Surviving a PhD – 10 Top Tips…

I was awarded my PhD in January this year following a successful viva in November 2011, so thought I would try to summarise my experiences over the last 3-4 years and see if I could come up with some key points of advice from start to finish…

Tip 1 – Academics need you: Most are keen to speak to any potential student who has a good research idea as a good record of successful PhD supervision is essential to build a successful academic career. Don’t be afraid to approach a potential supervisor directly. There were not any suitable advertised studentships in the are which I live (and I did not want to move as I have a young family here),  so I decided I needed to make my own opportunity. I developed a rudimentary research proposal and emailed every academic I could identify in my local region whose research interests seemed to fit. In the end I worked up a proposal with Newcastle University which we submitted for an ESRC 1+3 studentship in the open competition (I was awarded the scholarship but did not take it up, instead I opted to study via a different route – more on that in a subsequent post – but I thought the advice may be useful).

Tip 2 – Its YOUR PhD – Take ownership: Whether the research idea is your own, or you have been appointed to research a topic as an advertised position, YOU are the one working day and night and living the research. Whilst your supervisors will have opinions or perhaps an agenda which will shape the direction of your research, It is YOU alone who will have to defend it in the viva. I have spoken to many PhD researchers who felt that their research was not their own and they were merely doing the bidding of their supervisor. The result can be mixed – some drop out as the lack of control leads to a lack of interest or focus, some work day and night to please their supervisory team and burn out, many are successfully awarded their PhD but feel that they are a sham as their work was not entirely their own. 

Tip 3 – Write up as you are going: I am always amazed when I speak to PhD students who are in the third year and entering their “writing up stage” and tell me that they havent written more than a few thousand words. They feel daunted and overwhelmed by the huge task of meeting that 40-80,000 plus word count (depending on the discipline). “But you must have the literature review almost completed at least?” I say – but many just have pages and pages of notes. I had written complete drafts of my Introduction, Background, Literature Review, Methodology and Scoping Study by the Midpoint of my PhD – 18 months since I began. Sure, I would have to update and re-draft these sections – some of them extensively, but the knowledge that I had written about 40,000 words of what became a 90,000 document was of great comfort to me. I could also then pass these sections off to my supervisors for review whilst I embarked on my data analysis.

Tip 4 – Love to Hate your Thesis: You will at some point hate your thesis, trust me…This is OK, its normal – most people seem to go through it at some point – usually about two-thirds of the way through. This is completely normal and to be expected. Don’t panic, take a break – yes a break. PhD students need a holiday too, even if it’s just a break from the research to do something different. When you return your brain will have sorted out some of the problems you are struggling with on its own. 

Tip 5 – Finished is better than perfect: I am a perfectionist by nature – but I have had to learn over the last few years the finished is better than perfect. Perfection, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. If you are lucky enough to reach the mythical land of perfection (which only exists in your own head), it is still highly likely that readers, and more importantly, examiners will find fault. This is what examiners are paid to do. The same advice applies to writing papers too. This leads into Tip 6 below…

Tip 6 – The written Thesis is just part of the PhD: The majority of PhD thesis have some form of wording on the fist page which states something like the document is “submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy” . Spot the keyword? “partial”. Before and during the viva the examiners will be considering many criteria in addition to the thesis such as the administration of the PhD, your training record,  publications and impact activities to name a few. The point is, the Thesis does not have to be – nor is expected to be – perfect. The examiners will always have an opinion on how you have presented the results or the approach you took. You will not know what this opinion is until you put the work in front of them – so don’t try to second guess but ensure that you can defend why you took a certain approach as opposed to another. You made the decision (see Tip 2) based on the evidence in front of you at the time and you are the expert in this subject. So defend. 

