524 thoughts on “Talk to us?

  1. I find this blog very interesting. As a beginner in postgrad study, I was wondering if you give some tips on write a paper or a journal as well.

    • Thanks Tapasi🙂
      There are a number of articles under the ‘writing’ section which deal with the subject of academic writing, but I would also refer you to http://www.phd2published.com, which is dedicated to the subject of academic publishing. This blog is run by Dr Quinell, one of our writersand I occassionally do guest posts for it too. We plan more articles on writing as they are always popular. It helps if students share specific problems with us so feel free to give us more feedback of this kind.

      • Dr,inger.I would like to speak with you concerning a THD i am 62 years of age i have went through extensif study i have a ba in religis study and a masters of religon, you seem tobe a very pleast person. i am wanting to know i am a disabled veteran and health keeps me from preaching at all times. i am of a very low income is there anyway someone like me could reach this task before me could you give me some type of insight. I dont know if i could obtain work over the internet to pay for this indeaver, my email address is -larryyong1@verizon.net– if you could reply i would be thankful,i have a great passion for the love of christ,i hope to write some day on christian living. our world seems to be upside down.thank you for your time. larry potter.

      • Dear Ingermewburn,

        I have recently finished my BSc post graduate degree and my Honours Thesis. A week ago I was approached and asked to write up my thesis into a online journal article. I am not sure how to do this as I need to get my thesis down from 40 pages to +-20 pages. Can you give me any hints on how to do this or point me in the direction of someone who could help me.

        Thank you,

    • Hi
      I’ve enjoyed and your blog and found it insightful throughout my PhD, so thanks.
      As my submission is in sight I was wondering if this was an appropriate forum to discuss a thank-you gift for a supervisor. Specifically is it more appropriate to gift following submission or notification of passing? And is there certain amount that should be spent?
      Thanks for much insight and entertainment.

      • This is a great request! I’d benefit from any advice on this front. And the gifting-to-supervisors-moment can be added to my end of PhD fantasy, alongside getting Dr added to all my credit cards and feeling unencumbered for the first time in YEARS! Thanks.

    • Hello
      Am Prince Ogefere from Nigeria…. Madam please am sorry if mind have contacted you in a worny way but i do need your help…..
      I and my fellow friends all member of Creative Mind has work for all night looking for a platform on which we could create our Online Journal management website here online that will have
      authors – who can submit journals to be published,
      reviewers – who review submitted journals of the author,
      subscribers – who can subscribe to journals that are published.

  2. I could really do with a sort of PhD link-up by academic institution where I could ask someone to look something up for me in their own library. I am a book- history PhD and often need a scan/transcription of the title page of a specific edition of a text. Some US universities will scan the relevant pages but others eg Missouri charge a great deal to scan for a non-site user. Or won’t do it at all. Some catalogues give me all the information I need but others are woeful as regards 18th/19th century texts.
    I would be happy to do the same for anyone who needs something checked at Senate House, Univ of London

  3. How about something on research paradigms, epistemology and ontology etc? How to approach these, disentangle them and decide where you fit or sit?

    • I try to avoid content of the thesis and methodology beyond very general observations here – mostly because I am trying to encompass all PhD students working in all disciplines. I think it’s a great idea for a blog though – sharing practical tips on working through various methodologies and analysis would be fertile territory for someone to explore.

  4. Hi there! I read your blog quite often, and read something a few weeks ago which I’m trying to trace! (I’m quite sure I read it via your blog; if not, please let me know if I’m barking up the wrong tree!)

    It was to do with apps and other programmes which help researchers with organising stuff/productivity. It was described as software which could ensure that if your browser fails while writing a blog post, the text wouldn’t be lost as the programme could recover it. Does this sound familiar? If so, I’d love to know the name of the programme!

    On a side note while I’m here, this is a great resource you run; I’m only 3 months into my PhD and I know it’s going to be invaluable as the months and years progress!

    Many thanks,
    Nicole Bush

  5. Valerie needs to access Eighteenth Century Collections Online – a fabulous database of searchable full-text materials. Go to your Uni Library catalogue and look for electronic resources. You probably have to have either an Athens login or use Shibboleth (where you choose your institution from a list, then use your normal uni username and password).

    There’s another free resource that I’ll look up for you then come back and post details. And also, look for your texts in GoogleBooks.com – you’d be amazed what comes up there.

    • Usually it has to do with how many people worked on the research. Sometimes, in the bench sciences for example, students will work in a team for some of the results. Other times people are referring to work they have done outside of the thesis with others. It’s more common to see it in journal articles than in a thesis. If you want a good reference on the use of the personal pronoun look at “Helping Doctoral candidates to write” by Kamler and Thomson (2006)

      • Hello
        Am Prince Ogefere from Nigeria…. Madam please am sorry if mind have contacted you in a worny way but i do need your help…..
        I and my fellow friends all member of Creative Mind has work for all night looking for a platform on which we could create our Online Journal management website here online that will have
        authors – who can submit journals to be published,
        reviewers – who review submitted journals of the author,
        subscribers – who can subscribe to journals that are published.

  6. I was working through a student’s PhD thesis today – and the text threw up an interesting issue. When a student is trying to overview and make sense of a topic that has received little scholarly attention, and also is trying to critique aspects of professional practice that when scrutinised from a neutral position are less than satisfactory – but everyone in the industry keeps silent about them – because they are either in the too hard basket or that these poor practices are very convenient for those in established positions in the profession, when the student wants to pinpoint these poor practices – there is virtually no stable textual cross referencing that actually documents these taken for granted activities – as they are just how the industry has always done things. In trying to suggest that the ways set out in the thesis will offer an improvement – it is hard to name/deconstruct the status quo – without either seeming smug or setting up straw men – that is making broad self-serving arguments about the errors of the Others than oneself but with no supporting evidence – and the curious thing is that one is in the position where such a stratagem almost becomes unavoidable – given that I think that narcissistic blind spots are one of the perils of practitioner reflection and requires a high level of self knowledge and restraint to edit out – what do you think Thesis Whisperer??

  7. I have just finished all the assignments for a prerequisite subject ‘Research Methods’ and I am supposed to start working on my PhD soon. I am based off-shore. Should I wait for the supervisor to contact me, or should I take the initiative and contact him?
    I just started reading your blog, it is quiet interesting. You might hear from me again and again with more silly questions as I do feel slightly overwhelmed by the prospect of doing a PhD with my supervisor 6000 miles away. I do not really benefit from all the SGR seminars the university is conducting, except from the occasional slides which they put on the ‘blackboard’.

    • Well you will be pleased to know I started the blog as the ‘outreach’ of our campus workshops. Much of the content for the on track workshops is developed here first and the comments allow discussion and questions. Feel free to ask them because they often prompt a post… and yes. I would contact your supervisor if you haven’t heard from them yet. Stay in touch!

  8. I really love your blog. Its offers me bites of information that are 100% practical given that I am mature-age, kids, full time academic position, remote PhD candidate, perfectionist, persistent…. Trying to fit all the bits of my life together, and be really good at each bit, has caused some problems. The most pressing one right now is a very stiff neck caused by too little movement and too much computer screen time. The physio assures that time, exercise and moderation in my activities will help relieve this problem.
    I suspect that I am not alone in this problem- one of your posts alluded to back problems as a result of your PhD also. Could you get a guest expert to post on helping your body physically survive a PhD?

    • Thanks for the lovely feedback🙂 Glad to hear I am filling a gap in the PhD support mechanisms.

      My sympathies on your neck – I hope it improves… I developed tendinitis in my right arm during my PhD which is still being treated. I was just talking to my osteopath about doing just such a post on back and body problems. I’ll put it in the queue!

      • Now, this I can sympathise with, too. I’ve had horrendous migraines & sore neck/shoulders for many months, despite medication. Working mum + doctoral studies + kids = stress. Categorically!

        However, regular swimming has made a very significant difference to me. So long as I keep doing it, the pain is very much less frequent and less severe.

        I have to warn you that I don’t just mean a splash around in the pool – I mean alot of lengths at a time, and swimming 2-4 times a week. Warning: I had to re-learn my swimming technique so I was swimming with my face in the water, not stretching my neck upwards. And I alternate between breast-stroke and back-stroke. If you could manage even 20 lengths a couple of times a week, you’d probably see the difference – luckily I’ve finished my PhD, or I wouldn’t have the time to do the amount I’m actually doing! Good luck. You’re going to feel so proud of yourself when you finish against the odds – it’s worth it.

  9. I want to follow up on the previous post by PhDand workingmum, I am also doing a PhD off campus, I wonder if you can add this to the queue, talking about dealing with doing a PhD off campus, with a family and irregular academic employment, this calls for you to speak to your psychotherapist on doing a post on how not go mental with the pressures of life, kids and …a PhD.

  10. By the way Inger, I followed your advice and contacted my supervisor, haven’t heard from him yet. Maybe too busy for now.

      • New Psycnological Disorder Discovered!

        PDSD – Post Doctorate Stress Disorder

        Post-doctorate stress disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It can occur after you’ve completed a thesis that has taken many years to finish. It does not strike immediately but around 6 months after. It is late-onset because initially the potential-sufferer experiences a sense of elation and freedom after completely the thesis. The individual also sleeps a lot and lazes around. These are pre-symptoms.

        Full-blown PDSD involves:

        1. “Reliving” the euphoria thesis writing, starting to miss it, ignoring the bad experiences

        2. Push-Pull effect of computers and electronic devices – trauma of the keyboard vs. need to look for jobs using said electronic devices.

        3. Feel a fraud when using “Dr” title.

        This Disorder will gradually dissipate over time, but not disappear entirely as individuals suffering this disorder will likely give into their urges of writing long, obscure articles on topics few people will read.

        * From a Phd from last year – first 6 months a number of interesting activities: conference in Portugal, holiday in London, teaching English summer school in Sichuan Province, China, Graduation, full-time TESOL course for a month etc. etc,
        Now job-hunting as I only have one small tutoring job at the moment.

        I really think that I feel more lost now than when I finished. Perhaps you could do more whispering in this area!


  11. Hi, Inger. There’s a post ready for you, and another in draft waiting for me to finish off. I suspect my messages have somehow trashed themselves again, so I thought I’d try to let you know another way …!
    Cheers from Scotland.

  12. Dear Inger (is that your first name??), I very much enjoy the blog but I think my own experience is unique (aren’t they all??) and might throw a little light on things from another angle. I’d love to contribute an article on the problem of physical isolation, the problem of not having anyone else in the region to talk to about the academic work, being geographically (and financially) cut off, and the consolations – and cautions – of substituting academic and intradisciplinary discussion with general talk on the thesis subject – because there’s no one else to bounce ideas off. I’ve also got two young kids who can’t really understand what’s going on with Mum. Your post on parenting was great – but what about when the kids never get to see the university, because it’s too far away? Hard to inspire them then. So these are some of the battles we face here. Do you think an article would help other people?

    • Sounds like more than one article Lucy! Feel free to email me with them, sounds like a great addition and certainly many people will relate. There’s editorial guidelines on the ‘about’ page as well as a link to my email address. Thanks for writing in🙂

  13. Hiya, Inger. I’ve submitted another posting for your review. Hopefully this “comment” will make it through the trash-filter …!

    All the best,

  14. I’m a second year PhD student in the UK, on a research trip, trying to do some data collection. It isn’t going particularly well, the specific things that I need are not where they are supposed to be and so I’m spending a lot of time waiting for it to be sorted out (by some very helpful, kind people). In the mean time, I am trying to do a couple bits and bobs, but I didn’t bring a whole lot of extra work because 1) I was expecting to not be stuck inside with my computer and 2) because I could only carry so much. I am still able to get some work done, but I was wondering if you (and others) ever feel guilty when you’re unable to make progress and if you have any suggestions for helping to put things into perspective?

  15. Seriously, Inger? 9am on a Monday morning on a minor campus?
    Whether or not I can tear myself away from my research to see you live shall be evident on that day.

    Love the blog, btw.

    p.s. by “my research” I mean the drooly type

  16. Ashley, I understand the frustration. Like the time I went to the British Library (200 miles or so, at that time) , to be told the ms had been” lost due to enemy action”. This was in the pre-email era. But that meant I would NEVER see that document.

    Isn’t there a saying which basically advises us to have the wisdom to discern what we can,or cannot, influence, and then the trick is just to accept things out of our control? If you have no” work” you can get on with, how about accessing e-articles you need to read, or formatting your bibliography, or just make some” to do” lists, or do some writing ir editing… ?

  17. Hi Thesiswhisperer, I’m really enjoying the blog, lots of helpful advice. I was wondering if you have done a research masters? Do you have any different tips on that?

  18. Hi Inger
    Just got a set of comments from my supervisor about an article draft that included nothing very encouraging. Have not felt anything positive back from my panel from anything I’ve written at all yet.( am at 18 mo mark so have not done very much). all i hear/see is about how overly ambitious I am. I know this is an environment where there is little need seen for blowing smoke up phd’s proverbials but beginning to wonder when/if I should be considering giving this away. I guess as I write I can hear ‘talk to your supervisors’ but am not sure I would get clear answer. How do you know if you’re good enough?

    • Hmmm, difficult question. Is the criticism directed at the standard of writing or the standard of thinking? Sometimes supervisors don’t distinguish between the two. You need to find out, because writing difficulties can be fixed – most universities have support units dedicated to this and many supervisors don’t know that there is help available. It’s common for PhD students to be overly ambitious – have they given you specific advice about what they think is unachievable? If not, ask what they would do in your position. Some supervisors have trouble giving actionable feedback and this question can help them formulate advice in a more helpful way. Good luck!

      • Its not about the writing. Always about the scale. I guess I just have to take the point that writing about the whole wood rather than at the most a selection of trees is all that can be reasonably attempted (despite that this still seems a bit lame) When I look at the comments however what IS present is a lot of blue line (across the balance of trees considered by supervisor unnecessary) rather than direct criticism, but there is also the absence of any particular encouragement.. This is what worries me. If I was a supervisor I would be trying to both direct and support at once. In absence of explicit support then I assume the reverse but maybe this is not necessary. I will however follow your suggestion and ask a more directed question. Thank you for suggestion, for your blog and for replying.

  19. Hello. What a great site! Very helpful! When working on a dissertation or thesis, don’t forget about transcription services! Transcription Connection has been in business since 2004 and we primarily work with grad students and university research departments. Take a look at our website at http://www.transcription-connection.com. You can also message me on Facebook.

  20. And I can tell our friends and colleagues “down under” that Trinity College Dublin is a fantastic place – I was at a conference there last week. Craig’s a lucky devil!

  21. I saw you in the paper this morning and thought I’d look you up. Your blog has almost made me cry. I have no friends doing the academic thing, not really, and I so often wonder why I’m bothering. I have two children under three, a part time tutoring job and a full time PhD enrolment. I do my PhD work two days per week and I fight for that time.

    I wanted to ask – I have a particular problem with my supervisor. He leaves me alone. I know, most people might think that’s a good thing, but it makes me worry. I am certainly self motivated and initiate all meetings at appropriate intervals, which I am fine with. When he reads a part of my thesis, he tells me it is almost faultless and leaves it at that. He is a very senior professor, has won teaching awards and many, many grants etc. But I do not believe his feedback. I just feel as though he is too busy to fully engage with my work. I cannot really believe that he thinks it’s that good. I am concerned he is unfamiliar with my field. I feel as though he takes my completion for granted even though my candidature has been protracted, interrupted and, from my point of view, a battle. What level of feedback is reasonable to expect? If you’ve addressed this in an older post I haven’t yet found, forgive me.

    • Hi – sorry to hear you are having a difficult time. if it’s any consolation, many do. The question about appropriate feedback is a problemmatic one. Many supervisors, even ones with a lot of experience, do not know how to give good feedback although they may be experts in their field. I encourage you to make use of the Learning at teaching people at the university of Melbourne. I studied at Melbourne and found their support invaluable. Also consider that ‘imposter syndrome is very common amongst PhD students and you may be giving yourself a harder time than you need to. I’ve written several posts on this including this one, which may offer some comfort: https://thethesiswhisperer.wordpress.com/2011/01/19/the-top-5-phdemotions/

      If you don’t trust your supervisor to give you good feedback, another good idea is to try to publish. Submitting your work to blind peer review can be challenging, but it is a good way to learn what is good about your writing and what needs work. Best of luck and keep reading – the community here is very supportive.

  22. Whoa! If life feels hard just now, it’s because you HAVE got a lot to deal with! If you feel low generally, that might explain why you feel neglected by your supervisor – and maybe he hasn’t realised you need more support than you’re currently getting.

    Can’t think of much to add to Inger’s excellent suggestions, except to suggest that you use the conversational/interview skill of asking questions to which he CANNOT just answer yes or no! Like emailing before your next meeting; flag up that you’d like to talk about beginning publishing papers, and ask if you could pick his brains about the best place to start. That ought to give you an opening to ask, face to face, ‘Am I covering this aspect of the subject well enough? What do you think of my structure? What do you think of my literature review? If you were a journal editor, what would you think of this?’, etc.

    • Thank you Inger and Karen for your really thoughtful responses to my whinge. I appreciate it a lot. On the publishing front, I have published a book during my candidature but I should probably try to do some more articles. I was shocked by the ‘imposter’ idea. I absolutely think that could be me. And I will try to be more strategic in questioning Prof Supervisor. At the moment, it’s more along the lines of – isn’t that bit shit? No. But what about that bit, that bit is definitely terrible, isn’t it? No. I think my questions could definitely be more focused!
      Thanks again. I look forward to regularly reading this blog.

  23. Just got a ‘soft rejection’ for an article submitted recently. One comment from the anonymous reader was that my style was ‘clotted’. What can that mean? I’m imagining dense and thick like clotted cream. I am also wondering how much time can be legitimately spent preparing and resubmitting arcticles to journals. This one has come out of an interesting (but not wholly relevant to PhD) bit of research I did and I can see another few weeks being spent not getting on with the ‘real’ work just to polish this article. I know we are encouraged to publish but it seems very time consuming. Have looked at ‘Write that journal article in 7 days’ which has some useful ideas but would be glad of advice

    • Clotted??! Oh my goodness. I’d hate to be that person’s student! It’s a difficult question you ask, but as a general rule having a few pubs along the way will increase your employability out the other end. You have to weigh the time spent against what other things you have to do, how prestigious the journal is and how many changes they are asking you to make. Have a read of the latest post from @researchwhisper for some good tips: http://theresearchwhisperer.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/journal-karma/

      • Many thanks. The changes requested are not in content – which has been praised but in my style. I am wondering if this is because I am a mature student whose main experience of being taught how to write is a good forty years ago so perhaps students are taught differently now. Just a hypothesis. Am not looking for any future employment from this but was advised by my supervisor that at least two chapters of my thesis ought to have appeared as articles in journals and this would be the second one so I guess I’ll just get my head down and try to lighten my style – more single cream than clotted cream.

  24. At almost 3.30am in Melbourne and two months till I submit my thesis. What a great find! That I put down to my procrastinatory research skills developed over the past 3 odd years.

  25. Hi,

    I’m currently considering doctorate programs in Australia where I can study writing (broadly conceived), communication, and social media (including blogging) as applied to health. I seek to include intersections with leadership. I wanted to know if you know to whom or where to direct me at RMIT or other universities. I’m doing my own research to that end, but it always helps to have an interpersonal connection especially when searching from afar! Be free to learn more about me at http://denarosko.com, http://textandpixels.com, and my blog http://textandpixelreflections.com. Thanks!😀

    Thank you and kindly,
    dena.rosko (skype)

  26. Hello, I love this site. I found it after reading about it in an Australian newspaper. I wonder if you can write about revisions. I have finished my thesis, it’s been examined but now I face revisions.

  27. There are probably a number of us who can relate to the question of revisions! Could you share roughly the nature and extent of the revisions you’ve been asked to make? How long do you have in which to make them, and what happens next?

  28. Hi Inger,

    In the thesis, do I need permission to use the images from books or website? In an example, I took an image from a learning taxonomy and cited the book. But do I need to personally ask for the permission from the author and write “permission granted on…” ?


  29. Hi, this isn’t really feedback or ideas (apart from the positive feedback that I love the website – found it in the last months of my doctorate but a few articles have still made a huge difference to how I work). I’m just in a bit of a tricky-ish situation and would appreciate any suggestions from, well, anyone.

    As part of my thesis and literature review, I’ve put together a theoretical model, which includes a diagram and write-up. This was suggested by one of my supervisors and developed by me with input along the way from both my supervisors. One of my supervisors is writing and editing a book. She has asked me whether she can use this model, and sections of my thesis (referencing me appropriately), for a chapter of her book. She has put it to me as being good for me – it will give me a publication, I wouldn’t have to do much work at all… because she would be first author. My gut feeling is “no!” because this treads a very thin line in terms of intellectual property issues (not just mine but the fact that my other supervisor was involved in these ideas – probably more than the one who wants to put it in her book) and it is also a bit iffy ethically because of the power imbalance in our relationship. Fortunately my other supervisor supports me in my decision to say ‘no’. The three of us are currently in discussions about this issue. I’m just wondering if anyone had any thoughts to add about 1) is this kind of thing common or appropriate, and am I just overreacting? and 2) how to deal appropriately with this situation? (I am aware of who to talk to about this i.e. supervisors, then other staff in the school, etc – but any objective anonymous advice wouldn’t go amiss)

  30. Hi
    If she references you, where is the problem? But you can ask her NOT to copy exactly word for word the part of your thesis (it is YOUR thesis). Either sum up the main ideas or quote you. It is not acceptable to copy exactly, word for word, the part of your thesis.
    Good luck

  31. Ignore previous posts, submitted prematurely.
    I agree entirely with Tis. There is nothing wrong with using some of your ideas and referencing them, it is a great compliment to your intellect that your supervisor is going to use some of your ideas in their work. Mind you, they can still use it after you submit your thesis and reference you afterwards (when your thesis is in the public domain), and there is nothing you can do about it. The only difference is timing.

    So loosen up, it is not the end of the world and I am sure your supervisor is not stupid enough to copy your work word for word.

  32. Thanks Tis and Auzziechap for your replies. This supervisor is known for her knack for getting people to do things that are useful to her, but aren’t necessarily in their best interests, and then sometimes not fully acknowledging their help. So after working with her for a few years and having fallen victim to this, as have other students/RAs/colleagues, I’m now inclined to be a bit wary when she asks anything of me. It’s good to hear that objectively this request on its own is entirely reasonable (and as you point out, flattering even!) Thanks again🙂

    • It’s a complicated issue you raise for another reason too. Sometimes, because of the nature of the supervision arrangement, people fight over who had ideas in the first place. Ideas emerge spontaneously in dialogue. I think supervisors have to be constantly wary about the ‘slippage’ of an idea and for both parties to negotiate on how the ideas which emerge will be used. Personally I think the supervisors should give them over to the students, but not all my colleagues agree.

  33. Afternoon Inger

    I was wondering if you or any of your readers could point me in the right direction of where to find advice on turning a conference publication into a conference presentation.

    I’ve written a 4000 word academic, peer reviewed paper that I’ll be presenting next month in just 20 minutes. I figure I need to almost halve the paper, and revitalise it with shorter sentences and everyday language.

    Any other tips would be much appreciated!

    Thanks again for the blog, it’s been added to my list of places to-check-each-morning.

  34. Thank you.

    I have no issue with cutting the word length, I was more thinking along the lines of how the language needs to be adjusted.

    The powerpoint will be the star of the show! My paper is on 1970s feminist poster collectives, most of which have never been researched or seen before. They’re fabulous images.

  35. You right your langage has to be simple and “revitalise it with shorter sentences and everyday language” + your power point : show some images, the guideline of your presentation and the main ideas of each part of your presentation. As I said, don’t read it’s horrible for the listener. Train you for that. I used to write what I want to say, in an everyday langage, and I have a quick look at my paper when I need it.

