Six important skills to become a succesful researcher

Today, I will discuss how to become a good researcher and what are the most important skills that a researcher should have. This blog post is aimed at young Master degree students and Ph.D students, to provide some useful advice to them.

1) Being humble and open to criticism

An important skill to be a good researcher is to be humble and to be able to listen to others. Even when a researcher works very hard and think that his/her project is “perfect”, there are always some flaws or some possibilities for improvement.

A humble researcher will listen to the feedback and opinions of other researchers on their work, whether this feedback is positive or negative, and will think about how to use this feedback to improve their work. A researcher that works alone can do an excellent work. But by discussing research with others, it is possible to get some new ideas. Also, when a researcher present his/her work to others, it is possible to better understand how people will view your work. For example, it is possible that other people will misunderstand your work because something is unclear. Thus, the researcher may need to make adjustments to his research project.

2) Building a social network

A second important thing to work on for young researchers is to try to build a social network. If a researcher has opportunities to attend international conferences, s/he should try to meet other students/professors to establish contact with other researchers. Other ways of establishing contact with other researchers are to send e-mails to ask questions or discuss research, or it could also be at a regional or national level by attending seminars at other universities.


Building a social network is very important as it can create many opportunities for collaborations. Besides, it can be useful to obtain a Ph.D position at another university (or abroad), a post-doctoral research position or even a lecturer position or professor position in the future, or to obtain some other benefits such as being invited to give a talk at another university or being part of the program committee of conferences and workshops. A young researcher has to often work by herself/himself. But he should also try to connect with other researchers.

For example, during my Ph.D. in Canada, I established contact with some researchers in Taiwan, and I then applied there for doing my postdoc. Then, I used some other contacts recently to find a professor position in China, where I then applied and got the job. Also, I have done many collaborations with other researchers that I have met at conferences.

3) Working hard, working smart

To become a good researcher, another important skill is to spend enough time on your project. In other words, a successful researcher will work hard. For example, it is quite common that good researchers will work more than 10 hours a day. But of course, it is not just about working hard, but also about working “smart”, that is a researcher should spend each minute of his time to do something useful that will make him/her advance toward his goals. Thus, working hard should be done also with a good planning.


When I was a MSc and Ph.D. student, I could easily work more than 12 hours a day. Sometimes, I would only take a few days off during the whole year. Currently, I still work very hard every day but I have to take a little it more time off due to having a family. However, I have gained in efficiency. Thus, even by working a bit less, I can be much more productive than I was a few years ago.

4) Having clear goals / being organized / having a good research plan

A researcher should also have clear goals. For a Ph.D or MSc student, this includes having a general goal of completing the thesis, but also some subgoals or milestones to attain his main goal. One should also try to set dates for achieving these goals. In particular, a student should also think about planning their work in terms of deadlines for conferences. It is not always easy to plan well. But it is a skill that one should try to develop.  Finally, one should also choose his research topic(s) well to work on meaningful topics that will lead to making a good research contribution.

5) Stepping out of the comfort zone

A young researcher should not be afraid to step out of his comfort zone. This includes trying to meet other researchers, trying to establish collaborations with other researchers, trying to learn new ideas or explore new and difficult topics, and also to study abroad.


For example, after finishing my Ph.D. in Canada, which was mostly related to e-learning, I decided to work on the design of fundamental data mining algorithms for my post-doctoral studies and to do this in Taiwan in a data mining lab. This was a major change both in terms of research area but also in terms of country. This has helped me to build some new connections and also to work in a more popular research area, to have more chance of obtaining a professor position, thereafter. This was risky, but I successfully made the transition. Then, after my postdoc I got a professor job in Canada in a university far away from my hometown. This was a compromise that I had to make to be able to get a professor position since there are very few professor positions available in Canada (maybe only 5 that I could apply for every year). Then, after working as a professor for 4 years in Canada, I decided to take another major step out of my comfort zone by selling my house and accepting a professor job at a top 9 university in China. This last move was very risky as I quit my good job in Canada where I was going to become permanent. Moreover, I did that before I actually signed the papers for my job in China. And also from a financial perspective I lost more than 20,000 $ by selling my house quickly to move out. However, the move to China has paid off, as in the next months, I  got selected by a national program for young talents in China. Thus, I now receive about 10 times the funding that I had in Canada for my research, and my salary is more than twice my salary as a professor in Canada, thus covering all the money that I had lost by selling my house. Besides, I have been promoted to full professor and will lead a research center. This is an example of how one can create opportunities in his career by taking risks.

