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The PhD Journey: Year Three

Year Three of the PhD Journey

Hugo (Hao) Du

4 minute read

Hello, and welcome to my overview of the third year of the PhD journey.  

Although the status of ‘researcher’ has been with you since the first day you started your PhD, the actual research phase begins in year three. At least it did for me.

If the first two years were about laying the foundation, now it’s time to follow your unique design and build your own structure from this year on. Those first two years of hard work were all about clarifying your research objectives and developing a detailed design for your research. Now it is time to develop your idea into practice.

Year 3 is all about research data, which refers to any information collected, observed, generated or created to validate original research findings.

The types of research data you will use depends on your chosen research methodology, which is determined by the research objectives and questions you have set. Because of the uniqueness of each study, the research methods vary. It is not the case that one research method or data type (i.e. qualitative or quantitative research, interview data or questionnaire) is more critical or researchable than another. Ultimately, as long as you can solve the pointed research questions excellently, your research data is successful and valid. 

However, although everyone’s research methods may be different, there is one essential step that every researcher must follow, namely submission of the Ethics Form. 

The Ethics Form clarifies the rights and interests of researchers and subjects by evaluating the risks of research projects. The ethics form comprises a series of questions to help the principal investigator identify the risk and benefits of your research, which must be determined before the data collection process can begin.

The ethics form is not just for PhD students but for all researchers. Based on the answers provided, the University decides whether it is satisfied that the project meets the University’s ethical expectations, which determines whether or not it will grant the project ethical approval. If the project is marked as ‘high-risk’, a Research Ethics Committee will conduct a further review. 

Generally speaking, business and management research usually will not be considered high risk unless the research involves high-risk content, such as data collection involving subjects with high levels of privacy.   But you really don’t have to worry too much. Even if your research is flagged as ‘high-risk’, you would notify your supervisors as soon as possible, make reasonable adjustments to your current project, and resubmit the ethics form. Just remember, nobody is trying to create obstacles in your research journey. However, these procedures must be followed to make sure your project is conducted according to the regulations. 

Regarding the detailed research methodology, nobody can decide on this for you – it’s your project. My advice is straightforward: don’t be shy, share all your ideas about your study with your supervisors. They will do their best to guide you and assist you in developing the research method that best suits your project. In addition, don’t be afraid to say no or voice a different opinion.  As mentioned before, you are always the one who knows your research best. Be bold in expressing your opinions, and I believe that you and your supervisors will work together to develop the most appropriate research methodology.

I am sure that, compared to your first year, you will now feel more confident about completing your studies and less worried about not graduating on time. Not only because you are very knowledgeable about your research, but also because you find the PhD journey has become part of your life. By this time, you have become familiar with your colleagues and supervisors. You also have a firm grasp of the process of how the appraisals are conducted. Now you know who to turn to when you are facing a problem. More importantly, you have a greater rapport with your supervisors and can communicate more efficiently. 

The most gratifying and exciting thing for me at this stage was that I could already see the prototype of my doctoral thesis after completing the data analysis. Just like the plant that has been cultivated so carefully has finally blossomed, it feels absolutely amazing. After three years of hard work and dedication, I am sure you will sense a different but definitely fantastic feeling.  

Last but not least, do not forget to submit your APR for this year. Keep going and keep putting in the hard work!

View all my PhD blogs here: My PhD Journey – Hugo Du

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