  36. Louise, Anon is quite right.

    1. Sentences must be short – there’s no point in loads of semi-colons, brackets and subclauses.
    2. If you’re too anxious to shed the script, then practise reading it out loud – with a digital voice recorder – so you can tell if you’re going too fast.
    3. Any words or phrases that trip you up, should be changed. (Think “The King’s Speech”. What’s good enough for royalty …!)
    4. Cheat! Memorise your first paragraph so you can eyeball several different parts of the auditorium before looking down at your notes!
    5. Whatever goes in a powerpoint augments the presentation, but it shouldn’t duplicate it. Don’t have too many words on the screen or Powerpoint will just shrink the text and scare to your audience!
    6. Inger – I know you enjoy Prezi, but I’ve only recently tried it. I’m having a job with sizing frames, and also with not causing sea-sickness. Can you recommend any tutorials, or could you blog about it some day, maybe?

  37. Quite agree with Anon.
    1. Keep sentences short: avoid long sentences, too many semicolons, brackets, subclauses &c.
    2. Don’t let paragraphs ramble on for too many lines. If you get lost, it’s harder to find yourself!
    3. Cheat. If you don’t dare abandon the script, LEARN THE FIRST PARAGRAPH. It gives you confidence and means you can eyeball several different parts of the auditorium before you look back at your notes again!
    4. Record yourself. Are you speaking slowly and clearly enough?
    5. Any passages that you stumble over should be reworded. (Like The King’s Speech!)
    6. Powerpoint is to enhance not duplicate the words you speak. I often put just the key phrase out of a quotation, on screen – not the whole thing. (And Ppt loves to shrink your text if it’s too long!)
    7. Inger’s a Prezi enthusiast – could we persuade her to blog about it? I’ve only just started experimenting and I have problems with sizing frames and not causing seasickness as I lurch from frame to frame.
    8. If you’re using audio or other applications, make sure you’re confident with the medium and technology – and do save audio files to your usb stick. If you only have a link to something you left behind on your pc, then that’s all the audience will get – a “link” symbol! Good luck.

  38. Thank you for your informative Blog, Dr Mewburn. Like many others, I have learnt so much in the short 24 hours of discovering The Thesis Whisperer. I have also referred your site to my professorial supervisor at Deakin. He was uber impressed with the 3 minute thesis!

    To share back, I came across this blog incidentally Nine things Successful People Do Differently – http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/02/nine_things_successful_people.html?cm_sp=most_widget-_-default-_-Nine%20Things%20Successful%20People%20Do%20Differently
    This blog was created by Dr Heidi Halvorson and it’s worth checking out.
    Thank you to all the contributors – I have enjoyed reading your stories and top tips.
    I downloaded the Pomodoro time management app and it’s another great way of keeping focused on task.

      • Hello,
        The blog is really amazing and helps in providing guidance through tough times. Its very inspiring. I am struggling with my PhD since last two years as the lab is very disorganized and i am worrying about my progress. every time i say this to my PI he finds flaws in me inspite of the fact that i try ti figure out things and they all follow what new things i troubleshoot. I am planning to leave the lab as it getting very frustrating for me. pls suggest me what should i do as my interest is losing day by day

  39. Hi – love your blog, very useful and insightful. I wonder if you can help me with what I see is an important productivity tool. In the old days, students used lots of index cards to catalog sources, quotes and documents. Is there an electronic equivalent of this? I can see that I might need to set up some kind of database, with cross-referencing and searhc capabilities, but I can’t be bothered getting too deep into Access or any other program. Is there something off-the-shelf that is available – that you know of? Looking forward to your response and thanks again for the great blog.

    • Hi and thanks🙂 the latest post refers to evernote – this is what I use as a database for notes etc. I also use scrivener, which helps me keep track of notes for a specific paper I am writing. Check out the post “is your computer domesticating you” and “don’t format c:” for other tips. Cheers.

  40. I find Microsoft OneNote absolutely brilliant as an organisational tool as it mimics my former paper way of working – concertina file type arrangements- am trying to do a paperless PhD and one third through I am managing it.

  41. Dear Thesis Whisperer,

    I am writing on behalf of our thesis writing circle at La Trobe University. We are all great fans of your blog and have discussed posts together and in particular new software options that you suggest. We are trying to be proactive and think of a way of communicating with each other and sharing each others’ work (for discussion) that doesn’t involve long, unwieldy emails sent back and forth across an ever expanding email list. I suggested Google Groups and set up a test example, only to find that Google has removed the ‘upload file’ feature from this platform so you can only use it as a discussion group. Google suggests instead using either Google Sites (not really appropriate) or Google Documents to link into Google Groups to share files. This sounds a bit pointless if our goal is to make communication simpler not more complicated. Add to that the need that the platform be user-friendly for all members of the group (and we are a diverse bunch!). I was wondering whether you knew of any online platforms that could perform the function that we are looking for: a discussion board to share message and to upload examples of our work.

    Thanks for this and for all your advice both here and on twitter, it is really appreciated!

    • Hi Emily – I can think of a few wiki type things you could use, but have asked my twitter peeps to give recommendations as they tend to be on the newest things. I’ll repost here when I have some good ideas! Cheers, i

    • ok, after some conferring in twitter I would recommend “freedcamp” as a project management / discussion thread / paper repository. There are many fee versions of the same thing, but this looks very promising. Have started playing with it myself – good luck!

  42. Inger I was sure that you recently wrote or tweeted about doing a thesis by publication, but now I can’t find those posts anywhere. Any chance of a pointer or did I imagine the whole thing?

    Cheers, TM.

  43. Inger,
    15 copies of my first published article arrived today from the publishers. I’m not sure what to do with them. Are they for swapping? No one’s ever given me theirs. The answer is probably staring me in the face but at the moment I can’t work out what use they could be.
    Also, I have recently had a second article accepted for publication. Two paragraphs of it replicate in subject matter (but from a different angle) though not in phraseology, some material in my first article. I have added a footnote about the first article where this appears in the second but am not sure if I should do any more than that

    • Hi Valerie – well done for being so prolific! I would keep the paper copies to send to people who ask for the article because they don’t have access to that particular database. As for the second query: I don’t footnote, I cite myself instead so people can easily find the reference if they want to (the reference lists are often included separately so people).

  44. How about a use of technology in my PhD blog based on Linux and free and open-source software? I’ve been think of writing such thing for my blog and would like to cross-post.

      • Hi!

        Thanks for this blog! Very inspiring and useful for a PhD student. What about a post on blogging for research or for reflection?
        I have just written a post on why do I blog that may be of any interest to other PhD students.


      • Oh my word! I’ve just gone back and read what I wrote – appalling grammar! Sorry, I must have been doing something else at the time. I will write the post, and I promise it will be thoroughly read and properly copy-edited.

  45. That’s a very interesting blog, Malba. And your English is excellent! Coincidentally, I also blogged about why I blog, last weekend.

    It’s at http://whittakerlive.blogspot.com/2011/10/why-whittaker-blogs.html . (I should explain that it’s a library blog, but I’m a librarian with a PhD, so I tend to introduce research-support things and musicology things in amongst the more usual library stuff! As for why I call myself “Whittaker” – well, it’s the Whittaker Library, named after our first college Principal. So “Whittaker” is my alias.)

  46. Great question, the one about how to respond to would-be PhDs. As a PhD dropout, my immediate response is: “make sure you have a data set, or can easily access one”. I think secondary data analysis is the way to go, unless you have unlimited time and money.

    I really faltered at the dissertation stage, and could not believe how socially isolating dissertating was. I was literally climbing the walls, and finally escaped via a part-time job, which ultimately led to the creation of my own business. Self-employment is similar to PhD Land, but much less isolating.

    I have enormous respect for all doctoral students, faculty, and researchers. I also firmly believe that we doctoral dropouts are a poorly understood group. Higher education needs to address the ever-increasing time to dissertation completion.

    Finally, doctoral students must think of their committees in a certain way. Managing this group of people is often described in terms of plural marriage. As someone who has never had any personal interest in marriage, well, I knew there were alternatives. Dropping out of PhD Land was a painful but positive decision. Thankfully, my health was and is good, and my family was and is great!!

  47. I am feeling so desperately unmotivated. I sit in my office and try not to cry when I should be writing this thesis. Is there anything on this site – that I haven’t been able to find – that could shake me out of this? I don’t have colleagues. My supervisors leave me alone. My work is esoteric literary studies stuff that will do nothing for anyone. Any help whatsoever would be invaluable to me right now….

    • I feel your pain, believe me. I think everyone has had these kinds of moments where it feels like a completely pointless endeavour…. If it’s going on and on I can understand how much it would get you down. I hope you are looking for help within the uni and with your friends and family. There are a couple of posts on here which touch on some of these issues. For instance: https://thethesiswhisperer.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/5-ways-to-soothe-an-anxious-phd-student/ – particularly the last point.

      Focus on the learning, not the topic itselt.

      It’s easy – very easy – to think you aren’t learning anything. I assure you this is common and it’s only later I think you really understand what it is your have achieved – so persistence is worthwhile. I find this site http://www.selloutyoursoul.com/ particularly helpful in thinking about what you learn. It’s dedicated to providing advice for english majors to get out of academia and concentrates on ways to repackage yourself. I find some of the ways it describes’ skills and learning’ refreshingly pragmatic.

      Anyway – hang in there. I think you’ll find that the comments on many posts are full of people in all kinds of states of mind. Recognising you are not alone is surprisingly comforting I find!


      • Inger Mewburn, you are a wonderful, generous woman and I appreciate that comprehensive, thoughtful response so much. Every now and then, I come across a person who is doing just what they’re meant to be doing in life and I think you are one of those people. This blog is big hearted and scholarly. What a beautiful combination. Thank you.

  48. Sorry things seem so bad. Forgive me if this seems intrusive – you don’t have to respond on site – but I think you need to ask yourself if this is how you feel ALL the time, most of it, or just occasionally. If it’s a big ongoing problem, you may be suffering depression, and you need help. It’s not your fault, and it’s not weakness: you wouldn’t blame yourself for a physical ailment like a sore throat, so there’s no need to feel ashamed if it’s a mental indisposition. I imagine there must be doctors and/or counselling services available through your campus?

    Not knowing where in the world you are, I don’t know what help you can access. There’s a website, Live Life to the Full (google it) which offers quick self-assessment questionnaires so you can determine just how much your sadness is affecting your day to day life. Maybe try it?

    Any chance of taking a few days off, seeing friends or family, and giving yourself a chance to reflect on precisely what aspects of your research are making you feel this way? As ThesisWhisperer asked the other day, why are you doing this research? Hopefully because you want to, and not out of a misguided sense of duty to family or former tutors?

    • Thank you Karen. Again, like Inger’s reply, I was touched by the generosity of spirit in your response to my little whinge. Yes, I am recovering from depression. Alone in my office with my thesis is where the struggle remains the most difficult. I am lucky, though, to have much capacity for joy beyond those walls. I will. I WILL. I WILL MOTIVATE MYSELF to do this thing. And, as for why – well, it’s a misguided sense of duty to myself. I am too far gone into it to turn back. Thank you for bothering to reply and thank you for being so kind.

  49. Hello Inger

    I think The Thesis Whisperer is a great site and wondered if you would be interested in me writing a guest blog-post.

    I’m in the final-year of my PhD at the Sussex School of Education and specialise in the political economy of education in developing countries.

    Since I’ve recently started using Twitter, I was thinking about something along the lines of ‘My First 10 Days on Twitter: Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned’. What do you think? What do other blog-readers think? I’m open to tweaking of the subject matter and other suggestions – whatever people would find useful and I feel comfortable blogging about, really.

    All the best


  50. Good day,
    I am a representative of the postgraduate student association (PARSA) at The ANU, and would like to inquire about the possibility of your presenting on this at an event in February.
    Kindly contact me at your earliest convenience.
    thanks. W

  51. Just wanted to say how great this blog is. After working 2 years in a Big 4 accounting firm, I’ve decided to take 8 months leave to complete my Honours year so I can follow up with a PhD in Accounting at some point (probably sooner rather than later). Even just announcing that I’m going back to do Honours created some negative feedback like “why bother?” “you’re crazy” “it’s not something someone should do in their life.” It’s so great to read about the ups and downs of a PhD and know that you are not alone. It is no means an easy choice (a lot of people around me think it’s about sitting on your butt for 3 years doing nothing), so PhD students need all the support they can get.

  52. Hi inger
    Love the site it’s fantastic!
    Im on home stretch of phd ( I hope)
    I’d love you to do a post about writing phd with
    iBooks author.
    There are lots of advantages, no printing,
    easily distributable, snappy graphics.
    What do you think?

  53. Love your work here Inger. I am doing an auto/ethnography related to my work in a cross cultural setting overseas and am about half way through my PhD. The journal entries that I have kept are my data and I am analysing them but I seem to be all over the place. I thought I would be more linear and be able to work from Intro, methodology, lit review etc but each chapter has bits of everything, so many of the issues and dilemmas seem to overlap…looking at it I think I am more into chaos theory! I guess I just have to spend more time looking at the themes that have emerged from my experiences and journal entries and field that I was working in OS. Any comments. If I didn’t have to work full-time it would be great. My Mr Thesis is very supportive and keeps leading me back to the computer.

  54. Dear thesis whisperer,

    here’s the problem. I have a cold (I’d like to say it’s the flu but it’s really not). I also have a one year old and a three year old, which means that my thesis days (tuesdays, thursdays, and fridays) are the closet thing I have to a day off.

    I’ve been sitting in front of my lap top feeling cruddy (aching, snotty, head pressure, the usual) and have eked out a pathetic 130 words. There have been many cups of tea and Facebook forays in this time. As a general rule I’m a productivity geek – I read about how to be more productive and then I do it. I’ve managed to write 10,000 words this month that way.

    But I’m wondering if I really should just lie down, or if I’m being weak and pathetic and need to soldier on. Either way I’m just feeling kinda bad and guilty…

    Any advice will be taken thoroughly on board and very much appreciated (I’ve now written more in this comment than I have on my thesis).


    • Go back to bed I reckon! Wallowing in it for a bit might do you good. Sometimes it’s just not worth pushing on. When I was doing my masters thesiswhisperer jnr had chickenpox and we were quarantined for 2 weeks. I thought I might get work done, but all I did was lie on the couch with him and watch toy story over and over. The week after I managed 5000 words – my brain clearly needed a rest. Enjoy!

      • Shortly after writing that cry for help I gave myself permission to zone on the couch for two hours before doing the childcare pickup. I also called a phd friend who talked me through letting go of the associated guilt, and I’m glad I did. The weekend so far has involved no lying around, and with a sinus headache that’s not much fun. So thank you for the sage advice.

        Also just generally, thank you. I started my phd part time in June last year and then got a scholarship to go full time starting on the 1st of January. Much of my first 6 months was spent researching how to write a thesis without going crazy, orienting myself to the library and learning scrivener and endnote. So when I started full time, my scrivener project was up and running and I feel like I’ve been able to come out of the blocks really quickly. So again, thank you. Especially for your scrivener post and your how to write a thousand words a day post. Also the stuff on blogging gave me the motivation to start building an online presence. Much of the geeky researching about how to do research I was referring to in my first post was done on your blog. Hope your Sunday is restful,

  55. Hello Thesis W.

    I just read your blog about what to do when asked the “so what do you do” question in social situations. I have a related problem which I would love to hear some suggestions on. What do you do in social situations when someone says something racist, bigoted, sexist etc without sounding like an complete academic dick. I was recently at some drinks with a bunch people I had never met. One women was talking about her daughter and was saying “doesn’t he (the father) know that a mothers opinion and decisions are just count for so much more that the fathers?” As someone who studies masculinities and social expectations of men I had to hold my jaw shut to stop it hitting the table. I smiled and nodded at her and then changed the subject all the while feeling like a complete coward for not disagreeing.

    Talking to friends about it later, they all shared similar experiences. Do we have a responsibility to ‘walk the talk,’ especially when outside the comfort of our academic environment and face alienating ourselves from non-academic friends? Do we just shut our mouths because sometimes its just not worth it? Is there another way??


  56. Hi Inger,

    I’m an ECR at James Cook Uni and I’m part of a group of “Rising Stars” who are being nurtured with extra super special Professional Development programs. We ECRs are meant to give some ideas about what PD we should have, and I wonder if you have any advice? About specific programs, or about skills/practices that good researchers should build up in the immediate post-PhD phase?

    • As an ECR myself I am interested in what you end up doing. I have ideas from my own point of view, but might be useful for you to talk to the research whisperer people (www.researchwhisperer.wordpress.com) at RMIT. They are intimately involved in planning the ECR program here, which is very good. For what it’s worth, I think the ‘soft skills’ like communication and resilience are very important – especially considering that a ‘high flyer’ program might include a lot of people who end up in management. Anyway, if you have trouble getting in touch with the RWs let me know.

      • Thanks for publishing this great and informative website….i have visited some pages and find it really interesting….

        Mahasin Handal
        The Best Project Management System In Dubai

  57. Could you please write a couple of pieces of advice on how students should tackle the problem of an ‘R&R’ verdict? I have just received an R&R after handing in my thesis and I could do with some support.

  58. What a great blog!! I came across it while idly googling during my Orientation to Graduate Research day (:P) and I look forward to catching up on the posts! Do you know of any blogs by PhD students who are also parents to small, cute but demanding rugrats? I have a muchneglected blog carolynee.net feel free to add to your sidebar if you like! keep up the great work!

    • Hi Carolyn, I’m a #phdparent – lovely to meet you. I also have a small and slightly neglected blog, but I persevere so that I can meet other phd parents. Good luck.

  59. Hi,
    I’m going to be submitting in 5 months and I’m starting to realise that I’ll still be alive and probably looking for something to do after I submit. Have you written any posts about things to do beyond phd and how to go about doing them?

  60. Hello Thesis Whisperer.
    I am doing a PhD at the moment and am about to start supervising Honours theses at my university for the first time. Zero training provided, which is great! Any tips? Anywhere I can go for some guidelines? All I know is the word count required on the the project. As for managing students, etc etc, will my instincts suffice?
    Hope this question isn’t too far beyond the Thesis Whisperer subject matter…

  61. I have thought of converting to Mac, and I just wondered what your experience was like. For the messy creative who has been living in Windows for 20 years, how did you transition? Was it worth it? What’s the difference in experience between the two platforms that is compelling for you? I have friends who say I am just stuck in the dark ages, but I’m fearful of the change, though I feel I am being a bit cowardly about it for fear it will not work out so neatly.

  62. I’ve been researching a lot into doing a PhD and what scares me the most is the academic career prospects once I’m finished. A lot of the information I’ve found on the internet seems to relate to doing a PhD in the USA. Are tenure positions in common in Australia and generally what are the prospects of getting a job as an academic in Australia?

    • In Australia you have a much better chance of working as an academic in a Uni if you are happy to start out at a regional uni campus in a country area. As Inger said it depends on your area of research and discipline. I started out doing sessional work and marking when I started my PhD. But I was working in a school full time. As is the case with most jobs…build a network of people who work in the area you wont to work in….ask somebody to be a mentor and buy them an occasional bottle of wine to thank them! Just turn up at the uni and talk to people…you need to be ever so pleasant and helpful.
      The uni I work at has a three your probation period…..so for three years you need to get good feedback from your students and write a couple of papers or get a couple of small grants…then you get full tenure after three years. Each uni has a different system. It certainly helps if you like teaching.

  63. Please, do offer some advice to all of us who have received an R&R. You have promised🙂 Feeling a bit better now, by the way, but I could do with some advice and encouragement.

  64. I just came across you blog and I have to say it looks very helpful!

    I am a PhD student and 2 years ago I started my own Arabic Research related blog. Its not mainly a PhD only blog as it covers tips that can be applied by MSc students and so on.

    Articles I post range from things like basics of doing research to thing like tools and software packages that can help researchers do more. I also share resources and links to various other websites and academic search engines, etc…

    I would be happy if you take a look and perhaps add my blog to the list of related blogs. It can be reached here: http://www.drhariri.com

    I will be reading your blog later on and I am sure that I will find many excellent articles that I would gladly then translate and give link to the original articles on your blog.

    If you have any questions or comments please contact me directly through facebook or on twitter (@aahariri).

    • Hi Abduirahman, thanks for writing in🙂 All the posts are released under the creative commons license – so long as you acknowledge authorship I’m happy for you to translate my blog and repost as you like. Send me the link via Twitter whenever you do so I can boost it. I’ll add your blog under the sidebar. Best, inger

  65. Hi Inger
    I have been playing around with ‘mind mapping’ and have been using free software and was wondering if you recommend or know of any software that would allow me to attach large chunks of texts to nodes? MindNode Pro keeps coming up as a recommendation on the Web… any thoughts?

  66. I attended the Whisperers´ lecture on ethics, copyright and plagiarism yesterday, and many thanks for good information and a good lecture! Some of these issues are yawningly boring until you find yourself in a pickle about intellectual property, as I did with my alma mater. Then is becomes extremely interesting. Please people, read this if you will, and I would love to know what you think.. Theft. educational kings of incompetence.

    • Goodness – what a terrible story! I’m glad to hear you got something in the end, but I’m sure it didn’t make up for all the trouble. Welcome to RMIT anyway – I hope your experience here is better!

      • Thanks! The sheer level of incompetence in that place begs belief, so I it can only go upward!😀 I do however think it is important for people to know about these things.

  67. Hi! Thanks for your blogs, they are really interesting and so useful since I have just started my PhD this year in marine biology. I was wondering if you could give some advice on how to find work after you finish a PhD? I know I’m thinking a bit ahead, but a friend of mine who has just finished his PhD is really struggling to find work because he has been told that he is “over qualified” and “doesn’t have enough experience”…does this mean we have to aim for a low paid job? Or find something that doesn’t require much skill?? I know some friends that have turned to manual labour just because it pays better then a desk job!!

  68. Hey Dr Inger,
    Somewhere on this blog you recommended a book on doing practice based research (or maybe it was in the comments?) I have just spent many hours trawling through posts trying to find it again with no success. Do you happen to know what I mean? Did my stressed and fevered brain make it up? Please help?🙂

    • Depends – Are you after practice based research, where you examine others doing workplace or professional practice, or are you doing creative practice based research where you make stuff?

      • You know, there are no really great books on methodology out there. Not ones I could recommend and feel I have really pointed to value for money. What particular aspect are you struggling with? I might be able to suggest another text altogether.

  69. Hello again, Inger,
    I asked a question a few months back (in the wrong section, evidently!) on a problem I had: circumstances forced my supervisor to take an extended leave, and there was no one else in the field able to supervise my research at that institution, so I found myself scouting around for an alternative supervisor. To my great good fortune, a professor at an institution on the island has agreed that, with some fairly major amendments, he will take me on as his student. So along with the whole administrative headache of withdrawing and reapplying, but having to explain my circumstances ad nauseum so that the work I’ve undertaken (two years of it) to date can be taken into account, and having to locate and review a second batch of literature, I sent an abstract off for consideration by a conference committee in London – and it was accepted. I’m on a very tight budget so I’m looking into possible funding assistance but that’s tricky, given that I fall between two stools right now – but my question (phew) is this:
    given that I’ve never presented my work outside an institution to which I’ve been associated ever in the past before (and before getting married and having kids, I had a previous life as a researcher – so now I’m both a mature student and having a second fling with academia), how important is it that I actually make the effort to go to the conference and present there? I’ve submitted the same paper for consideration as a book chapter within (what will soon by my former but is still) my present university but haven’t had word back on that yet.
    Your thoughts are welcome. I’m under a bit of time pressure to get back to London University so I’m really hoping you can give me the benefit of your experience on this one as soon as possible.

