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Ten Tips for PhD Students: Part One

As with any new venture, studying for a PhD would be a little easier with the gift of hindsight. While it is not the same as personal experience, some of the difficulties can nevertheless be smoothed over by advice from others who have been through the process. In this article, and in a subsequent one, I will put forth ten tips that should help you succeed in your endeavour.


  1. Expect a very steep learning curve, especially if you are taking a PhD without first studying at Masters level. It is a big jump from undergraduate to PhD level.
  2. Start writing from day one. Like many activities, writing gets easier the more you do it. If you start writing immediately, and write daily, you will quickly get into the habit. It will also help you work through your thoughts and build up a bank of useful material.
  3. Organise your time and set deadlines. It is easier to focus your efforts if you work to deadlines. It is always frightening how time just seems to slip away if you are not careful.
  4. Keep scrupulous notes. You will be doing a lot of reading as part of your research, which makes it easy for your notes to get muddled unless you take a disciplined and systematic approach. Clearly indicate the full details of the source, whether the note is a quote or paraphrase, and the page number it is taken from. Incomplete notes increase the risk of plagiarism, incorrect citation, and other errors.
  5. Make multiple back ups. Computer failure or other disasters are not acceptable excuses for lost work so make sure you get into the habit of backing up all of your work. In case of fire or any other disaster, do not store your back up copies in the same location as your primary copy.


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