The PhD Knowledge Base
Free tools to help you complete your thesis
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Each day we send a short, thought-provoking email that will make you think differently about what it means to be a PhD student. They’re designed to be read in thirty seconds and thought about all day.
Become a better writer
Writing a PhD is hard. Here we present advice and insight that can guide you through every step of the process.
Whilst being based from home and self-isolating will undoubtedly have a big impact on how you work, it doesn’t mean your PhD comes to a stop. There are other things you can work on once you re-prioritise your workload and shift your projects around.
This post has been published in direct response to recent calls by governments around the world to encourage more people to work from home. We wanted to create a resource that talked specifically to PhD students in order to advise them on steps they could take to ease the transition to home-working. Towards the end of these guidelines are specifically tips for those who currently teach as part of their PhD workload.
Noting can ever fully prepare you for the intellectual, physical and emotional assault that comes with doing a PhD. Everyone does a PhD for very personal reasons, and everyone finds them challenging in unique and varied ways. What for one person may seem like a death-blow may to others be nothing more than a minor inconvenience. However, in this post I want to discuss the six things that every new PhD student should know. They’re things that I learnt the hard way during my PhD, and which I’ve seen time and time again in my career as an academic, PhD thesis proofreader and PhD coach.
PhDs can be the loneliest places in the world. You may be part of a bigger cohort of students in your department, but ultimately it’s down to you to power on through, turn up every day, make decisions and deal with problems. It’s you that has to carry around the weight and anxiety that accompany your PhD, and it’s you who has to constantly find a way over what seem like insurmountable hurdles, problems and sticking points.
Writing a PhD is physically, intellectually and emotionally daunting. You may spend each day doubting yourself, not sure if you’re making the right choices and unsure whether you’ve got what it takes. During the course of my life I’ve helped thousands of PhD...
PhD students are six times more likely to experience depression or anxiety than the general population — that’s what a recent survey of over 2,000 graduate students found. To those of us currently on our PhD journey, perhaps this won’t come as a surprise. Doctoral...
We explain what makes a good PhD supervisor, what they should and shouldn’t be doing, and how to make the most of your supervision meetings.
Research has shown how mindfulness exercises can be important in lowering PhD stress. Here we present 39 mindfulness exercises to help you towards a successful submission.
At the heart of a PhD is a goal to make the examiner happy. Clear, concise writing is an important component of achieving that goal.
Writing a PhD when English is your second language is a challenge. We’ve put together an infographic that will help you to improve the way you understand the PhD writing process.
If you’re a PhD student for whom English is a second language, you may not realise the importance of writing for a Western audience.
To those who think they’re not good enough I say two things. First, good enough for what? To be an academic? Well, you are one. You’re a trainee. Second, you’re not good enough yet. There’s a big distinction.
The hardest thing about doing a PhD isn’t the research, the literature review, the research design. They’re all hard, sure, but the hardest thing about doing a PhD is the constant worry about whether what you’re doing is ‘good enough’. The trouble is, we only have so much control over making it good enough.
‘Am I doing it right?’ ‘Others are so much better at writing than me.’ ‘I have to please my supervisor.’ ‘My future career, my life, depends on how well I write this thesis.’ Sound familiar?
For anyone writing ethnography – or doing any participant observation at all – writing a thesis begins in earnest in the field, with notes: an absolute heap of them.
Then the deadline grows shorter. You start to worry, “I’m so far behind. Can I ever catch up? I’m a good student. So why haven’t I been more productive?”
Let’s be honest, PhD theses can be boring. The subject matter and technical language is necessarily complex, so writing one that remains engaging can be tough. It’s worth it though.
When stripped down to its basic components, the PhD proposal explains the what and the why of your research. What it will be about and why it will be important.
Structuring your thesis
Our guides can show you the best way to structure every element of your thesis and give you the confidence to shine.
This post is part of a series of guides that explain in the simplest terms possible how to structure each of the major chapters of a typical PhD thesis. If you haven't already, download our free PhD Thesis Writing Template for a simple way of visualising your entire...
This guide explains how to write a PhD theoretical framework, the conceptual scaffolding upon which your entire rests rests.
This guide explains how to write a PhD literature review, which is a critical assessment of the literature related to your research topic.
Your introduction chapter is a short summary at the beginning of the thesis that sums up the research, layout and contribution.