  70. I am a first year college student and am stuck with the daunting task of comparing Robert Frost’s “Nothing Can Stay Gold” to Andre Dubus’ “A Fathers Story”. I need six scholarly references and this is to be an eight to ten page paper. Procrastination is my worst enemy, I simply am at a loss as to where to begin!

  71. I have a number of bibliographies collated over the last couple of years. I need help organising them into one single comprehensive bibliography containing all the references to books, papers, etc, I’ve read in relation to my research so I can then go through them and subdivide them into conceptually related groups. Help Me! I downloaded lots of freeware (Mendeley, etc) but while I can get pdfs into there, I can’t get bibliographies to convert so I have a comprehensive monster list of all I’ve read. Is there anyone who might help?

    • I know a lot of people who just use microsoft excel for this kind of task. I’m beginning to wonder if I should because no reference editor is ever right for me. If you post this onto the thesis whisperer facebook wall you might get more eyes on and comments. Best of luck!

  72. Hi,

    I am interesting in hearing how other people feel in the “limbo” period between submission of thesis and getting the results…

  73. I am currently navigating the PhD terrain and have just stumbled upon your nifty blog – and I like it!

    Please contact me if you are interested in writing a short guest post at my blog hackyourdegree.com that is aimed at undergraduates.

    Keep up the good work

  74. How about doing a post on surviving a doctorate when you are thousands of km’s away from your campus, working and studying at the same time and trying to avoid being medicated to finish your degree. It is so hard when you dont have physical access to your supervisors, stats people, library and the support of fellow students

    • I could not agree more. I am exactly in the same situation and believe me when I hear about all these PhD candidate winging about how hard to get this project done and they are in the same town as their university, have access to countless books in their campus library or libraries, and their supervisor is only a couple of train stations away on the local city train, I think to myself, you lucky bastards! you should try to do a PhD working as a Regional Sales manager covering seven countries in the Middle East. I only had a couple of Skype meeting with my supervisor and a very short conversation, that does not even count.

      So spare me the drama of PhD blues if you are doing your
      PhD on campus because I would only be using the smallest violin in the world to play you the sad tunes.

      • My supervisor isn’t into skype which is probably just as well because the phone helps to hide the tears.

  75. Phd supervisors get quite a few workload points for having students…so if they don’t want to skype they should be phoning you for at least a 30 to 60 minute conversation once a month. The uni pays for the phone call so no probs there. Just keep up with the emails to tee it all up. Sorry I am starting to sound bossy. Are you able to get books sent to you from the library if you live so far away? I download a Loy of stuff from the library site…ESP good articles. My supervisor is in Sydney and I am in melb…that makes it tricky. Ask your supervisor what money has been allocated for individual phd students as you may have money that can be used as travel for meetings at your supervisors uni. Hope this helps.

  76. A post on this sounds good, I’d be happy to contribute, I am sitting in Lusaka, Zambia, trying to manage an organisation of 100 people and keep up with my PhD – with my supervisor back in Melbourne.

  77. Hi there– I must say that finding the Thesis Whisperer a few months before finishing my thesis was a light in the darkness– thank you so much! I’d love a post where post-viva-survivors give some tips that they learned on the day, or some things that surprised them. Mine is coming up in a few weeks time and I’m trying to read all I can about it! (The No custard pies was a great post!)

  78. Dear Thesis Whisperer. Your blog is always filled with such sensible advice that I am going to put my current problem out there for comment. My PhD advisor has requested that all writing I submit to them has Endnote turned off. The reason for this is because WORDs ‘track change’ feature produces field code change notifications which can make the document look extra chaotic. How do other advisor/student couples manage this?
    I am fortunate that my advisors are fabulous and so naturally I want to work with them in ways that maintains our relationship. However Endnote is also a fabulous tool that I really rely on and Iuse it as more than just a way to have the Reference list formatted. I am constantly using it as a database to check the content of my citations and to make sure that I have included the best citation and so on.
    Looking forward to hearing suggestions and stories from you and your community.

    • I just tell my supervisor not to touch the referencing. It can be checked when the doc is fianlly done at the end. This is the last of your worrys at this stage. They shouldn’t be making you job any hrader than it already is. In the final doc yes turn it off os they can see that it is Ok. Then it will be easier for you to add to you formatted doc as less changes or fixes. Good luck!

  79. Hi!
    It’s nice that such a site exists. I surfed it for the very first time. Actually, I am of Indian origin and has recently completed my Masters of Biotechnology from India. I am interested in studying in Melbourne (PhD), but I don’t know how anyone can really be persuaded to supervise me and help writing the Research Proposal for getting into the Program.

    • Hi Alex – that’s a wonderful post. Would you like to have a login for the whisperer so you can publish under your own byline? We have a lot of posts in the queue right now, so it will be able 6 weeks, but I’m sure the whisperer audience will love it🙂 If you want a login, can you email my rmit address? There’s a clickthrough on the ‘about’ page.

  80. Thanks a lot Dr Alex. Your tips were just amazing. Now, I have made my mind to continue with my M. Sc. Dissertation Project for PhD and will make Research Proposal myself.

  81. Thanks for your comment Shivraj. Glad that you found the post inspiring. Good luck with your studies!


  82. Dear TW,

    I’m guiltily recalling that I offered to write a couple more posts for you. But – I can’t quite recall what they were going to be about. Please could you DM me? Cheers! (And congrats on your new domain name.)

  83. Hi, just want a forum where I won’t feel so alone. Social and caring.. i can do the writing slowly but run out of time and distracted on FB media cos it dosen’t make me feel alone. Hate the isolation is making me depressed!!

  84. Hi Inger and the Thesis Whisperer community,

    I would really appreciate some advice. I’m 1 year into my PhD (I’ve been doing it part-time and working full time) but haven’t made a lot of headway. Due to a recent change in my job, I’m now unable to do the kind of research I was originally planning on doing. Combined with serious illness in my family and the sudden death of a mentor, this has prompted me to seriously reevaluate things and rethink my whole PhD.

    I am now considering a change in topic, supervisor and institution. That probably sounds crazy, but I feel like I need a fresh start. Has anyone done this? Any words of advice? I don’t even know how the process works. Would I have to put in a research proposal at the new institution, or could I just transfer over?

    I am now looking to explore issues of identity, gender and autonomy associated with being/becoming a PhD student. Is anyone doing anything similar? Any recommendations on institutions/supervisors?

  85. Hi Inger,
    I was so sorry for my friend who her PhD research had to downgraded to Masters on her confirmaton seminar. Ironically it was her Supervisors who asked questions despite of backing her research. The main reason was she was not having a PhD capabilities. Can you perhaps discuss whats are the capabilities for a PhD student as compared to Masters?

    • hi PhD Mommy – I was sad to hear about the downgrade – even given that I am an evil supervisor trolling on the Thesis Whisperer site. However as a not so evil supervisor who has helped a PhD student in a similar situation threatened with a “downgrade” to Masters – I can add a couple of observations. I am not entirely happy with the concept of the downgrade – especially as it seems to have happened to the student I assisted in exactly the same way – as a lightening bolt at the confirmation – and the bolt was hurled by the supervisory team. So she is not alone. I can add a couple of further observations – I have been involved with upwards of 20 completions as first or second supervisor and as an academic mentor.
      Firstly a candidature does not suddenly – whoops! Baghdad! as they used to say in Un-Pc days – become unstable all at once at the completion seminar – nor a candidate incompetent in the blink of an eye – unless in a fantasy novel of the Harry Potter ilk. Where were the supervisors? Why did not try and deal with these issues and point the candidate to assistance in the weeks and months prior and explain to them where issues are occuring.
      Secondly and I do not want to encourage conspiracy theories amongst candidates but I certainly do not endorse a practice – that is known to exist and occur – whereby a supervisor who fears that a candidate will not make the grade then demotes the student to Masters

      Again this points to faults/issues in supervision as much as the candidate.

      of course some topics are naturally Masters rather than PhD – but again this should have been apparent in the early days of the candidature and these issues of the borderline between the two thrashed out within supervision meetings. Some students prefer to test the waters with a Masters

      But the concept of downgrading as well as the different expectations of Masters and PhD study is a worthy topic for Inger’s nimble pen!

      • That is a pretty horrific story, PhDmummy. An appalling situation and incompetent advisors. Someone should have picked up on it, if it is so, that the candidate lack “phd capabilities”.

      • Dear Thesis Nazi,
        I cannot agree enough of what you said here. There is indeed a novelty in the research, which is in fact supported by one of the reviewer. The only problem was the methodology, I suppose.If it was a case of incapabilities or whatsoever the call, I am so surprised they decided to announce it at her very 1st PhD birthday journey.

    • Ps to the comments that I posted about Masters/PhD differences – no I am not anonymous – I have posted here before – and I am wondering whether PhDMommy is at the same institution as I am – or does this downgrading happen universally wherever a supervisor seeks to save their a***

      • I really hope we are in the same institution, otherwise this “supervisionship arrogance and illness” is being metastasis just like the cancer killing every bits of cells in the scholarly academia body!

    • I would also appreciate some light on the master-phd difference, as I seem to be currently in between the two. I know the trad. definition, I just see a surprising crossing both ways, around me. To be “downgraded” at the confirmation seminar seems to me a failure of the system (and the people representing it), and not actually reflecting on whatever the candidate was doing.

      • Whilst waiting for Inger’s insightful thoughts – there is a trite comment that also does provide some valid reflection as well – which was told to me by a PhD student: the Masters is like buying a cake mixture at the supermarket, following the instructions to a t and cooking the cake to perfection, whereas the PhD is about devising the recipe, locating and testing the ingredients and then seeing the cake through to completion, with no guarentee from the start that it all will come together – think more like Iron Chef or a reality TV cooking competition.

        However the boundary has changed and is changing – there is on the one hand a tendency for all levels of university benchmarking to have their bars lowered, and the Masters of today was like the honours thesis of a generation or two ago and this was the era when only the brightest, most eminent and also most nerdy even contemplated a PhD. Some people say “why do a Masters?” – seeing it as a meaningless qualification in light of this downsizing of competencies and yet ironically in some fields in the US – so studies say – again Inger may be on top of this and be able to cite them – recently the much despised Masters has refused to lay down and die. Employers seem to want job applicants with Masters – it indicates a depth of knowledge and a willingness to pay attention to detail, whereas a job seeker with a PhD is seen as too overqualified for the workplace.

        There are some topics that sit comfortably as a Masters and can not extend to a PhD and there are some Masters that provide the portal to a larger PhD – either directly upgraded or sequentially followed on as a new degree. There are equally some students who don’t want to do a PhD. They are not less “clever” than doctoral candidates but prefer the Masters for a number of reasons including age – with mature age students in particular – they do not want to tie up so many years in study and money in fees – and given the ageism in the employment stakes – will the PhD broker any more work or better wages for the effort involved? Also I have seen students prefer a Masters because of family commitments and also non-university-based workplace commitments – the Masters is do-able whereas the PhD however much desired can not be managed at this point in their lives

        But none of this explains the grey areas around the conversion of a PhD back to a Masters and especially downgradings that seem to be more about the needs of the staff and supervisory team than the student’s

      • The conversation seems to be well advanced already! I too share concerns about ‘down grading’ and this not being picked up by the supervision team. If it was never mentioned before the confirmation. it’s definitely not on, but if the supervisors had been trying to convince the candidate before this point that there wasn’t a PhD there, it puts the matter in a different light. I think the problem is complicated by ‘degree inflation’ and pathways. A masters used to be enough to get a job in some fields, now it isn’t; the first ever masters degree was awarded for a literature review, now you must do so much more. Often examiners have trouble setting the right expectations for a masters degree – they seem to expect a PhD in minature’, which it’s not intended to be at all. Actually I like Thesis Nazi’s analogy to cake mixture. If you leave other degrees before you finish you can, if you have passed a lesser milestone, get a piece of paper to acknowledge your effort. The masters is meant to be a different kind of deegree, not a lesser PhD. In my view we need to make this possible in PhD, which would avoid this ‘downgrading’problem. That all being said – I wish your friend all the best.

  86. I agree with many of the comments above. A PhD candidate should not reach the end of their study and enter the viva and then be downgraded. This should be picked up by the supervisors early on and addressed – the candiate should never make it to the viva unless they have a PhD worthy study!

    As i understand it, in a UK context at least, the main differences between a PhD and Masters are scope, originality and contribution to knowledge. By scope I mean size of the study – geographical size – study area (region), size of sample, length of study, number of participants methods used etc etc. Originality refers to the problem studied, a PhD is required to takle a significant issue, usually not addressed anywhere else and with the potential for a significant contribution to knowledge. The findings of the study must make a significant contribution to the academic discourse, practice or industry – ideally all three and beyond. This is usually demonstrated by the publication of journal articles and conference papers during the PhD study period – and/or evidence of impact activities, i.e consultation, presentations with stakeholders etc.

    Hope this helps


  87. Hi Inger,
    We have indeed an explicit comments going on here. Being a PhD student myself, I believe that even I have the most novel research in the world, but it would not prove anything without a supervisor. Not only that, the emotional quotient of the candidate needs to be uphold on top of his/her intelligence. Please write something about this issue vividly so that I can paste it on my office board to survive and revive🙂

  88. Hi..
    I wonder, is it normal as a research assistant , given a bunch of data to work on? I currently working on 4 projects data, and of course 2 of them are on pause because i’m doing another 2. Probably because we don’t have many people in our team.
    I terribly need a human support right now-mentally.

  89. Hi

    When faced with a choice of supervisors wanting to supervise within and across different institutions how do you choose? Is a supervisor with a high profile and lots of students better than a supervisor with a lesser reputation and fewer students? What should prospective PhD students look for?

    Thanks – K

    • Hi, I have wondered the same thing. Its a tough decision because its pretty important to get a good supervisor.

      In the end, I have decided on supervisors who are very keen and have fewer students. But I really believe they are up and coming researchers themselves and will no doubt become high profile in a matter of time…Also, I have picked them because I got a really good feeling from meeting them and they are providing comments and assistance even before I’ve started. So its a great indicator for me that they will be good supervisors.

      I have had other supervisors who are very busy and high profile and they are often hard to catch, sometimes don’t reply to emails, are generally jet lagged, tired and overworked. I’ve had supervisors that didn’t understand or read my work and generally weren’t that interested in me. All promises to collaborate on papers together but it never happened. This experience has led me to lean toward more enthusiastic, up and coming but not necessarily super high profile supervisors. I think it will pay off in the long run.

  90. Hi Inger, a friend introduced me to your great blog. She, like me, is a PhD student and a Mum. We particularly liked your posts about juggling PhD work and parenting. It got me thinking about having bubs and PhDs. I have put off having my second bub, because I’m in the first year of candidature… I’m waiting until I’ve established myself properly first, but the clock is ticking! And I’m worried about not being able to cope if I return to full time candidature with a bub (my scholarship can’t be part-time). Do you know if anybody has ever written about this dilemma? What are your thoughts?

  91. Just read your post about balancing children and studying. A lovely read. I am only at the Masters stage, but with a 4-year old and a 1-year old and working 4 days per week (the 5th day is a real rest – I have the kids for the day!), so my Masters has been done between 8pm-10pm at night, once the children are asleep. I haven’t had a full night’s sleep for 16 months (not to mention the 9 months being pregnant before that or the 2 years of having a baby and toddler before that). I wonder if a special award could be given to us mums at the time of graduation- something like MSc in the Face of Adversity….although I suspect that many study through adversity of whatever kind – children, illness, elderly parents to look after. I wouldn’t change what I am doing. It gives me a chance to stretch my brain, think more deeply than ‘Baa Baa black sheep’ and has helped me to stay on the rocky career path that you face as a working mum.

  92. Hi Thesis Whisperer,

    I am in my first year of PhD study at UNSW. My confirmation review is coming up and my school (Arts and Media) has begun to place more emphasis on the second year of candidature. I was speaking to my supervisor about this at our last meeting and she recommended having a very thorough plan for second year to hand in with my submission for the review. I think this is a really great idea and I have some initial thoughts on this, but I thought I would put the question out there: what should be included in a plan for second year? My supervisor put it this way, “the plan should be so coherent that not doing these things would be impossible”. Do you (or anyone) have any suggestions or posts that address this?

  93. Hi there

    The approach that I found best when making a plan was to create a timeline working backwards from the date you plan to submit.

    I started by estimating how long my supervisor would need it at the end, and how long I wanted solely for writing, and that left me with an estimated time to work out how much I could allow for recruiting, running and analyzing for each experiment. If you haven’t designed studies, obtained ethics etc. don’t for get to factor them in. Also consider factoring in a conference (time spend preparing and attending), and if possible finish the time line a month easy to allow a little wiggle room.

    Once you have that, then you can fill in the gaps and you’ll be well on your way to having a detailed plan for the rest of your candidature.

    I hope that’s of some assistance.


  94. Hello!

    Love this site! I have just finished my Ph.D. in Education and feel lost. Any advice for how I should proceed now would be greatly appreciated! I am from the U.S. and am not a permanent resident. So, it seems my options are limited. We are working on that of course but my family has only been here since September and it takes time. I’m also lacking in publications, but I do have many years of experience in my field. So…is my best bet to continue teaching in the primary/secondary school system & working on publications? Or, how do I find out about casual teaching at the university level? Are there other options I should be considering? I’d love any advice. Thanks so much!!!


  95. This site is just brilliant! Thanks so much! Been reading for a few years, ready to write but the fear is too much… can talk about it, but just cannot get to structure… yes it is about discipline… but it seems like much more… how to break a block, a real mental block…?

  96. Hello, I love your blog and subscribe to the digest. LOVE LOVE LOVE it!

    I have two topics/issues that I’d love you to cover.

    a) I’m about to start my PhD and my background is in working as a consultant researcher where we have billable hours and budget constraints etc. This means that I have developed the habit/attitude that reading isn’t real work. In my job I will save the slow learning style reading for home and weekends. But during work hours I read very differently, usually on the screen while writing notes at the same time. This is good for productive writing (I have had to write literature reviews in a matter of two weeks with no background knowledge in a field) however this practice has led me to feel guilty if I’m not writing while reading, and it has led me to write brilliantly crafted literature reviews and reports, yet have no real understanding of the area (and hope that no one will ask me to explain it verbally because it was carefully constructed from the readings, not actually understood well by me)…

    b) Sometimes when I am writing, or working on a problem, I have a tiny voice or thought that tells me I should focus on that paragraph more, expand on this other area more, or get better references to make a point about that…just thoughts about this or that to do with my work. But these thoughts are not strong enough for me to follow up on them or I just overlook those ideas. Then when I get feedback from others, most times, the feedback or suggestions are on the exact things that I had thought to myself about before. So the question here is, how to do capture those fleeting thoughts and trust yourself that you are onto something? Is it just a matter of time and experience? Or are there some tips and tricks you can offer for helping to capture and make sure you follow up on your own ideas?

    Thanks so much!!!

    • Hi Jane
      In terms of capturing those , fleeting thoughts, I would suggest noting such thoughts down using the comment function in MS Word, and then you can go back to them at a later date and with fresh eyes decide whether to you are onto something.

      • Thanks for replying. Sorry I should have explained better. Its not really a matter of capturing them. Its more a matter of bringing them from a whisper at the back of your mind to a louder voice, if you know what I mean? I guess it comes from experience. Or maybe its a matter of taking a breather from the writing and them coming back at it in “reviewer mode”…I just find it frustrating when I always get feedback from others about things that I had thought of myself (but the thoughts were so subtle and back of mind that they weren’t “loud” enough for me to acknowledge or act on them). Does that make sense?

  97. Sorry, for the above part a) the question is…are there different types of reading? Is it good to be a productive reader? Or are the times when you should let yourself read slowly to understand the material properly? How to achieve a balance?

    • I think your we are thinking the same thing when you say-
      maybe its a matter of taking a breather from the writing and them coming back at it in “reviewer mode”

  98. Hi!

    I’m an APA scholarship holder currently working on my PhD and I was wondering if I can still apply to other universities for casual teaching opportunities that come up, or if I should only try to get work at the uni I’m receiving my scholarship from? Is there an unwritten (or maybe written?) rule against working elsewhere?

    • You should work wherever the work is in my opinion. You make more contacts that way for later on. have a read of the ‘how to get an academic job” post for more advice🙂

  99. Hi, I just started working with Endnote referencing Software in word, I have a problem with it, when i insert a reference from Endnote software it just add it in a {} in front of paragraph i want to reference and doesn’t add at end of word , i need the reference add at the end of word too, Need help!

  100. Hi Inger,

    Huge fan. HUGE fan. So naturally I turned to your site after my most recent PhD setback…

    Recently, I volunteered to present at my department’s weekly seminar series. These are usually great spaces to get really varied and constructive feedback from the whole department, and I was super excited about getting thoughts on a set of ideas I’ve been working on. My talk went for about half an hour, leaving half an hour for questions and discussion.

    Well, the first comment floored me. It was very aggressive (read: threatening) in tone, and went something like this: “Well, first of all, what you’re saying is fundamentally wrong” (Huh?!). And this senior academic went on to berrate me (in front of around 20 colleagues) for about 10 minutes on these ideas which I had explicitly stated were preliminary (I’m only about 6 months in…). I know that as academics we are trained to think critically, and I truly believe that critique renders work more robust and convincing. I also know that as a student, it’s part of an academic’s purview to test my metal, so to speak.

    However, this was extremely confronting, and, even worse, completely off topic and unconstructive. I wasn’t the only one who felt it was out of hand. Afterwards, a few academics (including my supervisor) and fellow students commented privately that how this person had spoken to me was completely appalling. Some audience members even said that just having witnessed it left them deflated and feeling anxious for the rest of the day.

    It’s not all doom and gloom – apart from the initial barrage of crude and belittling comments, I generally received really positive, constructive feedback I can move forward with, and, importantly, I still feel like I did a good job of a difficult task.

    My question – I suppose – is whether you (or anyone else on this forum!) might have some advice for early PhD students like myself to prime ourselves for the possibility of unnecessarily harsh and unconstructive comments, and also how to deal with the situation – emotionally and professionally. Also, I’m really interested to hear your thoughts on how far the academic/student hierarchy can go before it’s plain old bullying, and detrimental to a critical, but constructive workplace.

  101. Hey, I’ve decided to start my own blog about my experiences of being a Dyslexic PhD student entering into academia, and I’ve noticed how popular your blog is (for good reason!) and I was wondering if you had any tips on how to spread the word about my blog?

  102. I was recently talking to another PhD friend of mine, she like me is in her third and final year and we’re both hoping to submit in the next few months. I’ve been struggling lately with having the energy and drive to finish, even though I’m so close. The other thing that we both brought up in our recent PhD-vent-over-mojitos was that its not just PhD stuff that is causing us grief, but that every problem in our lives that comes up seems too difficult to overcome. The phrase we both used was that we had ‘no reserves.’

    I’ve spoken to other PhD-ers about this and they’ve had similar experiences, that by the end, you’ve got no emotional or mental reserves left to draw on and every little challenge in your ‘real’ life is overwhelming. I know that my (wonderful and supportive) partner has had to pick up a lot of slack because even deciding what to do about accidentally double-booking ourselves for a weekend is enough to make me fall apart.

    I would love to know your advice about dealing with this lack of emotional reserve and hear about other people’s experiences in coming out the other side.

  103. hi
    Before I started my PhD I was an academic/technical researcher for about 10 years. I hoped to bring a good deal of my experience into my PhD -including bouncing ideas of networks of practitioners and academics in my field. With this in mind, I put a “validation” phase into my project plan, where ideas from my data analysis were given accessible form (e.g. short narratives or pilot technologies). In this phase, I would ask practitioners and academics in my field, as well as my case study participants to interact with these artefacts. Their feedback would be incorporated into my final results. I wanted to do this to find accessible forms for my results, as well as to get feedback on how useful my ideas are to stakeholders (e.g. people who could use them outside academia).

