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!