‘Tis the season to eat lollies (and enter competitions)

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 10.25.27 amIt’s time for a Christmas break here at the Whisperer. This short pause is a good time to take stock of the year.

Far from slowing down with age, the statistics show that the Whisperer is still going strong. This year there has been 1,320,287 page views, more than a third of the over 3 million views the blog has had in the four and a half years of operation.

The global reach of the blog continues to astound me. Here is a heat map of the hits by country for the year. If you look at the country by country hits you will notice it’s also a map of economic privilege, which reminds us all how lucky we are to get a chance to study for a PhD at all:

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 10.32.56 amThis year we published 54 posts. When I started the blog I thought I would run out of things to say in about 6 months, but there are now 317 posts on the Whisperer and well over 370,000 words entirely free words of advice written on the subject of doing a thesis.

While the most viewed post on the blog this year was still 2013’s viral hit “Academic assholes and the circle of Niceness”, the top five most popular posts written this year were:

Of those 52 posts, 34 (including the most popular one) were written by guest authors. I’ve always wanted the blog to be collaborative because I sincerely believe we are all enriched by listening to a diversity of voices. This year that vision really became a reality.

I’d like to thank all my guest posters: Richard Ferrars and Amir Aryani, , Lauren McGrow, Alex Strike, Fiona Saunders, Sheree Bekker, Liam Connell (for his post and for teaching me how to do Thesis Bootcamp), James Donald, Juan Castro, Rebecca Turvill, Inez Von Weitershausen, Martin Davies, Sarah Stow, Paul Farelly, Brendan Brown, Charmayne, Eve Hermansson-Webb, Ben from Lit Review HQ, Sandra J. Velarde, Casilly Charles (our most popular guest poster), Paula Hanasz, Judy Robinson, Walter Rheinhardt, Jess Drake, Susan Stewart Leone, Jonathan Downie of the Rock Your Talk blog, Robin May, David Alexander as well as the posters who preferred to remain anonymous.

Writing and creating content is creative work and finding the energy can be challenging. To be frank, I think I would have given up on blogging by now if not for these generous contributions – and the number of people who are interested in reading it. The Whisperer is blessed with an audience who is highly literate and engaged. It’s rare that a post does not get at least 20 comments. In fact, the comments thread is often more interesting than the post itself.

I do have a moderation policy in place to keep the comments a respectful and safe place to express a view, but I rarely have to apply the mallet of loving correction to a commenter. I think this speaks to the classiness of the audience, so thank you, dear reader, for the sense of community you help to create here.

The Thesis Whisperer is not a cost free operation. The Australian National University, and in particular Professors Jenny Corbett and Margaret Harding, have been generous in giving me time to write and travel. I do, however, have to pay some of the Whisperer expenses out of my own pocket. These include hosting, computer equipment and books.

If you want to support my work you can buy a copy of the first blog book or purchase books I recommend on my Amazon affiliates store. I have a commitment to remaining non-profit, so any money I make above expenses goes to charity. This year I have donated:

  • $480 to the Peter MacCallum hospital cancer research fund (which includes an excellent PhD student program) in memory of my mother, Velma Blackford, who received excellent care there.
  • $400 to the Philippines Typhoon appeal via the Red Cross
  • $300 to Wikipedia

That’s all for our yearly wrap up. We’ll be back in a couple of weeks, when I’ve had a chance to digest all that turkey, but before you go, I’d like to announce my first ever competition!

I’m going to spend some of my Christmas down time getting my next book ready for publication and will send 5 lucky readers an advance copy.

To be in the running to win a book tell me in the comments what you would like to read on the Whisperer next year.

What is bothering you most? What have we not covered yet? What would you like to know more about? The more specific and detailed your response the better.

I will select the five winners from those responses that most make me itch to write a post.

To make sure the prize can be delivered to you either

1) leave your email address in the comment, or

2) come back at the end of January to see if I have responded asking you to email me your details.

The competition closes at the end of January. I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with πŸ™‚

Have a great break everyone!

75 thoughts on “‘Tis the season to eat lollies (and enter competitions)

  1. Rouba says:

    Hello there…I am a big fan of the thesis whisperer. Reading the posts and the comments makes the phd journey less lonely. I would love to see a post on how being immersed in PhD studies affects your personal relationships…perhaps it is a rather sensitive and very personal topic to approach, but PhD students are under a lot of stress, and I am sure it puts sometimes a lot of strain on relationships..however so far I have only read about how couples, family members and friends have been supportive. I have not seen anything that gives you an insight into experiences where the opposite was true..where the student didn’t feel supported by significant others, friends or family, and what those students did about it. I find that when you are trying to manage several lives at the same time: being a parent, a spouse, an employee and a phd student it can get pretty rough..happy 2015 to you and all the readers!

    • Charis Wilson says:

      I agree with thisenough suggestion. when I started my PhD I had been in a relationship for about a year and at first he was very supportive. However about 2 years in he became increasingly demanding of my time and was upset at the amount of time I spent doing actual coursework and outside studying. By the third year in I had enogh and I ended the relationship. And it turned out to be a huge benefit as my stress level immediately decreased and I was no longer feeling sick and having tension headaches…

  2. Jane Hunter says:

    PS this blog is a wonderful resource – thank you for all the hard work that goes into making it such a good read.

