Starting a Doctorate (Revisited)

I was clearing my laptop document store yesterday and I found something very interesting there. Considering that I am the kind of person who clings on every little thing and thinks it through over and over, I am honestly surprised how quickly I can forget and move on sometimes, especially when the events have been pleasant…

Last July during the School of Education PGR Conference I was asked to prepare a short talk on Starting a Doctorate. I just found the document with my tips for prospective Doctorate students and it does make sense. Here it goes:

  • Be organised and plan – I, for example, do not always stick to my plans, but they give me an overview of what I need to do in the longer term, as well as a sense of achievement overcoming the small challenges.
Plans, plans ~ my PhD door

Plans, plans ~ my PhD door

  • Write stuff down – I have a ‘thinking’ reporter’s pad which I bring around all the time, I use it for those bright ideas that visit me just before falling asleep or while being on the tram. This is how I came up with a title for my PhD project…
  • Find out how you work best – time of the day, environment. This goes back to beating procrastination and writing days, or the fundamental question: to library or not to library? Well, last year I was finding it easier to focus while at the library, especially during the undergrads’ exam periods when the whole building was full with brain-power and people busy reading and writing. Not this year… I just can’t stay there, I have to be on my own, either at home that is, or the PhD study room at uni. In short, things change, be prepared to adjust your routines and constantly examine what works best for you.
  • Allow yourself to have breaks – if you feel that you can’t work today, don’t force yourself… In my opinion loving what you do comes first and forcing yourself will not help. Everyone needs breaks from time to time and if they are taken moderately, they will not affect progress and work overall. I do it anyways.
  • Set yourself goals and mini-goals and celebrate achieving them – I usually celebrate by ticking them off, I never cross them because I read somewhere that this was not celebratory, it was kind of disregarding the value of the work done. I also have a list of awards, completing a goal entitles me to one item on my list, be it cake or a short shopping trip to the city centre.
  • Your supervisors are your friends!!! And yes, they are two!!!
  • Be focused and know what you are doing and what comes next – very important for me, gives me a direction, gives me a reason to make lists…
  • Talk to people about your research – this helps narrowing down focus, developing effective communication skills, along with skills to present for people who are not specialists in your field. I love talking to people about my research and being asked questions is just so refreshing… But remember, keep your ‘thinking’ pad handy in those moments 🙂

Well, I hope this helps. It helped me anyway, not only to remind myself of why I am doing a PhD, but also to step aside from all the theoretical framework anxieties occupying my mind.


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