6) Having good writing skills

A young researcher should also try to improve his writing skills. This is very important for all researchers, because a researcher will have to write many publications during his career. Every minute that one spends on improving writing skills will pay off sooner or later.

In terms of writing skills, there are two types of skills.

  • First, one should be good at writing in English without grammar and spelling errors.
  • Second, one should be able to organize his ideas clearly and write a well-organized paper (no matter if it is written in English or another language). For a student, is important to work to improve these two skills during their MSc and Ph.D studies.

These skills are acquired by writing and reading papers, and spending the time to improve yourself when writing (for example by reading the grammar rules when unsure about grammar).

Personally, I am not a native English speaker. I have thus worked hard during my graduate studies to improve my English writing skills.


In this brief blog post, I gave some general advice about important skills for becoming a successful researcher. I you think that I have forgotten something, please post it as a comment below.

Philippe Fournier-Viger is a full professor  and the founder of the open-source data mining software SPMF, offering more than 110 data mining algorithms. If you like this blog, you can tweet about it and/or subscribe to my twitter account @philfv to get notified about new posts.

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Six important skills to become a succesful researcher — 68 Comments

  1. hello,
    i want to start my phd in datamining.I dont know what topic i should select in this.please guide me .

    • Hello,

      Glad that my article about description logics is useful. I have not been working on this topic for about 10 years. I am now working mostly on data mining algorithms. So I don’t know the latest papers related to description logics. But I know that it is not an easy topic to understand. When I was working on that topic, I learned a lot from the first two chapters of the “Description logics handbook”. Ten years ago, this was in my opinion one of the best introduction to description logics. Maybe there are some better papers now.

      Bon courage!


  2. Hello Sir,
    I am going to start my Master in the area of could computing (task scheduling). I have no experience before about any research. Can you give me any advice or topic how to start from initial and carry it out?

    • Hello,
      The first step of research is to read recent papers in your field of research from top journals and conferences, and find some interesting research problem. For example, you could find some recent paper that you think you can improve. Then, after you have found a problem, you need to develop a solution, do some experiments, and finally you typically have to write some paper(s) and/or thesis about your research. This is the main idea. But actually, you should have a supervisor to support you in your research. Typically, you should not just do that by yourself. Someone should guide you at your university during all these steps.
      Best regards,

  3. hello sir
    I am a geography student. what can i do to become one of the top ranking researcher in my field of study, considering the competitive world we are in today.

    • Hi, thanks for reading the blog. I will not give you advice related to geography because I am working in computer science, but I will give you general advices that should apply to all fields.
      1) Work hard. To be a top ranking researcher, you need to work all the time for many years. Personally, during my graduate studies, I would take only a few days of rest every year (I am not kidding) and work maybe 10 to 12 hours a day for months. By working hard during graduate studies, I got good scholarships, published good papers. These papers then helped me to get a good post-doctoral researcher position, which help me to get a professor position, and then I continue working hard and moved to a better university and so on. Thus, you should always try to work more, an do more, not just pass the PhD or be satisfied with the minimum to pass. You should always try to do better.
      2) You should work on improving your writing style for writing papers, and improving your English if English is not your native language because writing papers is a key activity for researchers. In top journal or conferences, it is sometimes the way that you write that will make the difference between two excellent papers, and that your paper will be accepted instead of that of someone else.
      3) You should try to work with some top professors and find a research area that is important right now or promising. If you work on some research topic that nobody care about it will be hard to become very famous, or even to find a professor position. If you work with a famous professor, he can help you to get some good opportunities, and you may use his network of collaborators to introduce you to other good researchers, join committees, etc.
      4) As I said above, choosing a good topic is very important. You should choose a topic where you can write papers and be productive. Some topics are very hard and it is difficult to write papers, while other topics it is easier to write a paper more quickly. If you want to write many papers, you may choose a topic that is suitable for that.
      5 …

      This is just a few advices that I can think of quickly! Good luck 😉

  4. hello,
    i want to start my phd in datamining.I dont know what topic i should select in this.please guide me .

