Getting started

You’re a PhD Student! So what now?

You’re here. Welcome Week is over. You have officially started your PhD. Congratulations.

So what now?

As a new PhD student you may be overwhelmed by the task before you, within 3 or 4 years you are going to have to produce a thesis that is good enough to be published alongside all the other literature in your field.  It can be daunting,

especially if you have never done a research project before.

So we asked some final year PhDs what their advice would be? Here are their top 5, which we have broken down and explored in further detail…

  1. Read, read, read…but don’t get lost down a rabbit hole
  • By reading lots you can see where your PhD fits in and how you can contribute to and expand the scope of existing research.
  • Identify the best papers; read lots of abstracts make sure you understand the concept of the paper even if you don’t read every single section; pick and choose the most relevant sections, you don’t always have to read a whole paper.
  1. Write, write early, write often (and keep notes)
  • Writing early and often will help you to develop and maintain your writing skills for when the time comes to write a paper or thesis chapter. Write daily, or weekly (whatever works for you) but be disciplined about it.
  • Consistently document your progress, what you did, how, and the obstacles you encountered. If you work in a lab keep a systematic and clear log book.
  1. Avoid working in a vacuum
  • Research never occurs in a vacuum. Seeking feedback and advice from your peers will enrich your research and your social life. Make friends who are at all different stages of their PhD, you can draw on their experiences.
  • Communicate your research with others. Attend conferences. Join societies. Organise group discussions. Start a blog. Network.
  1. Don’t be shy. Seek help when needed
  • There’s going to be a lot you don’t know but fear not, you are already developing a solid network of peer support so use them. They will have encountered the same challenges.
  • Meet with your supervisor regularly. Your supervisor is there to minimise the impact any problems might have on your progress or your work. It is vital to develop an honest and open relationship with your supervisor from the beginning.
  1. Set goals and make them happen
  • Break down broad goals, such as ‘complete my thesis,’ into smaller, manageable objectives. Prioritise the individual tasks and activities that make up your workload.
  • Use calendars and to-do lists. Yearly, monthly and weekly calendars can help you to keep check on long term goals whilst a to-do-list will keep you moving towards your goals on a daily basis.

As well as the advice above don’t forget that the University has a host of support services available to you. There are dedicated teams across the institution who are here to help you.

Good luck!

Do you have other study tips for new PhD students? Share them in the comments below.


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