Surviving and making the most of your first year
- Concentrate on finding a good research question - your initial research question may change over time.
- Investigate and make use of training opportunities available (though don't go to things just to tick boxes).
- Go on Word for Long Documents training.
- Use reference management/bibliographic software.
- You have lots of flexibility, but this can be daunting so set mini goals and plan your time.
- Things will and do go wrong with your research - don't panic!
- While you are waiting for things to happen use the time for other tasks e.g. training or reading.
- it is your project and research - show initiative and make plans for where you want to take the research.
- Talk to lots of people from different departments.
- Make use of opportunities available e.g.
- Secondments to other places
- Language Courses
- Try to keep a work/life balance - do other things than just work on your PhD.
- A change of scenery or focus can help overcome bumps in the road.
- Communicate with your supervisor regularly about your research and anything else that is affecting you.
- Each supervisor-student relationship is different.
- Remember that your supervisor is there to guide and help you, but within 1-2yrs you will also become an expert in your research, so the relationship will change over time.
- Write up your supervisor meetings straight away... or you will forget what was said.
- Mental Health is important...
- Talk to your supervisors or colleagues or University services if you're struggling.
- You will have times when you question why you're doing a PhD - this is normal!
Preparing for the Probation Review (at the end of your first year)
- Probation review sounds daunting but it's a good opportunity to review your work and progress.
- Preparation is the key.
- Write the background to your research early as this is unlikely to change fundamentally
- Start on your probation report early - if your literature review is done well then it could be published and/or used extensively in your thesis.
- Write up results as go along and do diagrams with diagram legends for use in your probation results.
- Get feedback from your supervisor and colleagues on your report before submitting it.
- Practice your probation review meeting - it's like a mini-viva.
- Be prepared to defend your work, but be honest about what you know and what you still need to work on.
- Probation Review Panel members will push you - they want to be satisfied that you know your field and your work.
- But they are not just there to judge you - they will also offer advice and feedback, so take notes.
Finally...The Internet is your greatest tool and your biggest distraction...
... stop watching cat videos.