to assist, encourage, and console the other group members by the sharing of their experiences and get the same in return.

Family and friends may sympathize with you while you're going through a difficult or painful moment, but they may not always know how to assist or what to say. Although doctors and other medical personnel may provide little emotional assistance, their main priority is always medical.

One of the support groups I have participated in was Doctorate Support Group (DSG) on Facebook. 

In a study conducted by Panayidou in 2021 on Enhancing postgraduate researcher wellbeing through support groups, researchers found out that over the course of the eight weeks of group attendance, participant's subjective well-being ratings significantly improved and moved out of starting score ranges linked to risk of depression or psychological distress. Participants reported feeling less alone and anxious, being happier with their lives and work-life balance, and feeling more confident about finishing their PhDs within the institution's deadlines as a result of feeling understood and supported by other group members. The findings complement earlier research on the advantages of social support and the link between low well-being and attrition.

2. Make TikTok Videos 

TikTok is one of the most widely used social networking sites among young people. Additionally, TikTok may be utilised as a learning tool in addition to being merely for amusement. Without a doubt, TikTok is an entertaining place to browse and watch brevity videos. But did you realise it may also be used as a teaching tool?

TikTok is a fantastic tool for learning in quick, digestible bits. You can easily fit the videos into your calendar because they are typically around 60 seconds long. Additionally, they are more likely to keep your attention than a standard lecture or textbook since they are frequently humorous or innovative.

I started my Tiktok journey in 2021, and one of my earlier post was on my PhD journey in Universiti Malaya and one particular video has attracted many followings from aspiring PhD students. Since then, my Tiktok profile has grown over 11,000 followers with accumulated 700,000 likes. 

You could talk about literally anything, but keep in mind there are rules and regulations when you are using the platform. Make sure to follow the guidelines and enjoy!