Tip 7 – Enjoy the Viva!: No, really. This is your chance to communicate your research, your passion, to at least two leading academics – sounds scary, but they will be genuinely interested in what you have done. Most examiners want to pass a student – despite the horror stories that are popular amongst PhD students. The truth is in the majority of cases they will have already made a decision about whether to pass you or not. You can read about my viva experience and top viva survival tips here

Tip 8 – Have a plan for life post PhD: By this I don’t mean start looking for a job etc…although of course this is important – more how are you going to fill the void? And it is a void. You will have been immersed in a particular subject and culture for at least 3 years, probably more. Once you have completed any changes demanded post viva and submitted the final completed thesis – the silence is deafening…

Tip 9 – It is worth it: Completing the PhD, for me at least, was an anti-climax. There were no trumpets or angels, no being carried through the university on the shoulders of my peers, no huge pay-rise or immediate offers of employment, not even any champagne (although there was, strangely, many flavours of Schnapps..). However 6 months on from the viva and corrections it feels worth it. It’s a validation of your research skills and prowess., you feel a little more authoritative when speaking to peers or students (although inside you know that you are not any smarter that before), and you have survived – almost mentally intact….

Tip 10 – Ignore tips 1-9: In the words of Richard Butterworth,

The only way to find out how to do a PhD is to do one. Therefore all advice is useless….

114 comments on “Surviving a PhD – 10 Top Tips…
  1. Thanks for the advise. Give me 4 years and I will tell you if it was any good x

    • Good advice. I would also add that as hard as it gets, there is a light at the end of the tunnel: It will be finished someday. Earning a PhD has an awful lot to do with simple endurance.

      Best to all of you out there working on it.

  2. I enjoyed reading this, thank you for taking the time to write it. A massive congratulations on finishing your PhD!

    No matter at what stage you are at with your PhD, these are some important issues to consider. One of the most important one for me is ‘writing as you go’. I am in my 3rd year of a part time PhD and hoping to submit by the end of my 4th year. While this may seem an optimistic deadline, one of the reasons for this is because I did exactly that. I have been writing since day one and although none of my chapters are ‘polished’, many are written in full drafts which can be revised and edited following analysis.

    One thing I would add to your list is don’t isolate yourself. Doing a PhD, probably more so if it is full time, can be a long, lonely journey. #phdchat via twitter is one way to stay connected with people all over the world and who are all at different stages of their PhD’s. This is a hugely supportive network and everyone is amazing. They share stories, papers, advice and are there to support everyone throughout the process. It has certainly made my PhD journey much easier so far.

    Good luck for the future 🙂

    • Thanks Emma – glad you enjoyed, and thanks for the congrats.

      I also think that the ‘writing as you go’ tip is particularly important. I studied my PhD full time – whilst also working full time (as a KTP associate – I intend to blog on this at some point) – and handed in my final thesis at 2 years and 10 months well within the 3 years supposed time period. This is because I wrote as I went. I think that it is becoming increasingly important to finish on time in todays economic climate, whereas many PhD students consider that there is an extra year for writing up. My university for one has ended the contracts of many graduate tutors who failed to complete their PhD within the required timescale leaving them to pick up the bill for funding to completion. Also the PhD is a project management exercise in itself – if you can demonstrate to a potential employer that you have completed a large, complex project on time, or in advance, they will perhaps me more confident that you will produce the goods for them…

      Completely agree with the isolation comments – wish I had found the great PhD community of practice on twitter earlier….

  3. I’ll repeat what I said on Linkedin in that I did a blog for students a few years ago, as I was asked by many interested in doing a PhD what it was like. Note this is written mainly for British candidates or people following a British or Bolongia process format PhD, however, most of the feelings and experiences we can all relate to:

    http://www.wearthesis.talktalk.net

  4. It’s the cumulative effect of the overall process that somehow, inexorably, changes the way you are for life. I like what you said and I think that you should send this to “The Thesis Whisperer” as a contributed blog. Inger, who is at RMIT in Melbourne, Australia, has a substantial following and your ten comments are, in my view, worthy of being included there. And congratulations too for your success. One point that was not mentioned is that often completion if followed by a sense of bereavement – your ‘precious’ has gone and it really was ‘your’ precious. But you get over it, I’m pleased to say, quite quickly. I know that I warn my candidates about that and strangely, they continue to maintain membership of the community of scholarship that has gradually formed around my Woodhill Park Research Retreat (www.woodhillpark.com). All the best. Jens.