  3. Sam Young says:

    Thanks Thesis Whisperer – although I am only at the inception stage, your posts are helping me to shape my own PhD path. You deserve to eat lollies. I would like to send you some Minties and some Jaffas so you can enjoy some trans-Tasman goodies… if you could supply a postal address?

    I really liked the “Thesis by publications” post. I have also bought lots of the books that you have recommended (thanks heaps for those).

    What I would most like to know more about is other’s journeys to start their PhDs.

  4. Ryan says:

    This is such a wonderful online tool for PhD student at the making and PhD student at lost. A lively discussion of practical tips and advice from ones personal experience from PhD drama to PhD success.

    In the future, I would like to read more about “adjusting to supervision differences” I’m an Asian student (Filipino) and my PhD supervisor is a Kiwi, we both have a different perspective. Coming from an asian context (collectivistic culture) there’s the master-disciple relationship in supervision, while studying PhD in another country like Australia or New Zealand (individualistic) means jumping into the unknown, gaining independence and more anxiety.. Please, I’d like to read more about this..

  5. Jane says:

    Brilliant resource- I have recommended to others. Makes my part time PhD journey feel less lonely. Thanks for all the hard work.

  6. akismet-9d878304cb166bbf34407cc01163b2b6 says:

    Hi Inger

    I would like a number of things next year:

    more details of strategies of how to deal with gatekeepers of access and funding whether this be anecdotal or a set of known methods of approaching and securing either of these.

    Reports from the other side of the fence, academics experiences with PHD’s and Masters students. What are the regularities, what do they look for, what has proven successful and what generally is rewarded. This is beyond the hard work, long hours, comprehension and showing some form of original thought. Anecdotes and tales here would be a good as data, but data would suffice.

    What is gained by staying in a place and going over particular material with a large crowd of people going through the doors, what skills are needed and what are the perils and benefits of such a life. I understand you always have a fresh bunch to test ideas on and get new perspectives, learn a lot about humanity by interacting with a wide range. But more I want to know about what one needs to survive and thrive in the context.

    Descriptions of academic hierarchies as they exist in current institutions, perhaps as flow or tree diagrams, or some form of hierarchical representation that represents the actual forms of work that the people do on a daily basis, their responsibilities, who they answer and the commitments to which they must attend as a matter of their function within the structure of the institution. I want to know all the grey tedium of the job as well as the lively nature of the mind.

    thanks for all the great reading this year

    all the best



  7. Beth Dumont says:

    Hey Inger
    The one issue I have had is academic misconduct by an academic. Throughout my tertiary education I have now experienced such behaviour on 3 occasions – as an undergrad, trying to enrol in my masters, and at the very end of my masters in the post examination phase of answering the the examiner’s comments.
    On each occasion the misconduct has happened because the academic involved has not dealt with what are their own issues, and has, in my opinion in at least 2 of these occasions, held me accountable for challenging their conceptions of either the theory or themselves as a person.
    I have been told policy in this area (umlike policy on academic misconduct by a student) is vague, ill defined and ambiguous in nature. These instances of academic bullying have had an enormous effect on me, especially the injustice that occurred because in 2 of the instances the academic was not held accountable by the university, despite my efforts to redress the imbalance.
    Some writing around how to deal with such bullying would be appreciated, as would some efforts by Thesis Whisperer to change university policy in this area, giving more protection to students. An experience of academic bullying really tskes away the feelings of good that should accompany us on our journeys through higher education, and leave a very sour taste.

  8. cassilyc says:

    Inger, in addition to all the visible love for TW, I happen to know that you and your work are treasured by a lot of people who don’t write comments – so in place of snow, imagine a Xmas landscape outside your window, blanketed in sparkling appreciation for you. x Cassily

    • Tseen Khoo says:

      Ditto here. I was about to write a non-competition ‘great post! love ya!’ comment so will do so here under the guise of being in conversation with Cassily… πŸ˜€

  9. Alysia Bennett says:

    Well done and thank you for a great year of posts and support. There are two things that I would love to see TW cover.

    Firstly, use of digital technology (not social media but things like apps, websites etc) as ways to disseminate research during and after the PhD instead of via traditional publications. There is a bit out there, and on your site, about blogging but would love to see app based research outputs. Apps have great potential, even it is just for a database of findings, as unlike books you can personally control the lens applied- a bit like Choose Your Own Adventure styled access to research. Websites like BLDGBLOG and the Thesis Whisperer started off as a website and then reformatted the content into a book publication so surely it would be similar with an app and should be encouraged more as it enables greater levels of engagement with research.

    Secondly, advice/resources for those undertaking non-traditional PhD’s, such as thesis by exhibition/folio supported by an exegesis. I’m doing a design research based architecture PhD but I’m sure this would be very relevant for many other disciplines, particularly the arts.

