What do you wish you had known or read before starting? Plus books!


New PhD student here, excited but the closer it gets the more I feel very unprepared. My start has been delayed so I'm now on my second set of newbie worries having spent a few months reading up on the topic area and methodologies after work.

I was wondering what do you wish you'd known or done before starting? Either relating to your PhD or more general academic life. I'm mostly wondering what was helpful in terms of adjusting, understanding the process, ups and downs etc.

I was also wondering if anyone had any book reccomendations about the PhD process or books you wished you'd read at the start? (Podcasts also welcome).

(Also any good reccomendations on books for systematic reviews and writting the literature review would be hugely appreciated. I had a module on these during my Masters year but a readable good reference book would be nice. I still really like having a hardcopy book to flick through and work with as well as online resources.)

Thank you!


Hi Im just int my second year the things I wish i had known include-
1. I wish I had read more (Read read read as this is a necessary foundation. but u hve done that so good going..
2. People always said to ‘write, write’ and I didn’t know what to write!! Now I have realised to summarise articles as you've read them- make sure to put the reference and organise these on your computer into files depending on your subjects.
3. Contract with your supervisors re: expectations, how the phd will progress etc- your expectations as well as theirs.
4. I think its also a good idea to discuss the possibility of recording supervisions so as to avoid any misunderstandings. I know not everyone might be keen on this!
5. Make friends with other Phd ers you may need the support.
6. Set boundaries on the times to work etc
7. Look after yourself take breaks, relax etc
8. Prioritise your tasks and break them into achievable, smaller tasks so u don’t become overwhelmed.
9. Dont take your supervisors criticisms, if they make any, to heart.
10. Dont be too timid, speak up snd stand up for yourself- respectfully.

Hope this helps and the best of luck.


In addition to MALVOR87's great advice, I recommend the book 'The Unwritten Rules of PhD Research' by Petre & Rugg. I believe there is a free pdf version available if you Google it.


Thank you both for your replies!

@Pheonixfortune I've heard good things about this book, it's been sitting in my amazon wishlist for a while, will hunt down a pdf version now.

@malvor87 this is so helpful, I hadn't even thought of 4 but I imagine that can be extremely helpful. I'll ask about this next time I talk to the supervisor.


Another good read suggestion: How to get a PhD by Estelle M. Phillips & Derek S. Pugh. All the Best!


What I wanted to know before starting my PhD.......

To tell you the truth I really wanted to know how difficult it would have been! Having completed 2 masters (one of them an MBA with no background in economics) I (stupidely) imagined that a thesis was just a larger master dissertation! It wasn’t!!!!!! I didn't know how much deeper in the literature, in research methods, in research design and interpretation I had to go......

But I managed to finish! So you can, too!!!!!