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  • Jul 29 / 2015
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Olivia Kirtley, PhD Experience

Lions and tigers and theses! Oh my!

By Olivia Kirtley:

Blog posts and advice columns about writing your thesis abound and the vast majority speak about it with great reverence; it isn’t just a thesis, it’s “The Thesis”, “The Big Book”, the Goliath to your David, the magnum opus of the last 3 or 4 years of your life. The thesis as a portrait of academic Herculean struggle can strike fear into the hearts of many PhD students. It feels like an unknown, a dark forest with lions and tigers and bears, but perhaps writing your thesis isn’t as scary as it first sounds?

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  • May 20 / 2015
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Matt Jamieson, PhD Experience

Networking advice for introverted researchers

Photo by Samuel Zeller. © 2014. © Creative Commons Zero via Unsplash.

Photo by Samuel Zeller. © 2014. © Creative Commons Zero via Unsplash.

By Matt Jamieson

Every researcher has to network in order to develop their career. However for some this can feel like a difficult and potentially stressful task. Personally I find the idea of approaching admired professors and researchers at conferences daunting, and the prospect of engaging in intellectual conversation as equals seems unlikely. A bit like trying to impress Beyoncé by challenging her to a dance off. With this in mind I asked a few more experienced colleagues how they networked successfully at the beginning of their career and curated together the following pieces of advice: Continue Reading

  • Apr 01 / 2015
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PhD Experience

Imposter syndrome – you are not alone!

By Siobhán O’Connor:

My sister, who is younger but much wiser than me as she is coming to the end of her PhD, warned me of the sneaky “Imposter Syndrome” that inevitably sets in for any student once they begin the lonely road to being doctorally qualified. At first it begins by questioning yourself – what you are you doing here? – you don’t know enough – you’re not clever enough! Then you start comparing yourself to those around you who always seem smarter and appear to work harder than you. The nagging part of your brain keeps reminding you – you shouldn’t be here, you’re a total phony and somebody is going to find you out!

As I come to the end of my first year, I realise that all PhD students experience this phenomenon. There has even been research done to explore this facet of human psychology and apparently women are more prone to it, so you are NOT alone!! Here are some simple tips on how to manage it. Firstly, take a deep breath, you are where you’re supposed to be and you are just as competent and deserving as those around you. Secondly, some suggest keeping a written record of your short, medium and long-term accomplishments as you move through your doctorate. This way you can prove to yourself that you are making progress and it’s down to your hard work and support from your supervisors and other colleagues and it is not your imagination or blind luck. Thirdly, talk to other students and you’ll quickly realise that everyone goes through the same thing, so get involved in postgraduate activities in your department and sit in on annual reviews or viva presentations if possible to put yourself at ease – you CAN do it!!

Remember that self-criticism and self-awareness is an important component of academic life and actively encouraged in researchers. Apparently even Albert Einstein suffered from the syndrome towards the end of his life, reporting to a close friend that, “the exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler” (Holt, 2005). So don’t be too hard on yourself but do welcome and appreciate that imposter feeling as par for the course because by the time you don that red, black or blue gown in two or three years time you’ll wonder why you ever questioned yourself.


  • Mar 11 / 2015
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PhD Experience

Is that the time? How to keep on track during your PhD

By Uduak Ntuk:

Previously, Olivia Kirtley and Arlene McGarty have written about the effort that goes into research and the need to be organised when undertaking a PhD. As PhD students we don’t just encounter academic problems; there are also challenges in time management, motivation and creativity.  I thought I could share some practical ways to be more productive during the PhD journey, some of which are based on my personal experience – things I should be doing and things I have done.

1. Plan your time effectively

Effective planning requires you set yourself small, manageable goals to work towards in advance and prioritising activities, so you don’t get overwhelmed with the size of the task.  Using the Stephen Covey’s time management quadrant1 as a guide, I begin with a to-do list sectioned into different categorises. I have a research ideas list, weekly, months and daily lists with deadlines to help me organise.

For this you can use a Gantt chart, an excel sheet, your outlook calendar, Google calendar or a simple word document. If you have a smart phone, the Eisenhower app is excellent for helping you manage your to-dos. Splitting up your planning can be an effective way of doing this. You can have:

Long term goals-This will be the overall overview of your PhD journey. Plan each week/month on what you should be working on which part of your PhD project,

Short term goals- This could be a check list of important work, including appointment that should be done daily and have all your appointments. You the

Set reminders on your calendar to help you manage both intended goals.

One great time management technique based on the idea of working in short sprints is the Pomodoro Technique. It can help to create your to-do-list by degree of importance so that that you can quickly identify the activities you should focus on.

2. Track your progress 

During your research, time slips away really quickly. Sometimes we are so focused on the daily tasks that we forget our general objectives, and where our efforts should lead us. It is very crucial you track how much you have done in previous weeks and months and stay on track to achieve your goals.

Don’t be discouraged if things don’t go according to plan because every little effort counts and you have often achieved more than you think you have.

3. Get to know yourself

Having a regular work routine is very important as a PhD student. To achieve this, find out what type of worker you are – do you work best in the morning or evening? Do you prefer to work in the silence or with music? This will have a high influence on your productivity of your work. Once you understand this, you can adapt your schedule to the timing/ambience you prefer and consequently, you will achieve better results. Also, find out how you procrastinate and have a strategy in place to manage that.

4. Put aside distractions

When I have a lot on my mind, I tend to click away the minutes on the internet (do you do this too?). Have designated time set aside in the day for things like Facebook, twitter, personal emails etc. If you think you aren’t self- disciplined enough to do this, installing features such as Leechblock a Firefox add-on on your computer can help block the use of social networking sites during work hours.

5. Flexibility

During the PhD, some unexpected issues and events can occur, so be adaptable in your time management- incorporating and maintaining flexibility into your schedule.

Finally, create time for fun. Add extra-curricular activities as part of your daily planning and make time for your friends and family.

People may have different patterns that work for them. What works for me does not mean it will work for everyone. So, what does your time management strategy for your PhD research look like? Do you have any strategy at all?


  1. COVEY, S. R. (2004). The 7 habits of highly effective people: restoring the character ethic. New York, Free Press.
  • Feb 04 / 2015
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Matt Jamieson, PhD Experience

After your PhD – what’s the next step

Photo by Rama Krishna. © 2016. © CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay.

Photo by Rama Krishna. © 2016. © CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay.

By Matthew Jamieson

In the months before began my PhD I worked in a shopping centre in the suiting department. During this time I would tell my colleagues I would soon be a doctor (though not a proper one) and, being mostly undergraduates, they seemed suitably impressed that I was embarking on what was presumably quite a professional career. This reaction made me feel like I knew where I was going. I was an executive academic, with shiny shoes and wearing a slim fit shirt and tie. Continue Reading

  • May 13 / 2014
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PhD Experience

Hello from the IHAWKES!

We are are excited to be launching our brand new blog today, to coincide with the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing Student-Led Conference!

If you have been inspired hearing about the research being carried out by IHW’s postgraduate students today,  then we hope you will enjoy this blog where are our regular contributors will be writing about topics related to their PhD research as well as offering perspectives on health-related news stories.

We hope to stimulate conversations both within IHW and the wider public health community so please comment on the blog posts, tweet us (@ihawkes1) and share with interested colleagues.

First up, Olivia a PhD student in Mental Health and Wellbeing is blogging about media guidelines on the reporting of suicides.

Happy reading!

Anna and the rest of the IHAWKES team