    Thank you again for all of your hard work and I hope you have an enjoyable and relaxing break!

  10. postcardarchaeology says:

    I’m almost finished my masters and I really could not have done it without this blog. So many tips and tricks and post that me you feel less alone in the process have been vital to me trucking on and getting the job done.

    As I’m finishing and moving onto a masters, I guess I would like to see more on applying for a PhD, approaching new supervisors and new universities. The do’s and don’t of leaving one institution and going to another!

    Thank you for a fantastic year of posts. I can’t wait to see what you have lined up for next year!

  11. Sandra says:

    What have you not covered? Doing part-time postgraduate studies and having to work to support an elderly, dependent parent who does not believe in higher education or computers.

  12. Peter Anderson says:

    I am not sure what you have not covered!..I have been a follower since my 2nd year of the rotting Albatross (my pet PhD name) and I have just submitted. It has been a great resource for all those questions that I didn’t really want to ask my supervisor more than likely the ‘impostor syndrome’ that many of use have at times. Thanks! Have a great break!

  13. Riley says:

    I am relatively new to this so you may have written on this…but I am interested in other people’s experiences re: this issue. I have worked 25 years in people management around the world. Very hands-on full-on industries on different continents. I decided to treat myself in my late 40s and take time off to do a PhD in a theoretical interest subject of mine.

    My supervisor is in his thirties, has never left academia, finds his workload over-the-top dramatic. He throws tantrums, refuses to respond to emails…and the admin are patient with him as he’s been with them a long time and has written a single amazing journal article. Star in the making. I know the environment is different and I stay quiet but I am floored when he raves on about having to come into work one a week to teach a two hour class!

    I have come from two decades of 6 days a week 14 hours on site work for comparable income. i have been patient and understanding but he thinks having to write 3 papers a year, sit on 2 monthly committees and see supervision students once a month is a dramatic workload. I stay politely silent when he complains (in place of an apology for not having marked my chapter for 2 months).Yet I find the arrogance, sense of entitlement really off putting. I don’t know how to handle such precious people. And he’s not doing the work he is supposed to do, so is wasting my time and money. Help!

    • Robin says:

      Talk to your supervisor about the issues you are having. Stick with the facts and explain how you are experiencing them. If you do not get an adequate response, you need to shop around for a new supervisor. Are there other academics in the school with knowledge and skills in your area? Ask the other students who is good to have as a supervisor. Approach the potential new supervisors, talk to them about your position. Talk to the research admin folk about your issue. It is relatively easy (and also accepted practice) to change supervisors, but you have to start the process.

      • Riley says:

        Thanks Robin,

        Bit of a vent there. Unfortunately my topic (again a self-indulgence, for fun & relaxation mid-life-crisis sabbatical of sorts haha) is so obscure he is the only one. It is a big cultural ‘thing’I have found. Particularly since I am female and all the academics are male…knowing I am from big business makes them all defensive, my rapid work rate makes them defensive and I am so tired of having to walk on eggshells. Heads of schools & admin knows, many apolologies etc. I do love my topic, I’ll just go elsewhere, as life’s too short for the glacial pace of the bureaucracy. I guess I was asking about this cultural difference…25 years ago it wasn’t an issue. Fellow PhDs now, all young-uns have no idea what I am talking about. Just wondered if maybe there were other oldies out there who found similar oddities going into academia as an alien on a few fronts…:-)

    • megan says:

      Just start getting your work out there, get feedback from conference presentations, make connections with others in your field and further. Find other readers for your work. Make your own networks.
      Their dramas are their dramas.

  14. Bishop Anba Suriel says:

    Hi Inger, My heartfelt thanks to you for your dedication and the enjoyable articles that are posted regularly on this blog. I found them very useful while writing and researching my PhD which thankfully I finished earlier this year. As I am contemplating on doing a second PhD (yes, crazy I know) it would be good to see some specific posts that would help PhD students researching in various fields.

    While there are many articles on here that are general and are useful for anyone writing a doctoral thesis, yet however, there are issues specifically related to writing a thesis in history, or science, or in researching a critical edition and translation of an ancient manuscript and comparing it with other editions of the manuscript etc.

    I think this will open up and expand the blog into disciplines and you can invite more guest writers to write for the various disciplines. I believe you have an excellent platform for this and it will give your work more exposure and it will certainly be an incredible resource for tens of thousands of researchers around the world.

    I look forward to assisting in any way possible and wishing you continued success in 2015.

    • Tanya says:

      HI Inger,
      Yes, I would be really interested to see posts about specific faculty/subject issues when completing a PhD eg science vs medical science vs humanities vs social sciences etc etc.
      I know it may sound rather vague, but I would be interested in what other people think especially when planning beyond the PhD by faculty.

  15. Steve Cohen says:

    How about doing a blog on the happiest and most satisfied Phd students. So much what I read is negative – stresses of study, low job prospects, no income. I love the doctorate process but feel so alone 😩

  16. PhDMum says:

    Hi & thanks for your great blog! I’ve been doing my PhD part-time for nearly six years, I have not been on campus much, and I’ve had three kids during my PhD! I’ve really enjoyed this blog, particularly as I haven’t had that regular interaction with other PhD students over the last few years.

