PhD Tips

Establishing a relationship with your supervisors:

  • Communicate regularly.
  • Discuss deadlines and try to be realistic.
  • Keep a record of each meeting, detailing the discussion, decisions, action points, next deadline and date of next meeting. (essential when filling in progress reports)
  • Ensure that your progress is monitored regularly.
  • Organise regular joint tutorials, where possible.

Managing conflict:

Conflict-real or apparent- does need to be acknowledged. Try to identify the problem early and address it.

The ethics of research

General principles:

  • Data should be open to scrutiny
  • Check with your supervisor what kind of ethical clearance you need, especially if working with people.

Finding the managing sources

  1. Search online databases
    Use the Boolean operators
  2. Sign up for email alerts from books and journals in your research area.
  3. Identify relevant archives/libraries
  • Talking to researchers in your field
  • ‘methodology’ and ‘bibliography’ section of relevant books and journal articles and theses.
  1. Embrace shelf browsing
  2. Follow the bibliographic trail
  3. Manage your bibliography
  4. Index cards
  5. Bibliographic software (EndNote, RefWorks, Zotero and many free packages)

What are you reading for?

Learn from the source:

  • Which methodology is used
  • What is the overall argument
  • How is the argument constructed

Critical analysis

  • Is the methodology suited to the research aim?
  • Is the argument based upon any assumptions.
  • Are the conclusions logically drawn from the argument?

Connections to other texts.

  • Which authors are cited in the source?
  • What its relationship to the development of theory in the field?
  • Similarity and differences between this argument and others on the same topic?

What does the source not say?

  • Any gaps in the argument?
  • Indicate any areas that require further research?
  • How could the question have been approaches differently?
  • Can the methodology be applied to different subjects?

Writing up or writing down?

You don’t need to wait until you have a fully formed argument.

  • An introductory narrative: Why did I come up with the idea and where might it lead.
  • Survey pieces:
  • Beyond summary: the basis of the literature review.
  • Write to understand, not to explain: your idea develops
  • A blog: so nothing is lost or duplicated

Writing your literature review

A literature review is a summary, synthesis and evaluation of the available literature on a particular topic.

  • Identify a discrete research area
  • Provide a summary, pointing out trends, shifts and connections
  • Organise and interpret the material in response to a particular research question
  • Highlight contentious, well-researched and under-researched topics
  • Critically evaluate the literature

Why do a literature review?

  • Identify the gap in existing research
  • Avoid duplicating previous research
  • Build on existing knowledge
  • Define the boundaries of your research

Writing introduction

The ‘moves’ of an introduction

  1. The context/ issue/ problem
  2. The research territory: how your highly specific research sits within the bigger picture
  3. Specific research area: indicate related studies
  4. The gap in previous research
  5. Your aim


Publication strategy

  • After the literature review. (Reviews get good citation rates)
  • After formulating and testing your methodology.
  • Have some outcomes from a phase of your research.
  • Have identified the conclusions of your project.


  • Get familiar with the journals
  • Think ahead (takes at least 9 months from submission)
  • Find out the authorship conventions (work with the supervisor)
  • Rejection? (Take the criticism, make some changes and send it to another journal)



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