29 Apr

What You Should Do In Your First Week Of PhD

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Are you about to embark on your PhD journey sometime soon? Are you feeling clueless as to what you will be doing over the first couple of days at your university? Do you wish to be better prepared than your peers so as to be in control of your PhD research right from the very beginning? If you have answered ‘yes’ to all of the above-mentioned questions, you must read on to find out the answers.

The initial phase of the PhD may turn out to be very confusing and difficult if you do not prepare for it well in advance. Unlike undergraduate courses, there is no classroom routine designed for PhD students to follow. Nor is there any classmate to help with something as simple as finding the closest washroom. You may also be roaming across the university campus with your laptop handy in a clueless manner, pondering over what to do and where to go.

In order to help you settle in smoothly, this article shares some great tips on what to do as you get on with the first week of PhD programme below:

1. BUY YOURSELF A COFFEE MUG

PhD programmes are very intense in nature and often require students to keep late hours for managing their studies efficiently. Therefore, you should buy a coffee mug and get used to drinking coffee regularly as regular intake of caffeine will help keep off fatigue and will result in increased productivity while you are working on your PhD research.

 

2. GET HOLD OF YOUR WORKSTATION

You need to consult your department head or supervisor or administrator to figure out the workstation that has been assigned to you. Decorate the workstation tastefully once you have found it and ensure that you have a comfortable chair to sit on as you will be using the workstation to work on your PhD research for hours at a stretch at times.

 

3. GET DONE WITH PAPERWORK

Even though you have submitted a number of papers, including statement of purpose, research proposal, application form, mark sheets and letters of recommendation, to your university for the purpose of admission on to a PhD course, you will realise that you still have a lot of paperwork to get done with in the first week of joining the university. For example, you may be asked to fill up a form to get your university identity card to access university premises or you might be filling in a form to get log-in details for accessing intranet/internet or library’s online resources. You need to ensure that you are done with filling in all the relevant forms as soon as possible so that you could avail yourself of all the university facilities without any trouble.

 

4. GET YOUR COMPUTER READY FOR WORK

Having filled in the log-in form, you must have obtained username and password to access internet/intranet on your laptop.

As your laptop is now connected to the wi-fi/intranet, you must consider setting up the closest printer on it because you would need to print out a number of documents during your study tenure as PhD.

There are many useful software programs offered by universities to its students for free so that the students could carry on with their studies in an uninterrupted manner. Hence, you should check with your university as to which all software programs are accessible to you for free and download the relevant ones to make your life a little bit easier.

In addition to the university’s software programs, you should consider downloading some other free software solutions, including Dropbox, Evernote, Google Docs, Mendeley and Slideshare, from the internet to organise your PhD life better.

 

5. REGISTER FOR RELEVANT WORKSHOPS, SEMINARS AND CONFERENCES

If you are a new PhD student who has not been involved in any type of academic research before, you would need to foster research skills before you could conduct PhD research on your own. In order to develop the skills, you will have to participate in skill-enriching workshops, seminars and conferences, in addition to compulsory PhD modules.

While compulsory modules are to be attended mandatorily, seminars, workshops and conferences are optional. You may attend some of the optional events to add to your research skills and knowledge by registering your interest for the same. What you need to do is discuss about your research needs with your supervisor in the very first week and seek to understand which all workshops, seminars and conferences you should attend to enhance your research skills and develop into a good PhD researcher.

 

6. GET ON WITH READING ACADEMIC ARTICLES, BOOKS, REPORTS AND PREVIOUS THESES

As a PhD student, you will have to read numerous journal articles, books, industry publications, reports and previous Theses to be able to complete your PhD Thesis successfully.

The more you read, the more you learn about your area of research. Extensive critical reading (also known as literature review) will help you understand what has been done in the field of your study before and find out the research gap that is worth addressing. So, get into the habit of reading so as to thrive as a PhD student from the very first week.