  5. Hello, I’m doing my Master Degree in China I don’t have any background in research and my field is in Information security, please give me some advice how to start?

    Thanks in advance. 谢谢你!

    • Hello, my field of research is not information security so I cannot give you any specific advices about that. But generally, the first step of research is to read papers from top conferences and journals to find a problem or define a new problem to solve. Normally your research advisor should help you in that step. Then after defining the problem, the next step is to find a solution and then to implement the solution (do some programming), and then do some experiments and write a paper about it 😉

    • Hi,
      1) Work hard everyday. And spend your time on what is important.
      2) Learn to read and write well in English. And learn how to write a research paper by looking at the structure of top papers. Writing is a very IMPORTANT skill for a researcher.
      3) If possible, work with a good supervisor.
      4) Find a good research project that has something novel, and is not too difficult and can allow you to publish papers.
      5) To become a good researchers, you will need to write many papers and do research for several years.
      6) Try to publish papers in good conferences and journal. Do not publish in the unknown conferences or journals. If you are in computer science, try to only publish in Springer, ACM, Elsevier and IEEE journals and conferences, or similar good publishers. Other unknown conferences and journals have almost no value when your CV will be evaluated by international researchers. Thus, only focus on the good publishers and try to aim at good publications
      7) Try to collaborate with other researchers and students to write more papers by collaborating with other people.

      This is my basic suggestions.

      Best regards,

  6. Hello Sir,
    Your article is really very insightful for would-be researchers.
    But , kindly guide me how I can develop my Writing skills along with Research skills?

    • Hello,
      Great that you like the article and thanks for commenting on the blog.
      To improve you writing skills, you need to write papers and also to spend time to do it well. When you write a paper, if you are not sure about how to write something in terms of English, you should always look up for the grammar rules or check online for the proper way to use the words. You should also check the dictionary if needed and look up for synonyms to avoid always reusing the same words. Basically, you need to spend time to think about how you write, rather than just writing a paper quickly to finish it as fast as possible. This is very important for improving yourself because when you look up a grammar rule, then you will remember it. You can also check a word co-location dictionary to see which word should be used with a given word. Or if you are not sure if a part of sentence is correct, you can search some part of the sentence in Google Books or Google Scholar to see if other people are also writing it in the same way as you or if another way is more common.
      Also, after you finish writing you can ask someone else with more experience to read your paper and check what modifications he makes to your paper to learn from it. Besides, the more you will read papers, the more you will know how a research paper is typically written. There are some sentences structure that always appear in research papers. The more you read, the better you will know how to write.
      You could also take a course or read about technical writing on the internet of from some book. There are some books that explain how to write a paper. I cannot remember the names of these books. But when I was a master degree student, I bought such a book… It was more or less useful but it contained many rules about how NOT to write a paper and how to write a paper.
      Hope this comment is useful 😉 To summarize, you need to spend the time to focus on improving your skill.

  7. Sir I am student of economic and finance
    Sir I want to be a good researcher but I don’t how I can achieve my goal

    • Hi, The first important thing is to work in a good team and with good people. Try to collaborate. Then, you need to find a good topic and work hard, and spend the time on what is really important, and don’t waste time on things that are not important. Just some advices.

    • Hello, generally, a good advice is to surround you with people who are successful and ask the good people around you for advices related to how to perform in your field (biology). Then, after that, you need to work hard and manage your time well to work on what is important for your career. Each day has 24 hours, and maybe you can only work 10 hours in a day, so managing time is key. Then also work on building relationships.