    • Thanks for your kind comments Jens. I agree, you do get over your precious quite quickly. The problem I have had since completion is trying to spin out publications from the research, not because this has been difficult per se, more because I want to move on and work on different projects. It’s hard to find the motivation to look backwards!

      Alex

  5. I also did a phd in the british system and this is really great advice.
    A couple of things I would add:
    in one tip you said about starting to write early and get the literature review done etc. This is the tip I have most gripe with, but it varies a lot in between subjects. I did my phd in applied physics and I honestly think I started writing too early by following that kind of tip. In some subjects it may apply, but I think it is a bad thing to start by writing theory and literature chapters.
    There is a temptation to say “i have nothing, so i need to fill lots of text with all these details and this review and that review etc”. Really, you only need to include what is relevant and you dont know what is relevant until you are finished. I spent several months on one theory chapter and it is enormous and completely boring. It is the first one I wrote. My second theory chapter I wrote in a very intense week. It is streamlined, concise and to the point and one of my favourites, I wrote it last.
    That is my experience. Plus it is the results that take the time. Start there. It also helps you see what you have and how much more you need.

    Another tip I would add (and there is no nice way to say this): Tip11 : It doesn’t matter.

    I dont mean in a bad way, but if you find you dont like the subject or you have bad data and you wish it was different. It is all fine, but dont let it stop you. Good enough is good enough and ideal is impossible. A phd is a license to do research. It could be it is a piece of work that makes you famous, but for most it is not. People dont ask you how well your driving test went and a phd is similair. Once you have it, you can do all kinds of other things and no one will ask you what happened to that one extra data point you thought ruined everything at 2am one sunday morning. It feels like the world to you, but it really really isnt, so dont let it break you.

    • Thanks for the comments. I agree that the writing up tip is perhaps the most context dependant. I think the generally this advice holds true in a more social science, or perhaps humanities based PhD where an in depth literature review is essential and actually guides much of the primary research. In more physical science or math based work, perhaps you are correct…This goes to show that all advice is just that, and should be considered in the context of your specific circumstances.

      As for tip 11 – It doesn’t matter – I agree up to a point tags disadvicd my supervisors who took a similar viewpoint. Whilst it is true that the PhD is really a vehicle for training researchers, and it is unlikely that you will change the world with your first piece of in-depth individual research, PhDs in the UK are required to show an original contribution to knowledge, so there has to be some proven merit in the work that you do. You are also more likely to succeed if you can publish parts of your work during your studies – or shortly afterwards, so it has to be important enough that journal editors will publish it. Finally, at a time when its all about the ‘impact’, a solid PhD thesis alongside appropriate dissemination and impact activities could make the difference between getting that elusive first academic appointment or not..

      Thanks

      Alex

  6. Congratulations for your PhD! Your tips were a great read indeed. I am on my PhD for 7 months now and due to periodical progress reports, I have already compiled a report of 30000+ words (even though I am pretty sure that at least 50% of it will be omitted eventually).
    I can definitely relate to Tip 2 by the way. My control upon my PhD so far has been very limited, due to the fact that I am on a funded project and the topic wasn’t selected by me (but the offer was too good to refuse). Nonetheless, I will try my best to follow this certain tip (and the remaining of course :)).

    Again, a great read. Wish you all the best

    -George

    • Glad to hear you enjoyed the post George. I was lucky enough to work on a topic that I had proposed and developed myself, and my supervisors were very hands off – which is the way I liked it. I had colleagues who had the opposite experience, similar to that which you describe. One advantage of this was that they felt they were more likely to complete thief PhD, as their supervisors would not allow them to fail! I did at times find myself wishing I was in that situation as I felt that I was the only person bothered about my work. I guess there are pros and cons to both approaches…

      Good luck with your studies..

      Alex

  7. Congrats, I can tell from this that you ooze with confidence. Your advice truly invaluable. Thanks you, you have rejuvenated my spirit…

  8. Congrats on successfully completing your doctorate! Your post is excellent, and I’m about to begin the supervisor search for my own PhD, so it was a very timely read.

