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460

The fact is research is hard. It appears to consist primarily of staring at a problem for days and days and days without getting anywhere. Sometimes, rarely, I do figure something out and that feels wonderful, but the overwhelming majority of my time appears to be spent banging my head against a mostly figurative wall. Yes. This. And it wouldn't be so ...


247

It definitely does not mean research isn't for you. Research is hard, and it takes some getting used to. Your experiences sound normal, and it will indeed get better. Part of the problem is that it's tempting to focus too much on the destination: proving theorems, writing papers. These things happen only occasionally, and thinking about them (or their ...


199

The issue is that the frame of your question is wrong. You’re assuming that the purpose of a PhD is to get an academic job, when that is not the case: Many people who get PhD’s have no desire for an academic job, even from the time they apply! The number of academic positions is indeed insufficient to absorb all the PhD’s. But there are lots of other “...


175

The short answer to your question is that you are vastly overestimating your, and other engineer's, ability to judge what techniques will ever have practical relevance. I think it was Michael Stonebraker, a Turing award winning computer scientist with no lack of practical impact, who said that the sweet spot for academic applied research are techniques that ...


161

I have found (and continue to find) two kinds of strategies that have some success in preventing me from procrastinating. Silly, but scarily effective: As silly as this might sound, implement a blocker like Leechblock or Chrome Nanny and block sites that you waste time on. I used to scoff at such things, but once I installed them, I found myself being ...


152

Your problem is quite common among researchers. Actually it's not really a problem, being overwhelmed like this is just natural. Me and all my friends and colleagues face it. How I overcame this issue: I try to focus on one paper at a time. Try starting reading the latest research paper on a particular subject and go back chronologically. Print the ...


151

Some of my observations: They don't know what they're going into. Most PhD students have some idea of how hard it is to get a job afterwards, but don't actually know. It's similar to how one can imagine what skydiving is like, but don't actually know until after trying it. They're confident they can succeed. PhD students are some of the smartest of their ...


139

You should create a reproducible test case that demonstrates the flaw conclusively. If you are that confident and the software is that widely used, it warrants publication in a technical journal. They key is to involve the company. Show them your test case and mention you have interest in publishing the result. Offer to collaborate with them on the ...


136

Dan's answer is very good, and I want to add one more point: Accept that on the first pass you will not be able to fully understand the topic. Appreciate that there are decades and sometimes centuries (for the math, at least) of research supporting the topic you're learning. Thinking you can "get to the bottom" of it in a few months, let alone a week or two,...


131

Why was the theory wrong? "It didn't work" is not the end -- the end is knowing why it didn't work. There are at least two possible answers: There is some fundamental, obvious mistake at the core of the model that should have been caught a long time ago. In this case, it may be a matter of starting over. It's difficult to produce a paper/thesis if the story ...


126

Does it get better with time and experience? sort of, in that you become smart enough to realize that there ISN'T anyone smarter who would have figured it out in a couple of minutes :) Is this a sign that research is not for me and that I should seriously consider a life outside academia? Certainly not ! Research is hard work. You're on the cutting ...


125

I favor the Confusingly Positive/Neutral Response in these situations. "So-and-so did Awesome Thing and you --" "Wow, that's great! When will it be published? I'd like to read it." "What was your undergrad GPA?" "Uh, I don't even remember. It got me in here, though, and I love it here!" "Bah, what you're doing is garbage." "I'm finding it a lot of fun, and ...


120

I don't find that behavior strange at all. If I want to understand problems with algorithms (I don't do experiments with anything other than algorithms) I need to run them by myself and sometimes even implement the method from scratch. It's not that I do not trust other people's code, but if I want to understand all the mechanisms well, it's much easier to ...


119

Because it's fun! No, really. I went to do a PhD because I thought it was fun. It allowed me to live in an awesome location, travel around the world to conferences and summer schools, to spend years doing exciting research with nice colleagues, and even getting paid for all of it (and in Sweden, the pay is not bad at slightly above the national median ...