    My supervisor (who is to be implicitly trusted here) says that this is not acceptable in a PhD -it risks contamination. I can do the phase with people involved in my case studies, but not external experts.

    Next week, I’m presenting early ideas to academics in the traditional conference format and I hope to get feedback on my ideas through papers, journal articles and blog posts throughout the next couple of years.

    Where is the line crossed between getting feedback and collaboration/contamination?

  104. What’s a good place to access research articles, journals, publications, etc if you are not part of a university network and cannot use their online library database?

  105. Hi Inger!

    Great fan of your blog! One question I have, is about the politics and etiquette of supervision. I have 2 supervisors, and my Principal Supervisor (PS) is very particular as to when I see my Associate Supervisor (AS). If I do have any spontaneous question for the supervisor, I wonder if I even have to ask my Principal’s permission. Obviously they have like a weighting in which I am technically supposed to see them, but this is more particular than that. But as a result I have barely seen my AS, and would have appreciated seeing them earlier on a few things here and there.

    What is the etiquette here? I am a PhD newbie, and as the my first year goes on, I have wondered if this is normal.

    Thank you.

  106. Can I vent here? I love your site and you always have such good insight into the emotional aspects of the world of academia. I’m a PhD student and academic and presented at an in-house conference last week where I had a hostile crowd to start with (one I wasn’t expecting) and two men were quite rude as well as being very hostile. One especially was quite happy to tell me (and my co-presenter – her very first presentation that I had to talk her into doing!) that we were wrong and what I was doing was wrong, etc. It seems the work we were presenting – as part of a team – was much more internally political than I had realised and I felt like I was set up and ambushed! I wasn’t – it wasn’t deliberate, but I had no idea people would be so rude and unsupportive – especially of my colleague who I had worked on for months to get her confidence up enough to even tackle a presentation. I found myself embarrassed, on the back foot, fumbling for words and of course that makes it worse – you look even less competent, you feel defensive, hurt, stupid, humiliated. Three days later I still start crying when I think about it, and feel like quitting academia all together. The “I’m stupid, can’t do it, people think I’m incompetent” tape starts to roll and looking at my PhD now, I feel even less able to tackle it. I’ve given lots of presentations before, but this has knocked me for six. The especially rude man is well know for this, and they were tackling me on a different issue than the one I was presenting (related in some ways, but not really what I was talking about.) So my presentation unraveled and now, so have I. What do I do? So sick of rude and aggressive men, and so sick of fighting feelings of inadequacy. I gave three other presentations that when down well – one bad one and I want to give up. Can’t get my confidence up. Thanks for listening. Good to get it off my chest at least.

    • I’m sorry to hear that – and glad to hear venting helped a bit. Unfortunately I’ve seen similar situations all too often. Petty turf wars and displays of ego are really the down side of academia. I wrote a piece a while back called ‘academic arrogance’ which has some advice for dealing with assholes if you need it – although it sounds like you are quite capable of handling it. I’ll write another post on the topic soon. In the meantime I try to remember the mantra from ‘absolutely fabulous’ – “in with anger; out with love”🙂

  107. Thanks so much for that – good timing, as the incident has really made me consider quitting. Not in a “screw you guys, you hurt my feelings” kind of way, more of a “is this really the sort of profession I want to belong to” way. Of course I have met many, many wonderful people in academia, but all the same – I had high expectations for the professionalism and regard for ideas an others work and learning I guess. But even the thought of quitting was useful – I don’t feel so “tethered” now I have actually considered it – one of the problems with tenure is you feel obliged to stay, even if you don’t want to. I’m not quite at “in with anger, out with love” yet, maybe “in with anger, out with thinking”. Bloody academics.😉 Thanks again. xo

  108. I am two years into my thesis and am trying to write my first paper. At first, I was excited to do this as I was proud of my work. Since starting my draft and sending some of it to my supervisor I have lost all enthusiasm. He has taken away any kind of ownership I feel towards the work. I write, he changes it completely and there is nothing left of my voice. Its like he already knows where he wants to take the paper so I just feel like I may as well not bother. The lazy part of me says, great let him write it, I’ll be first author anyway and he has tonnes of experience. The proud/hardworking part hates this and want to take responsibility for all the labs hours I spent getting data.
    I know I am being micromanaged, he used to make me a write weekly schedule of what I was doing and it took me ages to get him to agree to let me work at home instead of a cramped noisy office…but it doesn’t make it any easier.
    Any advice, gratefully received.

  109. Hi Inger – I really enjoy your site and get a lot from it. One thing though: every time I get to the end of a post I wonder where the link to the comments is – is there a particular reason it’s up the top instead of down the bottom? Just wondering!!

    • no, it’s just the theme I am using. I have chosen it for some features, but really need a custom theme which will do everything I want. Plan to spend proceeds from ebook on this when they arrive🙂

  110. Hi Inger – I will be commencing my accounting PhD in March and have been assigned to take some tutorials for first year accounting students. Now accounting 101 is boring (even for me as a PhD student), so I was wondering if you could direct me to a site or provide me with some tips on how to keep my students engaged? I am also aware that at the end of each semester students have the opportunity to provide anonymous feedback and of course, I would like to perform well in order to make a good impression on faculty members. Hence, any resources on teaching skills would be really valuable.

    • That’s a great question. I’m not sure of the answer it straight away … I find twitter the best place to find these kinds of things. I’ll ask there and see if anyone has ideas. Otherwise, the library will have a section on teaching techniques – I’ve found books on teaching very handy over the years. Your uni will probably have some kind of teaching quality unit who run workshops too.

  111. Here’s a link from Melbourne uni about how to start running tutorials if you are a beginner and they have other resources as well that might help. Most unis have these sorts of resources and most likely a unit or division that have help and “how to teach” materials available for sessional lecturers. There will be lots of books in the library and online on how to teach in higher education settings too. Teaching is often undervalued in faculties other than education, sadly, so kudos to you for caring! http://fbe.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/633130/First_Tutorial.pdf

  112. Thanks for directing me to where I can find information about teaching techniques. I am not that much older than the students, so I can recall vividly how bored I was in some of my lectures and tutorials. Hopefully, I will be able to create some interest by using real life examples from the few years that I worked in a Big 4 accounting firm.

  113. HELP! I love your blog, first of all, and hope someone here can help me – I need some examples on how to incorporate chi square and pearson’s r results into my results section (I am writing my master’s thesis on what types of tweets elicit the most engagement among stakeholders).

      • Mike, I am trying to figure out how to report them – the wording and format (I’m using SPSS to calculate). I have been considering using tables, but I also should include them in my results narrative – and I am at a loss on how to phrase them. I would be very grateful for any help!

  114. Hi,
    Most reports follow a format for reporting statistics. APA have there own particular format which seems to be the generally accepted norm in psychology. For chi squared it is: X2(Degrees of freedom, N = No.participants) = Chi-squared value, p = value. Once you know the order to report the stats in it really is just a case of ‘swapping out’ the values.

    I’ve found one link which explains how to report chi-squared in the results narrative and gives some examples :

    Reporting persons R is a little more straight forward. You just report: r = correlation value, p = your p value. for example, a significant positive correlation was found between exercise and health; r = .80, p < 0.05.

    I'm not sure if you know , but, with regards to P values if your test is significant you either report the p value as P <0.05 or P <0.01 (depending on if the value is less that 0.01). But if your test is not significant you report the actual P value., i.e p = 4.53.

    If you need help on how to structure your results section published articles are a good place to start, but there are some guidelines on how to do it. Bem (2003) wrote a good article one which you might want to read. You can access it free, here's a link:
    One of the best approaches to take is to re-state your hypothesis in turn followed by the results of the test that were carried out.
    I hope this helps (?). If something's unclear let me know.

  115. Yes you can use both, just use whichever one is appropriate.
    I forgot to mention that many researchers also refer to descriptive statistics when reporting their stats. For instance, one example from one of the links above is:

    “A chi-square test of independence was performed to examine the relation between religion and college interest. The relation between these variables was significant, X2 (2, N = 170) = 14.14, p <.01. Catholic teens were less likely to show an interest in attending college than were Protestant teens"

    In this example they could have stated the percentage differences between protestant and Catholics who attend college. This can be useful as it would indicate how big a difference there is in Catholics and Protestants attending college.

    Glad I could help🙂

  116. Hi,

    I’m really struggling to work through my masters amendments. I was given three months to complete and I have four weeks left to do so. I could right excuse after excuse as to why it has taken me so long to ‘start’ them: working a 40hour job, trying to make a professional performance, being 120miles away from the University, taking four weeks to organise a meeting with my lecturer, starting a new job, looking at the thesis haunts me with two years of things I really didn’t like in my life. Ha!. . . So I listed them🙂 I could not resist! I have roughly around 40hours now to complete them. Is this doable? Do you have any tips to approaching them? I have done minimal written work on them, but I have been embedded in a process which has provoked thoughts and conversations between colleagues and myself about the practice. So I don’t feel completely detached from it.

    • I’m not sure, but the easiest way is to draw up a table. Put the comments in one column, then the page number(s), then what you did about it. Remember – you don’t have to make every change suggested. If there’s a good reason to ignore a suggestion, write the reason in the ‘what I did column’. I’d suggest you look for as many of these as possible before making substantive changes. I’ll write a post – best of luck!

    • That did not post in the right place. Sorry! I meant that response to go to Jennifer regarding Post Doctorate Stress Disorder.

  117. Hi, I hope your well,

    I was wondering if you could give me some advice?

    Since starting my PhD (in the UK) I have come across various bits of advice about doing a PhD as a Mature Student, but I was wondering if you have any advice for Students who are at the other end of the spectrum – those that have come (more or less) straight from an undergraduate degree at a young age?

    There was only about 15 months between when I completed my Undergrad and became a PhD student. In between I got a Master which prepared me well for some parts of a PhD. For example, teaching me different types of research methods, all about validity and reliability and how to do a literature review. There are times, however, when I feel like 22 is quite young to be doing a PhD. Often this is after well meaning friends or colleges have pointed out my age. I think the problem stems from my limited ‘life experience’.

    ‘Life experience’ seems to be useful when it comes to things like; to asserting myself in the company of other academics, developing working relationships with my colleagues and supervisors, handing the unending amount of paper work, and setting agendas for meetings ect. Perhaps it could be said that these are the skills that are required to do a PhD which cannot be taught in the classroom.

    I have taken steps to help myself develop these skills, and I think that by the time I have finished I will be fine. I love my PhD. I have had no complaints, my supervisors have been very supportive and I can see that starting my career at a young age can be advantageous. But I wondered if you might have any advice, or even if you have come across students who have expressed a concern that they are too young to be doing a PhD?

    Perhaps I am just experiencing a form of imposter syndrome?

    Thank you for taking the time to read this,
    Mike Walton.

  118. My abstract was accepted for an international research convention. How do others decide how/if/when the cost of the convention is actually worth it? I am in the nursing field, and this oral presentation, 20 min. long, will be to an audience of about 300 international researchers. I’m curious to know how others have decided for/against such options. Thanks in advance from a novice!

  119. Hi there, the Victorian school holidays are approaching and I am keen to have a writing retreat. I would like to get in touch with other PhD students who may be interested in hiring a house somewhere peaceful and quiet to write with me. Do you know if there is a forum I could link in with? A facebook group? What is the best way to talk to other PhD students?

    • That’s a hard one… Perhaps start with your uni grad school or supervisor? I’m happy to put it on Facebook and twitter if you gave me some contact details. Have a look at sabbatical homes as well – might be a good potential venue there.

  120. Inger, Thanks for an inspiring presentation at Griffith Uni last night. Lots of food for thought. Keep up the good work!

  121. Hi Inger,
    I am a PhD student who is near completion (submitting by the end of the month). I have 3 Masters degrees (by examination –Eng Lit, by coursework TESOL, and by research Eng. Lit.) and now this PhD in Sociolinguistics. For mothers like me who need to find ways and times to study around family life, I have faced difficult times and mainly from departments who were not supportive and did not realize that many students had no background in research methodologies. At the beginning of my PhD, I was directed to a Miles and Huberman and thrown in the deep end! Later I was instructed to use discourse analysis, incorporate Foucault (as it is/was fashionable) and choose qualitative only (as opposed to mixed methods or quantative).

    I think it is vital that students who enter a PhD program should be forced to do a semester of research methodology before they embark on the journey. And most importantly, a researcher should interview his potential supervisors, do background checks on them, know their rights, and find a topic that interests them and sustains them for at least 3-5 years.

    A PhD culture in every university is vital, funding for students who are researching, designated rooms, and casual teaching that financially contributes to students wallets.

    I think that universities need to take a good, hard look at how they support PhD students.
    I am delighted to have come across, albeit a little late. But I would love to share the techniques of how my thesis was constructed/manufactured/developed and the ecstatic and heartbreaking highlights that feature in my journey.

  122. Dear Dr Inger,

    Thank you so much for dedicating your time to this incredible resource, first of all!

    As a Humanities PhD student entering his fourth year and thinking towards the future after completion (young family to support, mortgage, the usual worries), I was wondering if you have any advice about applying for Postdoc positions, and related options more generally. Specifically anything regarding the success rate of recent PhD graduates in the Humanities *actually* being accepted on one (or rather, what’s generally “required” to be even shortlisted for one? How can we position ourselves to be attractive on the market, for want of a better term?)

    I don’t know about the other PhDers from the Humanities reading, but I know that for myself “career trajectory” and options — basically, finding something that pays a half decent full time salary — is looming largely in my mind at this stage. I would love to stay in academia, as research and teaching are what I enjoy doing most and imagine myself doing, but at the same time have to be realistic.

    Being that my Department/subject niche is quite specialised, and I’d probably be looking at “interdisciplinary” type opportunities, I was wondering if you have any advice to share regarding that whole process.

    Many thanks!

    • Hi Dawood

      I wish I had better news about academia, but you are right to worry about your options. Only 36% of grads end up in academia and many of them are scientists. Post docs are available, but more scarce than they used to be. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, just difficult. I recommend you start reading the research whisperer if you don’t already. They are experts in the area of post docs / grants. There’s a couple of posts here on career, one called ‘how to get a job in academia when you finish’ (I think). That emphasises the importance of having a mix of experience. My advice was based on workplace data which showed the overwhelming majority of academics research and teach. Being able to teach basic subjects in a discipline is particularly important I think. That being said, if you are prepared to roll with a mix of part time and contract research and are prepared to be mobile you can build up a good profile. People like that, in my experience, are never out of work. With a family and responsibilities however, this can be very difficult. In that case broaden your idea about what being an academic might mean. There’s lots of opportunity (and more money!) in consulting or government for people with humanities PhDs. If that’s attractive, check out selloutyoursoul.com best of luck!

  123. I am an Australian post grad student wanting to get into a PhD program. My marks aren’t the problem, the issue is that despite having two Post Grad Diplomas and a Masters, I haven’t written a thesis. I have completed MANY research methodology units; I have been employed as a research assistant by one of the bluestone universities and carried out focus groups, interviews and wrote up the findings (have also written numerous research proposals) and I have been published in academic journals but because I haven’t written a thesis I cannot seem to get into a PhD program. Any advice?

    • Hi BK

      This is a well known problem – if that’s any consolation. There’s even been a study about it – so it’s being talked about at highest levels. There’s a recognition that many coursework Masters students are not given good advice about the importance of doing a minor thesis if they have any ambition to go further. I can’t give advice I am certain will work, but there are two things you can try. Locate a supportive potential supervisor who will help you negotiate the process. Then get yourself a lot of reference letters from people you have done work with to attest you can research reasonably independently to support your application. I hope this helps

      • As someone from the U.S. (now in Australia) I can also say that you may wish to complete a Ph.D. abroad. I have my Ph.D. from Cornell University and never had to complete a thesis prior to my dissertation. I also was accepted at the University of Toronto, Canada. Either of those countries are options for you if you are willing to go elsewhere.

  124. Hi Thesis Whisperer,
    Thanks for keeping me company – and keeping me laughing and productive – during my candidature.
    I know that I am now outside the target audience of this site, but I did want to raise an issue I am grappling with, and which I’m sure is also affecting PhD candidates.
    I know this is a bad time for universities – in Australia and elsewhere. I have now been part of two universities that have faced cuts and restructures, and have seen two wonderful interdisciplinary centres where I have worked or studied closed down. However, I am beginning to feel that the biggest challenge facing new graduates isn’t the reduction in employment opportunities, but rather the overwhelming academic culture of hopelessness, cynicism, fear, negativity, etc. in which people frequently suggest the futility of pursuing an academic career, and in which most people do not have the time/energy/willingness to provide advice and support to ECRs. It’s hard enough building an academic career without also having to overcome the seemingly universal doubt that such a thing is even possible anymore. What’s more, I’m increasingly seeing this mindset being adopted by my ECR peers.
    Are things really so bleak? And if not, why do people keep insisting that they are? For me at least, the talk is much more demoralising than the reality.
    I’d appreciate your insights!

  125. Hello Inger, your blog is brilliant. I’ve had a look but can’t find anything on developing theoretical & conceptual frameworks for a thesis on your blog. Do you have any tips? I’ve read exhaustively and other experts suggest by now it should have just ‘appeared’ to me. It’s freaking me out. Is there a magic recipe?

    • Thanks🙂 I’ve done one post called ‘theory anxiety’ which references a couple of other papers. It’s hard to write about this in a non disciplinary way, but I think there are some romantic notions about theory that need examining. Have a read of that one and do ask questions after it if you have some. Questions are where I get most ideas for new posts.

  126. Hello Dr. Mewburn,

    First of all – what a fantastic blog. I just discovered it a week ago and since then have basically been on a reading marathon. Lots of helpful advice and tips and I am sure they will be of a lot of help to me now that I am going to begin my PhD soon!

    That brings me to my question. I finished my masters a year ago and since then have been a researcher within a University Department. I have just moved continents and been accepted into a PhD program and have six free months before I start. I was wondering whether you had any advice to give people like me on how best to use the time before starting a PhD in order to be prepared for a PhD!

  127. Hi there
    I’ve finished my research and am writing up, but I had a question that I’ve often wondered that may help others.
    Given that a lot of people do research on a ‘standard population’ are you aware of a scheme where people take part in your research on the condition that you take part in theirs? I know a lot of researchers take part in other people’s research with the expectation that karma will bring participant our way.
    I think it could work quite well.
    Love your blog.

    • Thanks Joey – that’s certainly been my experience of academia too. I’ve noticed this extends into social media, for example – the good will towards research participation demonstrated on Twitter. I find any survey I send around gets lots of participation.

  128. On a similar note to Joey, does anyone know of a site (e.g. Dropbox or SkyDrive) where higher ed students can share resources they have? I rely very heavily on powerpoints and handouts from academics at my institution. Is there a collaborative online space where we can share all our stuff? That could be powerful helpful.

  129. Hi Inger,

    Do you know of any websites, resources that might allude to what are the up and coming areas of research (in health) – trying to get a feel for what might be a good area to start (focus) a PhD in. Whilst I would like to do something that interests me and I am passionate about, I am also conscious that I pick an area where gaps need filled and will that will be sustainable post PhD.


    • In my experience, all you can do is read, read, read. If you have access (through your uni, perhaps), start subscribing for journal table of contents in your field’s top journals. From my own experience, I can say that microbiome research is blowing up right now. If you have any interest in allergies, immunology, nutrition, and/or microbiology, that’s the place to be.

  130. Hi there,

    I tried to print an article to PDF (“Too Posh to promote?”) and twice succeeded in printing only gibberish. I think the print plug-in on the page is to blame – I have successfully printed to PDF from other websites in the past few minutes.

  131. Hello!

    I’m on a semi-distance learning PhD programme with a UK university. This blog is absolutely brilliant as I don’t have a community of fellow students I can physically plug myself into for most of the year.

    I was wondering if Thesis Whisperer would consider setting up an online message board? There’s a wealth of information available in the blog, and there are Twitter chats, but a message board might be a more structured and neater way of having everyone interact, ask questions and have longer discussions? It’d be a great boon to distant-learners like myself.

  132. Hi All,
    I was wondering if you have posted on getting motivated and sustaining motivation. I’m in my third year of study (submitting this Oct) and I’m interested to hear what others do to motivate themselves to stave off ‘thesis panic’ whilst in the thralls of write up and revision? I find these types of things quite inspiring and wonder if others might as well?…

  133. Hi there. I am currently reading your eBook and was wondering if you have dealt with anyone having to write up inconclusive results, particularly in engineering or science … I just did a quick search on the blog for the word “inconclusive” and nothing relevant came up.

    I am in desperate need for advice on this because I keep analyzing re-analyzing my data, and I keep realizing that collecting new data is not an option at this point in time. Simultaneously, if I write up these results as they are, there will be gaping holes, and I will be faced with questions I wouldn’t know how to answer like: if you know what factors confounded and complicated your results (and the interpretation thereof), why didn’t you redesign the experiment and/or try something else? The answer “I didn’t have enough time” probably doesn’t sound too great.

    What can someone do with really god-awful shitty results??? “In theory”, researchers should report inconclusive experiments, these should get published if their design makes sense, etc., but everyone knows that nobody does it. No one does. I’ve never seen it happen, ever.

    • Hey, I’m sorry to hear this. My PhD isn’t in the sciences, but from a lay person point of view, if you could predict good results all the time, it wouldn’t be an experiment, would it? If your methodology is reasonably fair, I don’t think you should be penalised. Or, at the very least, you should be given a chance to explain yourself. That explanation could be valuable to others and in itself be an original contribution to your field.

      Anyway, I threw in a couple of keywords into Google and found these links for you. I hope things work out!



      • Thank you, Ho Shu. Will take a look at those forum discussions. And thanks for your well-wishes. I hope so too. All the best to you as well.

    • Yes, I’ve heard about this a lot from scientists and it mystifies me. Supposedly science is as much about null results as positive results, yet as you say – no PhD student feels that it is ok to base a thesis on it. I’m afraid I can’t advise better than your supervisors and colleagues at this point.

      • Thank you. Yes, will have to see what my adviser thinks once the data are fully arranged in a way I can present to him.

    • Hi SF.
      I’m in my 3rd year PhD in Public Health and I had some ‘failed’ experiments (evaluations of health interventions) as well. Two out of my five. Had I had the time I would have re-designed and re-ran the evaluations, but I didn’t have time! The advice I received was- focus on what you have learned from the failures- in a robust scientific way- theories supported/not, potential methods that would have worked better (but may not have)– I think the important thing might be to demonstrate that you really know what you are talking about when prompted about what went wrong.

      I think the viva is about your examiners assessing that you are capable of being a research scientist, not necessarily about you creating the perfect study. They are assessing your ability to be a research scientist. And all scientists HAVE failed or inconclusive experiments. And some have simply run out of time, or had to use a slightly different design because they didn’t get all the funding they needed. Shit happens. So perhaps you can be honest- if you were doing it again you’d do x and y differently, you learned x,y,z because your experiments didn’t go to plan. That also shows you can reflect, and not stick your head in the sand about not proving a theory. Make that clear and focus on that- because PhDs are, in fact, time-limited. Also, if you haven’t chosen your examiners yet, try not to pick an arrogant prick who intends to pick you apart for his/her own gain!

      An encouraging book I recommend is called ‘Researching with Integrity’ by Bruce McFarlane. Reminds me that it is okay to try to be a decent scientist and human being- which sometimes means reporting inconclusive results.

      • Thank you, Rebecca. Will have to check out the book. Most of my committee are people who want to be helpful. So, hopefully, that helps … Will have to check out the book for future reference!

