Archives for posts with tag: PhD

At a recent ‘Managing yourself and your PhD course’ I asked attendees to list their issues. The second biggest issue was procrastination.

procratination phdsProcrastination can be defined as “to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay.” [1] and that’s certainly a problem!

Why do we deliberately not do what we know we should be doing even if it causes us pain?

We end up being stressed, feeling guilty, in a worse situation and gain disapproval from others. This makes it even harder to do anything and can become a downward spiral.

It is basically “a breakdown in our Self Control. You know what you ought to do and you’re not able to bring yourself to do it. It’s that gap between intention and action.” [2]

So how can we overcome it? Top tips include:

1.Have a plan. Now that you don’t have ‘classes’ you have to structure your own time. I tumblr_inline_mjbjohnZlb1qz4rgpnoticed that the biggest issue that PhD students mentioned was all about how to plan and manage activities. If you do not have a plan you will not know where to start and you will not have prioritised your work. Break your work down into sections and tasks. Then make a weekly plan of what you need to do. A daily plan is even better, a to do list might help!

2. Track your progress to help keep motivated. Mark things off as you complete them and don’t be afraid to move things round if you get blocked on one of your tasks e.g. perhaps you need to clarify something with your supervisor. Start the next task instead and then come back to the one that was blocked later on. Seeing your progress will help you feel that you are achieving and keep you on track.

3.Create an environment that suits how you work and remove as many distractions as possible. Be especially aware of digital distractions! Keep off social media and do not keep checking your emails. Make sure you have everything you need, e.g. stapler and staples etc and keep your work space organised so you can find things easily. Check your posture and your computer height, brightness etc to make sure you are comfortable and not creating back pain etc

4.Take breaks. Research takes a lot of focus so you need to take regular breaks to help your mind come back refreshed. Do your work in slots and then have a break e.g. I will read three research articles/write my abstract then I will have a break.

5.Keep your work within working hours and have a home/social life. You are not effective if you work long hours.

6.Ask for help if you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask others to help when you get stuck. Better to admit you do not know something than waste valuable time. Others are usually only too willing to help. Make sure you make the most of supervisory meetings by listing the things you need to know or resources you need to access etc so that you can make sure you get what you need and when you need it.

If anyone else has any tips on what works for them then please feel free to comment below.

  • [1] Steel, Piers (2007). “The nature of procrastination: A meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self-regulatory failure”. Psychological Bulletin 133 (1): 65–94.
  • [2] Dr Andrew Dobson
  • [3] Image
  • [4] Image

d53018c541604453a8446db7ebff4483.jpgI work a lot with stuck and panicking PhD researchers near the end of their time here, and from them I have some intel to share. Bear in mind then that what follows doesn’t represent an ever so typical experience, but it does represent an important and keenly felt negative experience. One we can all learn from as colleagues in researcher development: be your role full time academic superhero and supervisor, or like mine, a specialist learning and development role, I think this will be relevant to you. Read the rest of this entry »


In May 2016 I posted about the launch of a research project I am collaborating on with Billy Bryan (@BillyB100) looking into perceptions of value in the PhD.

The study has progressed really well over the last 9 months, we have now completed two phases: our survey for current PhD students got 200+ responses, and we also did 22 in depth interviews with PhD graduates across a range of career types. Read the rest of this entry »

My usual thesis banter is all about how to start writing. But in order to get it submitted at some point you have to stop.

thesis.pngLots of you will have hard deadlines to meet and be beavering away towards them. I hear sometimes though a variation on “…but I want to be finished way before that.” There can be flexibility in any self-imposed deadline that allows you to slide it back if you want to. Beware this tendency to drag the process on longer and longer and if you can, force an end by planning a ‘full stop’ point. Maybe plan a holiday, or agree a job start date that requires you to have finished your thesis. It’s hard to write and fully commit to your work in a new role, as many people who are juggling a full time job and thesis writing will echo.

As you come towards the end, keep your mind on being done, and remind yourself: Read the rest of this entry »

Below, and here, are two stories of PhD study from researchers who combined work and a PhD. While both are positive accounts, there are some differences, for example, working as a practitioner in the same field as you study, or working on multiple research projects including the PhD. What both have spoken of though is:

  • Perspective: the PT PhD as one aspect, albeit important, of who they are and their career portfolio. This helps to maintain momentum, and enthusiasm, and avoids becoming entrenched in the idea of the perfect PhD.
  • Complementary: Working and studying within the same topic areas, or having insight into the research culture and university workings, all useful things in navigating PhD progression.
  • Process not product: seeing the PhD as a learning and growth opportunity, and slowly building skills and experiences towards the next step.

