• Laser-Sharp focus
"Stay focused throughout your graduate studies. This means foregoing fun activities at times and instead, waking up early or staying up late to read manuscripts or craft a manuscript."
Note: Each student will have his/her individual study habits – night bird vs. early bird. Getting up early AND staying up late is not advised, :).
• Necessary short breaks
"I always took time over holidays to visit extended family. I also went on a summer vacation each year. I regularly took time to meet with friends each week."
Note: When these breaks occurred, I made certain to be in the moment. Try not to divide your time between family and graduate school, but instead focus on one activity at a time.
• Holistic health
"I also worked out regularly. A healthy body supports a strong scholarly mind."
• Goal-setting: Daily and annual
"Set small goals each day and larger goals throughout the year. Each day, I set out to accomplish a few tasks (read three articles, write a few good pages on the dissertation, etc.). (Dr. Dale Schunk spoke on this topic at an AERA Fireside Chat in 2010).
"I wrote an academic goal list/description at the beginning of each year and updated it throughout the year. Later, I shared it with my advisor and other faculty to assist me in meeting my goals. This type of activity shows others your commitment."
"Develop a robust network of friends and colleagues who are reliable and dependable as well as diverse. I had friends and colleagues in several departments within the College of Education who I could turn to for ideas and support including Research and Evaluation Methods, Educational Technology, Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Pyschology, and Special Education. Also, I relished interacting with graduate students and scholars from other departments and universities. This kept my mind open and helped me work on my dissertation.”
"It's important to have a strong person/family/group/friend(s) who can support you throughout your program. My wife is my biggest supporter; my success is directly related to her support. My single friends have a deep network of friends and family they rely on. This support is such a critical factor in determining whether you will be successful in graduate school."
• Be humble and open-minded
"Keep an open mind and kindly accept criticism. I’m often wrong and accept others' opinions with no issues. Some feedback can be hard to take, especially when it comes to your writing. Sincerely thank the person who provided feedback. The most important thing anyone can give another person is his/her time."
• Read avidly
"Become an avid reader. Read journal articles, book chapters, and conference proceedings and try to make connections between works in your subject area and others. I read a lot of Educational Psychology and Mathematics Education literature trying to make sense of problem solving. There were opportunities where I saw ways to make links between the fields, which supported me to conduct investigations."
• Connect across disciplines
"Try to look for and form connections with your ideas where there are gaps or missing links in your field(s). This is the way to conduct and publish your research. I saw a gap (or several of them!) in the literature and worked on that area for my dissertation. There were times when some commented that it was unoriginal, but I defended my research and went forward with it. At my dissertation defense, I had many faculty tell me how original my work was and that it was current, in light of the Common Core State Standards. With that in mind, develop a good dissertation/research topic and ground it in a strong review of the literature."
• Smile and enjoy your work
"It's hard work being a researcher, yet it's also a cool profession. Many people told me that they noticed I was always smiling; it made their day and showed others how much I enjoyed my work."
• Develop good writing habits
"Become a student of your own writing and develop good writing habits. It's hard to accept that criticism sometimes, especially when you put days, weeks, or months into a piece and it gets rejected. Again, accept feedback kindly, thank the individual(s), and improve your writing. It took me three and one-half years to finally understand what it takes to be a ‘good writer’, albeit I'm not an excellent writer. I know that it takes time to craft a good manuscript/section/chapter, which means days, weeks, or months of work.”
• Be quick to listen and slow to speak
"Listen more, ask questions frequently, and talk less. I'm still working on this one."
Articles worth a read:
7 ways of not getting a PhD
Surviving Graduate School by Ronald T. Azuma, Ph.D.
Thoughts on Getting a PhD (Comp Sc)
7 secrets of highly successful PhD students