Useful Thoughts about Research

摘录自:Ph.D. Advice

Becoming a researcher in the area

  • Building up general knowledge, experience, and confidence
  • Knowing issues and important questions in the area
  • Capturing research opportunities
    • Don’t let any idea or question go by without first giving it careful thought.
      • Be alert and diligent.
    • Pay attention to new technologies
      • Examples
        • VLSI, networking, and new chips such as the Weitek floating-point chips three years ago which in some sense gave the initial motivation for the Warp project
  • Some useful things to do (from Dave Gifford, MIT)
    • Read recent proceedings of the best conferences, and ask more senior people what were the best papers. Try to figure out what makes a great paper (and thus what makes great research).
    • Keep a notebook that contains your research notes. Put all of your empirical data and initial ideas in the notebook. Make notes on a paper as you read it and think about the assumptions of the author and the importance of the results.
    • Follow references from one paper to another until you know an area extremely well. Don’t count on your advisor to hand you all of the relevant papers out of his file drawer. He doesn’t have them all!

Some other general advice

  • Stay away from areas that have been thoroughly mined by your ancestors.
    • Keep yourself at the very front of a research area so that you have a better chance to hit something big or at least new.
    • After all in research what matters is the work that pushes us into new territories.
    • Make use new advances in other areas
  • Don’t avoid thinking
    • Thinking is hard but there is no substitute for it.
  • Psych yourself up for this unique experience of doing a Ph.D. thesis
    • Make yourself believe you are solving the most important problem in the world
    • Remember what worked for you before
      • If you work best when you are competing with others, then create some confrontation.
    • Must be very alert about issues and opportunities
    • Thesis process is sort of artificial (almost a torture in some way)
      • The thesis is judged by a committee (mainly your advisor)
        • More subjective than exams
      • Probably one of the most humiliating experiences for people of this age (advisors should all remember this and be considerate.)
      • The process is not a typical research style–you don’t do anything similar to it again even if you will be doing research after the degree.
    • The thesis process can be long and treacherous. (Be prepared for it.)
      • You don’t want depression.
    • There are quite a few very competent people who just do not want to go through this.
  • Use forcing functions well to speed up the thesis process
    • Competing with someone else
    • Family pressure
    • Financial pressure
    • A job is waiting
    • Advisor is leaving or project is over
    • Equipment is retiring
  • Never throw away advisor’s comments
    • Cox-Denning case
  • Keep good relationship with your advisor (even after you graduate)
    • Good thing to do–no exception almost
    • Relationship is unique.
      • Advisor usually has lots of influence on you in this very important stage of your life. Advisor also appreciates the good research you did with him, and is in general interested in your well-being.
    • Advisor may be your mentor for your entire career.

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