    Your comments ring true for even a Master’s thesis, and I thought your tips were dead on. Great post, congrats on Freshly Pressed, and good luck in life after grad school!
    Elaine
    ps – I’m taking your 10th tip to heart (supervisor willing)!

  9. Thank you. Really useful stuff and I suspect for far more than PhDs. I have long thought about doing one. When finally do I’ll bear your comments in mind. Well done too for making the Freshly Pressed list too 🙂

  10. Congratulations on your PhD! I’m sure you feel a bit relieved after the process. I was considering such a project after my master’s degree, but life, family, and a job took higher priorities. Perhaps, I’ll return to my studies when I fully retire. You are a true inspiration. Good luck in the future.

    • Thanks Russ, one of the hardest challenges for me was fitting the study in around work and family (a child under 5 during the study, and another one born 2 weeks after thesis submission!) – I think that this topic is worthy of a future post….

      Alex

    • Yeah, I think you are correct, much of this is also applicable to a masters degree – particularly a research masters..good luck with your study!

      Alex

  11. Ha! “Love to hate your thesis” — sounds just about right. But of course, I only have a master’s degree, so I can’t even relate to the thesis process for the PhD!

    Congrats on your accomplishments. 🙂

  12. This is great! I’ll be sure to share with my husband, who is currently knee-deep in PhD thesis-writing. Coincidently, we both earned MA degrees at Newcastle way back in 2006. I miss it dearly. Best of luck to you.

    • Hi Loni, please pass on my best wishes to your husband for his PhD! I think my next post will be all about the PhD viva…so stay tuned…and yes – Newcastle in the UK is a city that captures your heart…

      Alex

  13. Six months before I was done, I truly was telling people I would never finish. I really believed that I would fail. I was tired, overwhelmed, and then….I was done. Angels did sing when I proofed it the last time. Ultimately, you have to do the project that your heart won’t let you step away from. If you love it, it will happen.

    • Hi Scott

      I agree – some days I was totally convinced that I would never complete, or that my thesis would be rejected – other days I thought my research was the best in the world! A real roller-coaster ride…You are correct that you really do have to love your topic, how else can you devote so much time and energy to it? – but its also OK to hate it at times too 😉

      Alex

      • Agreed. Many times I hated my thesis, loved it, felt totally apathetic toward it, and a million other emotions. Utilimately, its just about plowing through.
        thanks for your blog post, it brings back alot. mostly in a good way 🙂

  14. Thanks for the comment! I plan to follow up with some other advice/experiences – first up lessons from my viva…tell your students to stay tuned!!

    Alex

  15. Hi Alex. Thanks for a great post – I am constantly amazed when I come across the musings of PhD students around the world as their everyday experiences are uncannily similar to mine, seemingly regardless of their discipline and location in the world. I’m currently about two thirds of the way through mine (in psychology, nonetheless!) and am just at that stage people call the “Second Year Slump” (or, as I put it, the “Mid-PhD Crisis”). My thesis makes me feel physically nauseous!

    Another key issue has been Imposter Syndrome. I have suffered from this unrelentingly since starting, despite my research proposal and subsequent amendments being almost entirely my own idea. I think many of us go through our research work every day feeling we are not really who our PhDs imply we should be, that we are ‘fluking it’ and making our work look significant and of interest when really it is not. This is of course a misconception, but you’d be surprised how difficult it is to shake it off even when you are aware of that.

    I hope you don’t mind if I share a link – this is PhD Comics, a comic strip devoted specifically to PhD students. Whilst it is a risk for procrastination, I often find a quick 10-minute break from research to read a few episodes really brightens my day and gives me hope that, eventually and with hard work, I will finish my PhD. http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/aboutcomics.html Those who haven’t come by this yet – check it out!

    Good luck with your new lectureship and also congrats on getting Freshly Pressed!

    Happyseptember.

    • Hi and thanks for the comment!

