What to buy your favourite PhD student for Christmas

Your hard working editor is off on a round the world holiday with the rest of family Thesiswhisperer, so this will be the last blog post until the 17th of January. I plan to go dark on email and all social media while I am away, but that’s more of a guideline than a rule… (where there’s a wifi there’s a way!).

While in the UK I’m giving a lecture at the University of Sussex on the 15th of December called: “What I learned about doing a thesis from reading trashy novels”. The kind people at Sussex have made some places available for students from other universities to come along; if you are interested you can book online here. I’m looking forward to seeing some of you there :-)

I thought I would go with the holiday theme for this post and offer up 5 Christmas gift ideas for PhD students so you can email it to your nearest and dearest. Hopefully you will end up with something a whole lot more useful than socks!
When I put the call out for gift ideas on Twitter I got some funny gift suggestions worth sharing, such as “a life” (@Peparda); “absolution  from thesis guilt” (@Tim_E_H) and “20,000 words” (@andideen). I laughed when @witty_knitter  suggested a gag because she thinks she is: “becoming a Thesis Bore. I’ve taken to checking for eye-glazing at social occasions. But it’s ALL SO INTERESTING”. I’ve separated the rest of the suggestions into 5 themes:
1. Books

I have been compiling a set of suggested readings in Amazon, but if I had to buy only one book for a PhD student on doing a thesis it would be “The unwritten rules of PhD research”. If you can’t get hold of that (it’s not something that bookstores generally carry) I recommend “How to write a better thesis”. The 3rd edition is out today in fact; Melbourne Uni press kindly sent me a copy, so I will review it in the new year.

@amelieguay reminded me that most students have some: “big methodological handbook they just can’t afford and from which they keep photocopying pages”. I remember I had one on loan for about a year until they made me return it… These  “nerdily big books”, (as @409mallaway put it) are a feature of PhD student hood; usually expensive and hard to find. Your family and friends will probably have no idea which one you want, so I would suggest making a wishlist on one of the many book store sites (family members, if you are reading this here’s a link to my Amazon wish list!), or ask for a gift voucher for your university bookstore, who are sure to be able to get in anything you need.

Finally, @tassiegirl suggested “anything from @phdcomics”, I would think a compilation of PhD comics in book form  would be a cheery addition to any PhD student stocking.

2. Gadgets

Not every thesis student wants a book, as @Tim_E_H begged: “please, nothing more to read!”. Instead he suggested an  iPad – “because we’re material, despite poverty”. In fact gadgets, like laptops, were prominently featured in PhD student wishlists.

If you aren’t feeling so flush with cash, @smythos suggested the IrisPen, which scans text right of the page and like a great nerdy present. I know many people, including @kyliebudge are fans of the Live Scribe pen which synchs speech with notes and @MeganJMcPherson suggested the matching livescribe notebook, which has the controls printed on the bottom of the page. There are also a few new ebook readers on the market, including a Kindle with the student friendly price tag of $79

3. Stationary

Speaking of notebooks, stationary made a strong showing in the responses, especially Moleskine notebooks ( my own favourite). I think it’s a good idea to check first before you buy someone a notebook, because everyone has a preference. I only like Moleskines with thin, un-ruled pages while @pollytext specified: “a beautiful, hard-covered, ring-bound, A5 notebook, with the kind of paper that makes any pen a joy to write with. $20-30.”

If you are a real cheapskate, or you happen to get a PhD student in the Secret Santa draw at work, consider these sticky post it note things from Kiki K designed for studying. These have ‘read’, ‘ revise’, ‘important’ and ‘reference’ printed them. Useful I assure you; I went through packs of these while studying.

4. Clothes and other stuff
My favourite item of clothing while I was studying was a long sleeved top with my University logo on it. I wore that thing to death, mostly because I was poor and couldn’t afford to replace it. @karynfulcher  made the sensible suggestion of a cosy hoodie, for those in the northern climes; us southerners could be treated to any number of geeky t-shirts. Going with the grammar theme again, I love this tshirt featuring the mythical ‘Alot’ from Hyperbole and a half’s hilarious grammar rant “Alot is better than you at everything. Of course, cool PhD parents, like @bronwynhinz, have bought the ‘Thesis Baby’ onesie for their kids.

If you feel funny about buying someone clothes, there are plenty of work place accessories. Agnes Bosanquet first gave me the idea for this post when she sent me a link to 17 gifts for grammar geeks which has many knick knacks for the desk. @kerstinsailer suggested super-size coffee mugs, or you could think about a nerdy desk tidy, like the super one made out of lego pictured at the top of this post.

5. Experiences

We have a lot of stuff, in the western world at least. There’s a growing trend to give people experiences as gifts, which emerged amongst the PhD students on Twitter too. @kerstinsailer made the excellent suggestion of a gift certificate for a massage, while @lizith made the interesting suggestion of: “something to get folk away from the desk – tickets for must see show or invite to supper with non-phd friends”. A nice idea! You could even extend the idea of a break with what @pollytext describes as “the piece de resistance: find or pay for a quiet retreat, away from phones & interruptions, for final write up.”

What would you like to see in your stocking on Christmas morning? Will you be buying your supervisor a gift? What do you think are good supervisor presents? I hope Santa is kind and grants your wishes – have a great Christmas everyone!

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9 thoughts on “What to buy your favourite PhD student for Christmas

  1. Last Christmas before I spent 2 months pummelling the thesis into a submittable state my mum bought me the Chicago Manual of Style, was incredibly useful, while my husband bought me the entire 7 seasons of Buffy to watch while I compiled my image catalogue and two of my friends let me stay in their house in the country while they were away so I could write up in peace.

  2. I only found out about these, but in Oz you can now get Restaurant gift cards for the higher end restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne. As a PhD student I would have loved one of these to go out a celebrate finishing a chapter or a draft.

  3. I’ve already got my present. A massive 23″ flatscreen monitor to plug into my MacBook. It’s wonderful to have so much space to work with documents, and I can play movies on the laptop screen off to one side while I work! Bliss.

  4. Books
    I have compiled a long list of books for PhDs. http://juliopeironcely.com/archives/top-42-books-phd-graduate-students.html

    Gadgets
    A smartphone is quite handy: constant access to Wikipedia, email, camera to take pictures of posters in conferences, Linkedin, Twitter…

    Stationary
    Two Moleskines, without a doubt, the pocket version and the large one.
    Any nice writing pen that you know?

    Clothes and Stuff
    A hoodie with the name of your uni. A big mug from Starbucks for those long nights.

    Experiences
    Tickets for a science museum.

  5. Pingback: 2 years (and a bit) on: happy second birthday Whisperer! « The Thesis Whisperer

  6. Pingback: What should you give your PhD supervisor for Christmas? « The Thesis Whisperer

  7. Reblogged this on RHD and me and commented:
    Christmas is coming – what better way to thank all the supportive people who put up with your thesis tantrums, than to help them choose the perfect present for you!?

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