    Some of the questions that I would enjoy hearing more on:
    – Pros & cons of completing PhD part-time
    – Ups & downs of completing a PhD with young children
    – Ways to connect with other PhD students in general (including real-life as well as online discussion), and also pointers if you’re off-campus and/or there’s no one in your uni with the same specialty focus. How to get these things happening if there is not an existing network you can tap into.
    – What should you expect from your supervisor/s? i.e. specific tasks & frequencies. Where to turn if you’re not getting what you need? e.g. recruiting specialist support from another university.
    – How to look after your general health & wellbeing, including setting up an inviting study space

    These are some of the things I’ve been thinking through lately, or have had to work through and they might be useful to other students πŸ™‚

    • Rouba says:

      PhD mum..fully agree on pros and cons of completing a PhD with young children…I am inspired by the fact that you had three children while you are doing your PhD. I have only one toddler and feel that it’s a challenge.. πŸ™‚

      • PhDMum says:

        It’s been quite a ride so far! Even just one toddler is a huge challenge, apart from sleep times I’ve never tried to get work down whilst in mum mode. πŸ™‚

    • Ky says:

      Couldn’t have said this better myself – I echo everything you have said. I experience constant anxiety around balancing study, my toddler and a part time job in a demanding field. Totally agree with a health and well being focus. Let me know if you want to connect on FB as I am in a very similar boat!

      • PhDMum says:

        Hi Ky, it’s nice to know others are in a similar situation! That anxiety doesn’t sound good though πŸ™ I hope you can make some changes to achieve a better balance and peace. πŸ™‚

    • Hannah says:

      Hi Inger, just wanted to say a big thanks for the blog, and to echo PhDMum’s comment above – I’m in a similar situation and would love to hear other people’s tips and experiences on completing a phd with small children. Other posts I would love to see would be:

      – Something about getting in the “phd zone” – whether this is a useful way to write, how others find their way into the zone etc. I’m finally back in the zone after a long time trying to reconnect with it after maternity leave and it feels like an addictive / productive but also exhausting space.

      – “Cheating on your PhD with other writing” – Should you be strict with yourself and devote any writing energy you have to the PhD, or does writing make more writing?

      Hope you & family have a good break and look forward to hearing more next year!
      email: h dot robert at latrobe dot edu dot au πŸ™‚

  17. Carol Mills says:

    Amazing job! If anything, the distance vs on campus divide. Having done most of my PhD off campus, I am now moving (temporarily) interstate in order to finish my thesis.

  18. Ky says:

    I love your blog – thank you for keeping my sanity!! I can’t add anything too much new, but agree with previous posters who have mentioned the following:
    -Distance versus campus studying. I have found it isolating and hard to keep going with my main sources of support coming from here and a facebook group that I am on. I had to move away from my campus due to my husbands work. I can no longer attend other students’ milestone presentations, find conferences hard to attend etc I think there is a real difference between distance education and those who can sit in their faculties with their supervisors or at least be close to their campus.
    -juggling study in between working, children etc as per PhD Mum’s post
    -More focus on the positives of academia – why the hell am I doing this if it is all a bleak outlook?!

    Thanks again, love this blog and Merry Christmas

  19. Ali says:

    Thank you so much for this blog! I recently started followibg but would love to see a post which talks about how phd students can avoid overstepping those senstive political boundaries among the faculty members (they do exist!) I got myself in a soup in my first year and cringe every time I remember it. I wouldnt wish it on anyone and so post on that would be great?

  20. RY says:

    Thank you so much for your blog, I have been so grateful for it many times when needing some direction that has not been supplied by my supervisor :/ however, that is not (directly) what I would like to see a lost about.

    I would love a post (or guest post) about breaking up with your PhD. I am in the process of “downgrading” from a PhD to research masters due to many reasons (above supervisor included), mostly because life (marriage, baby, full time work) all pulled me in too many directions. I feel like a failure for not finishing what I started, especially when I see comments from so many lovely people who have managed to complete theirs while wrangling more than my one toddler! (Totally jealous over here). I feel like I’ve wasted 7 years of my life. Help!

    • RY says:

      I feel too that a comment below has reinforced my feeling of failure, by stating that their fellow PhD cohort all “failed along the way, either dropping out completely or opting for a Masters”. If others see it that way, then why shouldn’t I?

  21. Han says:

    I love your blog – I found it when I started my PhD 15 months ago and have something useful from each and every blog post. So, thank you from the bottom of my heart!

    I would really love to read something about managing the stress of deadlines. In day to day life I’m pretty chill, but each and every time I have to submit something to my supervisors I go through days and days of crisis – feeling that *this* time I really can’t do it, I won’t make the deadline, I’m not capable of PhD standard work. Knowing that I have felt like this in the past but overcome it doesn’t seem to make any difference, and I rely really heavily on my partner to calm me down and get me through. I honestly do not know if I’d be capable of doing this without him, which also freaks me out as I’m a fairly independant person and I don’t think even my closest friends would guess how much I depend on him for this support.

