Research methodology - What is a PhD?


Published on

Slides I used in a Research Methodology seminar I gave in 2010 for the Interactive Art PhD at School of Arts of the Portuguese Catholic University, Porto, Portugal (

Published in: Education, Technology, Spiritual

Research methodology - What is a PhD?

  1. 1. Research Methodology Interactive Art PhD Escola das Artes da UCP Porto, Portugal Luís Gustavo Martins 1
  2. 2. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA. 2
  3. 3. PhD Seminars 3
  4. 4. What is a PhD? 4
  5. 5. What is a PhD?The Lord of the Rings Allegory... 5
  6. 6. What is a PhD? “Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated to PhD, or Ph.D. inEnglish-speaking countries, for the Latin philosophiae doctor, meaning "teacher in the love of wisdom", is an advanced academic degree awarded by universities. In most English- speaking countries, the PhD is the highest degree one can earn (although in some countries like the UK, Ireland, andthe Commonwealth nations higher doctorates are awarded). The PhD or equivalent has become a requirement for acareer as a university professor or researcher in most fields. The academic level of degrees known as doctorates ofphilosophy varies according to the country and time period.” from 6
  7. 7. What is a PhD?• Imagine a circle that contains all human knowledge... Matt Might,, 7
  8. 8. What is a PhD?• By the time you finish elementary school you know a little... Matt Might,, 8
  9. 9. What is a PhD?• By the time you finish high-school you know a bit more... Matt Might,, 9
  10. 10. What is a PhD?• With a bachelors degree, you gain a specialty... Matt Might,, 10
  11. 11. What is a PhD?• A masters degree deepens that specialty... Matt Might,, 11
  12. 12. What is a PhD?• Reading research papers takes you to the edge of human knowledge... Matt Might,, 12
  13. 13. What is a PhD?• Once youre at the boundary, you focus... Matt Might,, 13
  14. 14. What is a PhD?• You push at the boundary for a few years... Matt Might,, 14
  15. 15. What is a PhD?• Until one day, the boundary gives way... Matt Might,, 15
  16. 16. What is a PhD?• And, that dent youve made is called a Ph.D.! Matt Might,, 16
  17. 17. What is a PhD?• Of course, the world looks different to you now... Matt Might,, 17
  18. 18. What is a PhD?• So, dont forget the bigger picture!! Matt Might,, 18
  19. 19. What is a PhD?• We (YOU!) must keep pushing!! Matt Might,, 19
  20. 20. What is a PhD?• PhD Milestones: • qualifying exams / program acceptance • thesis proposal • thesis defense• Thesis proposal is the trickiest! • (if you apply for a FCT grant, you’ll know what I mean) 20
  21. 21. What is a PhD?• A thesis proposal is a contract! • It must include: • A clearly defined thesis • A specific plan for demonstrating that thesis • Everything else in the proposal (related work, prior work, challenges) exists to support the plausibility of the thesis and the plan. • You will be judged by this contract later on in your defense! 21
  22. 22. How to define your PhD thesis? 22
  23. 23. How to define your PhD thesis?• So, where do good ideas (and so, good thesis) come from? • They may start as a “hunch” (aka educated guess)... • They need time to incubate... • They need to “colide with other hunches”... • Collaboration! 23
  24. 24. How to define your PhD thesis?• A research topic can be chosen based on: • how relevant the topic is nowadays • the available literature • the current state-of-the-art on the topic • your personal interests • your R&D/University research interests • funding... • ... 24
  25. 25. How to define your PhD thesis?• A thesis statement is a single sentence! 25
  26. 26. How to define your PhD thesis?• A thesis statement is a single sentence! • active, declarative, defensible • make it as short as possible • ... but avoid turning it too general!• The thesis statement answers the question: "What did humanity learn as a consequence of this dissertation?" Remember, in a PhD, a novel contribution is MANDATORY! 26
  27. 27. How to define your PhD thesis?• An example: my thesis • “A Computational Framework for Sound Segregation in Music Signals” The main problem this work tries to address is the identification and segregation of sound events in monaural (i.e. single-channel) real-world” polyphonic music signals [using a computer] 27
  28. 28. How to define your PhD thesis?• An example: my thesis • “A Computational Framework for Sound Segregation in Music Signals” • This thesis segmented my dissertation into four parts: related work, theory, experimentation and application. • Related work defends novelty. • Theory and experimentation defend feasibility. • Application defends usefulness. 28
  29. 29. How to define your PhD thesis?• An example: my thesis • “A Computational Framework for Sound Segregation in Music Signals” • doesnt say anything about what technical mechanisms I used to prove sound segregation using a computer is possible • I developed a software framework to support my thesis. But, those were just the means. Sound segregation was the end. 29
  30. 30. How to define your PhD thesis? How interesting is my thesis?! 30
  31. 31. How to define your Molecular Cell Forum PhD thesis?Alon, U. (2009). How to choose a good scientific problem. Molecular cell, 35(6):726–728. 31 Figure 1. The Feasibility-Interest Diagram for Choosing a Project Two axes for choosing scientific problems: feasibility and interest.
