Worried about not doing enough


I'm VERY VERY worried about not doing enough. I'm in my first year, only really started 5 months ago, and I haven't done any real writing yet. I'm not sure I've even written enough. I actually feel like I'm missing so much knowledge.

Is this normal???

When should I be writing? What is the normal timescale?


I hope this makes you feel better because I hate to admit it... but I don't really have any 'real' writing done either and I'm at the start of my 3rd year I'm kinda hoping to cram it all in this year... but I wouldn't advise it!!!

I know everybody says this (and I still didn't do it) but you really should start writing ASAP! Even if just when you read an article try to write 1-2 paragraphs about it, or when you do something (i.e. make a decision about an approach you will use) write up half a page on what you did/why etc.

It will all add up in no time... I wish I had done it that way


Hi guys, listen try not to worry about the writing thing one of the best tips I ever got was try to write 1000 words a day it adds up very quickly... get yourself into a habit of doing a little bit a day and it will start to feel better....


Ohh god, the dreaded writing issue. Tell me about it! My supervisor is asking me to write a piece after each supervision, but to be honest, the crap I'm producing feels like a big fat waste of time. I don't feel ready to write anything yet--understand exactly where you're coming from!


I don't know anyone who wrote anything substantial in their first year - I didn't start writing until a few months before my second year started (and my supervisor has just ripped that apart so a load of good it did me!!!) I regret not starting sooner, but you still have more than enough time to achieve something in your first year.


Eish, thank goodness I am not alone! Could have written the original post myself!

I like the 1000 words a day tip, BUT, I worry that this approach might lead to you having copious amounts of waffle, and wading through all of it in the future to create something that is more tightly written is going to be soul destroying.

I find myself creating weak and simplistic arguments or regurgitating other people's ideas and then just showing how the film I'm writing about supports this persons view. This approach is not creating Phd standard writing, in fact it sounds more like an undergraduate wrote it! Does anyone have a better approach?

Thanks for the thread, and the tips!


I think 1000 words a day is a tremendously ambitious target. Try knocking a zero off. I (personally) believe thats about right for this level.


yeah 100 per day is much more realistic and achievable, in 1st-2nd yr. Obviosuly the bluk is gonna be third yr, but that's writing up year so necessarily you're gonna write more.


Some of the writing expectation might have to do with what field of study you are in? I think the most important thing is to be very clear about what your supervisor expects and then just start to deliver. Me--I was asked to do a literature review right away, and did so. Naturally, it was not a great piece of work, but it got me started and that was the point of it all.


Writing is just writing...again, I think it is critical to have a structure where by you draft, edit, etc. in a certain process to aid your writing. I do not see how you can write without going mad without this!


My other observation is that people seem to spend a lot of time sort of "psyching themselves out" about the whole PhD process and feeling very anxious and depressed as a result. I think that there is intrinsic value in just getting on with something, because when you see progress, no matter how small, it does a lot to ease anxiety over the work and expectations.

NO doubt there are people that disagree with me, but I think that to the extent possible, the research should be approached in the spirit that we approach "play."

By that I mean...


not that you do not take it seriously, but you approach it with an open, uncluttered mind, that there is a certain amount of enjoyment and exploration in the work, a certain amount of freedom to tumble to your rear end and get up again, and keep going. Children learn by playing after all, play IS how they learn--and it is an effective mindset to take into a learning process.

There are those pieces of PhD work that are as fun as putting your eye out with a stick--like editing footnotes--but the rest of it should have some enjoyable elements in it!


Hello all,

Thank you all so much for your very insightful and helpful answers. It's great to know I'm not alone. The other PhDs in my dept are lovely but seem SO confident and I just feel so unprepared/confused in comparison. I'm going to start writing as soon as I've finished reading a pile of literature I have, I think it'll give me some structure because my ideas are all over the place at the moment. I think 1000 words a day is a great target but perhaps a bit ambitious for me at the start. I hope to be at this stage in a few months though!

Hope all your plans are going well.


There's a good book called 'How to Write a Thesis' which guides the PhD student in developing their PhD writing whatever stage they are at (e.g. first, second or third year...). It has a lot of exercises in it to stimulate writing. It's well worth reading. Of course one of the key pieces of advice in the book is to start writing as early as possible, though it gives a variety of suggestions which are not all about doing 'proper' writing for the final thesis straight away, but nevertheless will help to build the writing skills necessary to produce that thesis.