    • Hello, I have MSC degree in physiotherapist and I want to be an effective researcher in the area of my filled. So could help me please

  8. Hi Sir, thanks for your very helpful article. I am a PhD in Economics. My native language is Chinese and I really want to translate your article as well as some of your replies into Chinese, for I think it would benefit more researchers in China. I will post the translated article with the link to your article in my blog and this is totally free for readers. However, before that, I need to have your agreement.
    Thanks anyway, for the illuminating article.

    • Hi, Sure. I agree that you translate that article and replies to that article by providing a link to the original article. 😉 However, if you want to translate more than one article, then please let me know 😉 Glad to know you are from China. I am working at HIT in Shenzhen.

      Best regards,

  9. Gud evening Sir, am an undergraduate student of Department of Library and information Science. Sir my question is; please sir is there any database that was design specifically for Library Science collection? if not, Why? if Yes how where can I locate it? thankk you Sir.

    Yoursfaithful site follower.

  10. Sir, I recently graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Development Studies and am so much interested in becoming a good researcher. But I have no finance to pursue degree of masters, how will I keep my hope of becoming a researcher a live. Am Oboi Deo from Uganda.

    • Yes, I understand, money is a constraint. You could always try to work for a few years to accumulate some money. Another possibility is that some people work part-time during their studies but it is not so easy. There also exists some part-time master degree programs or online master degree programs but you would have to check the price. So I think it is a matter of finding a cheap master program, and making some plan to save money or work if you want to do the further studies. Hope everything goes well.

      best regards

  11. Hello Sir, I want to become a researcher but I have no educational background, how can I become a good researcher?

    • Hello, Thanks for reading the blog. Normally, a researcher is trained by going to university and doing a bachelor degree and then a master degree and a PhD. Why? Typically, during the bachelor degree, one will learn the fundamental knowledge from a field. Then during a master degree and PhD, the student will join a team of researchers and will be mentored by a senior researcher who will guide him about how to do research properly and how to write research papers. During the master degree and PHD, one learns how to read state-of-the-art research papers and contribute with new research ideas. Doing this is not trivial, and typically, it requires at least 4 years after the undergraduate degree. Being a researcher requires to develop multiple skills : (1) how to find good research topics, (2) how to write well technical papers describing research, (3) how to conduct research, etc.
      Usually, all researchers go to university. There are a few exceptions. I know some mathematicians for example that have made contributions to mathematics but have never attended university. But this is an exception and I think that few people can do it. Actually, when doing a master degree or PHD one should choose a good research team to learn from excellent researchers and collaborate with other researchers. In that way, one can learn much more quickly and avoid doing some basic mistakes. Best regards,

  12. Hi Prof. Philippe Fournier-Viger.

    I would like to thank you for your hard effort in helping young researchers around the globe. I read your post and your replies to people asking for help and can’t but wonder how you stay motivated. How does a man like yourself keep motivated and push through so many years of hard work.



    • Dear Michael,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂 Actually, I am very busy but I like what I am doing so I keep doing it and I am a bit workaholic 😉 But also, I strongly believe that all researchers should help each other and share the product of their research. This is the reason why I founded the SPMF open-source software for data mining and why I share the source code of all my algorithms online. I think that if researchers don’t help each other than we all waste a lot of time. For example, if a researcher do not share his source code with other researchers, these latter will have to write the same program again to reproduce results. After founding that software, I also decided to create this blog. For the blog, it may seems that I write often some new blog posts recently, but sometimes I write several of them in advances to save time, or I will write them on my cellphone while in the airplane for example.

      Thanks again for your comment.



