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Tips for new PhD Students

Over the last two weeks we've been at all the College inductions for new PhD students. Here's some of the top tips shared by current PhD students and supervisors at those events:

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.
    • Conferences
    • Internships
    • Secondments to other places
    • Teaching
    • 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...

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.


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