  134. Dear Thesis Whisperer

    I have been following your blog since I started my PhD two years ago. I find it very informative and often amusing, and regularly refer students who are considering embarking on and currently doing PhDs.

    I am currently writing up papers to be included in my PhD, which will be submitted by publication. This is a goal of many students in sciences, but also in other fields.

    During this process, the write up and interpretation of results is a challenging experience for the student whose task it is to be the primary driver of the paper. After sweating away working on the paper, the student then seeks feedback from various advisors.

    Many students have direct supervisors (both primary and associates) who provide guidance on the papers and are often are collaborators on a wider project from which the papers are produced. Then there are other project collaborators who are not supervisors and were involved in guidance on the paper. Then there are those who are not so necessary for the paper but have impacted the development of wider project in one way or another and thus deserve authorship.

    Obtaining timely feedback from multiple advisors for iterations of these papers is another challenging experience. I would think is also the case for getting things done in the traditional PhD by book method.

    Rather than emailing all the authors with a manuscript (or in other cases, sending a chapter or book) and a deadline, I have been advised that assigning particular tasks and deadlines to each of the authors that are involved in providing guidance on the papers may help: sort of specifying, rather than diffusing, individual responsibility.

    However, I think that these more individual requests could be just as easily left for later, lost, or forgotten as the simpler manuscript-deadline request, and that advisors that do provide feedback would gravitate to their areas of expertise anyway. Knowing the advisors’ areas of expertise helps the student to make decisions of how important particular bits of advice are.

    Additionally, advisors’ reading of the entire piece, rather than specific bits or areas, might be better for obtaining more useful feedback from more people. It might be easier for advisors to see what has been and where you are going with the piece, perhaps some richness of the piece is lost when reading only parts.

    Other than giving chocolate-flavoured rewards to advisors for providing feedback on work, do you have any other advice?

    Many thanks,

  135. Hi,
    Love your blog. It gives me an idea of what I’m in for after I complete my undergrad studies here in America.

    I am curious about the differences between American University and those abroad. It seems we’re doing it wrong.

    We do not let our undergraduates specialize as much as we should until they reach graduate level.

    For example: An undergraduate degree from a liberal arts college requires 3 years of liberal arts and science electives with only 33 s.h. of coursework in a specialized field. That seems odd. It seems we would want each student to be immersed in his/her subject.

    I’ve heard the UK immerses students at the undergraduate level.

    How are universities preparing students for graduate work in Australia and the UK?

  136. HI there,
    I just wanted to drop you a note and thank-you for giving me the impetus I needed to get my Phd finished and submitted. Having Australia and moved to the Middle East (both a blessing and a curse) , my department experienced a “reorganisation”. BAM no supervisory panel! The Thesis Whisperer became a life-line that seemed to throw out posts aimed just at me at exactly the right time. 🙂
    Well, thanks to to friends, new and old supervisory panels, family and the Thesis Whisperer I submitted two and half weeks ago! Hooray!! Miracles do happen!

  137. Hi there.
    I have just gone through my confirmation seminar..and what can tell you.. It was a disaster! My theoretical underpinning was deemed inoppropriate and my supervisors stood there helpless. What made it worse is that they agreed and now I have to rethik the whole thing. After three years of writing, submitting, editing, adjusting, and heavy toll on my family life, work, and social life I have to start again. I have to ask: how could my supervisors give up and surrender so easily on something they believed was viable for almost three years? If they had doubts why did not they direct me to rethinkj the theory? Do I have the right supervisors? Whay did not they consult this professor, who was at the seminar, early in the piece, considering he was an expert on informal employment and they were not? So many questions that need to be answered and I am terribly upset that all this work and enthusiasm have now fizzled away. It is hard enough doing a PhD while in a demanding fulltime job without having to deal with my senior supervisor who frequently cancels skype meeting (I am doing this offshore from Dubai) and in the three years I only met him no more than fibe times..
    I am petrofied of the idea of changing supervisors and the hassles involved (I read some the posts on TTW dealing with this). I am setiously thinking of dropping the whole thing. Could you advise me on RMIT policies of changing supevisors and what do you think my next course of action should be.
    I am supposed to meet my supervisors to re-evaluate. It has been more than two weeks since the confirmation seminar disaster and still they have not been able to come up with a time to meet me. This should give you an indication on the level of priority I have on their list. Please advise.

    • I’m sorry to hear this, but I don’t work at RMIT anymore so cannot help you directly. I suggest you read this page carefully http://www.rmit.edu.au/browse;ID=2zs2wl198wt31 and if you have any questions, ring the school of graduate research for more information. I have to tell you, I’ve not seen such cases resolved easily. A change of supervision team and extra time to complete sometimes the only solution that can be brokered. Remember there is an ombudsman who can take your case further if you are not happy with suggestions from your school. Best of luck.

  138. Hi Aussiechap. That sounds like a stuff up at your expense. I work at another uni and have sat on a lot of confirmation planels. It is up to your main supervisor to ensure that your theoretical basis is fine and then to ensure that the academics who sit in on your confirmation are in tune with that theoretical approach. As academic I know that we often differ greatly in your theoretical approaches to our work and our own thinking. Your approach may have been fine but ther wrong people where there on the day. Hang in there.

  139. I am glad you agree and I surprised that Inger was so reserved in her response. Thank you for your encourgement. Gary (Azziechap).

  140. I ‘dumped’ my supervisor during my confirmation meeting. It was a dramatic thing to do in retrospect but her disloyalty and inability to support my project suddenly became perfectly clear at that moment. I got a new supervisor who had an entirely different attitude towards my work. I moved on, and recently completed my PhD very successfully with no amendments requested from either examiner. My point is that this thing is your project, it is your commitment and your life. For your supervisor, good or bad, you are just one graduate project. For your university, you are – to be completely pragmatic – a valuable asset as a PhD candidate and you do hold the cards even if it so often doesn’t feel that way. Be brave and own your work and find the person who gets it.

    • Thank you Liz. I really appreciate that you shared your experience with me.
      This is exactly what I am intending to do. My supervisor is not only disorganised, unpunctual, disinterested, and disrespectful of appointments but also spineless. He sat there in the confirmation seminar saying nothing and eventually when it was time to give me the feedback he chose the criticising professors line and gave me the options that these two professors gave for me to change my theoretical basis of my thesis. I just could not believe that my main supervisor, a professor in the same field, could roll-over so quickly and without a fight and make it seem it was all my fault. Anyhow, thanks again

  141. Dear Thesis Whisperer. Is there an ‘international love your supervisor day?’ I propose a day for commemorating these over-worked individuals who help us solve our problems.

    • It saddens me to hear (read) that so many students have major problems with their supervisors. I have the most wonderful supervisors who perfectly walk the fine line of support combined with tough love. Everyday for me is ‘Love Your Supervisor Day’ – I couldn’t ask for better. I genuinely hope that those who aren’t as fortunate with their supervisory arrangements as I have been find a solution to their problem soon – this PhD business is hard enough without having to deal with this, too.

  142. Pingback: Surviving the reading marathon | The Thesis Whisperer

  143. Dear Inger (or anyone with experience in this matter,)

    I was wondering if you have any advice on doing a PhD with either a chronic illness or learning disability, particularly if that affliction isn’t noticeable and you look otherwise “healthy” and “normal,” for example, dyslexia?

    There’s much advice on specific ways to cope with each condition, but far less on how to manage expectations and relationships. How should these be negotiated between the student and advisor/supervisor? What’s the fairest way forward for all parties involved?

    Seeing the student disabilities office is a must, but I thought I’d seek your advice as well.


  144. Hi
    I too have a chronic illness. I had known my supervisor prior and he has been great and very understanding. I don’t really have advice re the relationship sorry.
    I do however suggest balancing working at home and in the office if that is an option. I tried both and one was isolating and the other exhausting so alternating worked well.
    Best of luck.

  145. Thanks Joey. I let my supervisor know when I first started but I sort of glossed over it because I wasn’t sure how much detail to go into and he didn’t ask further questions. As the pace picks up I think I’ll need to have that conversation again with him. I guess I’m just wondering how I should bring it up and what exactly should we be talking about, and how. But thanks for sharing your experience. I wish you well too!

  146. Hi. I’ve recently read the post about “Why should I do a PHD?” I’d also be interested in a post about why people may choose or not choose to do a Masters by Research? This is something I’m thinking about at the moment.

    I’ve thought about doing a PHD but I’m thinking a Masters may be a more realistic option at this point.

    Due to family commitments, I would have to do the study part time. A Masters seems less daunting than a PHD in a time sense.

    I’d also need to rely on family for support if I were to do this kind of study. I’ve got a supportive husband but I’ve had strong negative reactions from my family and some friends about the idea of me doing a PHD – due to the time commitment a PHD would take, that it would take time away from “other things” (i.e. family life) and that I would be “overqualified”. This doesn’t put me off the PHD or research idea but I’d rather not have to be battling these perceptions all the way through.

    I think it ultimately comes down to what I want to get out of the research experience. I don’t want to pursue an academic career – which a PHD would be a pre-requisite for. Instead, I’d hope that doing a Masters would help boost my employability in my career area (public health) by teaching me more about research and enabling me to become more of a content expert in my particular field. Would this be a realistic aim from doing a Masters ? suppose I could always just enrol in a Masters degree and see how I go from there.

    Thanks for your blog. I think it’s great!

  147. Is there a disease where the symptoms are staring at the computer screen for hours and you just couldn’t write any stuff related to your research? Is there such a thing as reaching a point of saturation?

    Please kindly prescribe the antidote. The patient needs it badly…

  148. Yes, yes there is. Move away from the computer. Away. Right away. Breathe (in and out is good), have a cuppa and relax.

    There are as many antidotes for this problem as there are people who are staring at the computer🙂 I can let you know a couple that worked really well for me at different times during the long, long process of my thesis writing.

    1. Find a study buddy. Writing is a very isolating thing and humans are very social animals. Meeting up with someone, somewhere, armed with computers to do say two hours of solid writing can really help snap you out of a rough patch. You need to adhere to very strict rules about not chatting, but you also need to reward yourself for the two hours of writing. Having someone there encourages you to prepare for the two hours, keeps you honest for the two hours and gives you a sense of achievement as well as someone to grizzle to.

    2. Break down your writing times into small chunks. Pomodoro is an interesting way to approach your writing and certainly helped me feel like I was achieving rather than getting nowhere.

    3. Talk to people. I was very isolated for the last 15 months of my writing (living in a new country, with a very different culture) and it wasn’t until I went back to submit that I realised how important bouncing ideas off other people in the same situation was. The Thesis Whisperer was something that made a big difference to the way I approached thinking about and writing my dissertation, but is still no substitute for one on one conversation with a peer.

  149. I love those tips- thank you. I really want a study buddy, but living on the Mornington Peninsula, nobody seems to need a study buddy as much asI do!

  150. Hello TW. I discovered your blog not so long ago, and I am mesmerized by the huge amount of helpful tips and advice you’ve provided along the years. I didn’t get the chance to read everything yet, but I hope to do so some time -I don’t want to miss out any helpful advice.
    I have a pretty basic citation-related question, and I hope that you’ll have the patience to help me out.
    When writing an academic article/thesis, what exactly is worthy of being cited? Should I limit myself to an article’s findings – which are generally theory-based and then empirically tested, and thus worthy of citation -, or can I also cite bits from an article’s introduction, which are usually general statements by the author, or patterns he identified through his literature review?
    I hope that my question makes sens to you. Thank you in advance.

  151. I have a question on supervisors that I can’t immediately find an answer to in the supervisor archives:
    I’ve started to notice that quoting your supervisor in your thesis can sometimes be seen as ‘suck-up’ behaviour, as though it isn’t necessary and you could have made that point some other way.
    My supervisor is very highly regarded, and has written a huge amount of stuff that I find both fascinating and highly relevant to my topic – that’s why I picked him! I suspect I won’t be citing him just a few times – I’ll probably cite him a LOT! Do you have any advice on this? I don’t want my supervisor to think I’m citing him too much, and I don’t want my secondary supervisor to be offended when he doesn’t appear in my drafts (he’s much more external to my field)..

  152. I wondered if there was some advice around for dealing with a supervisor who was going too easy on you? My supervisor has a number of students and from what she has said, I’m “easier” to supervise than the others because I’m more independent, can write better and spend lots of time reading advice on websites like this so don’t need as much help. Everything I hand in is “great”, “wonderful” etc which is okay but of course I know it could be a lot better and I really want constructive feedback – I don’t need affirmation. I’m feeling a bit neglected because I already have the basic academic skills in place, but I want my PhD to be the best it can be and to be stretched and challenged. I’m pretty happy to talk honestly with people but I’m not at all sure how to broach this one.

  153. Hi—

    I am currently preparing my proposal and my supervisor advised me to check on available (existing) instruments suitable for my research topic. I have been browsing in database or e journals and no luck in finding even one. Does anyone here have a suggestion where to look? I tried to email the author of two articles–well hopefully , I would be able to receive a reply.

  154. I gleefully clicked on the link to writer-friendly cafes as I am writing up and a distance and I get quite lonely in my home office. What a great resource. I am relatively new to Melbourne and am looking for cafes in the southern part of the city. Criteria include: doesn’t play loud music, isn’t packed with mums and babies, serves decent coffee and soy chai lattes and is perhaps frequented by other writerly or scholarly types.
    Thoughts anyone?
    I am also keen to meet up with people for shut up and write sessions in the south if anyone is interested.

  155. your posts are always very interesting and encouraging. I was wondering whether you could share your ‘research strategies’ i.e. how do you cope with the sheer amount of information that is how do you organise and keep track of and notes on books and papers you have read, your own thoughts, books to read, relevant books for projects you are currently working on etc. in a way that you can find these notes again (even after a couple of years).
    Even though I am using tags and literature programmes (zotero, citavi etc) I am still struggling with organising all this information in a meaningful manner and have often lost data because of my own mess. So I was just wondering how you deal with this and organise your data and information.
    Thank you

  156. Hi there, I am considering delivering my thesis as an ebook and have been looking into iBook Author as a possibility. I am working with a lot of audio and video content – so it works well for me in that way. I wondered if you knew of any people who have gone down this path, and any problems they have encountered?

  157. It will close in 2 days but any Melbourne readers interested in drawing meaning/narrative/content from material objects and design should visit ACMI/Victoria And Albert Museum exhibition on film costumein Fed Square Melbourne – you don’t need to be interested in the subject or want to learn about it – what is fascinating is how the curators have drawn a number of sense making and communication options from the objects – including discussion about symbolism, acting practice, design practice, collaboration and teamwork, nostalgia, changing taste – as well as the straight empirical one of putting the precious object on a stand and inviting admiration. Another aspect of the exhibition that will be of crucial interest to anyone seeking to present and communicating research information and research narrative in unusual and innovative ways – is the myriads of communication processes seen in this exhibition – which encompasses straight narratives, implied narratives, enigmatic narratives, formal narratives, playful narratives, direct first person narratives, conversations, visual styling – and the methodologies involve a number different channels – text, visuals, moving images,3-d display, digital technologies, sound … The exhibition offers vivid and practical instruction about the varieties and potentials of narrative – and certainly the exegesis and perhaps even straighter theses is about being adept in narrative

  158. Thesis Whisperer

    I was wondering whether something has been posted on the topic ‘how do you know when you should put in your notice of intention to submit your PhD thesis?’.

    Notice needs to be received three months prior to submission. A lot can happen in three months; for example, you might be waiting on reviews and decisions back on papers you have submitted, you get a tough review or a decision back that then impacts the thesis, and a paper from other researchers is published that impacts novelty or requires reframing of your topic in some way.

    What advice is out there on what to consider prior to handing in your notice?


  159. Thesis Whisperer,
    You may want to consider checking out this new blog by a colleague of mine. She is the mother of three very young children and just began her doctoral program in Counseling Psychology. Thank you for your insightful blog. –A. Poklar

  160. Dear Thesis Whisperer (and community)

    I am in trouble. I decided, for the first time in my academic career, to do qualitative research for my PhD. I am pretty much an orderly positivist by nature so this is all very, very foreign to me. My current problem I’d love advice on is this: I am just starting to dip my toes into the possible methods and theoretical frameworks available to me to approach my research question and data with. My supervisor says I should just go ahead and start my interviews (data collection) and then see what emerges, which will tell me how to approach the analysis and what theoretical framework fits.

    This goes completely against what I feel comfortable with. Others have advised me to get my head around my theoretical approach and method first, and then I will know that the data I am collecting is relevant to answer my question. I realise it’s a back-and-forth process to some extent but I am paralysed, now, with where to begin. I feel completely ill-prepared to start collecting – and analysing – data but I also tend to err on the side of being too ordered and structured and reading everything I need to read before I risk putting it out there.

    Any advice would be so appreciated!

    • Debbie….I am about half way through my thesis and am doing qualitative research. Yep just go out and ask the questions …record the interviews and see what themes emerge. Don’t get hung up on thinking you need to know how it is all going to turn out…..otherwise you would not need to be doing a phd. When I started I had a very rigid formal idea of what a phd needed to look like but quickly changed when I changed supervisors…I am doing an auto ethnography and am using my own journal entires from my time working overseas. You may need to challenge your orderly positivist ideas if you are doing qual as you need to sit back and wait and see what comes out of your interviews….hope this helps……you have probably read some of the chapters in the Handbook of Qualitative Research….it has some great examples of qualitative research. Good luck.

      • Thanks so much for your response, Nerissa. I understand that I am going to be very challenged to be more open and flexible at each stage of this process than I’ve had to be in past research dissertations. I am just uncertain about starting my data collection without having at least a broad idea of and clarity on the theoretical framework that informs both my research question and my interview questions – as well as how I approach the analysis of the data.

        I am not looking to generate theory through analysis (e.g. grounded theory) but am looking at how discourse is spoken into policy. Because I am so new to discourse at all (both theory and method), I thought (think) I should get my head around that a bit first, before going out and collecting data. I just don’t know if that is the ‘wrong’ way to do qualitative research!

  161. Hi Debbie, I am also doing a thesis by qualitative research. Like the others, I suggest you just go out and collect the data. It si the best way to retain your voice throughout the thesis. Have you considered the possibility that by worrying about theoretical frameworks you might be engaging in a sophisticated form of procrastination? Just a thought. If you are really stuck and can’t seem to move on, why don’t you permit yourself to spend 2 weeks working up an early draft of your theory chapter. At the same time you can start the recruitment process. Have you done all your ethics applications etc? These things all take time so in reality you can probably do your preparation for the interviews AND bone up on some theory! Win-win!

    • Hi Ophelia, Thanks so much for your reply. And yes, you’re probably right that at least some of this is a form of procrastination (I’m not sure how sophisticated!). All the ethics is through. I guess I’m just worried that by starting data collection without proper clarity, I will be asking the wrong questions. But I like your idea of giving myself a deadline for beginning work on a theory chapter and setting up interviews simultaneously. Thanks!

  162. Hey,

    Has anyone “cleared the decks” and changed their research mid-way through their PhD. I’m about 9 months in and gunning for the MPhil-PhD upgrade (as is typically the case in the UK). I’m in the midst of getting my ducks in the row but I don’t feel comfortable with the scope of my research question. I feel it’s too broad, even though my supervisor has OK-ed it. The thing that bothers me the most is although I’m broadly using a case study methodology, my data analysis and collection will require several different methods on different topics. Knowing the limits of my abilities, I really want to simply and streamline my approach.

    I’m now thinking of just focusing on one of my sub-research questions and redesigning my project with greater clarity. I won’t say all the work I’ve done so far is wasted, but a fair amount will now be irrelevant too. I’ll be a few steps back.

    Has anyone gone through something similar? I’m going to email my supervisor and I’m sort of dreading it because I just gave him a schedule of how I was gonna work up to the upgrade in Feb next year, which isn’t workable any more!

  163. Hi inger,

    I met you at CDU last week. I was talkin to you about research papers about use of FB that I had written and was looking to publish. You suggested a possible journal to submit to. Can you remember which one? I’ve completely lost the name😦

    Any help gratefully received.


  164. I like the helpful info you supply in your articles. I’ll bookmark your weblog and check once
    more right here frequently. I am rather certain I’ll learn plenty of
    new stuff proper here! Best of luck for the following!

  165. Hi Inger,

    I’m really enjoying making my way through all the wonderful posts and articles and information you have on this site. I discovered your Thesis Whisperer blog while I was researching student motivation and self-determination in blogging research, dissertations, theses, PhDs etc. and the ways in which the experience of academic blogging can assist students in their projects. I’m really glad I discovered your site as it has prompted me to create my own blog concerning educational research and general education topics. I’m making my way through your posts on academic blogging for beginners, which is proving to be a big help. Thanks!

  166. Hello,
    I am a masters in library and information science candidate–I am a baby grad student. In any case, I haven’t given much thought to pursuing my PhD, but I found your website on a thesis format search. I must say that this is the best blog I’ve found pertaining to academic writing and culture. Thank you!

    University of Illinois- U.S.
    Graduate School of Library and Information Science

  167. Hi there,

    I recently came across your blog and was wondering if there were any sponsored post opportunities available? I represent a number of education clients who are looking to sponsor posts with a contextual link in, either in the text itself or in a disclosure at the end.

    Let me know if that’s something you’d be interested in, or if you have any similar alternatives and we can discuss further and make arrangements.



  168. Enjoyed this thoroughly!
    I have 3 weeks and counting to complete my Masters thesis and I am only a 3rd of the way. My problem is more time and “getting it done” really. I know what I have to do, and I am passionate about the topic (also pursue it for a living). However I just cannot focus on it due to a demanding 24/7 career and general exhaustion from it. I have done one previously, managed to complete it from start to finish in 3 weeks. Although I had the luxury of being able to resign at my then clerical job and focus on this 24/7. Any practical tips to the hopeful yet damned?

  169. Inger, I’ve just done a quick search of the archives and I don’t think there are any posts about preparing for vivas. I’d love to hear your advice for that (I just got confirmation of my viva date today!) and also any thoughts about the viva itself. Thanks so much.

  170. I submitted my dissertation in April after a very successful pre-submission presentation and final rewrites. Today I received the examiners reports and the rather jolting news that I have to revise and resubmit for re-examination – I have 12 months. The very frustrating thing is that the main reason given by two of the three examiners was originally part of my dissertation (probably not quite as well as it could have been) and I was told to remove it. The last 12 months of my candidature was a nightmare (my entire panel left the university and most of my new panel did not look at the majority of my work until a month before submission) and I’m I’m pretty upset that everyone seemed to miss what now seems obvious. I had tried to argue for inclusion and I was worried about it, but was told it was too distracting in the dissertation.

    The upside is that it will be a pretty fabulous dissertation by the end of it, but I’m not quite at that point yet. Any helpful hints on how to actually get on with it?

    • I probably need to write a post on this one, but sounds like an irritating and unfortunately commonplace problem of poor management of the exam process by your supervisors. Not much you can do except try to keep yr spirits up. Remember, just because you have a year, doesn’t mean you have to take that long. If you’ve been contemplating the move anyway, that preliminary work should speed up process. Best wishes.

  171. Hello TW! Love the blog. Could you perhaps do a post on keeping track of fieldwork (interview) contacts? I am in the early stages of making contacts with potential interviewees and would love to hear how others doing semi-structured interviews & focus groups keep track of potential (and then hopefully confirmed) participants.
    I use an excel sheet now but it is quickly becoming unwieldy and doesn’t do useful things like remind me to follow up with someone next week when they’re back in the office.
    Any suggestions?