I hope you enjoy them both, there are some good ideas here for full time PhD students too.

This piece is from Samuel Dent (@SRDent89), a researcher in Higher Education, at Sheffield Hallam University.

My PhD topic area is based in my experiences of working on the front line of University Student Support. Each March I’d brace for impact as swathes of 20/21-year-olds about to graduate would come to see me; exhausted/tempted to withdraw, and questioning the purpose of their entire education. At this point in the year most graduate recruitment schemes had announced their new recruits, and inevitably some students didn’t make the cut. For many of these students this was the first time they had realized that beginning their career would not be straightforward, and that being successful had not come easy this time.

Read the rest of this entry »

This post is from Melanie Lovatt (@melanie_lovatt), who has just completed a PhD in Sociological Studies. For a sister-post on part-time PhDs, please see here.

Dr Melanie Lovatt.jpgBack in 2010 I excitedly told friends and family that I had decided to do a part-time PhD. “Part-time?” repeated a relative sceptically. “Well, how long’s that going to take you?” “Around six years!” I replied, with an enthusiasm that I suspected might desert me long before completion. But five years and nine months on, having passed my viva with minor corrections last month and about to start a lectureship, I can honestly say that doing my PhD part-time was the right decision for me. Here are some reflections on the process: Read the rest of this entry »

This is a gust post from Saima Eman, a PhD Commonwealth Scholar in the Psychology Department and UREC student representative at University of Sheffield. She is also a Lecturer in Psychology at the Lahore College for Women University in Pakistan.


No relationship is perfect, and a student and supervisor are very lucky if they can build a trusting and respectful supervisory relationship. In this post, I share some precautions and practical tips to get the best match for you, and maintain good student-supervisor relations throughout the PhD, drawn from my own 17 years of experience in research.

Finding out about the academic and ethical reputation, working styles, and idiosyncrasies, of the potential supervisor will be significant to your whole future career. Do not rush into making commitments, take your time. Delve deeper into institutional and group rules and procedures before formally agreeing to work on the project. Try out a pilot study at the beginning if you can, take summer projects, research assistant posts, be choosy.

Read the rest of this entry »


2nd Researcher Education & Development Scholarship (REDS) Conference — University of Sheffield — Friday 14th October 2016

Anchoring Researcher Development: theoretical mindsets

The second annual REDS conference will focus more deeply on the professionalisation of the researcher developer role and access to scholarly activity, and consider the challenges involved for practitioners in developing research ideas/projects. We aim to share and explore the designs, outcomes and impact of practice-based research into doctoral and post-doctoral experiences, researcher learning and development mechanisms, and enabling supervisory practices. The event is organised to provide opportunities to network and share professional and research practices across multiple perspectives and contexts for developing researchers.


So how do people normally think about professors? eccentrics who are entirely focused on their research who are unorganised, work into the night with no social life, get frustrated at not being understood, lack interpersonal skills, intolerant, moody….I think you get the picture! I’m sure not all professors are like that but as your academic supervisor gained their position mainly due to their research skills, it should be no surprise they just aren’t that fluffy.


Image 1

In fact you may think if you cried in front of them they would ‘take those tears, freeze them, and throw them in a glass of whiskey and drink it … to increase their spirit-crushing abilities’ (Quote 1)

So how are you going to manage your relationship with your supervisor so that you can get your PhD with minimum pain? In conversations with students I have found that one area that often causes problems is the supervisory meeting, so here are some top tips gleaned from those who have been willing to share their ideas. Read the rest of this entry »

Organising your PT Phd by @SRDent89

Challenge Annika

“I go through spells where I don’t do anything. I just sort of have lunch—all day.”

Writing is not my natural forte, I like the Nora Ephron quote above about her writing process, so similar to mine. I go through long dry spells where my motivation is on the floor, my focus too caught elsewhere, and I’m not entirely sure I’ll get a PhD at all – the guilt creeping in for every day off, or trip out for coffee. Secretly I feel abit like a dilatant, who if they can look and sound the part someone will eventually give them a PhD. Like Annika’s earlier blogpost, I have the “swishy wool coat and smart leather bag that makes me appear intelligent”.

The truth is I probably work far too much, and am anything but a dilatant. I am a part-time PhD student, with a full time job, who would…

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