Your abstract should be a short summary at the beginning of the thesis that sums up the research, the layout of the thesis and its contribution.
Struggling to understand what goes where? Let us walk you through a non-nonsense guide that’ll teach you how to structure a PhD thesis.
There is a very important distinction that needs to be made between the empirical and discussion sections/chapters. It is a common misconception that the empirical chapters are the place for your analysis. Often this confuses the reader.
Regardless of what stage of the writing process you are at, there are five overarching tips you need to keep in mind if you want to improve your PhD thesis.
How long does it take the person reading your thesis to understand what you’re doing and how you’re doing it? If the answer is anything other than ’in the the opening lines of the thesis’, keep reading.
When I was writing my PhD I hated the literature review. I was scared of it. I thought it would be impossible to grapple. So much so that it used to keep me up at night. Now I know how easy it can be and I’m sharing my top tips with you today.
Our PhD Writing Template allows you to visualise your PhD on one page. Here we explain how to fill it in and how it can help you structure each chapter.
The theoretical framework is so important, but so misunderstood. Here we explain it is in simple terms: as a toolbox.
Submit with confidence
There’s lots to do before you are able to submit your thesis. In this section, we make sure you’ve thought of everything.
We like to think that the viva is the end of the doctoral process; the final step in the long journey to a PhD. But, for most, it isn’t the final hurdle. The outcome of the viva in most cases is another three to sixth months work to deal with corrections.
Ever slept under your desk? I have. I was proud of it. It was something to boast about the next day. People admired me because of the amount of work I was putting into my PhD. Awful, right?
If you’re anything like I was, your PhD thesis is like your baby. You’ve bought it into the world and you’ll die for it. It’s tested you, pushed you harder than you ever thought possible and bought your to tears many, many times.
Record numbers of PhD students are having their dissertations proofread. Should it be counted as cheating? Sometimes, yes.
Deciding whether or not to hire a proofreader for you PhD is a big commitment. Whichever way you look at it, it’s expensive. Plus, you may think that your English language skills are good enough. So why bother? Read our ten reasons why.
Your work isn’t finished when you’ve written your thesis and had it proofread. There is still a surprising amount of administrative work to do before you are ready to submit. Don’t underestimate the amount of time it will take to turn your finished text into a final, bound copy.
You’ve written your thesis (phew!) and now you need to proofread it. In this guide we talk you through what to do and how to do it.
Grammarly, the free online grammar and spelling checker, claims to ‘make sure everything you type is clear, effective, and mistake-free’ and that ‘everything you write clear and effective all the time’. If that’s the case, then why spend money on a proofreader when Grammarly can do it for free? Put simply, Grammarly is terrible at proofreading academic texts.
A Daily Dose of PhD Motivation
Your new routine won’t look like your old one, so stop comparing them. Instead, accept that it will take you a while to find your new routine and that it will look very different.
One of the participants over in the the virtual PhD co-working community shared an article today that talks specifically to academics facing the reality of self-isolation and lockdown. I want to share it with you.
In life in general, but particularly during times of crisis and national emergency, there are many things outside our circle of influence that we have little control over. Yet still we worry about them. We worry about things that may or may not happen, or things that we have no say or control over anyway. We often worry about future uncertainty outside our realm of control too.
We’re asking PhD students like you from around the world a simple question: How has coronavirus affected your PhD and how have you adapted? We’ve created a dedicated webpage for people to share their accounts. In a short paragraph, students are sharing their unique experiences and providing a rich, detailed account of what effect coronavirus is having.
Worrying can be like sitting in a rocking chair; it can give you something to do, but it doesn’t mean really get you anywhere. As best you can, use this time as a gift. Take this rare opportunity to savour the quiet, enjoy the slower pace and use isolation to your advance. Communities are improved when the people in them are creative, focused and inspired, rather than anxious, worried and overwhelmed.
As time goes on, this new reality becomes your new normal. You’ll get used to the new routine, the new limitations and the new dynamics that you encounter. You may even start to see positives that come out of your new work and social life. Not every day will be easy, but not every day will be hard either. Each day will get easier, and each day will present new opportunities for growth and development. As the dust settles on this strange new world, we’ll all start to grow the resilience necessary to deal with it.
Your one page PhD thesis
Visualise every element of your thesis on one page with our free thesis template.
Whether you’re writing up or starting out, use it to present your research in the most compelling way possible.