      I agree that whilst each PhD is unique, many of the experiences whilst studying for one are common, which is one of the reasons I wrote this post – sometimes it is good to know that others are going through similar problems. I like the ‘Impostor syndrome’, I can definitely relate to that! Unfortunately I dont think that it really goes away following completion of the PhD. I have spent over a year now as an academic, teaching and presenting at conferences etc, and I still often feel that I am ‘fluking it’, however I have come to realise it that it is only me that thinks that. No one else questions my ability, integrity or thinks that I dont deserve to be here (which raises more questions of the audience than of me ;)).

      Finally, yes the PhD Comics site is a must! Jorge is always spot on in his observations….

      Thanks

      Alex

  16. I believe that doing a Phd should be much easier for men than women when they are in a relationship. What do you reckon?
    Vio.

    • Hi Vio,

      I am not sure what you are getting at here! I think that whilst there may be specific gender related issues amongst PhD candidates, and within academia in general, each student’s circumstances is unique regardless of gender. I dont think that in general it is easier for men than women to do a PhD…

      Alex

  17. Dear Alex,

    I am six years dwon the road of my PhD and just about ti wrap everything up and submit.
    It was very good to read your post and I think it it totally true!
    Thanks for writing this post.

    Anna

  18. i was so excited to see this title pop up! i’m beginning a PhD program in august (in the States) and while i’m thrilled and excited, i’m also terrified! not so much about my dissertation – that part, to me, is the fun part – but here we have to pass a set of qualifying examinations before we’re even granted permission to officially begin work on our dissertations. i’ll be taking my exams in a little over 2 years and i’m already nervous!

    i especially love tip #7. when i was completing my master’s degree in april, my thesis defense was the best part! the research was complete, thesis written and edited and re-written countless times, and i felt so excited to share it with my committee. by the time the defense rolled around, i was barely nervous – it was just fun at that point!

    but anyway, great post and of course, congratulations to you!

    • Hi Jenn

      Thanks for the comment! Good luck with your exams and the PhD! I am glad that you enjoyed your viva – I think that people are often afraid to admit that they did!. My next post will be about my viva experience so stay tuned!!

      Alex

  19. Was this written just for me? I literally just submitted the final section of my PhD, wondering about the handful of typos I found after spending a huge amount to get it printed and sent. It’s away and then I get home to read your blog! Yes finished is definitely better than perfect. I’ll keep telling myself that.

    • HI, yes I did write this just for you ;)….I was revising some of my thesis recently for a publication and still find typos and mistakes in the final corrected proof – I think it is impossible to find them all! My next post will be on my viva experience so stay tuned!

      Congrats on completion, and good luck for the viva, and the future…

      Alex

  20. Wow! You are an inspiration Alex. I have been putting off my PhD for three years already. I’m always finding an excuse not to pursue it. Your article made me want to go back to school. I can relate with the love-hate relationship with your thesis. 🙂 Oh I wish I can finally enroll this term.

  21. Haha, it’s funny that this got Freshly Pressed on the one-year anniversary of my Masters thesis defense. 🙂

    Excellent advice! I didn’t continue on to PhD for multiple reasons, but I can definitely see some of this advice applying in a Masters program as well.

    And I 100% agree with you on PhD Comics…I never knew how accurate it was until I started grad school.

    Congrats on both the PhD and being Freshly Pressed!

  22. I would love to know more about the “study via a different route” mentioned in # 1. My boyfriend just graduated and will be entering Graduate school and the funding is the main concern.

  23. Applicable probably to any research, even undergrad thesis. And as you said, tip #5 can be applied to any paper… If it was that easy to drop being a perfectionist! I copied the .gif and will keep it on my desktop if that has a chance to help

  24. I am a PhD student in the biological sciences. A lot of what you said made sense to me, but I can speak for my field when I say that things don’t start getting into any kind of shape until like the middle of fourth year. Until then most of us aren’t even sure of the specific topic of our research, and so the literature and sometimes even the introduction has to be written from scratch probably in the last year. It’s highly depressing but true in many cases.
    That having said…..nice post! Tip #10 is the truest!

  25. Will give myself another few years to come up with the RIGHT research area… and then jump in with your advice ringing in my ears. Interesting and helpful – cheers.

