Survival guide of your PhD journey

Here it goes, the new semester in Australian universities. I have met few new PhD candidates in my school. They are all talented, enthusiastic, and ambitious scholars with great potentials. However, just as other freshmen, they are unsure what should be their goal as a first year PhD, feeling insecure of pursuing an academic career.

These are typical concerns, indeed.

Last year, I have already written a few articles about my views publishing during PhD. This is the most frequently asked question, but I believe students have other questions that concern them. Since this is the beginning of this academic year, I think I will come up with a short guide of some useful sources that perhaps can answer questions from my PhD friends.

Disclaimer: this guide is written for postgraduate research students in social sciences. As I come from the Australian education system, I may have some bias or blind spots in my opinions.

Book: Surviving your thesis

My dad, who also obtained a doctoral degree, recommended this book to me when I was in my first year’s bachelor. Initially, he thought this was a good essay structure guide, like how to write a literature review and to conduct research. I read it thoroughly and it helped me survived my bachelor degree.

However, this book is more than an essay structure guide. It covers other topics that higher research students need to learn. For example, how to develop a research proposal (and research question), manage relationship with your supervisors, go through ethical application, and recommend examiners at a later stage of your candidature. The book is fairly easy to read. The authors are mostly from Australia. So they would understand struggles from the Australian tertiary education system.

Overall, I recommend this book for those who want a bit of light reading of how to write a thesis.

Website: The thesis whisperer

Professor Inger Mewburn is one of the well-known persons in the field. She writes everything about PhDs and early career researchers. She publishes one article in her website per month. Her topics do not only cover all those useful thesis writing guide, but also well-being and productivity of researchers.

A lot of PhD students are anxious about building up their academic portfolio. They look for every opportunity to teach, publish and stay connected. The Thesis whisperer is a useful resource that can drag early PhD out from these problems. As a scholar, an intellectual, and a writer, Inger provides many useful tips for students to think beyond the narrow academia mindset: you do not have to be an academic after completing your PhD.

If you like to know more, please subscribe to this website.

Book: Publish or perish (不发表 就出局)

Struggling with the ‘publish or perish’ dilemma? This book is a helpful guide for Chinese PhD students to publish their first academic article. The author, Professor Li Lianjiang, is an experienced scholar in Hong Kong, who experts in China studies and public policy.

The book provides insightful and constructive views of framing the topic of the article, choosing an appropriate journal for submissions, dealing with editors. It is rare to have a book written from an insider’s perspective, who has made a lot of publications in social sciences. Therefore, if you are an early career researcher in social sciences, I strongly recommend you to read this book before even consider submitting your first article.

Unfortunately, this book is only available in Chinese. And I would say, as an Associate Editor of an academic journal, suggestions in the book may be more suitable for students who do China Studies research.

Book: From dissertation to book

Another useful guide at your later stage of your PhD candidature. When I first complete my PhD, a question comes to me: where should I start publishing. Then someone recommended this book to me. Frankly, I suggest students to publish articles instead of monograph because the process will be much quicker. But if you are a ‘book’ person like me, this book will give you some recommendations of drafting your book proposal, approaching publishers, and revising your thesis. And most importantly, how to communicate your research with wider readership instead of just people in the field (I think all scholars should have this ability). As a quick guide, it helps you to start thinking how to turn your thesis into a book. I used this book when I published my first monograph.

However, I do recommend PhD students start reading this book at the very end of your candidature. Most first and second years PhDs do not have a concrete research question and arguments. Therefore, this book will distract you from framing your PhD thesis.

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