    • kimctzee – one of my postgrad students who has completed successfully and got her letter of congratulations a few days ago had some very long and intense interviews which were data rich and SHE swore by Nvivo as allowing you to collate and assimilate data rich qualitative research sources

  172. Hi there, I love your work, it makes me feel normal!! I’m getting married in a few months, which will be my 2 year mark of my PhD. I wonder if anyone else has gotten married during their PhD and has any advice they’d be willing to give?

    • Congrats Chris!

      I suppose it’d be best to block out at least a few weeks before and after you get married so that you can focus on that alone. If you plan well, I do not think a full month off is unreasonable.

      Second, if you guys aren’t already living together, you probably would like to have a talk about your PhD work habits which may impact a couple living together. For example, getting into the “zone” and really not wanting to do anything for a few hours, thus abandoning your partner. Or writing late into the night and not going to bed anymore because you somehow got inspired to write at 10pm while reading something before bed. It sounds small but if your partner doesn’t understand that a PhD isn’t a 9-5 job, and small things like this could happen, they may add up to big trouble.

      My biggest challenge is that the PhD is all consuming and I can’t really switch it off as and when I fancy. That’s something which I’ve had to reconcile with my marriage (and others have expressed something similar too). Not to be discounted!

      A friend told me she’s worked on a corporate project for 20 months and is going crazy. And I thought about my PhD. A PhD is more like 36 months of work, without direct guidance from a client! It’s mucking about in the unknown (the whole point of it, right?)!

    • Congratulations Chris. I got married during my PhD. I had a low-key wedding and a nice month-long honeymoon. I am not a fan of big fancy weddings anyway but having a low-key and relatively inexpensive wedding wedding really minimised the unpleasant, stressful and time-costly aspects of getting married – a good thing to think about when you are doing something very important like a PhD. The honeymoon was fantastic for a change of scenery and a real break. Fpr me getting married was a change in our relationship, even though we had been living together for years. Nothing specific, just a sense of having a ‘marriage’ to maintain if that makes sense. But that can be a good thing. Like HSH I think that it is important to get your partner onto your team. Despite ( and perhaps because) my husband having done a PhD he is very unsympathetic about my preferred work habits and is continually trying to force me into a 9-5 work mould. I try to do this but with only some success. Being in a relationship means I have to consider the other person and can’t necessarily act on my inspiration to jump back onto the computer at 10.00. The benefit of this is that it keeps me in relatively good work / sleep habits, the downside is that it is quite constraining at times. Based on my brief forays into research into gender differences in the amount and types of relationship work people do, I would say that for women the relationship work they do in marriage is less compatible with focusing on a PhD and for men, it is more compatible. In other words, for women especially, being/ getting married while doing a PhD is a distraction while for men marriage will be a source of support. I am so glad I married my darling husband and he is a wonderful person but I did want to point out that it can have some unexpected effects – good and bad.

      • I got married during my PhD and it took up a lot of time an energy. The best thing I did was organise it within three months so that the planning process didn’t go on for ages. Just be prepared that pretty much all of the responsibility will fall on the woman’s shoulders, but my husband and I tried to share the responsibility as well. In the end we had a really low key wedding at my parents house which was great, but a lot of set up and clean up afterwards. It’s important to enjoy the wedding and the planning, because it can be fun, but at the same time don’t lose sight of your goals with your research. I did a conference paper the week after the wedding and had my annual review two weeks before – probably don’t do that…

  173. I really like your blog, and wonder if you’d be willing to address a more complicated aspect of the advisor / advisee relationship. I’ve read articles here and elsewhere talking about how to ‘divorce’ an advisor when the relationship is not working out. I have yet to find an article that addresses the question, “Is it okay to divorce my advisor when I am a graduate student on an assistanceship?” For me this question is mostly, at this point, ‘academic.’ I was accepted into a Masters program on an assistanceship that paid for all of my coursework, and gave me a basic living stipend. College is not inexpensive, so in signing on with my advisor I felt as though I was signing up with the military: I was committed to seeing my program, and project, through to the end. In retrospect I should have chosen my advisor more carefully, or pulled out of the relationship early on when I began to have second thoughts. I didn’t quit, but within a year and a half I was only continuing on because I felt that I had to. My relationship with my advisor was extremely difficult, and I had begun to see the project he had hired me on to (an ongoing study, inherited from a student of his that had graduated) as an inherently flawed waste of time and money. I preservered through my coursework and research, and though I never felt happy under my advisor, I managed to maintain a civil relationship with him. We mutually agreed on a date at which my assistanceship funding would end, and since then I have been working remotely on my data analysis and writing. I am so near the end of my project now that it seems pointless not to see it through to the finish, but in retrospect I feel as though I have not gained much of value from my graduate school experience. Surely there are plenty of other graduate students who are in similar situations, but are still in the early stages of their degree programs. I am curious to know what advice you would give to them.

    • Thanks – I’ll definitely follow up when I’ve had time to think about it more carefully. Sounds like a complicated situation and similar in many respects to some of the comments on the post ‘should you quite your PhD?’. Thanks for writing in🙂

  174. Hi Chris
    I too got married during my PhD.
    I would recommend making lots of notes between then and now about what you need to do when you get back, just writing anything down so you don’t start to worry that on your return, you will have forgotten where you were up to.
    If you have a plan for your final year, hopefully you will feel like you will return to normality afterwards and be able to relax and enjoy the whole wedding experience.
    I hope you enjoy every minute of it.

  175. That’s great that you are getting married……relax and enjoy it…forget about your PhD for at least a month. If your partner is supportive of your research and the time that you need to spend on it then that is great. Most people don’t understand the commitment that needs to be made in order to complete a thesis….unless they are doing one themselves. My husband is very supportive and keeps cheering me
    on when I slack off….but he does keep suggesting lunches out and drives when I really should be writing….most of the time I go with him…he’s more important than my thesis….and I love a lunch out…and I’m very easily distracted.
    The divorce rate for couples where the women is doing a phd and the husband is in a lower status job are staggeringly high……something like 70%…my supervisor told me this but not sure where she got that from. If the male is doing a PhD and the women is working then the divorce rate is much lower. Perhaps this says something about men feeling threatened by their partners educational aspirations.

      • I have never made a formal study but I have over 2 decades noticed that most female mature age students who were married when they started an undergraduate degree usually found their marriage crumbling before they graduate – it was scarily consistent
        one had to ensure comments from her soon to be ex about her rushing around with male students half her age – accusations that were both untrue and obnoxious
        generally commitment to tertiary study is resented and in some cases it is the student who grows socially and intellectually and finds that they no longer feel in the same place where the partner wants them to be

        then roughly looking back on my postgraduates -I can summon up a variety of responses – not so consistently depressing – some couples do PG work sequentially – one keeping the household and income stream going whilst the other studies and then vice versa – some couples are doing postgrad at the same time

        Inger I could happily extend my comments off line

  176. Dear anonymous….I “divorced” my PhD supervisor about 18 months into my thesis. He was not really interested in what I was doing and to be honest he really didn’t have a lot to offer. He had not long finished his own PhD and was not a natural teacher or sharer of ideas. He was very angry when I told him I had approached another much more experienced person with heaps of publications….I didn’t say this of course as I told him my new supervisor worked more in the area of my research. My old supervisor still feels rejected and is still angry….even after three years! I have to see him nearly every day as we work together in the same faculty at the same uni. If you are not getting the support that you need and are not being challenged by you supervisor …and you know somebody more appropriate then go for it…..having funding for your study complicates things though. I guess that you will decide to do what suites your situation. So sad that the important role of advisor/supervisor can be made so difficult by an inappropriate person. Good luck.

  177. Hi,
    I just wondered if anyone has any tips on dealing with ‘tall poppy syndrome’? I often find that when I meet people I tell them I’m doing a research degree because once I say PHD they kind of go ‘oh you’re that kind of person’. I know a lot of other PHD student’s who feel they must discredit themselves or their work to avoid being criticised for getting too ‘big for their boots’ (that’s a terrible cliche but I can’t think of a better way of saying it).

    • I see it as part of the package. I find a better way to think of the issue is ‘finding common ground’ between you and the person you are talking to. If you suspect they won’t be able to relate to you doing a PhD find something else to talk about. There are probably many aspects of their lives that you won’t be able to relate to either, and perhaps they are withholding that information for ease of conversation too. I usually say, “I am a student”, “student researcher”, or “I work at the uni”. In my experience, only family and other PhD students care about whether someone is doing a PhD. Once it is finished and you get a job at uni or a research institute absolutely no-one will care because your family will be sick of it and your co-workers all have a PhD too.😉

  178. Hello,
    I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your workshop at UNSW yesterday – I am just starting my PhD and found the session on note taking really useful, so thank you. I came straight home and downloaded Papers2 – you should sort out that referral commission!

  179. Thanks for such an informative and friendly site Inger. TheThesisWhisperer (i.e. you and your blog writers) function as a crucial member of my advisory team. I have a question that your readers might be able to answer. I need to create a map of Australia showing locations of my participants. This will be included within the results section of my thesis. The suggestion is that I do this with GIS(?) What software have others used to create maps? Features that count to me include being user friendly, free (if possible), able to be imported into Word processing software. I need some flexibility with icons to show numbers of participants at each site. My participants are mostly located in rural and remote areas and they provide services to very large regions – it would be good to be able to show those regions on the map also. I have used Google maps to create a draft but wasn’t that excited about the result and couldn’t show a region- only the specific location of each participant.

  180. Hi Inger, I am currently experiencing a problem which I don’t think has been addressed yet (or at least I can’t see a relevant post after doing a search): that of co-writing. Going into it optimistic, I’m now frustrated and just want this paper to be finished (to the point of disregarding quality) because of difficulty of working with my co-author. Do you have any tips? Is it worth sacrificing a paper if it lets me concentrate on a new paper and preserve my sanity? Appreciate your thoughts!

  181. I have just started a PhD and am approaching the task of gathering articles, reading them, and taking notes. I have downloaded Qiqqa which has a good tagging system, allows me to put in comments and also has a BibTEX ‘sniffer’. But its not a system that you or any of your fellow bloggers seem to recommend and I don’t want to get six months in and have to move everything across to something else. I am confused by the range of software tools out there and what their different benefits/aims are (what is Evernote and is it different from Endnote ?). Long question, but I am wondering how to best unravel what system/s will be best in the long run.

  182. kimctzee – one of my postgrad students who has completed successfully and got her letter of congratulations a few days ago had some very long and intense interviews which were data rich and SHE swore by Nvivo as allowing you to collate and assimilate data rich qualitative research sources

  183. Dear Thesiswhisperer
    I’m plugging through the final year of a PhD that is qualitative – I aimed for a “proper” ethnographic approach to media, but had some stumbles with my intended research site; it’s now more of an interview-based project with just a sprinkling of participant-observation. My struggle as I write through the methodology chapter (though this will haunt me throughout) is this: how much do I disclose in the interests of transparency without looking overly apologetic and (ulp!) amateurish? The story goes, “I intended to do ___; but then ____; therefore, I am giving you ____.” I think the data stands, and I’m happy to dig into the analysis. But I feel I need to get over the hurdle of how I designed the project versus what happened. I’m sure this happens to plenty of scholars – how do they account for it in their writing, specifically in the writing of the thesis?
    Many thanks.

  184. I’m loving this blog. Being a big fan of social media and “teh internets”, I can’t believe I’d never looked for support for PhD students before. It’s super comforting to read all these articles. Most of them are super relevant and make me feel a bit more human for struggling!

  185. PLEASE help! You posted a while back about software that can track what you do as you work on the computer and how you spend your time (social networking, emails, writing, etc). Please can you send me the link for this? Thanks so much!

  186. hey thesis whisperer really liked your site…you are really doing a great job…right now m suffering from this situation of not been able to complete my phd ever…i just got married 2 months ago and m living away from my husband…hes in US and m studying here in India..i feel so bad and depressed most of the times ..feels like my phd is a never ending process ..though just a but of my experimental work is left and its hardly a matter of a year for me to complete it..but m not able to do there is loss of self confidence and i feel like m not enjoying the best days of my life…please help how to come out of this thinking should i quit my phd ??

    • It sounds like a break is justified – a PhD is not worth your health and most universities have mechanisms to suspend candidature. I would suggest you look into what you can do. At the very least it can give you time to make a decision without feeling so stressed about it… best of luck🙂

  187. What merits inclusion of a supervisor as co-author on a Social Science journal article? If the PhD student has done all planning, fieldwork and writing on their own, the work is their own, and the supervisors have not been directly involved, is the student still ‘obliged’ to include the supervisors on the paper? I don’t, in theory, have a problem with this, but if I wish to use that paper (albeit in a slightly altered form) in my thesis, would having it out there as ‘co-authored’ be a negative? Would my work (and the extent to which it is ‘my’ work) be questioned?

    • a quick answer to that is ‘no’. There are clear authorship guidelines in place in most universities and clearly the supervisor does not qualify. Easy question to answer, harder to implement. Some supervisors really see it as their right to be added, regardless of contribution. Approach with caution and explain your position – it’s legitimate. Good luck + Let us know how you go!

  188. I really love this blog to bits and I find it very useful and informative and it’s ticking most of the boxes as I have just started my PhD. My question is about a colleague who developed a PhD proposal based on a topic that was advertised by one of the universities (with a bit of background and suggested research questions). He was short-listed for an interview but wasn’t successful. Now my colleague has used his proposal (with a similar topic) to another university who have offered him a place of study in the 2014 academic year. He is rather in quandary as to whether the “topic” belongs to the university or there’s nothing wrong as the research is likely to take another angle anyway. He is also worried that should he get consent from the university/department that advertised it first?

    • Hmmm, that’s walking pretty close to the edge of the plagiarism cliff… I think your colleague should make sure his proposal is sufficiently different from that original one or they may well find themselves accussed of research misconduct down the track.

      • Thank you so much for your advice. Of course he says that he has come up with different research questions and developed the rest of the proposal with a fresh direction, though still informed by the knowledge of the advertised topic. So at this stage (or probably soon after starting in September), is alerting the other Uni that adverised it an option or not, in case of possible collaboration in the future, as others have suggested?

        Thanks again

  189. I have two thoughts about this. On one hand I would have thought that your friend shouldn’t worry. One university chose not to take him on as a student and another university accepted him. No-one ‘owns’ a research topic ( in theory anyway, although of course people can get rather irrational and unhelpful if they think someone is encroaching on ‘their’ territory). So long as your friend developed the research proposal himself I can’t see any problem. On the other hand there is a potential opportunity for collaboration so it might be wise down the track to get in touch with the first university, after consulting with his supervisors as to the best way to go about this.

  190. Hi,

    Do you have any suggestions of tools/websites to host journal clubs? I’d like to get one going online here in my workplace and also with my collaborators abroad.

    ps: your comments box could be closer to the top of the page🙂 or there could be a link from there.

  191. Hi

    Teaching fellowships have recently become available at my university and I am wondering about applying. I spoke to my supervisor about this and their only concern was that, generally speaking, they slow PhD progress down. Do you think this is true? I already work outside of the university about 14 hours a week and was planning on quitting this job if I was successful with my application. The fellowship outlines that a maximum of 6 hours teaching per week will be offered, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to get more teaching experience and cut back on my work load but don’t want to fall into a trap where I am taking on extra without realising it. Is anyone experienced with this?

    Many Thanks!

  192. Hello there!

    I just found out about this blog, and I really wish you would publicize it to Google+. You could create a page “thethesiswhisperer” and automatically post onto that page whenever a new wordpress post is published. (Publicize is an option offered by WordPress, after you set-up your social network pages you can effortlessly advertise each new post on those social network pages: it works for g+, facebook and twitter)

    I saw that I could also subscribe by email or RSS feed to get notified of new blog posts, but I think that with minimal effort the posts could also be advertised to social networks. This would simply give your readers more options to get notified about new posts (email, RSS, and social networks).

    This blog looks like a great resource for my ongoing PhD, and I am looking forward to reading more!


  193. I’m a PhD student and today my blog kicks off, so I would be very grateful if you include mine in your list: diariodeunabecaria.WordPress.com (in Spanish).
    Another question, can I send some words to you in spite of the fact that I am not studying in Australia? Thanx

  194. Thank you for this blog, and for the book version of this blog. You hit the nail on the head on so many points, and it is comforting to know that I am not alone. I am now in my final semester as a doctoral student in the US, and I feel I’ve come a long way. I wish I’d seen your blog earlier to aid me in my more difficult times (!) but still, having my past feelings justified, and knowing that I was not alone, is a huge source of comfort. Thank you for this. I cannot express my gratitude.🙂

    • Thanks so much for the lovely feedback🙂 A lot of US students don’t realise that ‘thesis’ means ‘dissertation’ and don’t ome our way much. So it’s nice to see you got here – welcome.

  195. Love this blog! I’ve had to defer from my phd due to supervisor discrimination (she said she expects all of her students to work 15 days straight, as she does, even though I have a recognised disability- she said a whole lot worse and more, via email). Looking forward to getting back to it at some stage, once I’ve found a professional supervisor.
    Thanks for this blog!

  196. Inger, I’ve just completed my doctorate at the University of Bath in England and would like to offer to write something about doing a PhD part time whilst in full time employment (and also being a very mature student). Is this likely to be of any interest, and are there any author guidelines for Thesis Whisperer?

  197. Yes….write something please. I’m also older than the average PhD student…and working full time while doing my thesis…..I’m on chapter 7 and trying to juggle many things at once.

  198. Please write something more on Plagiarism in thesis and dissertation writing.
    – what to do if you find on re-visiting your thesis that you’ve plagiarised (after being awarded the degree?!)- what are your options?
    – what to do if your thesis/dissertation is returned due to plagiarism
    – what type of responses do universities make to plagiarism(at Higher Degree level)?
    – What level of plagiarism matters? (e.g. Turnitin has different coloured coded levels- 10%, 50% and a Plagiarism Spectrum)

  199. Hi Inger,

    I started my PhD in February and have been avidly reading your blog! I find it really helps to know that so many of the experiences I’m having – good and bad – in this stage of the PhD are shared by others. In saying that, lately I’ve been lacking motivation to study and feeling very much an imposter who perhaps shouldn’t be here. Though I’ve read and re-read posts like “The Valley of Shit” and “PhD Paralysis”, I think that the persistence of these feelings indicates more than what’s described in these posts, and that it is more likely a return of the depression I experienced in my later years of secondary school and first year of uni some 4 years ago.

    Having had it before, I am about to put all the practical things in place, like visiting a GP and accessing some regular counselling, and though I’ve been trawling through a lot of advice on the web through various PhD blogs, I’m having trouble finding advice on how this might play into the supervisory. In catching the depression earlier this time, I don’t envisage it having a major impact on my work, but for the moment at least, and until it is back under control, it is making it hard both to do things in a practical sense and also just in terms of feeling confident about my right to be in the program.

    I feel I have a very good relationship with my supervisor, who I have known throughout my undergrad career and has always been understanding when various other roadblocks have come up. However, these have tended to be external things, like a death in the family, or short-term physical illness, so I am unsure about disclosing something which is far more internal and potentially ongoing. I guess what I’m asking is how personal should you get with a supervisor? I understand that it’s no their role to counsel me through these difficulties, and if I feel confident in getting that kind of support elsewhere, so I wonder if perhaps it isn’t even something that needs mentioning. I’m torn between the worry that if I tell them they might start to view me differently, or as less capable or “cut-out” for the demands of the PhD – and the academic career I hope to have – but at the same time it is affecting my progress at the moment and I wonder if perhaps I would be less anxious in conversations with my supervisor if they knew there were other things going on for me?

    I was wondering if you – or others – might be able to comment on whether this is something to discuss with my supervisor, or whether to leave them out of it?

    Thank you,
    sorry for such a long post,
    Confused First Year

  200. Hi CFY,
    I know you addressed your question to Inger but I thought I would chime in with my 2c worth based on my experience. If it is not useful, please disregard it.

    I have faced a similar issue. When, I finally ( after some time and considerable impact on my studies, not to mention worried supervisors) spoke about it with my main supervisor, I really wished I had done so sooner. I too was worried about being judged as less competent or suitable for academic life but I really shouldn’t have been as my supervisors were wonderful and understanding. Once they knew about my situation they were able to help me to minimise the impact on my studies and this was a great relief. Supervisors are there to help and along with other university staff with the right training, they should be able to give you the appropriate support you need to get through this next period until you are feeling a bit better, without toppling your PhD. If, as you say, you have a good relationship with your supervisor, he or she probably suspects something is wrong anyway is waiting for you to open up about it. Also, in my experience they appreciate knowing what is going on with their students. It is their job to help you get through your PhD and your job to give them any information you can to help them help you.

    There are plenty of people who face mental health issues in academia so in an ideal world people shouldn’t feel worried about the negative impact of disclosure. The harsh reality is that misinformation about and discriminatory attitudes towards mental health issues do exist, even in enlightened places like universities. However it is very likely that your supervisor has dealt with other students experiencing depression, won’t judge you, will be grateful you talked about it and has all the resources at hand to help you. Best of luck and take care!

  201. Have you ever written anything about feelings of competition with other grad students in the lab? I was my supervisor’s only PhD student for a while, and now he’s more established he is getting more students. I know this is good for me – people to talk to and work with, people to share experiences with etc…. But the competitive part of me is now feeling almost jealous and slightly worried about being upstaged. It’s almost like a small child throwing a hissy fit – I had all the attention and help with my research that I wanted and now I have to share. I know, I know….. but if you had ever written anything about this topic I would love to read it. I’m sure (or well, hoping) that I’m not the only one who feels like this🙂

      • Thanks! I feel like I would only be able to provide a one sided view if I wrote it, since I haven’t had to deal with it yet properly…
        Though, if I ever jot down my thoughts about it as I start to experience it, and they form themselves into a coherent stream I will be sure to let you know.🙂 Thanks!

  202. Dear All, this site was suggested to me by my ‘mentor’ when I was down in the dumps. I am in my first year PhD – I am a Graduate Training Assistant as well. As such I just submitted my e-portfolio for my Learning and teaching in Higher education module at ‘M’ level. I am not sure how many of you here had this golden opportunity of ‘learning to teach, teach undergraduates as well as refine your aim and objectives, write up for systematic review protocol, write research proposal for ethics approval all at the same time (not to forget – bills and mortgages to be paid, check for secondary schools for year 5 daughter as well look after a 2-year old into everything). I started in October 2013, January 2014 I started the LTHE course. February I was warned that I am not progressing as expected so better ‘soul search’ and see whether this is for you. I was suicidal to say the least, I left a good paying job at the university for this.
    It was at this stage I went to my mentor, who listened and suggested your blog. My supervisor is an expert in her field, expects me to produce doctoral quality in the draft submission itself. Before this I was quite confident and enthusiastic, now I ponder whether I am capable. I loved teaching and helped other achieve high scores – those that failed in masters. I lost all confidence in helping others in their work now. How can I if I cannot even frame objectives? each supervisory meeting I dread, for me its like an assessment, viva. I have to produce what I have read, understood. Maybe it may be for the same for the rest of the PhD cohort… the sad truth would be I am not fit for this.
    Feel better after this….but what I just wanted to ask was – Is there any informal guide who would have a look a draft of objectives and say – girl what the hell r u doing here?

    Thanx a million.


    • Hmmm, it sounds like a lot to be dealing with all at once Dilla. No wonder you are feeling stressed. I’d recommend you visit the counselling centre at your uni first – they are excellent at helping talk people through periods of self doubt and anxiety. It can be helpful to clarify with them what YOU want out of this experience. Then I would recommend you visit the study centre, or writing help department (all unis have them now) with your draft and get some help. They can suggest new techniques and systems which might help. Also make sure there are records of all your visits. If, after that you feel you need more advise, I would approach the person in charge of research students in your department for advice. There’s lots of advice and support available on the web, but it’s no substitute for some tactical help with your actual project. Best of luck with it all and feel free to come back and tell us how it is all going. Best, Inger

      • Thank you for your time and your thoughtful reply. I will reflect on it and come back to you with something positive. The darkest hour is just before the dawn isn’t? so maybe the daybreak is around there somewhere.. i will hold on…. Thank you once again!

