Starting the PhD? 25 things to consider


Are you just starting a PhD? Worried? Excited? Nervous?

Fear not.:There’s lots of support and help available to you. Your institution is likely to provide an induction programme where you’ll find out about all the internal procedures and timelines you have to follow. But there’ll also be more. You’ll also get details of what training is available to you. Your institution will encourage you to make connections with your peers, and to engage with what’s on offer outside your faculty.

There’s also veritable truckloads of advice available to you from other sources – facebook and what’s app support groups, youtube, twitter accounts, and books which address doctoral progress, writing the thesis and examinations.

I’ve written a fair few posts over the years about starting the PhD. And had a few guests write about early doctoral issues too. I’ve gathered twenty five (well actually twenty six) together here, so you don’t need to go rummaging through the patter archive. And I do answer questions in the form of new posts if there are things missing from this getting going list!

Getting down and dirty with scholarly cultures

Getting to grips with “the university” – this post looks at what it means to work in a very peculiar particular kind of organisation

Learning new vocabulary – the post talks about the process of acquiring a new disciplinary and research lexicon

Being “critical” – looks at what it means to evaluate and develop a “helicopter” view of your reading

Write and write regularly – well what it says, the importance of setting up a regular writing time, space and habit

Choosing your words – this post examines the strengths and limitations of using academic phrase banks to underpin your academic writing practice

Don’t try to write “classy” – this post looks at why explaining your ideas clearly is a better goal than trying to sound “academic”

Keeping a journal – it’s a very good idea to keep track of your reading, experiences and ideas

The very first thing you are asked to do in the PhD – read and write

Refining your research topic – looks at how you focus down the big messy idea you started with

Digging into the reading – this post offers some beginning strategies for actually getting going, choosing between all of the texts that are on offer

Putting the search into research – offers some advice on how to approach the process of searching

Searching the field – this post suggests that a key task in initial reading is not just to find material relevant to your study but also to get a handle on your field

How to start your literature review – Three different approaches to the big reading and writing task

Finding the literatures you need – offers some strategies for locating the work relevant to your project

Comparing and contrasting papers – this post is a take on what you need to do when you are reading

Seven prompts for writing with literatures – this post offers strategies for doing the early writing your supervisor will ask for

How much should doctoral researchers read? – suggests its better to think about what’s desirable and possible in the time

Why supervisions can be hard – looks at moving from being marked right and wrong to being asked questions which extend your thinking. It’s good to also read this post Troubleshooting research supervision

Some practical issues 

Selling up and leaving home – tells the story of moving countries to do a PhD and all that this means

Money matters – talks about the importance of thinking about costs and budgets for the whole PhD period

Tech matters– sorting out your computer equipment and software is pretty important

Managing expectations – this post looks at some of the predictable “tough points” in the PhD ahead

Anticipate tasks and timings – this post suggests that it is helpful to get a long term overview of what happens when and why

Setting up your routine – advice on developing the habits that will get you through the long haul

Get organised now – this post suggests that being in control of where you work, and how you work, is key to success.

Don’t panic – talks about PhD highs and lows and that feeling that you don’t know what you are doing. Relax, everyone feels this.