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Experiment!: Planning, Implementing and Interpreting by Oivind Andersson

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1.2 Embarking on a Ph.D.

To take a systematic approach to discovery you need to acquire new skills as well as new knowledge. Undertaking a Ph.D. will, hopefully, be one of the most developing periods in your life. In all fairness, it will be challenging too. You are likely to work alone a good part of the time. Another challenge is that you will be learning in a completely new way. It may be a shock to discover that high grades from previous studies do not necessarily help you now. The educational system often tends to assess our ability to learn facts and techniques rather than our actual problem solving skills, and research studies require more than having a good head for studying. When you embark on a Ph.D. you go from being a consumer of knowledge to a producer of knowledge; this requires a new set of talents. You do not obtain a Ph.D. for what you know but for what you can do. In other words, research education is largely about acquiring skills and this is why it takes time.

Undertaking a Ph.D. involves a more holistic approach to learning than your previous studies did. Schoolteachers often tend to teach their subjects separately. In high school, for example, it took my fellow students and I a good while to understand that calculus could be used to solve physics problems because it was taught without any hints to applications in other subjects. Little did we know that calculus had been developed by physicists in order to solve physics problems! This tradition of teaching ...

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