  13. Dear Sir,
    thanks for you blog.
    I am also in lull phase and don’t know what how to move forward …i am out of ideas and don’t have much publication also. I always want to be a researcher but somehow that motivation is dying inside.
    thanks and regards,

    • Hello,
      Thanks for reading the blog. Yes, sometimes it is not easy to move forward in research. It takes a lot of hard work. And sometimes we do not know where we are doing. In the industry, when someone is doing a programming project, the goal are generally quite clear. But in research, we often have some goal but the path is not so clear, or even the goal is not clear at the beginning. And sometimes we need to start something again because we took the wrong path. I think that the best thing to do is perhaps to take a step back and think about what changes you can make to your overall approach for research to improve it. You can also try to sit and ask advices from other people in your institution to ask what part of your process can be improved. Some key idea is that you need to spend time everyday on your project. You should not for example stop working on it for one week… Then you will lose the focus. Also you should make sure that your direction is quite clear. Set some clear goal. This is just a few advice. Wish everything get better!

  14. i am a current student in a clinical rehabilitation science and your few advice made my day just thank you

  15. Hi Prof. Philippe Fournier-Viger,
    I’am a phD student in a canadian university, i am in my 5 year of PhD, the problem is that i fell like i am not a good researcher , my director in each commitee meeting say to me that i don’t explain well my data, i go faster, i don’t understand my project, and in other side he says that the project is going very good, and i have excellent data, i feel like like i’am lost, i don’t know what to do, he treats me like if i’am a failed person, and he says to me all the time that i am passif. please can you advice me. my goal is to be a very good scientist, and a good professor .

    • Hi, Thanks for writing and glad to know you are in Canada (as a Canadian). I think that it is positive in some ways if the director is saying that the project is going well. That means that you are moving toward the end of your PhD. But I understand from what you wrote that the director has a negative attitude toward you. It is hard to change the attitude of other people. But you are close to finishing your PhD. At this point, it would not be a good idea to change supervisor. Thus, I think the best is to work hard on finishing the PhD while keeping in mind that you will soon work in a different environment and with different people. For example, you may find a post-doctoral researcher position or professor position and work with another team where the attitude of people will be much different, and you will learn a different way or working. Also, it is possible that there is a bit of truth to what the supervisor says. I mean, you may actually have a personality that he called passive because maybe you like to listen to others before giving your own idea (just like me). But it should not be a reason for criticism. Everybody has different personality and different personality types has advantages and disadvantages. As for other criticisms like better explaining your data, this is something that you can actually work on improving. I don’t know whether the criticism is justified but being able to explain well is definitely a skill that anyone can work on improving. For example, you can try to improve the design of your PPT presentations, spend more time to prepare your presentation or meetings. You could also use a book to take notes and try to improve the way your make your schedule and organize your ideas. This is something you can work on. So to summarize, I would say to not give up. You are actually close to finishing. Try to focus on your goal of finishing and think about the most efficient way to finish. Also remember to always try to improve yourself and you may try to ignore some criticisms that are not reasonable. Then you will soon work in a better place. Hope this helps, Regards.

  16. Hi Prof. Philippe Fournier-Viger.

    I am currently working as an employee in MNC organisation, but i not satisfy with my job. And I like to learn new concepts, new technologies occuring in any field…so I feel like I can be a good researcher. To fulfill my dream I am also preparing for masters with job. Will you plz help me that my decision is correct ??
    Can I be a good researcher??

    • Hi, Yes, in research you can spend a lot of time learning new things, which is great. A researcher also needs to like reading research papers and eventually writing research papers. And a researcher need to be able to come up with innovative solution and also work hard to obtain good results. If you are interested by research, I recommend to try it. Doing a master degree is a good way to test your interest and usually a master degree is not too long. Then, if you really like it, you may consider doing the PhD but the PHD is a much bigger investment of time since it can take 3 to 4 years perhaps.

