Managing yourself - advice for doctoral researchers

Tips on managing yourself for all researchers are available elsewhere on the site. This page deals with some issues specific to doctoral researchers.

Settling in

Settling in will vary depending on whether you have stayed on at the institution where you did your undergraduate or master’s degree or moved to a new one. There are additional challenges if you have moved to a new country or if you are returning to academia.

Most institutions have inductions for new doctoral researchers. This is a good time to ask about all aspects of being a doctoral researcher, and find out about practical things, like your university email or how stipends paid.

Early on concentrate on building a supportive network. Invaluable people to know include the departmental secretary, fellow researchers, support staff, librarians, technicians, research staff and academics, and of course your supervisors .

Remember to devote some time to building up a social network, as a sensible work/life balance will help you progress and prevent burn out.

Overcoming common challenges

Although all doctoral projects and postgraduate researchers are different, there are some problems that many will face . Share your concerns on the ‘What’s up doc?’ blog for doctoral researchers and read about the strategies to overcome them .

Having second thoughts?

Occasionally people start a doctorate and then decide it is not for them. There is no stigma in quitting a doctorate. However, before you take any such decision try and talk to someone (not necessarily your supervisor) about what you are thinking. You may find it helpful to think through why you decided to do a doctorate.

  • What has changed?
  • What have you liked and disliked so far: what can be changed? 
  • What will you do instead of your doctorate? Will this impact on your career choices?

Take time to reflect objectively: you have a range of options open to you from renewing your resolve and enthusiasm, changing your supervisor/ project/ department/institution, suspending your registration for an agreed period, submitting earlier for an alternative qualification to taking a positive decision to walk away and never look back. Don’t decide in isolation, but use all the support you can draw on from your network such as family and friends but also institutional support mechanisms  such as your departmental tutor, counselling services or careers advisors.