The highest level of education that exists is the PhD. While it can be frustrating and tiring, your dissertation, which is your final result is a very rewarding thing for you and a major achievement in your life. With a zeal to help PhD students with their thesis, the duo of Dr. Gordon Rugg and Dr. Marian Petre wrote the book - The Unwritten Rules of PhD Research. This is a no-holds-barred look about what you as an individual needs to know when it comes to PhD research. The tone of the book is witty from the start so that you will smile as you learn the important messages it passes across. In the book, doctoral thesis is seen as a respected work of art, one that you learned from your master as an apprentice. This means that when you present your thesis research, you should present it as someone who has thoroughly learned all about your subject and done all the necessary research on it.

Carrying out a PhD research is a huge undertaking and it is not at all like an undergraduate degree where you are only expected to write some essays and pass some exams. For you to be awarded a PhD, you need to prove that you are a competent researcher. That is why an area of emphasis in the book is the on the aspect of reading. In the life of any researcher, reading is an important part as that will help him assimilate all the information necessary for his research work. According to the authors, your major working knowledge as a researcher is about 50-100 pages gotten from the materials you read obviously. 

The book is a complete manual that can help you to be a truly independent researcher.The authors has a table (table 2) which showed the transition of a student from the stage of entering to the stage of completing his work. When the student enters, he surveys, he collects and he reports the information. From there he is ready to know what isn‘t known and from there judges the collected information. There are many topics in the book like supervision, independent research, writing, reading the literature, the viva, presentation and some topics such as the importance of building an active contact list for networking.

In the Unwritten rules of phd research, you can find the various papers that can be written for a PhD research. They are demonstration of concept papers, data-driven papers, review papers, tutorial papers, theoretical papers, method-mongering papers and consciousness-raising papers. There are many information and explanations of each type of research paper in the book. The writers recognised the flaws or mistakes you can make in your research which might hurt you later. There are some checklist in the book that a new researcher can use to avoid making these mistakes.

Dr. Rugg and Dr. Petre laid a lot emphasis on the need to gather information from people around you. This is due to the big differences in the researches of different disciplines. They gave a major rule while doing this, that is to maintain the image of a hard working individual rather than a lazy fellow. The authors also gave three golden rules of public speaking which can be very helpful to you when it time to present your thesis. Number one is don’t lie, two is don’t try to be funny and three is don’t panic and blurt out the truth. There are detailed explanations about these three rules in the book and it is worthy of reading. There is also a chapter on writing, with a bulleted list of great advice for writing your thesis. The same goes for the other short chapters where there are much tables and lists of things you should do and those you should not do.

The book is highly recommended for current and intending PhD students, as it will help you get good advice on reading, writing and presenting your thesis. After going through the book you will realise that there are more to research than the usual find a problem, work on it, get a result and  communicate your findings. This book will open your eyes to the world of academia and show you what you really should be doing to become a great researcher.

Article by:
Ugochi Juliet

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