Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Moving toward PhD title: Stress

I don’t want to look like a person positioning himself as a teacher knowing everything and therefore having rights to talk about whatever item. At the same time I would like to talk here about our attitude to failures. An ability to overcome any kind of stress working on doctor work is a key success factor. It is well known that stress produces illness and vice versa. The sick person has restricted abilities to move towards the goal. Probably s/he starts to rush, make wrong decisions, is not able to concentrate on open problems and finally have a limited ability to progress the work.

The first type of stress occurring for students working on PhD thesis is rejections of their articles submitted to conferences. Every student is one hundred percents sure that his/her work is brilliant. The huge amount of efforts and times s/he spent on writing this article just increases his/her believe that this must be rewarded and reviewers will definitely see the geniality of ideas. Unfortunately even for post-docs the acceptance rate for their work is just 50% in average – but they are already skilled and accepted as professionals.

Clearly the majour reason of a stress here - too high expectations. Many students consider each attempt to pass the reviewing process like the last chance to survive and take the reject decision too seriously and personally.

As I pointed earlier you should accept that there are very different reviewers. Moreover you should let them have their own opinion and accept this opinion can easily differ from yours. Consider each reject as an opportunity rather than failure - I have seen cases when an article rejected on very weak conferences have been finally accepted for a serious one. Basically it just indicates that either reviewers were not qualified enough or topics of those conferences were not inline with the main topic of the article.

Summarising, I'd like to give some advices on how to overcome this problem
1. Don’t set expectations too high. You are just studying (although you are not the first year student any longer). Therefore just forget about the article submission after it is posted to the conference – accept internally from the beginning that it will be rejected. It will let you continue working on your doctor work main topics instead of been frozen waiting for an answer. That is a way to decrease stress on rejection and produce some extra happy moments if the article will be finally accepted.
2. Consider the rejection decision as a possibility to improve the work further. Some conferences do post reviewers opinion showing why they disliked the work. Unfortunately ost of those explanations are redicolous as reviewers don’t borther wrtting a good text having rejected the work, but some still could have good points.
3. Don’t forget that the best way not to fail is do nothing, but it also never will lead you to the desired goal. Keep pushing and you will be rewarded.

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