For a research advisor, graduate school is a considerable investment of time that would finally result in his students’ research getting published. He would not want a student who lacks motivation, has indifferent work habits, or quits school in the middle of the research. Unfortunately, these things do happen and they depend on the individual’s intention for pursuing a PhD program. Here are the four main reasons.
Some people are passionate about research and have always wanted to be a researcher. Considering their competency, these are the best students to have in a PhD program. They are hard-working, self-motivated, and will never quit. However, as any research leader will testify, there are not many of these people.
Most people pursue a PhD because they believe it is the best way to get a well-paid job in the field of their interest. Such people are often excellent researchers and highly motivated workers since they know that the better their grades and the more successful their project, the greater their options will be in the job market. Others have an attitude towards research where they are only willing to put in the necessary time and efforts to get results but nothing more.
These people have no intention of pursuing a research career; entering a PhD program simply to achieve some other goal. Such people are generally average researchers at best wanting to get their degree as quickly as possible with the minimum amount of work.
Some people go to grad school because they don’t know what they want to do with their life hoping that by the time they get their PhD they will have it figured out. Such people occasionally develop into good researchers if they enjoy the research process, but it’s a matter of chance. As with the previous group of people, motivation is low and the drop-out rate is high.
If you are a professor interviewing a candidate for your research group, try to get a sense of why they want to join the PhD program. Also, be wary if they view research as a stepping stone to something else or seem to have no definite motivation at all.
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