    So, to sum it up, I feel like it’s unhealthly to depend on external support so much during times of PhD crisis, and I’d be really interested to read about whether other people feel like this and if there are any exercises/techniques you would recommend to build up some internal strength of mind!

    Thanks, and merry Christmas! x

    • Sam Young says:

      Han, your comments resonated with me.

      However, my doubts arrived at a lower level to your experience. I felt “not worthy” during my Master’s thesis process, but as my partner was not so wholeheartedly supportive as yours, I struggled through the doubts on my own and completed using lots of structures to keep me current (and I did not complete as well as I would have liked to).

      Then one of my undergraduate students completed a capstone research paper looking at barriers women face getting into management, and explored, amongst other things, imposter phenomenon (earlier posters on this post have made reference to this). I realised that this was at least partly the source of my doubts, and read a couple of pieces of research which helped me. Those pieces were:

      Clance, P. R., & Imes, S. (1978). The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention. Psychotherapy Theory, Research and Practice, Fall 1978, Volume 15, issue 3 (pp. 241-247).

      Ross, S.R. & Krukowski, R.A. (2003). The imposter phenomenon and maladaptive personality: type and trait characteristics. Personality and Individual Differences, February 2003, Volume 34, issue 3 (pp. 477-484)

      While you probably know about this already, and I don’t know if this has anything to do with what you are experiencing, thought I would offer it to you, just in case it helped.

  22. Tony Brady says:

    Hello Inger,

    Good to see you are taking a well deserved holiday. I finished my PhD 18 months ago and I still enjoy and get valuable advice from your blog. Keep up the good work. My PhD was at QUT as part of the Humanities Faculty. I had just started when the Vice Chancellor decided a University for the real world didn’t need the Humanities and he promptly disposed of the entire faculty. This left the remaining PhD candidates in a state of limbo. Ultimately I became a Division student, part of the Research Students Centre, with my supervisor part of Education. This left me doing my thesis without the support of a faculty to wander through with academics to guide me.
    I had also won an APA scholarship but this could not be provided until I had a faculty to administer it. The process of deciding what to do with us took 11 months and we could not do any real work until the issue was resolved.

    Despite these issues I managed my way to completion, unfortunately my fellow PhD cohort all failed along the way, either dropping out completely or opting for a masters.

    This inspired my to consider what other ssd ignificant obstacles people have faced in completing their PhDs. We were all told the horror stories of houses burning down just before submission and no backup and virus attacks corrupting years of collected data.
    I feel there is a story in there waiting to be told.

    Merry Christmas and enjoy your break.

  23. bailey says:

    Thank you for everything you do I know I am just one of many grateful readers.
    I would like to see more discussion/spotlight (not sure what the word is) on the myth of part time teaching roles in academia and then the feeling of individual failure when one realises it cant be done especially with family responsibilities. The expectations and demands are huge and the attitude is “well we all have to work unpaid extra thats how it is” it is so wrong and those in the lower ranks suffer the most. Rant over.
    Merry Christmas and enjoy a well deserved break.

  24. Astrid Breel says:

    This a great blog with a great wealth of helpful advice.
    I’d love to see a post about practice-as-research PhD methodologies. This seems to be a relatively recent approach to a PhD (usually in the Arts) and so there is less information out there on how other people have approached their PaR research.

  25. Lina Baines says:

    Love TW and it’s one of my main resources as I study mostly away from campus and on my own, as Ky says. I find most of the posts interesting and I like the way that relevant topics seem to come up just as I need them. It’d be good to see something on self funding and on doing research when you come back to academia after working elsewhere and later in life.

  26. Bryndis says:

    Hi Inger and everyone.
    I’m just starting my PhD journey (in my second month of a 3 year programme) and I find this blog very helpful. I started reading it while I was doing my masters and it was a great inspiration to get that done well and to go on to a doctorate.
    I would love to see posts about getting into conferences and how to prepare properly for post PhD jobs. There is a lot of talk out there I feel about how difficult it is to get academic jobs so I know that I would benefit from practical advice about what to do now to increase my chances. Perhaps especially for international students who are not doing their doctorate in the country they may want to get a job in. In my case, I am European doing my PhD in New Zealand but looking to move to UK or US post PhD so some advice about this would be very valuable for me.
    Thank you again for a great blog.

  27. Jill Campbell says:

    Thank you SO much for this amazing blog. I really don’t know how I would have coped without TW. Inger, you have been like a thesis angel for me. I also know all the people I have referred to TW feel the same way. So from all of us who don’t post our gratitude on a regular basis THANK YOU & Merry Lolly eating!

  28. Marlena Klaic says:

    I get so excited when I receive an e-mail advising of a new blog on Thesis Whisperer – it’s like a special treat to keep me going on this long, difficult, lonely (but hopefully rewarding) journey. I would like to see a blog on how to convince your employer to support your PhD – by this I mean how to negotiate time off for your study; how to market the value of your PhD to your current or future employer. I’m completing the last stages of my PhD whilst working full-time so it has been a challenge to negotiate the support I need. Keep up the great work and have a wonderful break.

