Our very last session of research week was a panel of final year PhD candidates and early career researchers. As the title suggests, we asked them to think back to what they wished they had known when they started their PhD.
Our panelists were: Jane Wangman, Nicole Thornton, Nicky McWilliam, Bobbie Choy, Lauren Gorfinkel, Ian McGregor, Bronwyn Everett and Mehrnosuh Masihpour.
Tips from Hindsight
Your PhD is an apprenticeship
Think of your PhD as an apprenticeship in Research. You're not meant to be perfect at it yet! Don't think of it as your best work, but the start of your best work. Thinking this way allowed some of our panel members to relax and actually made writing easier.
Healthy body = healthy mind.
Treat yourself like an athlete. You need to take breaks, exercise and get outside for some fresh air. Learn how to set up your workstation. The extra hour you try to cram in at 12am will help a lot less than an hour of sleep.
Balance and project management
- Plan your thesis out, day-to-day, month-to-month and year-to-year.
- Decide early on what software you will use, and how you organise and manage your research. Book into classes and learn how to use it straight away. Doing this at the beginning of your research makes everything so much easier later on.
- Factor in upgrades to software over the course of your study.
- Remember to allow a lot of extra time for editing.
- Scale - the research must be feasible for the amount of time you have. Remember you have to write it up as well!
- Most importantly balance! A PhD has to fit in with your lifestyle. Factor in your family and friends.
- The Human Resources Unit runs courses on project management if you need extra assistance. The library also has a lot of material available in the academic skills section of our catalogue. However you can also try searching for project management.
Managing your supervisor
- Send your supervisor something to read before you meet with them
- Send reminders & organise their time for them; upwards management is key!
- Go prepared with notes about what you wish to discuss
- After meeting send an email about what you've discussed and confirm time of next meeting
- Meet minimum once a month. Pressure to keep working. Every 2 weeks is even better
Publish throughout your thesis
Conferences and peer-reviewed journal articles are an excellent way to get feedback along the way. They also help you write your paper. Unfortuantely conferences do take a lot of time, so make sure you select them wisely!
Version Control and Back up!
There will be numerous versions of your work (chapters, questionnaires etc). Make sure you and your supervisor have a naming system for every file. Make sure you back up EVERYTHING. Devices get damaged or lost and data can be corrupted! Make sure you back up in separate locations and formats. Remember you can talk to UTSeScholarship about a data management plan, and save information separately on places like dropbox.
Referencing, referencing, referencing!
Our students recommend using referencing software! Make sure you do all the Library classes, give .pdf documents of articles useful names and attach them to references in RefWorks/EndNote. Learn more about referencing software in David's post Referencing Software - the Researchers Quiet and Organised Friend.
Create a peer network. Find people doing similar research to talk to. This can help overcome loneliness and frustrations along the way.
It's official - everyone agreed - the Library is awesome.
Lastly, be kind to yourself. A PhD is hard work.