  17. Hello
    Thanks for these useful points.I am a persian literature student and there is one negative point in my studies.i cant spend a clear and constant time for studing in each day.for example one day i spend 6 hour for studing but the next day i just spend 2 or 3 hour for i can solve this problem and how i can increase the hours my studing?
    Tkank you a lot
    Mahdi from Iran

    • Hello,
      Thanks for reading. I understand. Maybe you can try a few things:
      (1) try to go work in a quiet place, without distractions (for example, instead of working at home, go to the the university library or other quiet place, and only bring your books with yo. Do not bring your cellphone or other distractions with you,
      (2) If you are working on the computer, there is a lot of potential distractions if you are connected to the internet. You may want to uninstall games on your computer if there are some.. You could even go as far as deactivating the internet etc.
      (3) You can also try to set some goals and rewards if you attain these goals
      This is just some ideas. Hope that it helps.
      Best regards,

  18. Hello sir, I am a citizen of Bangladesh. I would be a university student. I want to study at law. Besides, I want to be a researcher about that law subject. I have two questions
    1. Is it possible to be a researcher about law subject?
    2. If possible, how can I start from today?

    I am waiting for your advice sir.
    Thank you

    • Hi, Thanks for reading the blog. I think law may be different from other fields like chemistry and physics. But I guess there must be some research related to law. For example, one may want to study how laws havechanged over time, or perhaps want to evaluate the impact of new laws on people. I think there is some potential to do research about law. But I am a computer science researcher so I don’t know much about research in that area. I would recommend to ask some professors of law at your university about advices for your carreer path, and see what are the possbilities. They should be able to give you the best advices since they work in that field.

  19. Greatings from Africa

    Dear Prof

    Thank you for the blog you just saved my career. I did not know that one have to invest such long hours. As of today i will start investing more time in my project. Im an aspiring researcher in animal science and im currently working on a review paper and imagine, i have been spending less than 10 hours a day on my project.

    From now going forward i will make it a point that i invest more time.

    Thanks Prof

  20. Thank you sir for sharing the information.inspired by your work, will try to follow your advice of begin a good researche shared in your blog. Thank you

  21. Hi i am a computer science student and just want to start thesis in Business process management(BPMN). Please advice how to search topic papers regarding my research problem.

    • Hi, Thanks for reading the blog. A simple approach to search for papers is to use a web search engine or some specialized websites to search for papers (e.g. Semantic Scholar, Google Scholar, Research Gate…). To search for papers, you will need to search using keywords. A challenge is to find the right keywords. So perhaps that you will have to try many keywords to find what you want. Then maybe that you will find hundreds of papers. In that case, my recommendation is to first focus on recent papers (last 5 to 10 years) and papers from good conferences and journals, or that have more citations. This is to make sure that you focus on papers of good quality and newer papers. Then, when you read papers, you can take some notes about each paper : what is the research problem? what is the limitation of previous work? what is their solution? Is there some limitation to their work that you could maybe improve? The goal of reading many papers is to understand what other people have done before you, what are the popular topics and to find a research problem that you could work on that is interesting. Also if you can read good survey papers, it can save you a considerable amount of time as they will provide a summary of other papers to you.

      Best regards,

  22. So interesting. I am a Master’s student who wants to pursue a career in Data Science. At this stage, I am still reviewing a topic for my Research Project in Design of Experiment and I also spend more time in learning Python for Data Science. Although I spend 6 hours everyday on rapping my head around the choice I made. I think this write-up has increased my zeal to spend more time on my project.

    Thank you once again for inspiring us,
    Best regards.

    • Hi, Thanks for reading the blog and happy to read your comment and that you are undertaking the journey to learn about Data Science! Wish you have fun learning and success!

      Best regards,

  23. sir,thank you very much for helping many who are in need of suggestions or directions for a good research.
    i am from ETHIOPIA and i am going to follow my MSc program next year in Midwifery so please can you help me by providing me some reference materials for a research and can help me how to get scholarship please?

    • Hi, you are welcome. I dont have any information about getting scholarships. I just recommend to look at the requirements of the scholarship program that you are interested in, in the country that you want to apply. And then, from there, you can think about how to prepare your material for applying to meet the requirements. Sometimes, applying for a scholarship may require to write a project proposal or some cover letter. In that case, it is better to take the time to write these documents well because some scholarship programs may be competitive. As for reference materials for research, it really depends on your research topics. There are a lot of papers online that you can find in websites like Google Scholar. If you are interested by topics like pattern mining, you can also check my software SPMF, which contains Java code, datasets, and links to some papers on the website explaining the algorithms.

