Yesterday I asked this, seeking a general guidance. General guidance means, things that are generally applicable to everyone irrespective of individual. But my question was put on hold as "seeking personal advice". No doubt that I want some advice, but it is not entirely based on my particular problem. I am sure most of the user here, already has PhDs in mathematics. So what I am asking is, how one should prepare for it? What are the topic mostly essential to carry on research? How to read? What should be the approach? I guess these questions are common to everyone. Now that my question is "on hold", I am not getting anything useful from it. How community handle this kind of questions? Is it really "seeking personal advice" and should never be answered?

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    $\begingroup$ The notion that asking for "general guidance" is the antidote to "seeking personal advice" is a mistaken one. In the limit one posts an entirely general question ("How do I prepare to get a Math Ph.D?") that cannot be answered in the relatively short form permitted here. Setting aside the personality involved, what makes for excellent content would be a specific question, one that has some data to drive responses from willing Readers, with a strong connection to a mathematical topic. You surmise that "most of the user[s] here, already [have] PhDs in mathematics," but I doubt that. $\endgroup$
    – hardmath
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 22:59

2 Answers 2


Your question lacks important details.

It appears you are in India, and intend(ed) to pursue a PhD in India, but on this I am not quite sure even. You do not really state this anywhere. One can only infer it from your personal information.

This creates confusion in that you are talking about some "entrance examinations" assuming that everybody knows what you are talking about. But many don't, since in other academic systems things are handled differently.

  • If you want to ask how to prepare for admission to PhD programs in mathematics in India (assuming this is what you want to do), then ask this.

  • If you want to ask how to prepare for admission to PhD programs in general then make this clear, yet do not assume they all operate like the ones you know about.

The latter question is likely too broad. I am not convinced the former is suitable for this site either, but maybe it could be addressed productively.

(To avoid any misconception, I stress 'India' as I think this is the case in the current instance. I would answer the same for any other country and academic system.)

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    $\begingroup$ Since the question has been edited, it seems to have been distilled down to the core of "How one should prepare before starting a PhD?" without much specific reference to admissions processes. I think that this is far too broad to be on-topic here. $\endgroup$
    – user296602
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 18:14

Seeking personal advice and seeking general guidance: How thin is the line?

It does not matter for the topicality on Mathematics.SE, irrespective of whether your exact question is "seeking personal advice".

This site intends to be about mathematical content -- notably distinguished from being about mathematical practice. The scope of the site is not "any question of interest to a mathematician".

An example:

  • How can I best prepare for mathematical research?

is off-topic, while e.g.:

  • How can I improve my proof-writing skills?

could be argued to be an on-topic, albeit soft question (actually, too soft, please don't post it in this form).


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