    • addyberry says:

      Thank you Inger for your hard work. I love TW, although I’m fairly new to it. I’m in my early second year, presently pregnant and with a 14 months old baby.
      Please I would like you to shed more light on:
      1. Doing a PhD with two babies under two.
      2. What/ How to get support from one’s uni for PhD mums.
      3. How to deal with the psychological effect of disability because you are a young mum with no support towards your PhD and toddlers.
      4. How to manage the low or saturated phase of a PhD journey. What I mean is that, there are times you honestly don’t feel like doing any studies for some weeks. You just need some space and get refreshed. How do you manage this phase by coming back stronger and not more demotivated.

      Thank you and make sure you have a lovely break. All the best with your books.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Well I would love to hear about any experiences you’ve had with cross-cultural working as I understand (yet to get to the PhD world) that “academic standards and values” can vary around the world and working with a team from different cultures can be challenging. I’ve seen this in work and education.

    Thank you for an engaging blog!


  30. G says:

    Dear Inger,

    Thank you so much for growing this blog into something that benefits many postgraduate students. It really is a useful reference especially for DIY PhD students πŸ™‚

    I’d like to know about your contemporary take on “A visit from the Procrastination Fairy”, a post you wrote on 18 October 2010. Many commentors and contributors on TW are seemingly hardworking and driven people, but I wonder if we have any tips for PhDers who suffered many setbacks along the way (psychologically and mentally scarred) and find it difficult to re-establish healthy routine to get things done.

    Merry Christmas and happy new year 2015!

  31. joscelyncole says:

    Hi Inger,

    I’m just heading into my second year of full time PhD study and I’d love to see a post on doing post-docs abroad when you have a spouse who isn’t in academia. What support is there for spousal hire if you are moving from the U.K. outside the E.U. in terms of visas etc? Is it just an unfeasible dream? I would obviously pick my husband over life in the states any day, but when the newest/most exciting research is happening elsewhere will this seriously hinder an already excruciatingly difficult early academic career?

    Merry Christmas.

    • G says:

      I have had experience in moving (together with spouse) from Southeast Asia to Australia , then to South Korea, and now planning to move to the States within the next few years. It depends on how your partner perceives the challenge, and it’s definitely not an unfeasible dream (I just realised there’s another word for “infeasible”!). For Australia, your spouse shares the same visa with you (same visa number, as of 2008-09).

      Some countries may have stricter rules in regards to spouse’s visa, but it’s usually not the case for “highly skilled expats” especially those working in academia.

      Another possibility is to establish yourself as the expert in your region, and foster international collaborations with institutions where you can continue “exciting research”. This option is doable if “life in the states” is not the primary target πŸ™‚

      If compromise can be reached between you and your husband, perhaps postdoctoral life in the States for up to two years sounds great as well!

      I’d love to hear more from others about the consequences from bringing a partner to the States, too, as I know little about moving there.

      Happy new year!

      • joscelyncole says:

        Happy new year (little late!),

        Thanks for responding – it was really helpful to hear someone’s experiences. Let’s hope we get a blog post on this soon πŸ™‚

  32. Lachlan Smith (@lachlantsmith) says:

    Hi Inger,

    thanks for the blog, it has been a valuable resource over the last two years! I am doing my PhD part-time and more support and advice for us part-timers would be welcome. I’m just about to start fieldwork (finally…….!) but had a couple of questions/potential topics:

    1) How to start again after a break. I, like many part timers I suspect, changed job and at the same time hit a brick wall in my research design which has meant re-shaping what I am doing, quite substantially (at least it feels that way). I eventually found the energy and motivation to re-start but it has been a tough couple of months. I have my supervisors to thank for that but I also needed to go back and think about what my motivation was for doing the PhD in the first place. It was an interesting and somewhat scary time! I expect I will encounter future hurdles like this so any advice on how to re-start or re-energise after a break (enforced or not) would be appreciated.

    2) In my job I advise academics on how to write research funding applications (a bit like Research Whisperer). Because of this I spend the majority of my life working with academics to prevent them from writing funding applications in an academic style as it just isn’t suitable for most funders. As a result I think it means I find it hard to get back into academic writing when I do my own studies. I’m so used to tearing academic writing apart and making it more accessible, impactful and relevant for funders that I lose the ability to write effectively for my own PhD and have to re-learn it each time I sit down and write. Any tips on how to ensure habits picked up at work don’t impact on your writing! I like my job so don’t want to quit but need to get my head around academic writing more consistently. Any exercises you can recommend?

    Have a great Christmas break and best wishes for 2015!


  33. Bogart says:

    I would like to see anything on the blog next year – I will read it all. But if I had to be specific, something about the difficulties of collaborative PhDs? A lot of PhDs in the UK, especially in the humanities and social sciences, are now Collaborative Doctoral Awards, or part of larger Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships, whereby the student is jointly supervised by a university and a cultural organisation. In my case – and one of the more common combinations – I am jointly supervised by a research-active museum.

