Global Development Institute Blog

You’ve got a passion for research and your subject and now three years (or more) lies between you and 80,000 of your best words on that subject. We asked our recent PhD graduates and those toiling through their final years to share a few candid tips for success. Here’s what they had to say.

  • You probably have a period of about 3-4 hours during each 24 when you normally are at your most alert and creatively fertile. If you don’t already know when this is for you, then work it out and safeguard those hours for creative intellectual work and writing if at all possible, leaving admin, referencing, emails, career stuff, etc. for the rest of the day.
  • Start a ‘research diary’ – you’d be amazed at how your ideas develop and change in the first year and how steep your learning curve is (plus, it really helps to boost your confidence when you look back and remind yourself of all the hard work you’ve done!)
  • Take frequent breaks and wander – staying glued to your computer screen is not the answer, walking around uni definitely improves creativity. Better yet, go for midday pilates for some next level inspiration
  • Think out loud – share your thoughts. It really helps to shape your ideas when you try explaining to others, find a buddy (or buddies!) and don’t be afraid to get talking.
  • People are going to ask you to do lots of things, some of which fall into the category of “being collegial and participating in scholarly life in a way that benefits you”, others of which fall into the category of “necessary tasks that others don’t want to do”. If it’s the latter, then you should ask yourself: (1) do I have time to do this? (2) is the money on offer fair? (If there is NO money on offer, then, errr, no, that is not fair.)

For more tips for new PhDs, check out this blog by Judith Krauss on embracing the PhD journey.

Note: This article gives the views of the author/academic featured and does not represent the views of the Global Development Institute as a whole