I am half way through the first year of my PhD (physics) and I find myself faced with the following problem related to research discipline and learning new techniques while doing a PhD. The problem is probably specific to my personality, but I am hoping that some people can relate and provide their experiences/advice.
Essentially I find it hard to actually learn anything new, especially when it comes to techniques. Let me clarify by describing how I read a paper
- When reading a paper I usually read just enough to 'understand' it on a functional level. I.e. afterwards I know: a) What has been done b) How it fits with some other things I know c) If it is useful for the research my group is doing and the projects I am working on. When c) applies I read 'in more detail'. That usually just involves following the derivations on a functional level. I.e. afterwards I would know a), b), c) for every part of the derivation.
The problem is that I don't actually learn any techniques this way. I could not sit down and do what has been done in the paper, even though I could tell you exactly what has been done in the paper and (for the ones I read in detail) how it has been done.
That isn't too bad if you want to come up with new research ideas, I even found that you can solve some problems this way, but you can't actually write the solution down. The latter unfortunately is very necessary if you want to write a paper.
I have a similar problem with textbooks that I was going to describe here, but for the sake of brevity1 I will spare you the details.
To me the situation is a bit worrisome, especially because that did not happen to me during my undergraduate. When doing supervision work and exercises I always felt like at the end I understood things on a level where I could do them again. When people asked me questions about it I could not only tell them how to do the question in principle, but also point out technically details that you encounter along the way. I am worried that I will never reach such a level of understanding in any new areas the way I am approaching it at the moment.
I suspect that one of my problems is that I have become really impatient somewhere in between feeling the pressure of trying to produce valuable research and trying to learn things as quickly as possible. This creates the feeling that I am unable to 'sit down' and 'actually do something' 2 .
So, reading my question above again I don't feel like I have pinned the point down very well at all, but this is my 3rd try, so I'll go with it and see if people have some advice. The title question is going to be: How to deal with impatience when starting off in research?
1 Really not an appropriate description of this question anymore...
2 Don't get me wrong, I am not procrastinating. I am doing a lot of work and I also enjoy the work very much. It is just not very effective and when I think after each day what I have achieved, there is a lingering fear that I just wasted a lot of time.