    It comes with a lot of great opportunities, but also has its fair share of pitfalls. I’m in my final year now but I think it would be great for people earlier on in the process of collaborative doctorates to read about the realities of doubling the size of your supervisory team and all that goes with it…

    Enjoy your much-deserved Christmas break!

    Laura (@TweetingBogart)

    P.S. Really glad to see your donation to Wikipedia – I think the academic world can be very dismissive of the ‘pedia without acknowledging the enormous strides forward it helps us all make. Who *hasn’t* read a word in a journal article that might has well have been a hieroglyph and gone running to a wiki?!

  34. Polly says:

    Working on a sensitive subject, which I have experienced too. While it isn’t overtly distressing me, I find my progress is much slower than I want. Trouble is, while my supervisors have suggested counselling, I’m not really distressed enough for it.
    Anyone else similarly situated? Any suggestions?
    Thanks and Merry Christmas!

    • G says:

      I’d highly recommend seeing a good counsellor or even a psychologist. You may feel that you don’t need it at the moment, but it’s a vital process to get moving (since that’s the thing you’re concern about—-slow progress). State your intention during the first visit, and you may get a lot out of it in a very short time (say, in less than 7 or 8 visits). Hope this helps!
      Happy new year!

  35. Anne says:


    I am just starting to believe doing a phd may be possible. It is something which both excites and terrifies me as I’m sure you all know! As a brand spanking newbie this blog inspires me to strive while also letting me know what I’m letting myself in for!
    which leads me to a suggested post – how much advice is too much? Should potential phd students like me be a little more encouraged and a little less threatened? Will the new student contributions being introduced change the student-supervisor dynamic with students feeling more entitled to get what they’re paying for?

    Also, I’d like to see a post on completing your PhD in a different area to your undergraduate degree. How far is too far to stray? As well as the pros and cons of scholarships associated with preselected topics.

    Thankyou for your blog!

  36. Melinda says:

    Thank you Inger for this very useful and supportive blog!

    I’d like to learn more about Indigenous methodologies for Indigenous researchers who are researching Indigenous phenomena. Is there a place for this in academia? Are there supports for Indigenous researchers in the academic community?

    Aloha, Melinda

    • C says:

      By googling “Indigenous research”, the search result yields various relevant academic resources like “American Indigenous Research Association”, “Journal of Indigenous Research”, and many others including on the methods of research. I am sure you can get a lot of relevant information on this area.

  37. Giuseppe says:

    Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude! Thank you soo much, However I amm
    going through difficulties with your RSS. Idon’t know whyy I am unable to join it.

    Is there anybody getting identical RSS problems? Anyone who knows the anbswer can you kindly
    respond? Thanx!!

    • C says:

      I have no problem reading thesis whisperer’s feed in my reader. I use Inoreader. You only need to add the home URL (thesiswhisperer dot com) to the subscription (no need for RSS). It’d be more useful if you can tell us what reader/RSS feed reader do you use.

  38. jade says:

    I love love love The Thesis Whisperer! Below is an idea for a topic, and also a suggestion on the website.

    I’d also like to see more on the Imposter Syndrome and the psychological aspects of doing a phd. I find that a lot of times I feel somewhat ‘intellectually inadequate’ because there’s a large gap between my expectations of myself (or what I’d like to achieve or produce) and the research that actually comes out. Sometimes there are uncontrollable constraints like funding or resource issues, project scope, etc, that cause your research to fall short of what you’d like it to be. Other times it’s personal issues like poor time management, or feeling like you haven’t read enough (and maybe you haven’t), or whatever.

    All these things together sometimes make me feel like I’m not “good enough” to be doing research – as if my contribution is too stupid to be useful (poorly designed methdology, not rigorous enough, etc). I realize that a large part of this is just perspective – it’s difficult to appreciate our own work, but you know – sometimes what we produce really is crap. How can we objectively judge our own work, especially as junior researchers who don’t have a lot of publications, or who can’t seem to get feedback on their work no matter how many people they talk to (are they just being polite and not saying anything because they can’t find anything good to say???).

    I’m not necessarily talking about the quality of the publications themselves, but the quality of the actual *research*. As Phd students we’re supposed to be *learning* how to do this, that’s all fine and well, but sometimes we still can’t get rid of that nagging feeling that we’re not quite research material. As you see, there’s a lot of self-doubt there. I’m sure I’m not the only one. πŸ™‚

    I also agree with more about doing a phd + kids/family.

    Now for a practical matter: it’s really difficult to find your old posts (one can search but that’s less fun). It took me months to find the fantastic Tag Cloud at the bottom of the page, usually because it’s hidden below a ton of comments. I would suggest getting rid of the “Archives” section on the right side of the page (or move it the bottom of the page or to to its own page), and replacing it with the Tag Cloud. If you’re up for a bigger rehaul, I’d move all the TW blog related links and info together, e.g.:

    Right side, from top to bottom: Menu, Text box, Search, Recent posts, What are we whispering about (instead of the Topics list), Tags, Learn with the Whisperer
    And then on the left:
    Join, Facebook, Twitter, Look at, More Like us


    Right side: Menu, Text box, Join, Facebook, Twitter, Search, Recent posts, What are we whispering about (instead of the Topics list), Tags
    And then on the left:
    Learn with the Whisperer, Look at, More Like us

    Or something like that. πŸ™‚

    Thanks for the opportunity to share.

