If you could give a first year PhD student one piece of advice for PhD what would it be?


======= Date Modified 18 May 2011 15:35:17 =======
Basically I am hoping to start a 4 year PhD (in parasitology) in September and I just thought what advice would you give a PhD student in their first year of study?

Thank-you :-)


======= Date Modified 18 May 2011 14:24:12 =======
Try to work daily (weekdays at least), but at a steady pace from the outset. What I mean is don't work too hard as this could burn you out early but try to make continual progress as adopting a regular steady pace will get you into the habit of working which should result in progress and when you make progress you are more inclined to want to work, just my opinion.


never give up.

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Agree with both of those suggestions. I'd also say read a lot, but in a structured way (think about all the things that might touch on your research area, and revisit your thoughts about what those areas are pretty regularly), and keep really really good notes of all your reading.


Delta has good advice there with establishing a steady pace.

I would say to get into the habit of writing regularly. Keeping good, structured notes on your reading will help you later and writing gets easier the more you do it, which will help a lot when you come to writing up.


Be REALLY organised right from the beginning. It's easy to get involved with everything that's going on: inductions, meetings, seminars, reading etc and forget to organise your materials.

I was really good at the start but then things got hectic and I was doing so many things all at the same time that my systems went out of the window and now, 8 months in, I am having to spend a LOT of precious time going back, locating notes, finding references, remembering which of the 4 notebooks I keep has the info that I need. It's a total nightmare.

Make time to do it as you go along. There's always a time to do it - before starting work each morning, as you finish each piece of writing/reading/task, every Friday before you hit the pub or go home. There's always a smidgen of time and I have found that no matter how tired you are it's worth just making sure that you start and end every week organised.


Get organised right from the start. Starting with a filing system for all of your refs (using ref software too). Work out all of the paperwork needed for each stage of your PhD progress, when it needs to be handed in by and set up a calender of such events.


Similar to the others really. Start planning, reading and writing early.

It's useful to write a summary of everything you read because once you get beyond the first few papers you will find it hard to remember who said what!

Get to know endnote/refworks/mendeley and start putting your literature into it within an overall system of organising papers.

Get into a good routine too - you don't need to work 24/7 but get to know what works for you and keep yourself moving forward. Sometimes you have days (weeks even) where you don't get much done, but if you are working well overall, this won't matter.

Best of luck!


======= Date Modified 18 May 2011 23:31:58 =======
Hi Elmo! Well I'm coming to the end of a 3-year PhD, and would say:

1) Start as you mean to go on- get into a routine, work hard (but make time to have fun), and you will be thanking yourself when you're in third year(or 4th in your case!)
2) Write as you go along- you will be very grateful towards the end if you have already got a few chapters written and under your belt before the big, mad writing up period.
3) Take opportunities to improve your skills and your CV- publish your work as you go along if possible and present at conferences when you have the opportunity. Decide what you want to get out of your PhD (apart from a PhD!) and go for it! In my case I was determined to get a few  publications and especially to improve my presenting skills, which was my main area of weakness. I forced myself to go to conferences and present, and it was horrible and a bit scary to start with, but it got easier and I'm so glad I tackled it head-on!
4) Don't be scared to ask others for advice- I am lucky in that I work within a large team so there was plenty of help and support available, but 
    sometimes you can stress over the simplest thing for ages and someone else could sort the issue out in 5 minutes flat!

They're the things that spring to mind anyway! Good luck! KB

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Quote From elmo310:

======= Date Modified 18 May 2011 15:35:17 =======
Basically I am hoping to start a 4 year PhD (in parasitology) in September and I just thought what advice would you give a PhD student in their first year of study?

Thank-you :-)

Tongue in cheek the Ph.D. Game, but a lot of truth in there!!! ;-)



Do you know why what you're doing is important ?

If so, and I hope you do.. remember that.

Make sure you love the subject, and enjoy it.  You will have ups and downs ... expect them ... but you'll learn from both.

Keep contact with friends and family, don't neglect them.

Have another interest, something outside the PhD.

All the best. Chuff

Ps.  i didn't do any of the above.. apart from love every minute.. but where there's a will etc.   In fact i should have just said that.. "where there's a will there's a way"



Having just completed my PhD last year, perhaps my thoughts are more on the end game than on the beginning, I'm also coming from the humanities so some details may differ. Nevertheless, I'll muse as best I can.

