It’s only the beginning! Glimpses into the First Year of Your PhD

So you have got admission into the Doctoral Programme you dreamt about? Enter into the dreaded first year or ‘coursework’ as we call it. The first year is the stepping stone of your PhD. It is the year of the coursework or the year where you will learn the fundamentals of what a research programme entails. A crucial year, the first year will be full of classes, assignments and exams. Amid all of this, you will also have to do the groundwork for your thesis. If you have done an M.Phil, most probably you will be spared from doing coursework. This is the time to learn about research methodology, theory building and learning more about your area of research. The first few months will be chaotic and busy as hell.

So, here’s a primer into the course work year

Classes, assignments and exams

While getting admission into PhD is not a cakewalk, the real struggle begins right from Day 1. There are classes, assignments and exams all around the year. Between them, you will need to read and prepare for the synopsis. This will be a busy year with almost no chance to socialise. It will give you a reality check and a peek into what PhD really entails. Rigorous coursework will strengthen your analytical skills.

Chance to read on your area of research before deciding your final topic

Coursework offers a chance to read on a wide range of subjects before choosing your final topic. Term papers and seminar papers get you in the habit of writing. Take this time to learn about research methodology as well as brushing your knowledge about the topic. Be ready to choose a different topic of research from the one you had decided to work upon at the time of admission. Don’t rush into writing or paper presentation at this stage. That will come later. You will learn and unlearn constantly. Take this as an opportunity to pick up on learning new things and changing old patterns. It builds your character.

Build a rapport with  your supervisor

Coursework is an excellent time to build up a rapport with faculty members especially your supervisor. Ask them about your doubts. Tutorial classes, if you have them attend those as there is more personal interaction in these classes. If possible, read up on their research work if it pertains to your research topic. It will help you gain insight into your supervisor’s expertise on the topic. Most importantly remember supervisors are not just mentors but a great learning source.

Make friends with seniors, learn from them

PhD often is a lonely journey. Coursework is perhaps the only time you will have to know your peers. Make friends with your seniors. They will guide you into many aspects of the PhD programme. Participate in the institute’s activities especially conferences, seminars, etc. It will not only provide you with exposure but also a chance to learn skills which will be useful later in your life.

This first year will set the tone for the rest of your PhD journey, worry not if you keep up with your coursework and follow the suggestions of your supervisor, chances are that the rest of it will follow smoothly (We can wish!) The trick is to not lose patience and pay close attention to the details. All the best! If you have any specific queries that you want to ask, leave us in the comments or reach out to us on shruti.chandra@fiib.edu.in