Now, you must be wondering how to go about finding out the academic publications that are worth reading? Well, you should consult your supervisor to seek a list of journal articles, books, reports and previous PhD Theses surrounding your research area and get hold of all the suggested academic publications with the help of university’s library for the purpose of reading and conducting literature review extensively.

 

7. SOCIALISE WITH FELLOW PHDs AND OTHERS AT YOUR UNIVERSITY

As human beings, we all crave for a good social life. So, get to know your fellow PhDs and other students at your university in the very first week.

It would not hurt to talk to other PhD students over a cup of coffee or lunch or dinner or BBQ party and discuss about their research work as well as yours amid non-academic conversations. Such conversations will help you learn about research experiences of other PhD students and prepare you for the challenges that you are most likely to face during your PhD journey ahead.

Additionally, if you are a fitness-freak, you could make friends with students at gym and sports club of the university and socialise with them.

You could also join the university’s student union to be able to participate in a wide variety of social and cultural events organised for its members.

Interaction with students at various events or places would make you feel alive, included and better prepared during your PhD. So, be social!

 

Hopefully, the above-mentioned activities will keep you engaged in your first week of PhD and lay down a strong foundation for a bright future ahead. Last but not the least, do write to us and share your first week’s experiences as a PhD. We would love to hear those from you!

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26 Apr

5 Ways You Can Use Evernote To Boost Your PhD Productivity

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When you are pursuing your PhD, you are often flooded with large chunks of information that result from the meetings you hold with your PhD supervisor and other academics, the journal articles and books you read through, the conferences you attend and what not.

If you leave such high volume of incoming data unattended and unorganised, you will have to suffer from its dire consequences, such as making multiple revisions of your PhD Thesis draft unnecessarily or wasting great deal of time re-locating any useful reference which you had thought of including into your PhD research to make its arguments stronger and more critical, in the foreseeable future.

In order to avoid such unwanted troubles during your PhD journey, you will have to stay extremely organised throughout, and you can do so by picking out one of the software tools that help with organisation of data.

While there are many software tools out there in the market, Evernote has been touted by a number of PhD students for its wonderful attributes that aid in collecting, storing and accessing the important pieces of information, relevant to your PhD research, across all of your devices.

With the help of Evernote, you can manage wide variety of data, including text, images, audio, web pages and snapshots, in a smooth way. Not only does Evernote help store and sync all the relevant details related to your PhD research across all your devices, but also it helps you share the stored information with the targeted recipients via various means, including URL, e-mail and social networks, in an easy manner. Additionally, you could use its ‘TypeAhead’ search functionality to look up any note you have saved in the past.

With plethora of benefits that Evernote has on offer, it becomes an ideal tool for PhD students to streamline their research work with a view to improving their academic productivity and completing their PhD journey in a hassle-free manner.

Let us now discuss how you can use Evernote to boost your PhD productivity in detail:

1. MINUTES OF THE MEETINGS

As a PhD student, you often have to meet your PhD supervisor as well as other academics with regard to your research work in person or virtually.

In each and every meeting, important points, including key issues, central ideas and to-do tasks, related to your PhD research are discussed and hence, it becomes vital to you, as a researcher, to record all the relevant pieces of discussed information as minutes so as to be able to remain on the right track all the time.

With feature-rich Evernote, you can keep track of all the important details related to your meetings and stay on the top of your PhD research throughout. If you do not feel like penning down the minutes of any meeting, you could even resort to the audio note (instead of text) to record everything that has been discussed and transcribe the relevant details later on.

Every note created using Evernote has a URL that makes sharing of information very simple and easy. As a PhD researcher, you can take advantage of this feature and share the minutes of meeting with all the participants, be it your PhD supervisor or other doctoral researchers, using the relevant URL so as to keep them all on the same page.

If you have a follow-up meeting coming up, you might want to search for minutes of the previous meeting stored on Evernote to quickly refresh your memory of the previously-held discussion. This would ensure that discussion in the following meeting proceeds in the right direction smoothly.