0. The PhD process is a forge and anvil. Throughout it you will smack yourself around the mind, body and soul, smelt away the dross and shape yourself into a new and different entity. Still yourself, but much more focused. You may find your memory of life before your PhD gets very vague, I personally think that this is due to your brain taking on a new shape and not being able to access the old memories - the same as when you were fourteen(ish) you couldn't remember things that happened to you when you were two, but when you were ten you could - its not the passage of time its the change in mental state.

1. Always keep your eye on the future: submission deadlines, (and future career), people further through the process and higher up the ladder than you are. A PhD is not like doing a taught Masters and its definitely not like undergrad, but if you spend too much time looking backward to those days you can stop your mind from maturing into the right setting to get through it. Counting down the days is good (if unnerving) - I had the days left numbered on the calendar counting down the final year of my PhD, and a countdown of the weeks left for the final three years (of four).

2. Remember that the process can (and I believe should) be an isolating one. Even if you are working as part of a team, you will ultimately face your viva alone and will have to be able to stand by everything in your thesis, even if your supervisor insisted that it was an appropriate/essential addition/interpretation. First and foremost you are learning to be an independent scholar.

3. Organisation of literature is essential. If you are saving PDFs rename them so that you have clear bibliographic details in the file name.

4. Keep all your hard copies of papers in one location, its much easier than searching through the house or missing something in your discussion because you had previously classified it in Subject A and then didn't look in that specific group of papers because you thought you were writing on Subject B.

5. Begin writing as soon as possible. When you are writing always think, how will this fit into my thesis? Revising your thesis plan (a single side summary) every few months is helpful. make sure you keep track of how much you have got done on the thesis as well as how much you need to do!

6. The viva is like a light at the end of a tunnel. The best thing you can do to make that light freedom is prepare for it as if it were an oncoming train. with a monster strapped to the front of it. Every single thing that you write should be mentally tested with the thought, If this is the one thing they decide to pick on that will make or break my PhD can I justify it?

7. Aim to produce the first full draft of your thesis about a year before it is due in. When you write it, taking into account the things above, do it as quickly as you can. No matter how well-written it is you will have to edit it heavily to cut out repetitions and get the flow of your argument.

8. Remember that a thesis does not have to be written in the order that it will be read in.

9. If you have to write a transfer piece / end of first year report (does anybody not have to?) the requirements may describe it as 'a sample chapter of the thesis'. DO NOT FALL FOR THIS AND ASSUME THAT THE PIECE YOU HAVE WRITTEN WILL SLOT NEATLY INTO YOUR FINAL THESIS WITHOUT NEEDING ANY REVISION. A friend of mine did this, and only re-looked at his supposed chapter-one a few days before submitting his thesis. The panic as he realised how outdated it was was terrible to see (as was the 18-month correction period he was bestowed in his viva).

10. Go to conferences, but, especially in your final years, chose them wisely. My rules for conferences were a bit self


My advice - don't do it. You could spend four years building a proper career and earning a salary, instead of working yourself to death to get a qualification which will ultimately make you over-qualified for pretty much everything you apply for.


I started my PhD in February, almost done 4 months now ai have had some ups and downs already. Firsly I'd say get comfortable in your new environment (especially if you are relocating to do the PhD), get to know the area, the campus, people, shops, library etc

Treat it like a job, go in each day, dress nicely and make an effort, I take great delight for the first time in my life to look reasonably smart and efficient.

No one can work 10 hours straight, plan your breaks, enjoy them, recognise the need for company and two hours solid work is far more efficient that 4 hours surfing facebook.

Use Mendelay - its awesome! But at the end of each day write the papers you have read, you wouldn't believe how easy it is to remember where you were when you read something and when but forget which paper it is!

Write as you go along - even if the only person that sees it is you, but in the long run it is good practice. Also recognise you will have productive days and non productive days, keep a list of easy things that will keep you busy like filing papers, transcribing, looking up other papers - i use an electronic post it note system whereby if something crosses my mind while I am writing/reading I note it down and then at the end of the day I read through my post its and work out what was useful, and what become my 3pm tea break things

Sounds like I'm working all the time but in fact I had a slow start and have a small family to look after 3 days a week (I work at the uni 4 days).

LEARN TO SAY NO. I have been asked to do teaching and courses and also got interested in so many things but have told myself I'm not getting involved in anything at all until I have submitted my research plan and started my fieldwork! I don;t know if that approach would work for everyone but it has helped focus my mind.

If you feel down and lonely fond someone to have tea with, or see student services, sounds crazy but a little chat can help get things straight in your mind. :)