  32. 32. How to define your PhD thesis? Alon, U. (2009). How to choose a good scientific problem. Molecular cell, 35(6):726–728.r Choosing a Project 32ty and interest.
  33. 33. How to define your PhD plan?• A thesis proposal is a contract! • The plan details the conditions of that contract. • If a student words the plan right and gets it approved, her defense will go smoothly. • If she leaves the plan vague or inspecific, she leaves herself vulnerable to the committees interpretation of her plan. 33
  34. 34. How to define your PhD plan?• A good plan contains: • a fictional schedule • a list of remaining milestones and anticipated dates of completion. • If the plan contains a claim to be validated, it needs to explain how the student will conduct validation of that claim. • A good plan also contains contingencies. • A good plan is not a sequence, but a tree. • The leaves of the tree form a spectrum from "best possible outcome, give me a Ph.D. and a professorship" at one end to "back to the drawing board" at the other. 34
  35. 35. How to define your PhD plan?• A good plan contains: • The possibility of failure • Real research is inherently unpredictable, and failure is always a possibility. If failure is not possible, it must not be research. • The proposal needs to create the impression that failure is unlikely. • A good plan also provides the criteria for recognizing the completion of a milestone • e.g., submitted for publication, accepted for publication, survey completed, chapter written. 35
  36. 36. How to define your PhD plan? In the nurturing sc the courage and ope Sailing into the unkno takes courage; seein different from expec more rich and strange, openness. In summary, take y 3 Month Rule) to find a available the one that most interesting to others. A good proje skills to achieve self-e ACKNOWLEDGMENTSFigure 2. The Objective and Nurturing Schemas of ResearchThe nurturing schema includes ‘‘the cloud’’—a period of time in which basic assumptions break down. The ideas in this essay w gifts in conversations and Alon, U. (2009). How to choose a good scientific problem. Molecular cell, 35(6):726–728. learning from my mistakes 36 and again offered as a gifat point A, which is the question, and and nothing makes sense. The researcher are discussions with Ron
  37. 37. How to define your PhD proposal?• The remainder of a proposal exists to support the thesis and the plan • A survey of related work supports the novelty of the thesis. • a summary of prior work by the student supports plausibility of both the thesis and the plan • A review of the research challenges and proposed circumvention strategies supports the intellectual merit of the thesis. 37
  38. 38. How to define your PhD proposal?• Good proposals give the impression that between 1/3 and 2/3 of the work remains to be completed. • Thesis proposals claiming that all of the work is already completed will be interpreted (rightly or wrongly) as arrogant, and trigger intense scrutiny. • Its important to propose before all of the work is finished. • If its truly all done, a student should pretend the last third of it isnt. 38
  39. 39. How to define your PhD proposal?• A PhD proposal should be presented in written form! • allows you to mature your ideas and iteratively improve the proposal • allows you to use it as a “map” you can always refer • try keeping a map in memory and it’s easy to see how quickly you can get totally lost... 39
  40. 40. How to define your PhD proposal? • A good thesis proposal document can be structured like a proposal for FCT funding 40
  41. 41. How to define a chronogram• Used to list deadlines, due dates, critical paths, schedule dates for maximum work impact... • allows to propose a final date for work conclusion!• Start with the big tasks ID Task Name Duration Dec 03 Jan 04 Feb 04 Mar 04 Apr 04 May 04 Jun 04 Jul 04 Aug 04 Sep 04 Oct 04 Nov 04 Dec 04 • 24 01 08 15 22 29 05 12 19 26 02 09 16 23 01 08 15 22 29 05 12 19 26 03 10 17 24 31 07 14 21 28 05 12 19 26 02 09 16 23 30 06 13 20 27 04 11 18 25 01 08 15 22 29 06 13 20 1 Phd Preliminary Activities 53 days? problem definition 2 PhD Web Page 25.88 days? 3 Phd WebPage implementation 1 mon? 4 Upload of 1st online version 0 days 05-01 5 Marsyas / CLAM Tests and evaluation 21.88 days? 6 CLAM study and evaluation 1 mon? 7 Choice of Analysis Framework 0 days • 16-01 8 DataBase Preliminray Tests and Evaluation 10 days? choice of methodology 9 MySQL / Oracle Test and Evaluation 10 days? 10 Study and Evaluation of other technologies 40 days? 11 SDIF peliminar study 5 days? 