What do you tell a room full of PhD students?

When I was asked to give the talk I went through many of the stages of the “PhD roller-coaster” compressed into several hours. I accepted the request without reflection (other than a “sure, that needs no preparations…”) and then panicked that my PhD experiences were stale and possibly no-longer relevant. Then I reflected that I wasn’t being asked to advice through the lens of a student, the actual question was what advice could I offer as someone who as experienced both sides of the student-advisor relationship. Getting the research question right was an important first step. Next I read a few other blogs, papers and tweets. There is already a large body of work in the area of PhD advice so I decided to skip the exhaustive literature review and to provide a case study style approach focusing purely on my own experience.

Having “mastered the topic” (or at least as much as I was going to!), I scribbled a few notes on areas I thought I might want to cover: literature review, self-management, research network building, developing your identity as a researcher. I then wondered about how to present it. I considered what might make it engaging – neat slides, video examples – and decided that I deliver the advice without aids as an example of how if the content of your talk is of interest to the audience, they will remain engaged even if they have nothing more interesting to look at than the speaker themselves. In order to tie it together (and to help me remember what I planned to say) I decided to present it in the format of twelve tips. If you are interested in reading them, they recently got posted on the school blog.



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