  24. Dear Sir,
    At first thanks for your valuable suggessions. I feel happy to know that you are a professor of HIT, Shenzhen. I am a new student of PhD at Deparment of Economics and Trade, School of Management of Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin, China. My course work is running. I am also an Assistant Professor in my country. I want to be a good researcher. And also if possible want to be a professor here. But I don’t know the way. How can I start my work and fix my goal? Please give me your ideas. Thanks.

    • Hi,
      Thanks for writing a message, and glad to know that you are also from HIT. I am in Shenzhen, but I visited the campus in Harbin before, and it is great.

      Now, let me provides you with some suggestions. I had a look a bit at your profile and I see that you already have many publications, which is great. Now, in China, a lot of importance is about the ranking of the publications (for example, Q1, Q2…Q4 journals), and whether the journal are indexed (e.g. SSCI, EI, SCI…). To succeed in China and do well as a researcher, it will be important to target the journals or conferences that are indexed. For a business major, most likely you will have to target SSCI journals. So, what I want to say is that you must keep in mind that you need to publish papers in such journals and make this to be one your goal. Now, how to start?

      The first step is to find a good research topic. If you work on a topic that is not good or that people are not interested in, then it will make it more difficult to publish the good papers. Also, the topic needs to have some novelty, to be challenging and you should be able to do something new or innovative on that topic… So choosing a good research topic takes some time…. But it is worth it! Also, about the research topic, you may also want to consider the time required to do the research because not all the research topic will require the same amount of time to publish a paper. And of course, the ability to write a paper and produce some result in some amount of time is important.

      After that, you also of course need to work hard to propose something new on that topic. This will also be a lot of work. Also to help you, you should try to work in a good team, with some a good supervisor that can give you good advices for your research. If you have a chance, you can also try to attend some conference and do networking with other researchers in your field. You can also look at the top researchers in your field to draw some inspiration. You can also try to collaborate with other students to write papers together (this is actually very good as it would also increase your number of papers).

      And also you can try to improve your paper writing skills. I think you know this already, but writing skills are always very important for researchers for papers, grant proposals etc. The better you become at writing, the better it will be.

      To be a good researcher takes a lot of work.. But if you are motivated and work everyday for it, you will improve yourself and should reach your goal.

  25. Dear Professor,first I would like to say thank you very much for your valuable description on the area as well as sharing your personal carrier path. Now I’m assistant lecturer and masters student in clinical chemistry at Addis Ababa university, Ethiopia. I will finish this program by the coming May and I’m looking forward to proceed my PhD in abroad with relative disciplines and becoming excellent researcher. For the success of my journey please give me your essential suggestions and recommendations? thank you.

    • Hi, Thanks for reading the blog, and glad that the information is useful. I think that it is good that you are planning to go abroad for PhD. Going abroad is definitely a good experience to see how it works in other research teams or countries. It will certainly be valuable. I don’t have any specific area for chemistry as I am a computer scientist, but I wish you success and my main recommendations are to work hard and stay focused… It is easy to not stay focused or stop working hard after a while. But in the end, it will be rewarding. Best regards,

  26. Hello Sir,

    Thank you so much for your excellent writing.
    Currently, I am PhD student in Korea. It’s about 1.5 years I am working on a topic. Now I am writing a paper. I want to finish my graduation as early as possible with proper research knowledge. Currently, I am facing two problems: 1. My writing style is not good for paper, and 2. I could not concentrate on the work. I came to the lab, stay on the desk, read papers, but feels like, I am doing nothing. I can only concentrate for 4 or 5 hours per day. What should I do Sir? Please give me some suggestions.