  26. Great tips – and much appreciated by a fellow (and hopefully soon-to-be-graduating) PhD student! I’ve reposted your entry on my blog “A Life Examined”

  27. Hello! Congratulations on making it to ‘Freshly Pressed’!

    Thank you so much for this post! I have a Master’s degree in Anthropology and getting a Ph.D is my next goal. I have been feeling lost but your post has been such an eye opener!

    I will be following your blog from now on. Looking forward to your future posts!

  28. Congrats for surviving your PhD, what an accomplishment! These are some great tips and it’s an excellent reminder that “finished is better than perfect”. I look forward to the post about your viva experience as I’ll be having my own soon (and could likely use the advice)!

  29. I have been providing business analysis for the past few months on a project that is converting the manual paper process of the thesis submission process to an electronic thesis submission process. It has been a nightmare trying to get a handle on all the rules, approvals, forms, etc. that exist for this process, and they are different not only depending on whether it is a Master’s or Ph.D, but from department to department. It is interesting to see it from the student’s perspective. Thanks for sharing!

  30. Congratulations on completing (and passing) your PhD, and thanks for this post. I find reading positive blog posts like this really helpful and encouraging. I’m nearing the end of my third year and hoping to submit by the end of March (funding deadline). It’s hard to keep going at times, and it’s really important to hear words from the other side of a (successful) viva saying that it’s all worth it!

  31. thanks so much. This post and the comments have been so helpful. I am only THINKING about a Ph.D, but I’ve been doing a pros and cons list why I should…or maybe why I shouldn’t. I’ve not yet mapped out a definite WHY so that means I’m certainly not ready. I will continue to read and research and maybe I will decide in the next COUPLE of years!

  32. Congratulations to you. One more year of undergrad, furthering my education is something I need to look forward to, after reading this post. lol

  33. Congrats on your accomplishment. After I received my masters some years ago, I said I would never go back but I’m thinking more and more about it. I did a quick look at some programs a couple of months ago and didn’t really find a good fit given the location. Like you, I’m not too open to moving at the moment. Your first tip has given me a different perspective.

  34. Congrats on completing your PhD!

    From the perspective of five years post doctorate, I think you’ve given great advice. If only I’d had this while in the throes of writing mine. 🙂

  35. Congratulations on your achievement, my friend. I very much like your fifth tip: “finished is better than perfect”. This certainly rings true to a perfectionist such as myself.

    Thanks for the post. 🙂

  36. Reblogged this on mariajordanoreilly and commented:
    I have to agree with the sentiment, but being a bit of a perfectionist I find it hard to let go of something I think can be improved on. I will do my utmost to follow your advise though, and remember that ‘Finished is better than perfect’!

    • yeah…repeat myself “finished is better than perfect” otherwise I am afraid I am not going to finish my Phd…even though I have suspended it for 6 months already…
      Vio.

  37. As I sit here trying to complete the results and discussion sections of my MA I will try to remember that finished is better than perfect! I can’t imagine working on a project for 5 or 6 years… I’m definitely in the throes of a hate phase of that love hate relationship you speak of! Congratulations on your achievement!

  38. Congratulations on both your PhD and being Freshly Pressed! (Do you sign now as Alex Hope, PhD, FP? No? You should. :D)
    I’m so glad about this post – I’m only in undergrad (heck, below that, even) right now, but I’m almost sure that eventually I want to earn a higher degree so that I could come back to my current college (community college in California) and teach in the same program I’m attending. I enjoy teaching people when I tutor or when I teach community ed with the adult school, and the staff here is extremely dedicated… I would love to join them one day. Thank you so much for somewhat dispelling the mythical beast of a PhD! It…. may… even be a little easier than killing the Hydra. Maybe.

  39. Congratulations ! That’s such a great achievement ! I like your tips the 10th more than the others ;-). I’m ending a 18 years-long PhD in social and economic history (14th-15th century). And now… the end is near… :-). Private defense in October, Public defense in December, yeeeeeep !
    And… How is life without a PhD in your head ? 😉

    Céline
    http://bestjazzclubs.wordpress.com/

      • I’m one of the last one who made a “state PhD” (doctorat d’Etat). Now, with Bologna rules, it’s only 5 years. But that’s great you know ! I could read all I needed and take distance with the subject. But the end is more than appreciated :-).