114

Does maths research have anything inadmissible? No, but trying to prove X without using Y is still a very useful concept even in research, because it can lead to interesting generalizations, or new proof techniques that can be applied to a larger set of problems. For instance, in some sense the Lebesgue integral is "just" trying to prove the properties of ...


107

Because the requirements for the majority of professorships are such that very few people can be considered serious applicants right out of their PhD. Also, the number of PhD holders looking for a professorship far exceeds the number of available positions which creates a "backlog". The two are obviously correlated since the higher the demand to offer ...


106

We depended on libraries and librarians. Grad students would spend hours in, say, the math section of a good academic library, going from book to book and taking copious notes (on paper, of course). But, often enough, the next paper we needed to look at wasn't in that library at all, so you would go to the librarian and ask for a loan of the resource from ...


103

I think of Olympiad problems more as "parlour tricks". They're really difficult, and it's super-impressive if someone's good at them, but the skills are very different to the skills you need in research. As a big example of a difference: the Olympiad rewards quick accurate leaps of reasoning, because you're under such time pressure. Research rewards long-...


98

This appears to have been under the instruction of President Trump, as news sites reported data on the EPA website was removed. Speculation usually doesn't belong in a scientific paper. This is especially true when it does not further the scientific purpose of the paper. The rest of the statement - about the document no longer being available at its ...


96

As far as pure mathematics, you are quite right: there are neither data nor experiments. Drastically oversimplified, a mathematics research project goes like this: Develop, or select from the existing literature, a mathematical statement ("conjecture") that you think will be of interest to other mathematicians, and whose truth or falsity is not known. (...


94

I find the whole idea as proposed in the first point quite underhanded. Just announce that you are looking for ideas on how to solve a specific problem and that you'd be happy to provide support for developing it to a thesis and/or publication to any students who got a promising idea. That way you create a win-win situation and avoid all potential ethical ...


93

I write both weekly and daily 'to do' lists if I'm stuck in a procrastination routine. The weekly lists are more general, the daily ones as detailed as possible, with essentially everything I should do that day, however small it seems. It feels good to tick things off - it shows me that I made progress and gives me incentive to go on. Usually there's one or ...


92

If the proof is yours then of course you can publish it. And it is your duty to do it, because the literature is incomplete without it. Basically you say (but in more formal language): at the Holcombe Colloquium (August 2015), R.J. Blenkinsop asserted the following, without giving a proof: insert theorem here. no proof was given at Holcombe and there ...


89

No, this not accepted and/or common practice in academia. (Your use of the plagiarism tag was correct.) It is of course unethical and not right to copy other's work and not mention them.


89

Having worked with master's students in an applied research lab, I am fairly confident that you are not expected to come up with a solution that will dramatically change the production process and lead to great profits. Your stipend is not contingent on your work delivering monetary returns; research doesn't work like that. You are engaged by them to apply ...


88

I love the answers above, but here's another possible bit of advice: find ways to work with others. Research on your own can be isolating. Working with other graduate students can make the process much more enjoyable. Staring at a problem on your own is both less fun and generally less productive than trying to work through it with a colleague. Synergy ...


88

Research ideas tend to grow exponentially. At the beginning, Alex is a student who doesn't know what's already been done -- no ideas (though maybe some interests) As an undergraduate, Alex will start to have ideas based on what he reads and his experiences. Many of these will be off-topic, already done, or impossible. Then Alex will spend time doing ...


88

Indeed, funding agencies require authors to acknowledge their funding, but it's not mandatory to acknowledge personal resources. To me, however, that footnote doesn't sound like a joke at all, but a sincere acknowledgement of those who have supported him during previous years allowing him to have savings (and during those visits he might have worked on ...


87

The situation you describe is unfortunately common. It is an unfortunate reality that the number of people well qualified for research jobs is greater than the number of jobs. A few notes: Hiring committees will be looking for good publications, and for recommendation letters coming from leaders in the field attesting to your husband's impact and further ...


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