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Disturbing trend: lack of motivation

  1. Jun 1, 2009 #1
    I attend a rather small university in Canada. I'm doing my MSc. in physics and I've noticed that myself and other grad students rarely have any motivation to do their grad work. Personally, I'm at the pre-experiment stage where all I'm doing is reading papers about the subject, which I find to be pretty boring. I feel like I should be going in for 8 hours a day but I just can't read papers for that long. I've been going in for afternoons only. I've heard other students talk about lack of motivation, not going in on certain days, etc. I find the idea of an MSc. thesis kind of daunting and I guess I'm not used to finding a direction for research on my own.

    Do most grad students go through this or is my school just full of slackers?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 1, 2009 #2
    Not me, although my advising professor seems to take a different approach then yours. When I first started my project my literature review was rather short and I started ordering materials about 2 weeks after I submitted my proposal. Weekly meetings along with periodic goals that I need to meet keeps me rather motivated. I can see how endlessly reading papers can get very boring, especially if your not doing anything with the knowledge you are acquiring.

    What is the subjected of research?
  4. Jun 1, 2009 #3


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    I would strongly suggest finding a way of picking up the pace.

    The problem you're going to run into is that just about all financial support is NOT infinite. Typically for an M.Sc. program they'll fund you for 2 years. After that, you're on your own. Towards the end of your program, you'll kick yourself for not putting in full days in the beginning.

    I understand how reading papers can be boring - especially when you're new to a field and you have to learn new jargon, math, or standard problem-solving approaches. One thing I might suggest is to start right now by writing the introduction to your thesis, even if you're not sure what the title is going to be. Learn Latex (or whatever approach you're going to use to write the thing), develop a library of references, and start summarizing them in a manner that introduces the field.

    Another thought is that perhaps you should meet with your supervisor and start work on something beyond the literature review.

    As for the rest of the students at your school: I wonder if perhaps you're associating primarily with other students who aren't so close to the funding guilotine.
  5. Jun 2, 2009 #4
    You bring up an interesting point. Many of the students at my school don't even have funding because most of the supervisors don't have the research money. Come to think of it, I don't know any students that have finished within the first 2 years, and maybe this is why. I do have funding though.

    I will definitely start the writing of my thesis and build up references to kick things off.
  6. Jun 2, 2009 #5


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    That seems unusual to me. When I started grad school, that's when I had the biggest thirst for reading everything I could get my hands on in the field. It got harder later on for me, when my eyes would glaze over because the introduction of another paper was just reiterating things I already knew from hundreds of other papers, and very little new information could be gleaned. But, at the beginning, gosh, it was hard to make myself stop reading articles and thinking of new questions. Even now, I crave time to just relax with a stack of journal articles and to while away a day just reading them. The best part about being at that stage of reading articles is you can do it anywhere! Go sit out under a shady tree on warm, sunny days, or a cafe, or a comfy chair in the library, etc. Enjoy it while it lasts! But, don't just read for the sake of reading, read while thinking about how you can use that information to develop your own project.
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