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Pursuing PhD-The biggest mistake of my life

Pursuing PhD-The biggest mistake of my life

Thesis writing is a daunting job. During the writing stage, certain actions may lead to blunders, resulting in disastrous consequences. The Ph.D. students should understand what to avoid and what to follow while writing their thesis. In case, the scholars commit silly mistakes, they will have to do the ‘major corrections’ which may take several months.

In this blog post, I share the secrets of getting a positive, prompt and favourable evaluation from the external examiners. This article explores all those actions that ultimately lead to successful foreign evaluation and quick completion of PhD.

Thesis evaluation

As per, HEC requirement, the thesis of the Ph.D. scholars are expected to be evaluated by the two examiners from the technologically advanced countries. The aim is to improve the quality of research work so that the PhDs produced by Pakistani universities are valued and respected across the globe. The job of the examiner is to carefully read, review and critique the thesis in a candid and an unbiased manner with a sole aim to attain the highest level of excellence in the research endeavour. This initiative helps in improving quality, but at the same time renders the nights of many scholars sleepless.

The things I did remarkably well

During the course of my Ph.D. studies, I did many things incredibly well. But even then, the things were not going the way I expected. For instance, the choice of pursuing Ph.D. was out of my share interest, not by means of any compulsion. I completed the requisite coursework well in time. I selected a topic of utmost significance and immense interest. I developed and submitted my synopsis in a timely fashion. I presented it to the concerned forum and got approved, very swiftly. I chose my principal and co-supervisor, very carefully. During the course of research work, I held regular and frequent meetings with them. I met deadlines. I made the necessary changes in the manuscript as suggested.

Apart from this, before the submission of my thesis, I personally checked it through three of my colleagues who did their PhDs (all of them) from the topnotch universities in the UK. I discussed, face to face, each and every point they made. I followed their instructions, religiously and made necessary changes in the thesis, accordingly. Besides that, I also took the suggestions made by the internal examiner earnestly and made the necessary changes to my dissertation. This was, in fact, too much time consuming and the things were not moving as fast as I envisaged. This inadvertent delay was really frustrating. My frustration found no bounds when one day I was informed that my thesis was rejected by the external examiners.  I realized that I had a made a big mistake. But it was too late.

The untold story of my thesis evaluation

Let me share what was actually happened. Indeed, my thesis was sent for evaluation to the two most eminent professors in the UK and US, who were experts in their respective fields, having a long list of publications at their credit and having supervised scores of doctoral students.

Initially, I was fine with it.  But soon, the gut feeling started pinching me. I was getting worried that what would be the value of my thesis in the eyes of eminent English and American Professors of the top-ranking universities. Again, I was little apprehensive that the quality of my thesis, probably may not be up to the required high standards set in the UK and US universities and this thing might go against me.

To be honest, I was getting frustrated with each passing day. I wanted my thesis to be examined as early as possible to get away with my Ph.D. I started, frequently and regularly, asking the concerned staff in the R&D section of my university about my Ph.D. evaluation reports from the external examiners.

Since I was expecting it in a month, but it was not the case. My frustration was literally multiplied with the arrival of the Christmas as the universities used to remain closed there and the faculty remains off for almost two to three weeks from their offices. This was not only causing a delay but was multiplying my agony. Hence, I requested the conceded Director of my university to send them a gentle reminder to expedite the matter.

But, my request was turned down by the Director for the reason that being imminent Professors in their respective fields, they might get offended with a reminder or they might take it as a notion of undue influence. Hence, I have to take a humble pie.

In this backdrop, one day, when I returned home in the evening totally exhausted, dejected and demotivated, I received a call from one of my senior colleagues in my university, informing me that the report of my external evaluation has been received and the bad news was that the external examiner from the US has outrightly rejected my thesis for being a very low-quality research work and that the professor was highly critical of the low quality of my dissertation.

For a moment, I realized that I had committed one of the biggest mistakes of my life by embarking on a journey which culminated in total despair, frustration and even disgrace. This was the worst day in my entire academic career. Sooner, I realized that the colleague on the other side of the phone was just kidding. But for me, he had already done the damage. His instant excuse, loaded words of apology and clarification could not alleviate my bad feelings until I received a soft copy of the report. Meanwhile, the second evaluation report was also received but I was unable to believe it.

 

Let me share with you the evaluation reports of the external examiners: what they reported on each part of my thesis and leave it to the readers to decide whether “Doing a PhD-was that really a mistake?

About Dr Syed Hafeez Ahmad

Having a doctoral degree in human resource management, Dr. Syed Hafeez Ahmad is currently working as Additional Controller of Examinations, Khyber Medical University, Peshawar. He previously served the same university as Additional Registrar. These are mid-career level positions in the university's administration. Besides, he is working in the capacity of a team leader and founder of the Career Development & Research Centre, a startup launched in the Business Incubation Center of Khyber Medical University. He is having more than 18 years of professional experience in academic management with special interest in public sector higher education reforms, sustainability, academic leadership and universities' governance. He is a research blogger, Amazon associate and a YouTuber.

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