Getting started

My First STEPS

Jiawen XiaThis post is by Jiawen Xia. Jiawen is currently a PhD student in the Institute for Development Policy and Management.

Over the past week I have taken the first few steps along this exciting new academic journey called ‘My PhD.’ I finally find myself with some time to reflect on the journey so far. I want to share with you some of the things I have learned from meeting with both my supervisor and with fellow PhD researchers…

 Keep in touch with your supervisor and other students.

Some people would describe the PhD as a lonely journey, but, it doesn’t need to be. Communication with your supervisor and other colleagues is really helpful in order to build a solid research foundation. As my supervisor told me in our first meeting, it will be a thrilling ride for both of us over the next 3 years. You are definitely not alone on this journey.

 Read and write as much as you can, and keep good notes.

Many of the final year PhD students that I spoke to highlighted the importance of keeping good notes to keep track of everything that you read. I am not an expert in keeping notes, so finding a suitable way to overcome this skill-gap will be a priority for me in the coming days and weeks.

 Use skills training provided by the University.

The University provides many opportunities for students to receive training in a wide range of techniques and methodologies. I discovered that we do not need to restrict ourselves to the courses in just our own school, we can access training from across the institution via the online training catalogue in eProg.

The following three web sites also advertise many training events for humanities students and are worth visiting regularly:



Faculty of Humanities:

Access academic writing tutorials

The University Language Centre offers free academic writing tutorials for international students (and home students who find academic writing a challenge). These one to one sessions last approximately an hour and give you the opportunity to receive expert help in improving your academic written English. Also, the Academic Phrasebank is a general resource for academic writers. It aims to provide examples of some of the phraseological ‘nuts and bolts’ of writing a research paper or dissertation

I know that there will be many more challenges waiting for me in the coming weeks but after only a few small steps along the journey…I feel ready!

What useful tips do you have to share for new PhD students? Reply to Jiawen below or write us an article


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