I know nothing!


Hello all,

So I have finally settled on a topic and potential case studies a few months into my Phd.
BUT, whilst I have located the literature directly relevant to my research question, I am ignorant of most things.
I do not know much about:
-the geographical location I have chosen (I mean, the politics/history/societies/culture of the countries that comprise it). When I had the choice to study them as an undergrad and a postgrad, I was not interested in them yet.
- the language! Although I am taking classes and I am not a complete beginner.
- the broad field of my research (I am looking at a subset of this field, but of course, I have to learn about the other parts - it would simply not make sense otherwise).
-literature on fields related to mine (my research is a subset of a field which in itself is part of a much broader area of study).

I am panicking because there is no way I can read all these things! Even if I stick to the major theorists -there are so many things to cover!
I am considering spending the first year as just acquainting myself with these fields and producing my own comprehensive literature reviews of these fields. What do you think?

I am feeling like an ignorant person! My current knowledge is so superficial, it is unbelievable!


I'm pretty sure everyone beginning a PhD feels this way so don't worry! Yes I think doing a literature review in these areas will help you, and presumably you will have to it for your thesis at some point anyway.

I think it's taken me about 2 years to be comfortable with my area, and obviously there are still many, many things I need to learn!


A phd is a learning experience, its pretty normal not to know much in the beginning.

Also- you don't have to read every paper in your field! In most fields there will be hundreds if not thousands of broadly relevant papers, not to mention new ones being churned out every day. Trust me, no one is reading *all* of them. Yes you will need to be "familiar" with large swathes of literature- read a few reviews and key papers in detail, but I would say for most, just read the abstracts and maybe skim through. Save most of your detailed reading for papers directly relevant to your actual topic.

In terms of lit reveiws- I'd check with your supervisor on what you should include in your thesis. Definitely keep notes on what you read/skim so you can go back to it later as you need it, but I would not attempt to write up comprehensive reviews on *everything*. If you want/need to write a comprehensive review, make it narrowly targetted to your own topic, otherwise you might be at it for the rest of your life!

It might be ok to spend the first year reading and planning your research in detail- but again check with your supervisor, they can advise you on planning your timeline.

Good luck, and enjoy learning about the new topics :)