  203. Hi Inger and others,
    I was just reading through one of the previous posts on life events and the PhD, and wondered whether you had any thoughts on the following. As the original post is a few weeks old, I thought it might be best to add a comment here, instead. During my PhD, with some family issues, one senior academic (not a supervisor) suggested that I take leave, or in her words, ‘stop the clock.’ Her approach was that many students often don’t seek leave during the major event, because they’re stressed, busy and/or deterred by the admin requirements, not to mention the need to be assertive in some instances. However, it is in the post-event time frame that the PhD work starts to become difficult – catching up with milestones, reading, writing, etc. She recommended that it was by stopping the clock at this point – just after an event – and taking leave for a short time was beneficial, as the PhD’er then gets time to do work as and when they can, the submission and milestone deadlines are extended and, importantly, the pressure to continue is lessened. I am not sure how this would work for those doing science (lab) based doctorates, but have had friends with major life events (cancer, sick children, divorce, babies) who do take leave, and many of them were on APA scholarships – again, this could be difficult if relying upon the scholarship. However, it may be a thought for some who are struggling with post-event stress and juggling a PhD. Take leave, stop the clock officially, but continue on with your studies as/when you are able to.

  204. Dear Inger,

    I was was wondering if you are anyone else had heard of using social media as part of the actual research method. For example, I am thinking of preparing a ‘policy solution’ document. (Say a PDF – 5-10 pages) on a blog site or wikipedia and asking globally for feedback. I would particularly target people and agencies with relevant expertise. I would then write up the results obtained this way etc, and then subject the ‘revised solution’ to more traditional analysis. Is that a viable method? (Wouldn’t be my only method though).

    Many thanks, Liz B

  205. Hi.
    Thanks for the absolutely wonderful site and many insights. I have just finished my PhD (economics) and wish I had seen your site earlier. But I definitely mean to remain connected.

    My question— (though you partially covered it in “What Not to Wear”) relates to dressing appropriately at the NBER Conference in coming July. I am an Indian-origin US citizen (female) currently based in India and wanted to ask whether I could attend the “clambake” / informal dinner in an elegant Saree, or is Western dress de rigour at such premier World-class forums even at informal evening gatherings?

    I am going to wear formal pants/ skirts at the Main Conference Sessions I will be attending.

    Being my first exposure to such a setting I am feeling truly confused. Can you please help? Thanks!!

  206. Hi,

    I was just searching out some person, some matter to share horrible experiences going on in my PhD. I am struggling a lot with my PhD due to over-burden, miss behavior of my supervisor and his daily taunts over by performance.

    I think now its high- time to decide what should I be doing in relation to these issues.Whether to quit or still go on with the situations as they have been since last one year.I would want some of the suggestions through your platform and would like to share my experiences which have brought my confidence level down to a zero value.

    Looking forward for your response,

    Thanking You

  207. I had to change supervisors at the end of my second year due to his lack of contribution and snide comments. He did not like it but I changed and I have a great supervisor now. Find a new one before you give this guy the flick! Go girl….you can do it.

  208. Hi Inger,

    Has the TW had a blog post or do you intend to write one on the topic of how to pick a journal for publication? In many cases, I’m sure supervisors provide guidance. One also keeps note of journals that most often carry articles of relevance. But I was also often given the impression that a lot depended on the status of your university, circles within which you moved, connections, confidence (all under the broad rubric of ‘politics’). Is there a recommended way of getting past all of this and successfully submitting to a top journal even if you don’t know its editors? I am often wracked with doubt: should I write to the editors before submission or would I be wasting their time; am I going to be laughed off at the vetting stage itself; should I write the optional cover letter and if so, what do I include, etc.

    I recently completed my PhD from a university in the UK. I owe you and contributors to this blog a debt of gratitude. Your blog saw me through some very difficult times, helped me articulate my problems, prevented me from dismissing/trivialising/covering up awkward issues and helped me find strength and solidarity. Thanks you so much for all of this! I intend to continue following your blog.

  209. Loads of stuff on here that’s helpful. Can you recommend any posts for how to write better when supervisors say ‘discursive writing inadequate’? – not entirely sure what this means or what to do about it! Thanks

  210. This is a hefty request but I notice a lot of expertise here.
    I am in need of advice about how to put together a solution that allows me to maintain a bibliography of sorts online of academic papers etc. I would like to be able to:
    – generate citations from three sources: Bookmarks, Google Scholar Library, PD files.
    – use firefox to book mark papers and web sites within a nested folder structure and have those book marks automatically added as citations to the bibliography
    – include citations from my google scholar library
    – “watch” a directory pdf files that has a folder structure within it that mirrors the bookmark folders in firefox and automatically add the files as citations to the bibliography. the PDFs get renamed with the title of the paper which the software gets from either embedded metadata, DOI look up or the content of the pdf.
    – The html bibliography should be customizable using any HTML editor and can include complete abstract and URL
    – Frosting: if possible, though it would be asking for a lot, i would like the bibliography to be a word press blog that is searchable and where each citation is a post such that it has a comments field.

    There are many applications out there of which I have used a few (Zotery, mendeley, JabRef, Endnote, Refworks, google scholar. But I guess I’m getting old because I just can’t put together the right pieces in the right way to achieve what I’ve described. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  211. I have an issue with my PhD work. I assume there is more to the educational system than what is currently available, so when i look at other student’s research i undermine it in my head as that is it.. that is all you do… and that gets published… it is not even worth looking into (that is such common sense). The few papers that I do like and appreciate have been made a long time ago. All the new ones, seem to be cycles of old stuff, even if a topic seems interesting, by the time i reach current work, and see actual programming code… I question the moral obligation that comes with truthful advertising of what was really accomplished. It makes me wonder if I am just too smart for my field or too dump.. and if I might be happier in a completely different field of study!!! (Background info, Top of Class in Undergraduate CS major, 10 years of work experience always ending up being the team lead, Top of class in all course work in MS/PhD in CS… but never happy in any research direction – they always seem as busy work but never envelope pushing)… I am hoping you can help or point me in the right direction.

  212. Hiya, Just interested in talking about ‘pregnancy/kiddiewinks during PhD’ posts. I don’t love the lack of positive posts about this topic. I feel there is definitely potential.

    When I started my PhD I asked around the ladies in my school and faculty, and so many have had children during their PhD, have successfully come back and finished their PhD, and so many gave great advice about having children during your PhD. A peer had three children during her PhD. Another peer is off on her 2nd mat. leave. I compiled a list of tips and advice at the time…

    I feel that the post “https://thesiswhisperer.com/2014/04/02/dont-get-pregnant-if-you-can-help-it/” is lacking a lot of positivity. It doesn’t mention (correct me if I’m wrong) associations between students becoming a parent/having a child and PhD completion rates, which I felt was where it was heading, hence it would have supported the academics suggesting to not get up the duff.

    I am wanting to see some positive spin on this topic. Please. Pretty please. Cherry on top. Cheers.🙂

  213. Hi All,
    Is there anyone from Brisbane or GC in this blog that can help me out with a little SPSS set up and data analysis? I can help you out with coaching, life strategy and transformation/quantum physics if you need a little help to achieve your goals.
    I am ok with qual data analysis, but me and numbers dont like each other apparently!I am in the last 2 months of my PhD, business and coaching (some HR/Psychology etc) and I collected another round of data from 50 respondents (survey), close-ended questions, 15 only. Straight forward but I struggle to be patient enough to see what I need to do in Excel and take my data to SPSS, and how can I do some basic correlations and get a few charts etc. Just need 1-2 sessions hands-on help from another research student who is good at quan data analysis. I appreciate your help, and sure there is a lunch or dinner and a few drinks afterwards to say Thanks in a non financial way (finance not looking good atm)😉

    anyone in brissy or GC.


  214. Hi all,
    I am a fourth year graduate student and I am seeking advise about how to handle a situation.
    My advisor is a very well-known person in her field. Being so famous, she doesn’t have enough time for me. I meet with her once or twice a month to discuss the status of on various research projects I’m working on. I have two manuscripts sitting on her desk for last 6 months. And I haven’t had a single revision from her. I have had edits from all the other co-authors but my advisor hasn’t had time to work on the papers.
    It probably too early to be panicking about not getting feedback from my advisor. These are my first two papers with her. However all other students and post docs have had similar obstacles about getting revisions on the papers. Out of 4 students who have graduated with her, only one has managed to publish a first authored paper before they defended their thesis. All of them are very intelligent and hardworking students. The last person graduating from our research group did not have a single published paper, just because his advisor did not have time to work on the manuscript. One of his manuscripts is sitting on her desk for last three years, without a single revision.
    I will be graduating next year and I don’t want to graduate without a published paper. I am very close to be scooped on one of the papers. On a personal front it is very depressing to see that after working very hard on these research projects, they seem to go nowhere and my advisor is not as excited as I am about my research.
    How do I deal with this situation? Has anyone else faced similar obstacles? What could I do to avoid graduating without any published papers?

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  216. I am a PhD student, trying to find my way with writing. I had my presentation of my proposal a few months ago which went quite though got some significant comments. It was a breakdown and a breakthrough for me as it opened my eyes to what is research and PhD about. the result is that I am re-writing my proposal. I lost communication with my supervisors (won’t go into it here) and anyway lacked feedback the whole time. Getting to know myself better throgh this process I understand I need to find my own strategy of writing. Well, I don’t see it and I am seeking for a course or guidance. I would like to bring my understandings about my own writing and my difficulties and consult about the right way to go as I waste so much time (I am behind off course). If you know where and how can I do it please let me know.

  217. Hi TW!

    I have been reading your blog since the start of my PhD. While I’m a scientist and work in a country, your posts are still of great interest to me even when their broad ravage becomes less relevant to my exact situation. Believe me, you have been very helpful!

    I’m now a second year grad student, and I appreciate you must get so many questions and can’t answer them all. I just feel like I really need help with this.

    Just before starting grad school, I had a rough time. I worked with a professor in the same department as I work now, and she was abusive to her students (not my word; I personally feel a bit strange saying that). I don’t want to talk too much about what she did, but she promised me all kinds of things in order to make me work illegal thankless hours, and none of these lies ever materialized. We ended up having an argument based on her extreme paranoia just before I was due to start in her lab again, and that is why I do not work for her in grad school – a very good thing.

    My current supervisor on the other hand is lovely. He is also well-known in the field, and likes to keep a professional distance between himself and his students, but I am very fond of him. He has been the opposite of my earlier experience; as far as I know he had never lied to me, while she did every day.

    I am having problems in lab. In the first prof’s lab I was superhumanly motivated and managed my time to extreme efficiency. I am a lot mentally healthier now than I was immediately after our row, but the feelings that academia and particularly my field support people like her have not gone away. I have always dreamed of an academic job, but the thought of all my colleagues being like her is dispiriting, and now what is my motivation to work? Science is not what it pretends or is. It is only recently that I’ve stopped thinking about the things she did – basically psychological abuse – every day. My biggest stumbling block in lab is that every time I start to perform at a decent level of efficiency again, I get terrified that I am going to be exploited again – despite knowing my current supervisor would never do that. I am presently underperforming due to these fears, and despite recognizing then as irrational and thinking of myself as a strong person, I don’t know how to get past them.

    What I really want to do is to tell my supervisor that this is how I am feeling, but he does not talk about emotions and would think me weak – also that I was being deeply unprofessional for saying anything negative about his colleague, even though he knows most of her activities. It is something that came be talked about in the field.

    Sorry to write this massive post. I couldn’t see any similar previous articles. Help???

    • I’m glad to hear you have found yourself a better situation! But it must be troubling to be feeling this way. It sounds like you are suffering some form of lingering trauma which probably can be helped by speaking to someone much more knowledgeable than me about such matters. Most, if not all, universities have confidential counselling centres where you can seek advice. The uni counsellors I have met are vastly experienced in these kinds of issues and can help you work through the feelings and find strategies. You have taken the first step here by articulating the feelings – I think you will find much benefit in talking further. Think of it this way – your first supervisor is still bullying you in a very real sense if you feel this way. I’d love to hear how you are going – please do report back🙂

  218. What are the pros and cons of uploading articles on academia.com? I chose NOT to upload my articles – but I have the full reference on the site so I figure that if people are interested they’ll access the articles through their library. Is this naive? It would be interesting to get some feedback on this. I ask because I got an email notification that people have been “trying to access” one of the articles and wondered if NOT uploading it makes my work too inaccessible for academics in a hurry. Are there copywrite issues to consider?

    • We are living in a ‘one click’ culture I’m afraid. We need to make it as easy as possible. If you can upload and not break copyright then I suggest you do. But some academics have been issued with take down notices, so read the copyright conditions carefully.

  219. I have chosen communication skills as a predominant skill that I wish to build while I’m doing my PhD. By this, I am referring to writing journal articles and science communication as well as public presentations.

    Recently, I participated in three minute thesis. My feedback from the judges was quite different from feedback from colleagues. Most of the feedback centred around my stage presence – whether I do or don’t have it etc. I tend to have a laid back approach.

    Do you have any advice on how to develop my communication skills in academic settings?

  220. Hey thesis whisperer
    u r doing a great job! i like this blog very much and found it really helpful during the course of completing my PhD. Thanks for motivating and encouraging me all the time! So, now i am about to complete my doctorate degree (in microbiology from india) and moved to US (my husband is a software developer and i am on H4 visa). We live in Baltimore and I am aspiring to study from John Hopkins School of Medicine. I want to pursue a master’s or PhD in Public health. Could you please suggest me which degree will be more helpful to me (master’s or PhD) and what points should I keep in mind while applying. Do you have any suggestions (apart from public health) in which course should I apply.


  221. Hi,

    I am about to get confirmed in my PhD, but I have been facing the same issues. I do not know if I am doing something wrong or if it is my supervisor. I try to avoid discussing this problem because I end up hearing ‘everyone has problems in PhD’.

    So, ever since I joined, the recurring issue I have been facing is that if I mention any technical difficulties I have for which I need to make serious improvements, I am told that ‘all PhDs have these difficulties’ , ‘if he can do it, why can’t you’, and ‘you should hurry up, you don’t have much time left (for your confirmation)’.

    Moreover, there’s always more emphasis on discussing my problems in group meetings, when more often than not the discussion tends to go on an entirely different path and the conclusion is ‘I need to work’. In the end my problem still remains unsolved.

    To add to that, the ideas of my supervisor change every week, rendering a week of my work useless. This had led to me wasting a lot of time to finally perform the same experiment i had thought of in the beginning, but this time it has been suggested by his other students,so it is a legitimate one. The supervisor relies on the feedback that his other students give on my project, rather than on his own. And he changes his opinion depending on whether my other supervisors are present or not.

    Am I doing something wrong? Or am I overreacting? Please help me. I don’t understand what’s going on.

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  223. good evening,I completed my m.e and i got selected to do my phd.i am confused whether i should continue or not. i am going to get married on 2016 september. I am not sure whether i will stay in same place or will move to another place. but parents are saying you finish phd within 2 or 3 years. can you suggest me which is good. to do my phd or to start after marriage

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  225. I am starting a PhD in New Zealand with my own funds. The idea is to get a job while doing the PhD. It is in Business so no lab work as such and I will just utilise any free time working to fund myself. I wanted to know how feasible this is and what a typical PhD week looks like in New Zealand.

  226. Many thanks for linking to our website (Dr Hariri) on the sidebar🙂. We always share and disseminate useful resources on your website to our followers.

    Just a small request please, we were wondering if the URL can be updated from drhariri.com to educad.me since this is our new domain which we have been using for a while🙂.

    Many thanks!

  227. Hiya. Sorry I wouldn’t normally send this via a post on a page, but I have a feeling it’s the only contact option? I’m a senior Indigenous researcher at Batchelor Institute, and have a number of PhD students that I supervise and work with, and I do a fair bit of work across the national space in the higher degree field. So, each time TTW has a post, one of us posts it up on FB for our research candidates to read, all of whom are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. A few of them have said that while all of it was interesting and often very helpful, there was never anything on Indigenous contexts. I wasn’t so sure, so I finally remembered to do a search for ‘Indigenous’ on the site, and as you’d know it came up with nothing, but I actually found something else a bit more disturbing and I hope you don’t mind but I’d probably prefer to talk about it offline, because I’m just thinking what I discovered was an accident/oversight/mistake and I don’t really want it to sit here for all time.

    My details are: sandy.osullivan@batchelor.edu.au


  228. Gosh. Just seen the question from Pondering, above, and it sends shivers down my spine. Still, soldiering on… I was told during the summing up by the examiners at my viva that, ahem, my thesis could be publishable. I know. Such a head-swell. Never mind. I was already in talks with someone else about publishing (it gets worse, doesn’t it?) but, sadly, that arrangement, for various reasons, now seems to have stalled. I’m now wondering if you have a page on publishing the thesis (please forgive me, Inger, because I’m going to post the same question on Twitter, I think). I’ve had a browse through your (excellent, and getting excellenter) site and I can’t see anything that jumps out as immediately relevant. I could, of course, offer to keep a record of my experiences, for the benefit of anyone else who might find that useful. But I won’t unless there’s nothing already out there. Thanks, as ever.

  229. Hi,
    Thesis whisperer is really touching the hearts. Its interesting to know that Phd students are alike, wherever they are. II am from India. I have currently submitted my Phd thesis in cytogenetics and my open defence is due in march. I wish to attend a workshop in canada and I am not sure if it could be funded by any funding bodies(like UGC,CSIR,DST,ICMR) in india, as I have wound up my work. Can u assist me in this regard?It is silly to ask someone in australia about something happening in India.But , I just wanted to know things going around the globe?

  230. Thanks for this friendly zone. I discovered it lately and I hope i have found it long time ago.. I am an ABD since last year in Comparative Literature.. my main problem is i cannot write, i have lost the compass and the goal is not as before. My mind is shattered and nihilism and feeling loss are all over me.. I am from Syria and left to do my PhD in the US when the war started…my thoughts are between here and there, and the last two years were the worst, till now. I now that I have to share this with a psychologist as I am doing now, but everyday is a battle with writing, working, waking up, feeling that home is lost and what I am doing cannot be helpful for people there..maybe it could, but i cannot see that now or feel it.. Is this feeling normal? I had to finish the first chapter on the 1st of january, i could not write more than 15 pages..this has never been me , neither as an undergrad nor as a grad student..not to this severe hateful extent.. I need your advice and suggestions, my research is about non-conformist Syrian literature that challenged authorities and dogmas, I believe in it and am so passionate about it.. but my intellectual abilities have been weakened with much anxiety and guilt and depression… A part of me wants to leave and go join my comrades friends in the refugee camps and be of some practical real help, a part of me wants to stay and continue..pieces of me that have to finish the dissertation and survive…i hope this is the right place to share this…I know I am lucky and have a great opportunity of being here at a US institute..This caused to losing my funding from my department last year, where I am working now as an adjunct without a GA or a work permit..I cannot face my committee about this, because I had much pain after losing my scholarship and felt that I have just to graduate and never show them my face again. i know that the academia is a vital place for speaking for justice and people’s right, I believe in its influence in changing generations, in the power it can create in the world. My hope was to go back home and teach and work there, but now!!! it is just hard to express my feelings…

    The passion is present but I am afraid i need my almost gone brains for this battle…

    sorry for sharing negative energy. Have a beautiful day/evening and a great writing journey..


  231. My brother suggested I would possibly like this blog.
    He used to be entirely right. This publish truly made
    my day. You cann’t imagine just how so much time I had spent for this info!

  232. Dear Thesis Whisperer,

    Thank goodness you’re out there!! I am just starting my dissertation and though Scrivener seems a great way to go, I am having anxiety at the learning curve (technology isn’t my strength yet). I want to go back to the relative comfort of Word, yet I have a feeling that when I’m deep in the dissertation swamp, I will be thrilled that I stuck with Scrivener.

    Do you know of a manual that might be the equivalent of “Scrivener for Dummies?” (I have the ebook, “Take Control of Scrivener 2” and even on that I couldn’t find out how to easily split up my recently imported document!)

    And if anyone else out there has any comments, all of them are welcome!

    Thank you,

    Stressing in Seattle

  233. I am a second year PhD student, and one who has spent a bit of time searching for software that can make life easier. After a year of working with Qiqqa I thought I’d put in a plug for it.

    Qiqqa is free software which enables the management of articles and references. I experimented with Mendeley and Endnote, but wound up with Qiqqa because my priority has been to have a system that enables me to store articles, notes on the readings and ‘tags’ in one place.

    In Qiqqa you can set up one or more libraries for your articles. These can be synced to ‘the cloud’ and across devices. You have a certain amount of free space, but I ended up running out of free space and had to pay a small fee to increase cloud storage. When my laptop went in to get fixed I was able to access all my articles and notes from another computer, and then restore them to my (fixed) laptop.

    Qiqqa automatically imports PDFs from ‘watch folders’ on your computer to whichever library you want. Once imported there is a ‘sniffer’ which enables you to locate and import the citation – this works for me 9 times out of 10 and is very easy to use. Where this is unavailable (eg ‘grey’ literature’) you can manually attach a citation to a document.

    You can create tags, type lots and lots of notes into a ‘comments’ section, and highlight PDFs so that you can extract a summary document that includes all of yoour highlighted quotes and notes for a specific PDF. Sorting, cross library searching and rating different articles are all easy. I would have liked a ‘reading list’ function, but that’s a minor quibble.

    Qiqqa also functions as referencing software, so that you can insert citations pretty easily into word documents and then generate a bibliography that includes all cited text. This is a bit more fiddly than in Endnote as you have to move in and out of Word/Qiqqa but, after a year of use and about 30,000 words, I find it pretty straightforward.

    Qiqqa has a very active on line support community which is great for finding fixes for little irritants. The Qiqqa developers are constantly responding to user feedback and improving the software which is good – partly because it provides comfort that the software will continue to be supported for as long as I need it.

    Qiqqa also has some fancy mind mapping software which has been completely useless for me but may be of value to others. (I use Freemind for mind mapping).

    I am aware that I don’t use a fair bit of the capability of this software. I think others get more out of linking documents and so on. Overall, for me, the price is right, the software does what I need it to, and my annotated library is safe in the event of a disaster. So if you are hunting around I reckon this is not a bad bit of software to look at.

    (By the way, Qiqqa provides upgrades for those who promote the software. I havent claimed an upgrade for this article – just want to offer an option for others like me)

  234. Hi Thesis Whisperer,

    I am in the 2nd year of my PhD and am starting to draft a systematic review protocol. The problem is I have never completed a full on, formal systematic review, so of course even writing the protocol for one is difficult. From what I can see there are not many short courses offered on this, particularly in NSW or a in close state within the first half of the year. So I wonder if you or your network of knowledgeable people could steer me in the direction of a good book that will succinctly outline the process of conducting a systematic review and help me on the journey of completion with a little more knowledge and confidence, and a little less anxiety then what I currently have about tackling this task!