 

2. CONFERENCES

While you are pursuing your PhD, you will get many opportunities to attend conferences that are relevant to your research area. When you make it to such conferences, you will get to meet other doctoral students who, like you, would be there to discuss their research work using fascinating posters.

Some of the showcased research posters might seem interesting and useful to you in the context of your own research work. Hence, you might end up requesting other researchers to forward you a copy of their research poster via email.

While some researchers may send you their research posters, others may not. In order to avoid the possibility of missing out on any relevant research poster, you might want to click pictures of all those that appear relevant and useful to you from the view point of your own research and save them all using Evernote. This would ensure that you have access to all the interesting research posters at your will across all of your devices.

With Evernote, you may also like to make note of all the questions you have been asked in relation to your research work at any conference. This might be a useful input when you start preparing for your viva after you are done with writing your PhD Thesis.

You could also use Evernote to save all of your travel documents, tickets, bills and expenses (related to any conference) so that you could make a declaration of the spent amount appropriately when you are back to your university.

 

3. LITERATURE REVIEW

As a doctoral student, you have to read through a number of journal articles, books, industry reports, relevant publications and what not, so as to be able to write a critical and cohesive literature review on your research topic.

There are times when you realise that you cannot read any interesting academic article instantly and you may want to go through it later on when you have sufficient time handy.

Many a time, you forget to bookmark or save the article at an appropriate or easy-to-access place for future references. As a result of the same, you lose track of that article completely and are left with no option but to repent not reading it at all.

In order to avoid losing sight of important academic articles and web pages, you can use Evernote Clipper that enables one to clip or store any piece of information that is found out on the web, be it a PDF or an article or any paragraph or a photo. With Evernote, the process of reviewing literature becomes far easier.

 

4. MANAGEMENT OF DAY-TO-DAY TASKS

Evernote is often used by PhD students to manage a wide of variety of tasks which they have to deal with off and on. The tasks could range from ‘finishing any particular section of PhD Thesis’ to ‘reviewing a set of journal articles’ to ‘responding to important emails’ to ‘attending someone’s birthday party’ to many more.

With the help of Evernote, you could create a notebook titled ‘to-do tasks’ that would contain all the notes that need be acted upon. Thereafter, another notebook titled ‘today’ could be generated where you could drag all the notes (from ‘to-do tasks’ notebook) that need be dealt with today.

Creation of the above-mentioned Evernote notebooks would help you stay organised throughout and complete all of your PhD-related tasks on or before time.

 

5. AUTOMATE EVERNOTE WITH IFTTT

Have you ever thought of syncing your Evernote account with IFTTT, which refers to ‘If This Then That’? If not, you must consider doing it now in order to make your PhD life more organised and less complicated.

The IFTTT website has a total of 305 channels, including Evernote, Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, and offers you a great opportunity to connect two of its channels to make a unique and helpful recipe.

To understand this concept better, let us see how connecting Evernote to Twitter (the two channels on IFTTT website) might help. Suppose you visit your Twitter account very often and retweet all those pieces of content which you find useful in the context of your PhD. Deep inside your heart, you wish to save those re-tweets at a place where those could be easily accessed. What you will do, in this case, is connect your Twitter account to your Evernote account using IFTTT and instruct the website that if you retweet anything on Twitter, then that retweet gets saved on Evernote for future reference.

The above-given example demonstrates one of the recipes you could make using Evernote and another channel of IFTTT website (i.e. Twitter). You could try making other useful recipes to stay organised and updated by combining Evernote with other relevant channels appearing on IFTTT website.

 

In conclusion, Evernote is a tool you cannot live without as a PhD student. Whether you are struggling to absorb information during any meeting or you want to capture some fascinating research posters at any conference so as to review those later or you wish to save link to any academic article for future reference, Evernote is what you should resort to. This tool will help you remain organised throughout your PhD journey and add simplicity to the complicated and intense life that you may be leading at present.

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