It has been two years since I successfully completed my Ph.D. My thesis, entitled "Well-being and romantic relationships in Andalusian adolescents" explored both topics from the Positive Psychology approach, focusing on this developmental period. During those years I learned a lot, but I also went through some very difficult times. That's why I realized that looking back, there are many things I wish I’d known before starting my Ph. D. path which would have helped me to make the most of the experience.
Here I go through some of my top tips in the hope that they will be useful to you:
1. Doing a Ph.D. is not easy and takes years of effort and dedication. At first, you will probably find yourself wondering what on earth it is you are doing. Take it easy, don’t think you have to learn everything at once. You have a lot to learn, and you are not going to do it in a day, a week, or a month (or even a year). Knowledge is not acquired quickly. Patience and perseverance are your greatest allies. One step at a time. One day at a time. Go at your own pace. Don't compare yourself to anyone. Everyone is different, has a different life, different resources, and different qualities. Don't want to be like anyone else. Be yourself.
To an extent, living with a chronic illness and doing a PhD share quite a few similarities. Both require a lot of self-discipline. Both can be hard work some days. But ultimately, they both teach you a lot about yourself. They teach you your strengths, your weaknesses, your limits, and that you’ve always got that little more in your tank to keep going. I’m not here to say I am an all-knowing sage. I want to acknowledge that everyone has their own PhD journey, and people with chronic illnesses have their own unique journeys too. I’m just a PhD student, sharing his journey about dealing with both at the same time. I hope that my story reaches or connects with even one person. To that person, I want you to know that whilst it’s hard, you’ve not only got this, but you’re going to be super proud of yourself when you come out the other side.
Doing a PhD is about so much more than the thesis you produce at the end that lets you proudly utter the words “Actually, it’s doctor.”
But at some point, you’ve got to take the ideas, doodles, scrawls and sketches and turn them into a thesis. When I got to that point, I wasn’t bowled over by the support available. After a while, you want to move from “everyone’s different!” and “there’s no one way to write up!” to “no, really, please tell me: how on Earth do I go about this?”
Don’t get me wrong – there is no one way to write up, and there’s almost certainly not a single best way. But this blog is my writing-up “write-up” which I hope, at best, might help others find what works for them (and, at worst, might help them rule out one option as a horrifying exercise in academic masochism.) Now that I’ve written it up, it sounds even more ambitious than it did when I first devised it – but I promise this worked for me.
I loathe the phrase ‘publish or perish’.
As if we weren’t all under enough pressure, academics seem to relish adding life-and-death metaphors into the mix. Admittedly, ‘publish or perish’ serves to underline the importance of publishing in academia – and it is important - but this popular soundbite gives you no advice about how to go about it.
Towards the end of my PhD, I felt the pressure to publish mounting and mounting, but found limited advice about how to survive (let alone thrive) in this strange new and seemingly hostile environment. That’s where I hope this blog post might come in. The tidbits below stem from personal experience, but I hope they might prove helpful to others as they prepare to send their thesis and its insights into the big, bad world.
Your supervisor can profoundly influence the progress of your PhD, as well as your own personal wellbeing. A supportive, helpful, and welcoming supervisor can make all the difference and help fuel your passion for academia. Conquering your PhD will not be easy, but having a supportive mentor to guide you through this difficult journey will make everything more enjoyable.
You can’t risk losing your enthusiasm. Lack of support and high expectations towards your progression can damage your mental health and lead you, in the most extreme cases, to give up your dream of achieving a PhD. I was very lucky. Not only did I have an extremely competent, professional, and capable supervisor, but also a valuable, helpful, and understanding person who never made me feel alone by offering advice, friendship, and support. Here's what I learned from him.
My name is Marco. I am 26 years old and a first-year PhD student in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at Duke University. I am not going to lie, at first being rejected from Harvard was devastating; however, this rejection was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. In this article, I will share my journey in applying to PhD programs in the US as a Brazilian student.
Let’s begin with a little bit of context. First, I majored in Food Engineering at the Federal University of Viçosa, Brazil, and during this time, I also studied Biotechnology in France. I did one year of courses, and an internship, at the University of Lorraine, where I finished at the top of my class, and I was approved for three fully funded master’s programs. After that, I decided to pursue a masters in Genetics and Molecular Biology at the State University of Campinas, Brazil. However, despite studying at top universities and having +5 years of research experience, and five published articles at the time, I was still rejected from Harvard University.
On the 18th of December 2020, I started writing my PhD thesis. On the 9th of December 2021, I submitted it to my faculty for examination. I never set myself a concrete due date, but I’m rather pleased that I was able to accomplish the task in just under a year. Writing is an arduous task for many PhD students, and Twitter is awash with tweets asking for advice, tips, and tricks to make the task easier. I myself have shared some advice on Twitter and on my blog with the hope that I could be of some help to those seeking it. Some people have also got in touch with me on Twitter to ask how I managed to complete my thesis in a year. So, after I was invited to contribute an article to The PhD Place, I eventually decided to share my writing journey with other PhD students. Hopefully, my experience will be able to give you some ideas or inspiration to help you write your own thesis.
I shall warn you now that this will be personal and it might not be useful to a general audience; but hey, we all think we are going through something unique when many of us are actually going through the same experiences, so who knows!
My PhD journey started out at the Indian Institute of Roorkee in 2018 under Dr. Partha Pratim Roy. I was happy that I would get to work on an EEG (a device capable of reading electrical signals generated by our brain), as I have always wanted to work in AI and build Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), and starting with the brain looked promising.
The PhD Place hosts a community of PGR students from all over the world. All views expressed are by the individual authors.