Higher Degree Research Tips

It’s worth it to be prepared and know what you are getting yourself into. Here’s a collection of advice I’ve been given from friends (former or current PhDer’s) in various departments, and read on blogs written by experienced university staff:

  • It is likely you will change your thesis from the initial proposal. This is completely normal and it will be for the better!
  • You become the expert on your subject – after all, it is an original project. Yes, even above your own supervisor.
  • It’s okay to delete entire chapters – ask yourself, is it breaking new ground? Does it get off topic?
  • You will experience the most dizzying highs and desperate lows. Few careers have such extremes of emotions. You will hate your thesis, and may even be tempted to give up at some points. The next day will be all rainbows and flowers.
  • You need a supervisor you get on with – that is more important than getting one who specialises in a similar area. If you can get both, that’s great!
  • It is often debated, but generally it’s advised to start writing early and often. You will revise, as over the years your writing style changes and as you research more, but it gets you closer to the end goal and in the habit of writing regularly.
  • You can have supervisors from different subject areas, depending on the topic you are covering – I’m somewhere between media, cultural studies and English.
  • There are methods for anything you have issues with. Problems with keeping your notes together? Use the Cornell method. Need to focus on writing? Try AcBoWrimo or Shut Up and Write. Whatever you need, there’s a tonne of ideas about how to do it better.
  • You will feel ‘Who cares?’ about what you are researching, but that’s another point of why you are doing this. Of course you care, and all the literature that has come before you was done by researchers who care, and there are people buying books or reading journal articles who might do it too one day and build on what you’ve done who care too!
  • Keep socially active! Even if Facebook or Twitter,  engaging with people will mean you won’t fry your brain. As cool as Sheldon is, we are not Sheldon. We need people, and discussing issues with other post-grads can help you. Still, go outside away from the desk and books AND social media. Go ride a bike or pat the cat.
  • Perfection is an enemy.

I’m pretty sure I’ll be coming back to the post to soothe my damaged soul as the years go on. Two of Master of Research, three of PhD? I’ll be fine!… *silently freaks out*


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