12 XML preliminar study 5 days? 13 cppUnit preliminary study 5 days? • 14 FLTK evaluation and test 5 days? 15 Doxygen study 5 days? experiments, data gathering, observations 16 qwt study 10 days? 17 Software Development 170 days? 18 Audio Analysis Framework 120 days? 19 Beta 1 Development 2.5 mons? 20 Beta 2 Development 3.5 mons? • 21 PITCH2MIDI 50 days? 22 Beta 1 Development 2.5 mons? data analysis and interpretation 23 Speaker Identification / Recognition 3 mons? 24 Audio Segmentation and Classification 3 mons? 25 Audio FingerPrinting 3 mons? 26 VISNET activities 141 days? 27 Writting of D29 10 days? • 28 D29 - Audio and Speech Analysis System Overview 0 days 01-04 29 Writting of D40 10 days? report (papers, thesis, ...) 30 D40 - Review of the Work Done in Audio-Video Fusion 0 days 01-04 31 Writing of D24 10 days? 32 D24 - Functional Specification of the Query-by-Humming S 0 days 01-10 33 Publications 7 days? 34 ISMIR 2004 paper writing 7 days?• 35 ISMIR 2004 paper submission 0 days 01-05 define the smaller tasks later on 36 AES117 paper writing 7 days? 37 AES117 paper submission 0 days 01-05 38 DAFX 2004 paper writing 7 days? 39 DAFX 2004 paper submission 0 days 01-05 40 Reports 7 days? 41 FCT/FEUP Report writting 7 days? • 42 FCT/FEUP Report delivery 0 days 30-11 Page 1 add sub-tasks as the work progresses and as needed 41
  42. 42. Literature Review• If you are still looking for a research topic, the first literature review efforts will naturally be somewhat broad and erratic... • this is normal, but should only last for a short period of time • after this initial research and review of literature, the researcher should start to narrow her research interests and focus in a more specific topic 42
  43. 43. Literature Review• TIP: look for books, papers and articles that provide a review of the state-of-the-art in a field of your interest 43
  44. 44. Literature Review• Allows you to: • get acquainted with the state-of-the-art in a specific topic • learn the main proposals from other authors working in the field • discover who are the most influential/active researchers in the field, as well as the most cited works • learn about the most accepted and established approaches in the field • learn the terminology and concepts used in the field • find out what are the most important journals and conferences in the field • keep updated about the latest contributions to the field • propose novel contributions to the field of research! 44
  45. 45. Literature Review• Approaches: • erratic reviews • state-of-the-art reviews • focused reviews • follow-up reviews • wide-band reviews 45
  46. 46. Literature Review• Types of literature • scientific • peer-reviewed • targeted to the expert reader • divulgation • targeted to a more broad audience • usually establish connections between different fields • technical • technical reports and manuals focused on a specific topic • news, interviews, opinion articles • published in magazines, news papers • mainly targeted to the general layman public • (e.g. Wikipedia, Super Interessante, Exame Informática) 46
  47. 47. Methodology 47
  48. 48. Methodology 48
  49. 49. Methodology • Deductive vs Inductive thinking Theory Inductive (top-down) Tentative Hypothesis Hypothesis Deductive Pattern Observation (bottom-up) Confirmation 49
  50. 50. Methodology 50
  51. 51. Methodology 51
  52. 52. 10 reasons to fail a PhD 1. Learn too much (fail to define a scope of research) • requires focused learning directed toward an eventual thesis • By the end of the third year, a typical Ph.D. student needs to have read about 50 to 150 papers to defend the novelty of a proposed thesis. • some students go too far with the related work search, reading so much about their intended area of research that they never start that research. • Advisors will lose patience with "eternal" students that arent focused on the goal--making a small but significant contribution to human knowledge. 52
  53. 53. 10 reasons to fail a PhD 2. Get obsessed with Perfection • Perfection cannot be attained. It is approached in the limit. • "Good enough" is better than "perfect." • Follow an incremental and iterative approach • start simple, and add layers of complexity at each iteration 53
  54. 54. 10 reasons to fail a PhD 3. Procrastinate • ... 54
