Thursday, October 6, 2011

My advice to Indian PhD students

I recently received the following email from a PhD student:  
From: xxxxxxxx
Sent: Friday, 16 September 2011 12:01 AM
To: George Eby Mathew
Subject: Ph.D Research Study from India


Hi George Eby Mathew,

I have taken so much inspiration from your articles. I have developed my PhD questionnaire and thought your response is very critical for my questionnaire and analysis.
Kindly spare your valuable time to fill the questionnaire and do add value to the studies coming from India.

rgds
xxxxx
Hyderabad, India

And here’ was my reply:


Dear XXXX,

Thanks for reaching out to me.

As much as I would like to help you, I have a full schedule and pre-defined priorities and commitments that limit me from performing this activity at this time.  But I can spend 10 minutes to offer you some suggestions:

·         Your questionnaire comes across as passing on your problem to someone else – very few successful people who have this kind of information will have the time and interest to go through all your 16 pages.

·         I am assuming you have send this to a lot more people like me who don’t know you – you should attach a short brief on who you are, what’s your background and why you are doing this and why it is important to you and your goals (before asking people for their goals) and also explain why should your respondents be part of this

·         don’t expect respondents to fill in data that you should be gathering – eg company details, revenue, core business details that are readily available on the internet

·         break your thesis questionnaire into smaller pieces of 5 – 7 questions max and write it in simple words so that respondents do not have to spend more than 15 to 20 minutes – no one has more than 10-15 minutes for these types of activity

·         research and spend time to understand the profile of your respondents to identify what areas of your respondents background can add maximum value to which part of your questionnaire – don’t expect every respondent to know all areas that you need inputs on – even if they do give your information, that wouldn’t be accurate

·         make the effort and time to meet with your key local respondents to demonstrate that you are seriously committed to your thesis – if you aren’t why would they

·         articulate what is in it for the respondents other than “adding value to studies coming from India” – for example – will you share survey results with them, explain why they should become part of your academic or professional goals.

·         It is always a better approach to provide senior respondents/leaders your findings first and ask for help in refining it – it demonstrates that you have done your homework, and are willing to work hard to do your part.

In doing this, I believe your PhD will be worth having and PhDs coming out of india will have more value than the Dr. prefixes to the name people are generally after.

Hope this helps

Best,
George   
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