We all know our PhD journey has been unique, special, just like the snowflakes we are.
Reading the advice Oliver Williamson gave his phd students, makes me smile, it is advice I should have got during my journey. It would have been perfectly tailored to me.
The essay, written by his past PhD students, is available here, and worth reading:
As I reflect on Oliver Williamson’s contributions to academics, I realize that he was not only an outstanding scholar, but he was also a generous mentor-generous with his time, generous with his patience, generous with his empathy, and generous with his insights. As one of his Ph.D.
In short, (though without the charm and content of the essay)
Year 1: Tackle questions that can be answered in a dissertation; don’t try to change the world in one paper.
Year 2: Start with a widely-accepted model of a behavior and then make modest, yet believable, modifications, one at a time, to build a new theory of a phenomenon.
Year 3: Find an interesting phenomenon, describe how it works (“what is going on here?”), build out the mechanisms clearly, then make those mechanisms formal and rigorous.Year 4: The message to an anxious Ph.D. student: In the desire to graduate with a Ph.D., do not move too quickly or superficially; be careful, cumulative, and definitive.
Year 5 (As finishing up) “The tenure clock is short. The time it takes to fully develop a novel idea is long. The time it takes to convince others is even longer. Don’t be in a hurry. You are running a marathon. Listen to critiques. Persevere.”