  55. 55. 10 reasons to fail a PhD 4. Go autonomous too soon/too late • The advisor-advisee dynamic needs to shift over the course of a degree. • Going autonomous before the student knows how to choose good topics and write well will end in wasted paper submissions and a grumpy advisor. • On the other hand, continuing to act only when ordered to act past a certain point will strain an advisor that expects to start seeing a "return" on an investment of time and hard-won grant money. • Advisors expect near-terminal Ph.D. students to be proto- professors with intimate knowledge of the challenges in their field. 55
  56. 56. 10 reasons to fail a PhD5. Treat Ph.D. school like school or work • Ph.D. school is neither school nor work. • Ph.D. school is a monastic experience. And, a jealous hobby. • Solving problems and writing up papers well enough to pass peer review demands contemplative labor on days, nights and weekends. • Reading through all of the related work takes biblical levels of devotion. • Students that treat Ph.D. school like a 9-5 endeavor are the ones that take 7+ years to finish, or end up ABD. 56
  57. 57. 10 reasons to fail a PhD 6. Ignore the committee • Some Ph.D. students forget that a committee has to sign off on their Ph.D. • Its important for students to maintain contact with committee members in the latter years of a Ph.D. They need to know what a student is doing. • Its also easy to forget advice from a committee member since theyre not an everyday presence like an advisor. • Committee members, however, rarely forget the advice they give. 57
  58. 58. 10 reasons to fail a PhD 7. Aim too low • A PhD is supposed to be a challenge! • Aiming low does not pursuits “perfection”... • ...and leaves no room for uncertainty. • And, research is always uncertain. 58
  59. 59. 10 reasons to fail a PhD 8. Aim too high • A PhD is not the final undertaking. Its the start of a scientific career. • A Ph.D. is a small but significant contribution to human knowledge. • Impact is something students should aim for over a lifetime of research. • A PhD is mostly about the journey, not so much about the final destination... 59
  60. 60. 10 reasons to fail a PhD 9. Miss the real milestones • In practice, the real milestones are three good publications connected by a (perhaps loosely) unified theme. • Once a student has two good publications, if she convinces her committee that she can extrapolate a third, she has a thesis proposal. • Once a student has three publications, she has defended, with reasonable confidence, that she can repeatedly conduct research of sufficient quality to meet the standards of peer review. If she draws a unifying theme, she has a thesis, and if she staples her publications together, she has a dissertation. 60
  61. 61. 10 reasons to fail a PhD 10. Assume a PhD as an Artistic Project • Being an artist (even if a well recognized one) does not necessarily make you a researcher • Artistic creation by itself will not get you a PhD! • It will only confirm you as an artist, not as a researcher... • still need a thesis, a plan and a proposal, and methodically work towards a novel contribution in your field! Decreto-Lei n.º 230/2009 de 14 de Setembro 61
  62. 62. Productivity• Get to know the tools of your trade.• Optimize transaction costs.• Dont work from home.• Eliminate temptation to waste time.• Salvage dead time with technology.• Get rid of your TV.• Consolidate email accounts.• Work from a laptop.• Use a calendar system.• Power-use a smartphone.• Turn off instant messaging.• Minimize collaboration costs.• Use a citation/paper-management system.• Procrastinate productively.• Iterate toward perfection. 62
  63. 63. Productivity• Extra Curricular Activities • Not a bad thing, but get a grip... • ...otherwise they may quickly turn into a source of procrastination! 63
  64. 64. Productivity• Always remember to backup! • your thesis dissertation, data, code, etc. • get a system (any system that suits you) • and live by it!!! 64
  65. 65. Writing a Thesis 65
  66. 66. Writing a Thesis 66
  67. 67. Writing a Thesis• Mandatory Sections in a Thesis1. Title Page 8. Middle Chapters2. Copyright Waiver (1) Materials and Methods3. Abstract (2) Theory4. Acknowledgments (3) Results and Discussion5. Table of Contents, List of 9. Final Chapter Tables, List of Figures, Glossary (1) Conclusions and Future Work6. Introduction 10. List of references7. Literature Review 11. Appendices 67
  68. 68. Writing a Thesis• Stylistic Elements • I. Professional Writing • First person and sex-stereotyped forms are avoided. Material is presented in an unbiased and unemotional (e.g., no "feelings" about things), but not necessarily uninteresting, fashion. • II. Parallel Construction • Tense is kept parallel within and between sentences (as appropriate). • III. Sentence Structure • Sentence structure and punctuation are correct. Incomplete and run-on sentences are avoided. • IV. Spelling and Word Usage • Spelling and use of words are appropriate. Words are capitalized and abbreviated correctly. • V. General Style. • The document is neatly produced and reads well. The format for the document has been correctly followed. 68
