Reserach Advice by Don Davis

Original article (link) posted: 04/09/2005

Professor Davis at Columbia University put the note "Ph.D. Thesis Research: Where do I Start?" on his web site.
There are many interesting advices. Especially the following two are helpful for me.

Don’t Take Courses!
By the third year of a PhD program, your job is research, not more courses! You can take more courses (of course), but you should have a very good reason for doing so. Acceptable reasons include (a) It is a course that takes you to the frontier of research in an area in which you plan to do research or (b) It develops mathematical or econometric techniques that you plan to use in short order. The reason that I advise not taking courses is that it is a convenient, comforting, and seemingly rationalizable way of avoiding the harder, more frustrating, but necessary conversion from being a consumer of research to being a producer of research. Focus on your primary task – developing your own research program.

Don’t teach!
. . . more than you have to. For many, teaching is attached to a stipend or is otherwise economically unavoidable. In this case, do what you must! Moreover, there are some real intellectual and practical advantages from doing a couple of terms of TA work. Explaining the concepts to others is very useful in consolidating them in yourself. But beyond this, the returns become strongly negative. Your job is research – and anything that distracts you from this is a heavy cost. The first cost, which may seem remote at the time that you are deciding on the teaching, is that it could delay completion of the thesis by a year or more. An even larger cost is if it crowds out time to write a really great thesis. As a PhD student, your time is very valuable; treat it that way.

Hum, as Professor Obara recommended to me, I shouldn't teach this year even like a small group seminar... Also, instead of attending classes, it must be better for me to use time for focusing on my own research or going to seminars.

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