It is good to keep a record of how your project evolves, decisions you’re making, and things that are interesting but outside the scope of your research. This will help you reflect as you work on your PhD, and you can look back on how far you’ve come, both academically and personally.
Allow for thinking time even when you don’t consider it to be 'work' because although you might not be 'producing', you are creating ideas and connections in your head that will contribute day by day.
- Lauren, Year 3
As well as all my academic notes and thesis chapters, I’ve kept a record of personal and academic reflections. This has helped me to see how far I’ve travelled in my thinking about my project and how I’ve grown as an academic and personally as I’ve developed skills and navigated the challenges of the PhD experience. Reflecting has also helped me put things in perspective and calm down when I’ve been experiencing interpersonal or writing frustration.
- Clare, Year 3
It is highly unlikely that you will know what your storyline is when you start your PhD. You will have a better idea about it by the time you start writing your discussion. In practice, this means that during your first years you will read, review and write material that will be helpful for developing your knowledge and conducting your research, but it might not be useful for the final version of your thesis. Getting into the habit of writing paragraphs and arguments during your whole PhD will make it easier to write chapters when you finally get down to it. Also, it will be useful to keep track of your reading and your interpretations of it.
– Ana, Year 4
In many cases, a PhD is not just about your chosen subject but about how you develop as a researcher. Constantly reflecting on how you are positioned in relation to your research is a vital part of this process. Remember that you are ‘in’ your research at every single stage of your PhD - how you interact with research participants, how you collect, interpret and analyse data and how your own biases, opinions and life experience may show through your work. It is helpful to keep a research journal to work through these issues, consistently discuss your work with colleagues, and read up on methodology and reflexivity in research.
- Jamie, Year 4