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Most frequently asked questions related to Ph.D. by my students | Dr. Neeti Kasliwal

Guest Column: Dr. Neeti Kasliwal

I am Dr. Neeti Kasliwal.  Currently, I am working as a Visiting Professor of Marketing at the Indian Institute of Rural Management (IIRM) and ICFAI Business School, Jaipur. I did my Ph.D. Pharmaceutical Marketing from Banasthali Vidyapith. I am an MBA in the marketing area and also qualified UGC NET in the management area. Before working with ICFAI, I was associated with IIHMR University as Ex Dean In-Charge, and Associate Professor at Banasthali Vidyapith.

To satiate my desire to work for young kids I founded Mother and Angels Pre-School and quit my professorship after 17 years of administrative and teaching experience. I closed the school when the Corona Pandemic was around the corner.

In the research sphere, I have been a Ph.D. Research Supervisor for four students and they have successfully defended their Ph.D. My research work has been cited and published in reputed journals namely Indian Journal of Marketing, Abhigyan-FORE School of Management Delhi University, Prabandhan: Indian Journal of Management, International Journal of Emerging Research in Management and Technology indexed in EBSCOHOST, CABELL’s library, ULRICH web, Scopus (Elsevier), Taylor Francis. I was invited as a Session Chair at the International Conference held at BITS Pilani.

I was also a resource person at Center for Management Studies, HCM RIPA, Government of Rajasthan for training sessions for officers of various Government Departments/ PSUs/ Boards.

My core areas of research are Pharmaceutical Marketing and Green Marketing. Besides my academic accomplishments, I am a sportsperson that keeps me focused. I play tennis and had won the title ‘Winner Under 14 Junior’ Lawn Tennis Championship, Amritsar District, and Runners Up Under 17 in Amritsar District Lawn Tennis Association held by Punjab Lawn Tennis Association. I also love to travel and cook.

I am often connected by my students from different institutes and asked a lot of questions. Here I am bringing the most commonly asked questions by them. Based on my experience, I am sharing my views and opinion so that it could reach many students who are thinking to begin the process to pursue the Ph.D. program.

So here are the most frequently asked queries/ questions/ doubts regarding Ph.D.

  • Why to pursue a Ph.D.?

The first and the foremost question, I ask the person who calls me for PhD assistance is Why do you want to do a Ph.D.? And why I think this question needs to be answered is because it will solve half of the foreseen problems associated with Ph.D. I get many answers, some of which I find weird, some of which are valid, yet this should always be the back of the mind of the candidate before starting this journey.

In the Indian academic scenario, Ph.D. is a necessary evil as promotions and increments are dependent upon it, but pursuing it for only this goal in mind, may not be the right approach. Also, peer pressure, better status in society or family, higher pay packages may be the driving force, but it may not lead to a pleasant journey. Many times, I have heard my women students reasoning out that after working in corporate jobs for 8-10 years, it becomes very difficult for them to manage their home and kids and they now want to shift to teaching and hence pursue Ph.D.

According to my opinion, pursuing a Ph.D. is like a marriage commitment, where might come to a point when you want to get out of it, but you can’t! So, besides the above reasons stated, a good researcher should know how to push his/her limits and can challenge himself/herself. During this whole journey, a researcher should be able to develop new skills and improve his/her ability to understand and solve problems. One should be able to communicate better with overall increased confidence. Also, if someone has been associated or has experienced with research projects, reports, etc., can be a good candidate for Ph.D.

My personal advice to all the candidates would be to think and look very clearly before you leap forward to this topsy turvy journey.

  • How to choose the topic? Which field of study?

I have been frequently asked this question as to which field should be chosen and what should be the topic. In my opinion, there is no clear-cut answer to this question. But a well-thought approach like according to one’s experience, interest, or any inspiration from their own experiences and reading books/ magazines/ research papers guide you to narrow down the search.

My two Ph.D. students had already written a paper for a conference during their post-graduation days, and from there, they sought inspiration to pursue further on their respective topics. The researcher should read articles and research papers of their field to know the extant knowledge already available and further what is missing link and can be explored.

  • Difference between marketing research and PhD (relevance of the topic for academia)

This point is an offshoot of the previous question regarding the choice of the topic. It is very important to know that a Ph.D. has a broader scope and relevance to academia. The results of the study should add value to the academics in the form of new managerial models thinking and philosophy. The results should give an outline to the policymakers, decision-makers, and society at large. A marketing research project has a limited scope by confining itself to a commercial value rather than academic value. So, it is advisable to choose a topic that has a scope of academic growth rather than commercial value.

  • How to make a questionnaire?

Potential Ph.D. students have this notion that a questionnaire is the key to their Ph.D.

They are confident that they can get it done.

Questionnaires are made in a scientific way. It’s a scale that measures a phenomenon.

Designing a questionnaire is a thesis in itself.

Market research questions and designing a questionnaire for thesis are very different.

  • Confusion related to Qualitative V/s Quantitative Analysis?

Many of my students who call me to pursue PhD often get confused between the qualitative analysis part.

This question is not a relevant question when an aspirant is thinking to pursue a Ph.D.

By the way, qualitative and quantitative analysis comes very late in the Ph.D. journey because during the course work you learn these methodologies. When you decide your topic then the ways of data collection will impact your choice of analysis.

If the phenomenon you are studying the theory building/ knowledge creation, then you think of adopting a qualitative way. On the other hand, when you are testing the theory then adopt quantitative methods to analyse your data.

Conducting a qualitative analysis is much more than an interview, it requires a skill set which has to be acquired and expertise has to be developed or hired to come to conclusions and results of that analysis.

  • How to conduct field study, collect data?

Primary data is collected by conducting a survey that can be done online and or offline. A structured questionnaire needs to be administered to the selected sample. If one is taking an interview, then well defined, standardized questions have to be put to the sample in the study and the answers have to be translated verbatim.

  • How to select a sample size the scientific way?

There is a statistical formula available which helps us find out the scientific sample size out of the population known to us.

  • Importance of Literature Review/ Past Studies and how to write LR?

This is the most important part for any thesis to make it relevant and valid as past studies or literature review (LR) gives us a broad idea as to what has been done to date in our area of research and what are the loopholes or limitations which are left out. These parts which are not dealt with or covered in the past studies can become one of the research objectives. Also, the literature review helps us in the discussion part of our thesis which gives the validity of the research done. In many formats of the thesis, the discussion part is not written but nevertheless, in this kind of scenario, the literature review will help the researcher to justify the results in data analysis or test result chapter.

The basic rule to write an LR is to disclose who, when, where, and how the study is conducted, with what research objectives and statistical tools, and finally what are the key findings. Different universities have different formats to write a thesis and that format needs to be complied with. So researchers can get guidelines from that format to write an LR.

  • Issues pertaining to Research Questions and Research Objectives:

Many times, I am asked this query as to how many research questions should be there in a thesis. The rule of thumb is from 2 to 6, but again depending upon the study, it may vary. But these RQ will give the structure to the study and help in identifying the course of action to be taken for the study. Whenever the research question is narrow and specific, the researcher is able to achieve clarity in terms of conducting the study and its analysis.

NOTE: The perspectives expressed are personal and based on the writer’s experience.

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