  40. Firstly, congratulations on being awarded a PhD! That’s incredible. I found this post to be some sort of god-sent gift because I’m planning to start preparing for PhD applications really soon. And of course you’d know all about how daunting it is. I’m still confused a bit about what I wish to do, where to do it. Finances are a major problem and stuff. And of course, the entire idea of doing this for 3 to more than 3 years of your life is already scary. But I really appreciate all the tips you’ve given here and I wouldn’t like to ignore them at all. Thanks for making it sound doable after all. :). What was your topic?

    Secondly, Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! 😀

  41. Hi all, and a huge thanks to everyone who has left a comment or liked this post. I am overwhelmed by the lovely congratulations and words of encouragement, and am glad that many of you seem to find my experiences useful and inspring in some way.

    I am sorry that I can not reply to every comment left.

    If there are any topics related to this post, doing a PhD, academic life or indeed my area of study (sustainable development) that you would like me to blog about, please let me know….

    Welcome and thanks to you all….

    Dr Alex Hope PhD (:))

  42. This post has been so helpful! I’m currently an undergrad but the looming possibilities of grad school have been freaking me out lately. I’d love to read more info about your experience on the PhD track and sustainable development, as I’m thinking about doing the same thing myself!

  43. Thanks for the thoughts, just completed another degree with no jobs in the offing, I have given up on my graduate studies; can’t pay for anymore education, without employment, LOL:)

  44. congrats – did not get past the thesis part of my graduate work for a masters – so I am duly impressed with your accomplishments – wish you had been available to provide these tips 33 years ago

  45. Pingback: 10 PhD Viva Survival Tips « Dr Sustainable

  46. Tip 3 and Tip 5 both apply at any stage in one’s academic career. I just finished a master’s degree in Library and Information Studies quite quickly (15 months) and I have many friends who entered at the same time as me and who are going to be lucky to get it done in 24, even if they were only working very part-time… This is largely because they were and are so obsessive over the minutiae of their work rather than the big picture. Yes, one must address quality and accuracy, but generally, just write and revise later. -‘tarotworldtour’

  47. Great tips. I think Tip 3 is very useful, even for Master and Bachelor Theses. I haven’t take the plunge yet for a PhD, maybe never will. But I am going to send the link of this article to all my friends who are in the middle of their PhD right now.

  48. Wonderful advice! May I add:
    #11 Stay away from prestigious universities where a 10 year post-doc is not unusual. Some schools use doctoral students as underpaid assistants, especially in medical labs. I used to manage university research labs in Boston and it broke my heart to see people in their mid thirties living with 5 other students in a small apartment. These were angry, frustrated people! They loved to justify their slavery with how prestigious the degree will be for their careers when the reality was their peers were on their second post-docs before they got their Doctorates…

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  50. Hi,

    Thank you so much for this post. I’m still in undergrad but hope to reach my goal of completing a PhD somewhere in the near future. I was looking for advice and stumbled upon this. Greatly appreciated.

    Thanks again,

    Shelby Lynn

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  52. Congratulations to you, reading your piece has fuelled me more into moving from thinking of doing a Phd (i just completed my Msc.) to actually realising I actually want to do it. The tips are precise and i stumbled along them at the right time. My area of study is gender and FGM/fistula whihc would be quite interesting so i am plodding forward and using your tips. Many thanks and once again congrats on being freshly squeezed

  53. Excellent way of describing, and nice post to take information regarding my presentation subject matter,
    which i am going to present in college.

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  55. Reblogged this on catherineineurope and commented:
    I wish I would have found this bit of the internet at the beginning of my time here in Tallinn… or at the beginning of the dissertation proposal writing process… or at the beginning of the PhD program…

  56. Really interesting about declining the ESRC funding me going an alternative route, you refer to in point 1?

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