THE BLOG

16 Ways to Survive a PhD

03/09/2014 11:43 BST | Updated 01/11/2014 09:59 GMT

It's officially the start of a new academic year, which means it's time for a fresh batch of PhD candidates to enter the weird and wonderful world of doctoral research (I mean it; it really is wonderful). These are some of the techniques I've used over the last two years, and will rely on to pull me through the final twelve months of researching, writing, and revising.

1. Coffee and herbal tea are your friends.

At the slightest sign of stress you'll reach for the nearest chocolate bar. Find a new, marginally healthier, emotional crutch. Stress will be a big feature of the next three years.

2. Set a routine early.

No, starting at 11 and working until 7 is not "pretty much exactly the same" as working a sensible 9-5. Start this early. Make evening plans so that you have to stick to it.

3. Leave the house.

Yes, it might be pouring with rain and dark, and all the books you need are in a nice pile on your desk. But when your partner comes home at 6 and finds you still in your sweats, it's going to be harder to convince them that what you're doing is a Real Job. The library is nice. Plus, most have cafes and cafes have coffee.

4. You and your research are in a relationship.

80% of the time you'll adore it. 10% of the time you'll find it frustrating. 10% of the time you'll want to leave it. But the 80% makes all the hard work worth it. If the 8:2 ratio gets out of whack, it's probably just a phase. If it's not, switch it up a bit or talk to your supervisor.

5. Go to PostGrad conferences.

It turns out, nothing is more inspiring than being around people who are experiencing the exact same thing as you and still managing to function like regular human beings. Don't be discouraged if you go to an event and feel totally out of your depth. That's a sign the event is pitched poorly or the people speaking aren't doing their job, not that you are a failure who should quit academia immediately.

6. Organize an event early.

Fabulous experience, good CV fodder, great for making connections, and there's no way you'll have time later in the PhD. Also, public engagement stuff is a Big Thing, and rightly so.

7. Love your friends.

Make time for them. When it gets hard (really hard) one of them might order a pizza to your house to ensure that you eat. That's the definition of love.

8. Do other things.

This is a great time to learn to cook, have dinner parties, make cocktails, or start a creative hobby. Go for a walk. Remind yourself, you are not just a portable brain. Keep yourself healthy.

9. Think about when you want to publish, and carve out time for it.

This will get done.

It. Will.

10. Don't compare yourself to other people.

It's not helpful, not fair, and they are probably in awe of you, too.

11. Talk about the fact it's hard.

We all have impostor syndrome. The only thing that will get you through it is knowing that you're not alone.

12. Join Twitter and read academic blogs.

There are some amazing blogs and academic sites out there. They will give you the push you need. Twitter is the best way to learn about what's going on in your field and make international research connections from your sofa. Look at #histmed, #histgender, #histfem, #histsci, and #twitterstorians for an insight into what's hot. Also, academia.edu is a fun distraction.

13. Get Mendeley.

Or another type of PDF organizing software. Otherwise, it'll be anarchy and you'll forget what "system" you're using when you have 1456 primary source files in 67 folders.

14. Get to grips with Open Access.

It's important, particularly if you're funded by The Wellcome Trust or another research body.

15. Maintain contact with your supervisor.

They want you to do well, and (everything crossed) they'll get you across that finish line. But they are (probably) teaching and researching and planning departmental meetings and won't be dead keen on chasing you up multiple times for that email. Keep this relationship happy and do your bit.

16. Remember: you can do this.

My partner once described my PhD as the intellectual equivalent of rowing across the Atlantic in a one-man boat. If that can be done, so can this.

Any more? Tweet me @sarahrosecrook and I'll add them.