  39. Anon says:

    Hi Inga,
    As you have such a widespread following- here is what I’d like to see in 2015:

    – Doing a PhD and having a Disability: there is growing discussion about PhD’ing and having a Disability and some great blogs (e.g. http://phdisabled.wordpress.com/) – more on this please.

    – PhD and Mental Health: I’ve seen some BeyondBlue Facebook campaigns about being upfront re: depression and anxiety in the workplace – but in the comments section people are against being open about Mental Health due to stigma and discrimination. I’d like to see more about the real-life experiences/impacts of mental health and PhD and how academia manages this (stories please! not the bland this-is-what-should-happen but more of -this-is-what-really-happens)

    – PhD and Privilege: just read Annabell Crabb’s “Wife Drought” – depressing the structural barriers for women in their careers and life. Made me think about the structural barriers in PhD world. I’d like to see more about privilege (or lack thereof) and doing your PhD.

    – HDR Programs and Best Practice: would love to hear what different Faculties, Institutes & Universities in Australia are doing to support and inspire their PhD Students. TW has been great in promoting SUAW and Thesis Boot Camp – what else is out there that is getting people excited?

    – Research Vignettes: would like to see a part of your blog or twitter where people can post photo & 1 sentence about their actual research.

  40. Alli Coyle (@amcoyle87) says:

    Hi Inger,

    I’m nearing the end of my PhD journey (I hope), I really wanted to say thank you for all the wonderful blog posts and for the advice and support over the last few years! It would be great to hear from PhD researchers about their experiences of balancing their PhD with life in general – and their top tips for getting through it!

    Thanks again! TW is doing a great job!
    Alli (@amcoyle87)

  41. etherealrose says:

    Dear Inger, thanks so much for your posts. I’ve found them very useful and encouraging and always full of food for thought. I would really love to see more posts on how to create and strengthen academic networks, both with more established as well as other early-career researchers, how to connect with your wider research community or other nearby communities in related research fields, how to use these other sources e.g. Twitter as ways to advance your own research, and how to get more opportunities with external unis, research centres etc.

    I feel like there’s already quite a lot of helpful information out, especially on this blog, about the specific thesis project itself, managing the project and relationships with supervisors, with issues of how to work, how to stay motivated, but not so much with the wider dimensions of research and becoming part of a scholarly community, rather than just plugging away at a thesis alone. So I would love more tips and tricks about some of these other aspects!

  42. Luke says:

    Dear Inger

    Thank you and hope you are having a well deserved rest.

    I would really like to hear more about how people have become involved in really innovative research. What I have in mind is research which is multi-disciplinary or cross-disciplinary, or involves people from different universities, regions, and even non-university settings. This could come in the form of some personal stories about how publications emerged which combine research disciplines and backgrounds and ideas in brilliant new ways. I think this would be valuable for those emerging from PhD settings and would combine popular topics above like academic networking, what comes after a PhD, etc.

    Keep up the good work!


  43. thegrailquest says:

    Hi Inger,

    I have finished my thesis last January, so I am now marking an anniversary of post-doctoral life. I have been reading every post on Thesis Whisperer for over two years, ever since I became a mum and had to change to distance study. Thesis Whisperer provided a good place to engage with other postgraduates when living away from the university. I attend a lot of postgrad events and workshops at my uni, and I missed them when I became a full-time mum.
    I think a post on doing PhD by distance-study would be useful.
    Another issue that bothered me while I was working towards the thesis was ‘what next’. So maybe a contribution on preparing for your post-doc project while doing the PhD (networking, finding the field/topic, making note of available funding) would be useful for students who, like me, worry about their future. Now that my working on the PhD is over and I am trying to secure funding for my proejct, I wish I put more thought into it while I was still enrolled and had access to library and online resources…
    Thank you again for the great blog! I did not realise Christmas is the time for lollies – in Latvia it is all gingerbread, we baked a lot of them with my son… I don’t know whether they would survive a journey to Australia, otherwise I would have sent you some.

    Anastasija Ropa, PhD

  44. Liesel says:

    Love the blog! I’d love to read a selection of worst case scenarios, and how people overcame them. Like – my supervisor died and then my office burnt down but it was OK because I had backed up all my data and found an even better supervisor.
    A bit of schadenfreude I guess, mixed with actual useful advice.

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  48. Penelope Nash says:

    I have just completed Thesis to Book and have found it a rewarding experience. I hope to have it published with a reputable publisher who publishes a series in the field in which I have written. I had lots of great advice from friends, but was somewhat out on a limb about what to cut out and what to leave in, who the audience should be. I know there are books about this and I’ve read them, but a nice chatty article would be most useful

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