    • Hi, Thanks for your message!
      I can give you some suggestions. First, It is common to have a kind of “writer block”, when writing a research paper. We sit in front of the computer and don’t know how to write the introduction for example, and stay blocked there for a while, …. A good approach to avoid such problem is to first write an outline of your paper (a plan), with the main sections, and the main ideas or things that you want to discuss in each section. Then, rather than trying to write a perfect paper right away, you can just write a very rough draft to put your ideas in the paper. At this stage, you do not need to polish the English… you just try to write everything quickly to move forward. Then, after you have a rough draft, you can try to polish it and improve it… This can help to solve the problem of the “writer’s block” if you face this problem. Also, a good approach is to write the introduction/abstract after you finished writing all the other sections. Second, another idea to improve your paper is to team up with another researcher that will help you to polish your paper. It could be to invite another PhD student who write well to revise your paper and participate, or even you could invite another expert from your field to participate to your paper and ask to help revise your paper. Of course, if you do this, you should first ask the permission to your PhD supervisor.
      Those are the ideas that come to my mind.
      By the way, about 4 or 5 hours of work, it is not that bad… Personally, I try to work 10 hours a day but sometimes, I can also only do 4 or 5 where i am very productive… If you take these five hours and you try to be as efficient as possible, then you can do many great things. Actually, it is also important to use your time well. Even if you work 10 hours a day, if you dont use your time well and work on something not important, then you may waste a lot of time

      Best regards,

      • Thank you So much, Sir, for your kind reply.
        Yes, I have to stay in my lab from 9 am to 9 pm. And lots of time I feel distracted. I want to concentrate at least 10 hours a day otherwise I could not finish my Ph.D. as my expected time.

        For writing, I will follow your tips for sure.

  27. Great article! I’m currently working on an MSc in Physics at DePaul University in Chicago. Goal is to one day get a PhD in Astrophysics. Thanks for taking the time to help others reach their goals as you have. Well done.

  28. Thank you for telling me that a good researcher should be able to step out of his comfort zone and reach out to other researchers for new ideas. I’ll be taking my first research course next semester and I have heard from my seniors that some of them are getting paid for doing research. I’ll follow your advice so I can do a good job in this field and earn money from my own skills as well.

  29. Hellow professor could you please give few motivational suggestions although you are a professor in science background ?Now I am 37 years old even though I have still passion to do PhD in Business.Due to my personal problem, I couldn’t start PhD after finished my MBA but now I am preparing my GMAT exam to start PHD next year although I got PhD admission 7 years before somewhere.I just recovered from my problem ,and I got strong passion to do PhD.Last 7 years I couldn’t pass enough well ,but I never lose my hope because I understand certainly something wrong with me .To improve myself I am trying to GMAT and English writing practice 12-14 hours every day in order to perfect candidate to fight against PhD.I am firmly believed that my English writing not enough good,but still trying to improve even little bit day by day.I personally think if Harvard university’s professors can go 500 miles why not me to go even though 10 miles.My younger brother already finished his PHD in MIS ,and his university’s world ranking is under 40. I am really happy to see your blog where you wrote on how to be a good researcher for young dynamic researchers who has passion to do research even though you are a professor one of the best universities in China.I really appreciate your novel work,and for sure I wish your success tremendously. Thanks in advance!

    • Hi, Thanks a lot for your message. It is very interesting to read and I think that your English is actually quite good. Recently, I was talking with a friend who is a teacher and he told me that it is important that whatever you do, you should never forget your dreams. His meaning was that if your dream is for example to retire on a beach or someday write a novel, then you should not give up but instead work towards these goals even if it is part-time. I think that it makes sense. If your dream is to have a PhD, then it is not too late to get one, and if it is really meaningful for you than it is a somewhat good reason to try to get one. I started my PhD at 25 years old but in my PhD program there was a retired engineer who was 60+ years old who decided to come back to do a PhD after retiring. He finally obtained his PhD a few years later, which shows that it is never to late. I also think that someday when I retire, I may perhaps do a PhD in mathematics or something else for the fun of learning more. By the way, I wrote another blog post about why doing a PHD? This post should be interesting for you: Best regards,

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