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Constance Iloh

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The Ph.D. Student Typology

Now well into the third year of my Ph.D. program I have observed some fascinating things about Ph.D. students. This typology is in no way meant to be exhaustive or relatable to Ph.D. students only. It primarily serves as a way to highlight some of the more amusing observations, with insights that I think could be useful.

The “Oh You Study That? I Do Too!” Ph.D. Student

This type of student is either interested in so many things that their interests seem to span their entire field of study, or they are on a lifelong quest to relate to everyone. Nevertheless when you inquire what they are studying, you might be inundated with more topics than you bargained for.

Lesson: You might be leaving people with more confusion than clarity. Develop a strong elevator pitch where you can communicate your research concisely and in a manner that is cohesive rather than disparate. Make sure as your research agenda evolves that you are connecting dots and making linkages.

The “I am a Successful Procrastinator” Ph.D. Student

Perhaps from unlearned habits in undergrad or just the belief work gets better as deadlines approach, many of these students find procrastination to be an asset. I hate to break it to you (and myself) but this might be quite flawed and counter to your goals. Not only can this bring on unnecessary stress, it can also shorten time you could use to get valuable feedback.

Lesson: Don’t try to run against time. Use it to your advantage.

The “I am Kind of a Big Deal” Ph.D. Student

You might see them at conferences or on various forms of social media boasting about who they have collaborated with, what projects they are working on, and so on and so on. They may talk for minutes on end about themselves before you realize the person could carry on for hours. Never underestimate how easily these students can use any moment to draw attention to themselves.

Lesson: It is great to be confident and willing to share what you are doing. However, also consider spending time building up your “academic swagger,” rather than convincing everyone you have it. The work can speak for itself.

The “Tired and Uninspired” Ph.D. Student

It seems like this type of Ph.D. student is confused how they ended up here. After a conversation with them you yourself might feel tired and uninspired. If you are in need of motivation or an optimistic perspective, you more than likely might want to converse with someone else first. Always be ready to give them a hug or a nudge of encouragement.

Lesson: Sleep is your friend and keeping your purpose in mind is always helpful.

The “I Love Critiquing but I Hate Creating” Ph.D. Student

If you ever ask them to review some of your work, you might find red pen marking or track changes on every line. If you ask them what their ideas or contributions are, you might get silence.

Lesson: It will certainly help your work and development to be able to be critical of any research you consume. However throughout your Ph.D. trajectory or at least in the dissertation phase you will have to produce something of your own. Keep that in mind and hone in on opportunities to be a better creator of strong scholarship.

Overall lesson: No matter where you find yourself, embrace the experience for all it is and strive to use every opportunity to be reflective and improve who you are.

It has been a great first semester as a regular contributor on the 21st Century Scholar blog! I hope you stay tuned in 2013!

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