Sources of Distraction During the Ph.D. Research Activity


  • Magnus Aspenberg
  • Edouard Berrocal
  • Raed Bashitialshaaer


In this article, the sources of distraction during the Ph.D. research studies have been investigated. A total of 35 Ph.D. students from the Faculty of Engineering, Lund University, have been interviewed. The first noticeable observation, from this study, is that the mandatory tasks, including teaching and taking courses, are considered by the Ph.D. students as one of the most important sources of distraction. Planning and scheduling the mandatory tasks during a given period of time seems to be the best strategy to adopt. Nevertheless, this is, in practice, rarely possible and the students seem to complain about it. The second most important source of distraction has been identified as the work colleagues. Facing this distraction appears to be very challenging and the only successful solution is to simply change the workplace (e.g. working from home or going to the library). It has been deduced that the maximum uninterrupted time during a typical working days is just above 1hour. Such little time seems to be a significant issue for the Ph.D. students focusing on solving theoretical problems. The impact of social networks on distraction has also been studied. Surprisingly the majority of the Ph.D. students think that they can manage to efficiently avoid it by self-discipline. Finally the last unexpected result is that Ph.D. students have a tendency to distract themselves by working on secondary tasks which are not their most urgent ones neither their most important. They often feel having a hard time to finish a given task before starting another one which is more enjoyable.