  69. 69. Writing a Thesis• How to cite? • Different citation system exist: • APA, Chicago, Harvard, IEEE, footnotes, endnotes • res_strategy/citing/apa.html • Wikipedia:Harvard_referencing 69
  70. 70. Writing a Thesis• Writing Tools • LaTeX ( • commonly used in Sciences • separates content from form (just like HTML and CSS) • efficient, reliable, produces excellent typographic results • uses bibtex for reference management • steep learning curve • free! (as in beer and as in speech) • Lyx ( • based on LaTeX, but substantially easier to use • WYSIWYM (What You See Is What You Mean) • free 70
  71. 71. Writing a Thesis• Writing Tools • MS Word • Advanced (though somewhat slugish) user interface (WYSIWYG - What You See Is What You Get) • Basic citation and bibliography features... • Comercial, not free • Apple Pages • Does not support citation and References • Does not support automatic Table and Figure numbering • Commercial, free 71
  72. 72. Publishing a Paper• Allows you to present you work to the community / world • get exposed to the critique • get suggestions / corrections • build a research reputation • excellent way to exercise you for your thesis writing and defense! 72
  73. 73. Publishing a Paper• Where to publish? • From the Literature review you should already have identified the most important journals / conferences / workshops /festivals / events in your field • Aim your submissions wisely • exploratory / preliminary work should be aimed at workshops, national conferences • More mature and validated work should be reserved for Journals or important conferences / events 73
  74. 74. Publishing a Paper• Paper Structure: • Paper Title • The Abstract • The Introduction • Related Work • The Body • Performance Experiments • The Conclusions • Future Work • The Acknowledgements • Citations / References 74
  75. 75. Publishing a Paper• Addressing Reviews • always try to address them as positive and constructive comments 75
  76. 76. How to present?• PhD Presentation Guidelines • Get prepared • Identify your audience • Rehearse your presentation out loud • Control the time! • At your PhD defense you’ll only have 20~30 minutes! • Estimate no more than 1 slide/minute mastering_your_ph_d_giving_a_great_presentation/ 76
  77. 77. How to present?• PhD Presentation Guidelines • Start by clearly and quickly presenting your “thesis” • Cite the state-of-the-art and contextualize your work • State your hypothesis and assumptions • State your (expected) novel contribution(s) • Present the challenges • Present your approach / methodology • Present your experiments / projects • Analyze your results • Present your conclusions and future work• All in less than 30 minutes! 77
  78. 78. How to present?• Make / keep your audience hooked! 78
  79. 79. How long should a PhD take? “No less than required, no more than necessary” • 3 years minimum • 4 years “maximum” (definitely, if you are a FCT grant holder) 79
  80. 80. How long should a PhD take? 80
  81. 81. PhD Advisors• You’ll develop a bipolar love-hate with her • tip: she’s supposed to be your “best friend”, so she will be harsh and obnoxious • always assume her comments as constructive! 81
  82. 82. PhD Advisors• Learn to decode you Advisor 82
  83. 83. PhD Advisors• Anticipate your Advisor’s negation Field 83
  84. 84. PhD Advisors• Expect to get overwhelmed every time you meet with your Advisor 84
  85. 85. PhD Advisors• Your advisor is supposed to be your harshest critic 85
  86. 86. PhD Advisors• Your advisor is supposed to be your harshest critic and may lack a sense of opportunity ;-) 86
  87. 87. PhD Advisors• Expect your Advisor to regularly ask you “Mission Impossible”s • She’s just “pushing your envelope” 87
  88. 88. PhD Advisors• Your advisor will make sure you iterate till “perfection” (although she nows that’s unattainable ;-)) 88
  89. 89. PhD Advisors• Final Note: • remember, your PhD advisor is in the same boat as you... • but she’ll not get drown because she already has a PhD to use as a floating device in case you sink the boat ;-) 89
  90. 90. So, are you ready? ;-) 90
  91. 91. References• Alon, U. (2009). How to choose a good scientific problem. Molecular cell, 35(6):726–728.••••• students-academics/••• 91