Tips For New Ph.D. Students

Tips For New Ph.D. Students

Starting a Ph.D. program can be scary and overwhelming; however, there are steps you can take to make the transition as smooth as possible. Today we have gathered ten tips to help new students find success.

Make an effort to socialize

When starting your Ph.D. program, you may have relocated to a new city or may feel nervous chatting up the existing members of the program who seem to be settled in. However, you should make an effort to push yourself and to get to know some people in your program. Earning a Ph.D. can be isolating, and it will be a tremendous asset to have some people you are close with that are going through the same thing. Not to mention, this can help you build a network for after you finish your program.

Get a lay of the land

When you first start your program, take time to explore the buildings, you will be in most frequently. Even just knowing where the bathroom and coffee machine are can make you feel much more at home. If you have an office or workspace, spruce it up with some touches that make you feel at home.

Organize your sources as you save them

This tip may seem like an obvious one, but if you weren’t planning to do this, you would thank us later when you aren’t sifting through hundreds of unlabeled documents to find the one you need. We recommend saving files with the title, author, year, and a few keywords that explain what the paper is about. Trust us, this takes more time now, but you won’t regret it.

Make time to plan your time

To be successful, you will be handling a lot of tasks during your Ph.D. and will also be in charge of holding yourself accountable during the process. As a result, it becomes more critical to manage your time and priorities carefully. We suggest setting aside a chunk of time at the beginning of the week where you write down everything you want to accomplish and fill in your calendar with blocks of time that will help you to do so. Then, the most crucial part, stick to it! It may be hard to be disciplined at the time, but you will thank yourself later.

Don’t stop reading

At the beginning of your project, you will read a lot of papers as you gather an understanding of your field and how you will expand it. However, as you get deeper into your own work, you may find yourself reading less and less. We suggest setting up a block of time each week to read the latest work published in your field. This new information will continue to help shape your work throughout your project.

Build a strong relationship with your supervisor

You want to have a strong working relationship with your supervisor; they can guide you through the difficult process that is an independent research and become someone to lean on. You can begin getting to know your supervisor before your program begins, ask to meet them before you accept the position to get an idea if you are a good fit together. Then, throughout your program, focus on regular communication and honest to have a successful relationship.

Maintain a good work/life balance

As you progress through your Ph.D. program, it will become more and more challenging to prioritize your free time. However, as time goes on, you will find that if you do not prioritize time for things you enjoy, your overall quality of work will suffer as you experience burnout. Therefore, make sure you make time for your hobbies and to spend time with the people you care about. It will pay off in the long run!

Focus on your spelling and grammar

Spelling and grammar mistakes can cause the reader to distrust even the best, most accurate work. Make sure that throughout the process, you check your spelling and grammar. Errors will be easier to find and fix than if you try to make extensive changes when your paper is complete. You may want to use a grammar tool, like Grammarly, to make this process easier.

Find balance in the length of your writing

Long blocks of text can be too dense and difficult to read; however, if paragraphs and sections are too short, they can feel too surface level. Work on striking a balance between these two extremes in your writing. Subheadings can help achieve this. You may also ask your advisor to provide feedback on this aspect of your paper as they review your drafts.

Be accepting of your strengths and weaknesses

Attempt to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your work, which will demonstrate critical thinking about the impact of your project. Additionally, no student’s work is perfect, and identifying the weaker areas that future researchers may be able to build off of is a great skill that will improve your finished project. Finally, being aware of your weaknesses will make you better equipped to handle feedback from your supervisor.

We hope these tips help new students as they begin the fantastic adventure that is a Ph.D. program. Do you have a tip we didn’t mention? Let us know on Twitter, @Conserisapp.

Conseris is a data collection app that helps researchers gather, store, and analyze data more efficiently. Learn more at