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 supervisions is essential to build a successful academic career. Don’t be afraid to approach a potential supervisor directly.
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.
Tip 3 - Write up as you are going: Write drafts of Introduction, Background, Literature Review, Methodology and Scoping Study by the Midpoint of PhD.
Tip 4 – Love to Hate your Thesis: You will at some point hate your thesis. 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 its 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: 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 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 comunicate 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.
Tip 8 – Have a plan for life post PhD: We dont 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!
Tip 10- Ignore tips 1-9: The only way to find out how to do a PhD is to do one. Therefore all advice is useless….