    Any help is very appreciated🙂

  235. Hello Inger, I love your blog. It’s a huge help and a huge inspiration. Apart from helping me become a better writer, you’ve convinced me that I need to attend (and potentially organise) a thesis bootcamp in Oxford. A minor thing: one of the links on the “read some PhD student blogs” appears to be broken. Elemental Present leads to the same page as the link above…

  236. Hi, I would like to share my PhD experience and would appreciate some feedback. I was delegated to work in a institute from my University where my professor was a regular visitor. My part of thesis was to design a complicated diagnostic which included designing complicated optical components and finally commissioning the whole diagnostic and do experiment and derive scientific results from it, all in three years! The institute where my assignment was to build/design the whole system was very young and had mostly inexperienced staff with very little to almost no knowledge of the subject but still they wanted to build a system and delegate the job as phd thesis. So the moment I stepped in the institute I was assigned a expert to help me with the design process with whom we had several skype meetings. I had judged my future in the place in the first two months as they literally gave me no job and kept telling me that we don’t know what to do with you, your professor will come and he will tell you what to do! I spent my next two months reading whatever I could from my own without any input from anybody. Later my subject expert gave me some tasks with a deadline of two weeks to submit some numbers which I tried to keep for coming few months. By this time I asked my professor to think of plan B and change my subject and place of work but he informed that it will lead to termination as this is the only task he could arrange for me. So I continued to work and the expectation in the institute grew and they literally relied on everything I wrote and reported. By this time a local supervisor was arranged for me and I was already warned about this man and his ‘racist’ attitude. But I continued to work and soon he started making humiliating comments on my reports and also marked email to my juniors which included humiliating comment towards me. I again tried to approach my professor to intervene but he turned down my request by saying that I should somehow get along with him as he might be panicking due to slow progress. By this time a year was passed and a major purchase decision was made based on my reports which released some pressure and I started understanding the subject well. For the next three months we continued to work on a publication scheduled to be send to a conference in which he promoted me to second author as the contribution from me was almost 60%. Soon after his conference visit he informed me that he is happy with my work and sees the progress. In the next 20 days the whole situation changed and upon my return from a meeting he informed me that he doesn’t see me getting a PhD and so he gave me six months to show progress else he will cancel my stay at the institute! In the next month he also arranged a meeting with university professors in which he repeated the condition of my stay at the institute and then I was given few months to still recover from this PhD-stall situation. When I discussed this with other people in institute I was told that my local supervisor is indeed a nut case and is opportunistic person who will use me to design things for him and will eventually kick me out to take the whole credit of recovering from the situation and doing things by himself! For next three months my only task was to do things which could mean progress for him and could help me stay with my PhD, he kept saying that I am progressing and he is happy to see the work. But finally I got a mail from my supervisor informing me that my local supervisor has refused to supervise me any further and situation is very serious. In the meantime my local supervisor kept pressuring me to finish things else he will stop my stay at the institute. So I pushed things further and went ahead with the designing and finalising things, later he asked me to give a presentation at the institute in which, he invited my professor subject expert and other member of my doctoral committee via skype. During the presentation he grilled me with all sorts of questions which I felt that he wanted everyone to see what my progress was after almost two years. People from the institute did not like this and were also angry about the behaviour of my supervisor. But ultimately he proved to everyone that I had not contributed anything in the designing phase and I am not capable of ever getting a phd! So finally he along with my professor informed me that I should quit my phd as I have done nothing towards my phd and gave me few weeks to clear things and leave! People in the institute showed sympathy with me and told me that it was not in good taste at all but this is life and I should leave the place and go to a better place as this was already a lost battle. They even said that your only fault was that you were with wrong person even though you were on right path of work and this appears to be a case of racism and exploitation as he took all design inputs and now has got me expelled from the study.

    The experience has left me disinterested in science and feel that choosing science was a big mistake altogether, I had never imagined that such people existed in science.

    I now bid farewell to science with a heavy heart.

    Good bye science!

  237. The longer I’m a PhD candidate, the more I very much value this site. Thank you so much for such a wonderful and informative resource! Whenever I feel alone or confused about my PhD I consult this site. My suggestion is for a post on managing mental illness through the PhD. It seems that mental health is alluded to or implied in many posts (or perhaps that’s just my biased lens!) but am thinking that some explicit posts about it might be interesting/helpful too (e.g. to disclose or not to disclose)!

    • Thanks – yes I think more discussion of this would be valuable. I don’t get many posts submitted on this topic however. I think it’s because mental illness is such an ‘invisible stigmatised identity’. I can’t write from experience and I am not a trained counsellor, but I know some people are doing their PhD on this topic, so hopefully there will be some research to draw on soon.

  238. Hello! I was a great follower of this blog when I was doing my PhD, thanks for all the content. I was wondering if you have written anything about publishing a book post-phd? I had a search but couldn’t see anything. I work p/t and am trying to grow a small business I started. My supervisor would like me to publish and I would love to! But I need to take time off to do it. Any wise advice on grants or sources of funding to assist?

  239. Hi Thesis Whisperer, I love your blog and point my research students to it all the time. I am wondering if you have an opinion about the use of “I” in a PhD thesis. I have spent many years removing the passive voice from my student’s writing by encouraging them to write things like “We chose 6 exemplars from X stimulus set” rather than “Six exemplars were chosen…”. My PhD students are pretty good at this when it comes to writing manuscripts with me, but when it comes to their thesis, they are uncomfortable using “I”. I think that I am uncomfortable with them using the collective “we” in their thesis. Do you have any advice/guidelines on this issue?

    • I can highly recommend Pat Thompson and Barbara Kamler’s ‘helping doctoral students to write’ which has an excellent section on when to use I. Interestingly, scientists use it more than humanities scholars apparently. The key researcher on this area is James Hartley – there are a number of papers and books from him that deal with the how and why. All the best, inger

  240. Hi inger-
    forgive me if I’ve missed a relevant post covering this topic, but I was wondering if you would consider a post which discusses and weighs up the idea of taking program leave.
    I’ve powered* (*not entirely always true) through three years’ of research, and I have another semester of funding left. For context: I’m undertaking a visual arts phd which incorporates both practice and philosophy/theory. Apparently everything I’ve written needs a total rehaul, with intense thesis revision. I have no intention of quitting, but I’m feeling incredibly burned out. I have trouble getting up in the morning, I’m constantly exhausted and financially strained. I need a break. I was speaking to a friend who is doing a phd (in literature )and whose partner is likewise completing a phd (in philosophy) – and she was shocked that I’d never taken a break. She said taking a break from his phd rejuvenated her partner’s research, and she said that she knows of no other phd student who hasn’t taken some leave.
    Is this true? I had thought of taking leave as some sort of admission of failure as a researcher (of the ‘she can’t handle it’ Ilk). I’d be very interested to see your perspective on program leave. When my friend suggested it to me, it felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders, but I’m still too nervous to approach my supervisors about it.
    Thoughts? Experiences?

    • HI Ally – your experience is by no means unique! The research shows us that students actively use leave to manage their time on their PhD. In fact, it is very rare for a Part time student not to take leave, and many full time students do. If you feel you need a break – and your university allows you to – I think it’s a good idea. Just be aware that a certain number of people never return to study. You are taking a risk that you might enjoy ‘civilian life’ too much🙂 I wish you all the best, whatever decision you make.

  241. Hi there
    I am 9 months into an AHRC funded PhD studentship as part of a Doctoral Training Centre. Since I arrived the undergraduate course that underpins my discipline has been axed, I haven’t been provided with the work space I was promised, and today I found out that both my supervisors are being made redundant (2 days before our first research symposium presentation). I am gutted, I came specifically to work with these Professors who are experts in my field. Both are highly intelligent, committed academics and I really value their input with regard to my project. One supervisor runs a very well respected FabLab (which won’t operate in the same way once he leaves) and the other is the Head of the research group I was funded to join (the University has said this group will maintain a presence, but they won’t be funded and, well, the Head will be gone so no one thinks this will be an active concern). I have contacted the AHRC previously, but they’ve said that the Uni and I should figure it out. The other academic partners in the Doctoral Training Centre seem reluctant to get involved (they send envouraging emails about ‘not giving up’ but offer nothing in the way of hard and fast advice). There are no other specialists in my field here, and I am worried the Uni will try and lump me with an inexperienced supervisor from an unrelated discipline. I have contacted a lawyer friend to ask for advice and a possible referral, but I literally sat in my car for an hour today wondering what the hell I should do? An AHRC stipend is peanuts in this economy, and I’m already worn down, but is taking legal action my only option? I love my work and academics at other institutions get really excited about what I’m doing, but today I feel angry and lost. Can you help with some advice? I worked really hard to get here and I would hate to waste my time over the next two and a bit years.

  242. If you haven’t already, are you able to write a post about career decisions? I’m nearing the end of my PhD and love research but don’t necessarily want to go down the academia line. Also, if I choose to do a postdoc (for the love of research), this may have to be overseas due to limited opportunities in Australia – but I need to consider other decisions at this stage in my life, like meeting a partner, when and where I should settle. It’s overwhelming!

    • Yes, that’s a difficult time. Now around 60% of people do leave academia, so you are not alone. Have a look at the posts listed under ‘careers’ on the blog. There are quite a lot of posts, both advice and stories. Hope they help

  243. Oh gosh, it’s taken me 45 minutes to find where I can make a comment! I love your posts. An academic friend (NOT a supervisor) put me on to you a few years ago, and I’m ever so grateful. But can we have some help about how to cope as an External student please? No supervision. Maybe placed in a remote location. No-one to talk to. No academic tea-rooms. Do it on your own, or perish. I could write screeds, but none of it very helpful. Can you gather any helpful hints?

    • It’s a difficult situation Virginia – you are not alone unfortunately. I would highly recommend Twitter as a source of knowledge, comfort and community. Follow the #phdchat hashtag. It’s pretty amazing. And good luck!

  244. Hi Dr Mewburn,
    Thanks for your accumulated wisdom, and the generosity with which you share it. It is such a pleasure to read your ideas. I find that you are very clear and structured, which helps me immensely (I crave structure).

    Having just read your book, How to tame your PhD, I have made some of the quotes you have used in your book into images: Knots, Ronnie D. Laing, 1970; “kill your darlings”, King, 2000, p. 222; Procrastinator, Surowiecki, 2010; and Perfect, Mr Thesis-Whisperer, 2012), primarily so that I can share these with my year three management research project students… and to remind myself!

    However, I wondered if perhaps you might find the images useful as blog illustrators (and it would be nice to have something to give you, instead of the other way around). If you would like me to email you the images you would be VERY WELCOME to drop me a line to work at sam.young@nmit.ac.nz.

    I am currently mustering my forces for a PhD foray myself, so thanks again for your great blog and the benefit of your experience.

  245. i m a PhD student in social science.
    can you me me i m facing the problem to collect materials and information from google and other vibsite.

    so my question is how to collect information and materials from google?
    second how to compile it?
    third how to use these information in thesis means for instance, if i m writing an introduction then how i conver this information to my introduction.

  246. I used Elite Editing for my PhD based upon your website’s recommendation. They over charge and do a substandard job at editing. I would not recommend them to anyone and do not think it is fair that you specifically mention them only on your website. Please take their name off.

  247. Hi there,
    I’m a PhD student (psychology) and am looking into the new Australian product ComWriter.
    Do you have any opinions or advice regarding this product?
    Scrivener is awesome but I can’t in-text reference and that isn’t going to work for me.

  248. My supervisor spent a year working with me on an Ethics application and it was all going well until I think she told me she was pressured from above for me to finish.
    I had some medical issues and was behind schedule – what he did was block my ethics application by putting it on hold and telling the committee to hold it and then he also cut out a major section that he claims he never read but was approved by previous supervisors
    He also drinks and rambles and turns up late for meetings on occasion ad insists we meet at a bar while telling me that if I do not follow his advice I will be failed as the people up top don’t like me and will use ethics application flaws to fail me and he refuses to engage or advice or read or comment on disallowed section and makes out that he is very charitable for helping me as I have a medical issue but really has made it such that if I follow his advice I will be both under word limit and the lack of the ethics committee to be approved material puts a big hole in my argument
    They just say it’s my way or the highway if you do not do what I say you will fail – they also get drunk and tell me they want to be my friend – I believe they just want to get rid of me and have been really won’t even agree to meet unless I do what they say – I know far more about the subject area than they do and because first supervisor went on holiday overseas and stayed I am stuck with this one

  249. Hi,
    I know this is a big ol’ question, but I was wondering if you have any advice for late-stage PhD’s who are burnt out and having difficulty formulating a dissertation topic. I have completed four years of course work (I earned an MA before moving directly on to PhD work), passed my comprehensive exams with flying colors, but now I feel drained, unmotivated, and confused. I am having an extremely difficult time coming up with a dissertation topic in my field (British literature). I can’t seem to care enough about any of my half-baked ideas to pursue them very far. I am starting to worry because I’m afraid my supervisor will lose patience with me. Do you have any tips/suggestions for getting back on track, or am I out to sea on this one?
    Thank you so much for your blog- I’ve found a lot of really helpful things here.

  250. Dear Dr. Inger,
    Thank you for this great blog.
    I am at the stage of writing the second draft of my dissertation. I have to submit this December.
    I am interested in doing Post Doctoral research at my university. I was told that they would indeed take me in, but will not pay any salary.
    I am not interested in it without being paid, but research is what I love doing. I have a passion for it, but I have to support myself and my family in the meanwhile.
    What can I do in this situation? Are there any agencies that will support a Post Doctoral study?
    My area of research is Education. I am researching teacher empowerment in Asian cultural context.
    Hope to hear from you,

  251. Hi Pondering, I am an academic in Australia. My Dean told me to just finish my PhD and that it didn’t matter where it was from as long as I finished it. Others may say differently. I was a teacher and then a school principal so I had the background to go into a faculty of education before I had finished my PhD. I have one chapter to go before I have a full draft….hard to do when teaching so many units to our teacher education students

  252. Hi

    I started my PhD 4 months ago and have submitted my proposal. I am really under stress as I got to know that I don’t have sufficient funding for the molecular biology work that I was planning to do. The university offered me a scholarship and I was really exited. My supervisor returned by proposal with her comments last week and have suggested to sequence about 50 species with a single marker. My understanding is that for a taxonomic delimitation sequencing with a single marker, a single specimen which would leave me with just 50 sequences would not be enough for a publication. I am totally lost as I don’t know what to do. What can I do abut this?

  253. I have recently started my PhD but stressed a lot how it would go. Supervisors are too busy. They including myself also kind of new to the area of modeling and optimisation. Any suggestions how to go about this?

  254. Hi,

    I was wondering if you could write a post/or perhaps solicit someone to write about publication rejections as an ECR. I’m 6 months from having graduated with my PhD in Australia, and while my employment prospects have been very good in the teaching and research space, I’ve been struggling with the rejections of my papers. I’ve had three papers under review this year, 1 outright rejection (high impact journal), one revise and resubmit (high impact journal) and 1 minor revisions (high impact journal) which is still under review. Sadly, the R&R, as I found out today, is now a rejection.

    It’s not the reviewer comments (which are helpful for further revision though not to resubmit to this journal), or the emotional turmoil that is brought on by rejection that concerns me. It’s the increasing pressure to publish, and this feeling that I’ll never get anything published, which wrecks havoc on my prospects as an ECR and sense of value/self-worth in my potential to be a researcher, academic or otherwise. I already have people asking me about when I’ll apply for a DECRA, but with only 2 publications under my belt and a couple of seed project grants, I am nowhere near competitive enough.

    Most of the writing online concerning publication rejections seem to be written by individuals who are now more firmly established in their careers, where comments such as ‘rejections don’t phase me as much as I have a good publication record’ permeate their wisdom, alongside the assumption that we all have a massive circle of wise, older established colleagues to review our papers prior to submission. I would really love to read something by someone who is perhaps nearing the end of their ECR stage, who can reflect on the pressure to publish-publish-publish as an ECR that didn’t receive heaps of pastoral care in the early stages of their career,, how they got through it, and what advice they can give.

  255. Hello there,
    I am harbeer.
    I am one of the students who is finishing up her PhD and know what i have been through and what lies ahead. A few of us thought of starting a Shut up and write group at 2 places on our campus.
    Is there somehow i can put in the link for this groups on your website. I have seen Swinburne Uni has been linked. Just to let people know that there is a group like this in Tasmania as well.
    I am from University of Tasmania, Tasmania Australia.
    Looking forward to here from you.

  256. Hello,

    I was wondering, what do I do if I have a thesis (paper? white paper?) that could win a Nobel Prize in physics but cannot write it as I don’t have the math/science background to do it?

  257. I have two supervisors, sometimes it is difficult to fulfil expectations of both.

    I am being funded by Industry, they also expect something.

    Overall University wants some breakthrough technology/novelty.

    Problem is that their all expectations are not same. I am still undifferentiated student. How to cope up with all these?

  258. Dear Thesis Whisperer,
    We want to advertise our service on your website. We are also dealing in similar business but in writing. Can you please contact us at academicsassistant@gmail.com? Looking forward to do business with you.

    Muhammad Faraz Khan
    Manager Business Development

  259. Hi Inger,
    I’m 6 months into a Ph.D. and my Mum has recently died from a long battle with chronic illness (Sorry for being relatively vague in a public domain, but I’m sure you understand). My head is understandably all over the place at a time when I’m trying to plan ‘a way forward’ for my work. My supervisors have all been extremely supportive for which I’m grateful.

    Everybody is telling me to be kind to myself at a time when I have no inclination to be. It’s been a troublesome time. No doubt others have suffered bereavement during their studentships and was wondering if it would be a topic worth discussing. I couldn’t find many posts on this subject in my own searching.

    Kind Regards


  260. Hello Whisperer,
    I am studying Human Rights and International Relations in the UK at Masters Level. I am finding it difficult to come up with a dissertation question although I want to either write about the right to bodily integrity in terms of male circumcision or the right to freedom of expression in terms of body modification such as tribal scarring or tattooing eyeballs. Can you suggest to me some possible dissertation questions I urgently need help.
    Many Thanks,

  261. Hi Inger,

    Your blog’s been very helpful to me throughout the course of my PhD; thank you!

    I took six months out last year because I became seriously ill and ended up in hospital to have major surgery. The surgeon operating on me told me I was very close to having died.

    I got a six month extension and have been back about a month, and have a year left before I have to submit my thesis, but I’m wondering why I decided to come back. Over the course of my PhD I decided that I strongly dislike research and academia, that I won’t use my PhD to further my career, and that I am only really going to use the transferable skills I’ve developed during my PhD (which I could have developed in a “normal” job). The illness which hospitalised me is known to reduce life expectancy, so I’m wondering if it’s worth me finishing my doctorate or if I should leave now and submit for an MPhil. I know I’d hear no end of it from my family if I were to quit at this stage, but I feel like I’m wasting what little I’ve got left of my life.

    Your advice would be appreciated. Thank you for your time.


  262. As an independent scholar, I appreciate the advice you provide in this blog. I have some questions about software. Following ten years of thinking, reflecting, and reading, I decided to start writing a non-fiction book. Along the way, I’ve collected my reading notes in a series of notebooks. Last summer, I created an 8-page detailed outline, and then I began transfering those margin notes into the appropriate sections of the outline within MS Word document. I used the cite while you write feature of Zotero to create my references along the way (which I absolutely loved). I understand that Scrivener is great for writing in outline format (after seeing my notes, my outline has grown to 10-pages), but it worries me about the lack of integration with a citation manager. I’ve read about workarounds, but they all seem so complicated. Do you have any advice on what I should use? (Scrivener, Nota Bene, IdeaRover, etc.) Is using Zotero with Scrivener less complicated than it seems?

  263. I really appreciate your site and all you’ve helped me through during my PhD thusfar. I’m in my second year, and maybe I’m in a different situation than most because I’m in a small lab and I worked in the lab before my PhD, but my biggest problem is that i’m on so many projects.

    A lot of what I see on this site is ‘making it through my project’ or ‘love/hate with my thesis topic’ or such, which is great, but not for me. Is this a problem other students have? I’m in engineering if that helps. I can think of 17 legitimate projects in various phases of development, data acquisition, analysis, and writing that I’m heavily involved with (the only grad student involved, so lots of work), and it’s making me really wonder if I’ll be able to wrangle it into anything over the next two (ish) years.

    it also makes it really hard to get anything done. normal? advice? help?

  264. Hello,

    I am an honours student who has found your website very useful (even if it is directed at PhD students)!

    I have a bit of an agony aunt question. I am mere weeks away from my due date, for a project that I have really enjoyed and that (until recently) I thought was very original.

    This is because I have recently come across an article that pretty much exactly makes my broader argument (though not the application I propose). I have been warned about this happening, and am a bit shocked to see it!

    Would you have any tips on how to deal with this? I feel that it is something I should have picked up earlier in the research stages, but I did not, and that now it is too late to substantially change.

  265. Hello Ingwer,

    First and most important – I want to let you know that I really appreciate your blog. I cannot count the times it saved me while doing my PhD. And while I still have two more years to go, I know that I can make it because of your blog (and patter’s, cannot forget her blog, another treasure trove!).

    Second is a guest blog post suggestion for you: to combine the ideas of ‘deliberate practice’ and surviving grad school to develop smarter work tactics/ habits and special ‘academic drills’ that focus on improving a particular element of a skill (e.g. more efficient reading of literature to understand the argument fast, writing up a ‘catchy’ introduction, dealing with departmental demands, and so forth). This idea draws on several books and blogs that I have read over the years – so it is more about putting the knowledge together that is out there.

    If you are interested and think that it would interest others, I would send you a more detailed outline of what I think per email (and that could be another ‘academic drill’ – how to pitch one’s ideas).

    Thanks again for the great work you (and Pat Thompson) do – I am sure I am not the only grad student who turns more often to your blog instead their supervisor for help.


  266. A famous professor came to the UK to examine my thesis in 2014. He liked it a lot to the extent that he is publishing a book with the ideas from my thesis without my permission. He is not even quoting me or referencing my ideas. What can I do to expose this?

  267. Hi,

    I am planning on starting a PhD in the life sciences (molecular biology) next year and would like to know whether doing a PhD in a research institute away from the university campus itself would significantly harm my chances of establishing a career as an academic/lecturer later on?

    Is it enough to just get some demo-ing experience in undergraduate labs and network as best I can or am I severely disadvantaging myself?

    I am currently a research assistant in the lab I want to do my PhD in, and I am happy with the level of supervision and work environment.


  268. I have been reading your blog for some time now, it was advertised to our undergraduate course (At ANU) by several lectures. I have now left ANU and I am completing a PhD elsewhere but still manage to frequent your blog. I was wondering if you could provide advice or write an entry about the negotiation of a phd project or change of project or addition of a project?

    In my PhD, I had a project which was modified after about 4 months of starting to an almost new project with little consideration for my opinion. I was repeatedly told to make the project ‘my own’ and with every mention of this I suggested an add on within the same area. I have now finished almost 1 year, I have done a substantial amount of reading and I have been developing a new technique which appears to be working and I want to use it to study infection states in humans. Similar studies have happened in other different infections in the last 2 years (using old techniques) and they have published very well. I want to bring it up with my supervisors but I don’t want to be simply told no again, any advice? The new project i would be suggesting would be addition to my current project.

    Thanks in advance,

  269. I attended a wonderful talk from you a couple of years ago at Salford University. It was really helpful! I was devastated last October to received a years worth of correction (revise and resubmit) and I noticed in your 2013 article ‘how to respond to your examiners’ that you were planning on writing an article focusing on responding to category four comments but I can’t find it. Did this get written? It would be very helpful as I am nearly done making changes🙂

  270. You could consider a personal trainer at a gym something like a coach, in that they help
    you to get fit and work harder, even when you dont want to.
    But, when it comes to overall weight loss, you need someone who is
    there for you when you arent at the gym.

  271. Dear Thesis Whisperer team,
    How are you?

    My name is Juliana Costa and I work for Mind the Graph.
    Mind the Graph is a DIY platform made by scientists to scientists. Our goal is to improve science communication by using scientific infographics.

    I am the Content Manager and, while surfing on the internet, I found your blog. Thesis Whisperer seems to have the same values as Mind the Graph. For that reason I was wondering if I could write a post for your blog talking a little bit about new trends in science and Mind the Graph.

    Here is the link for out blog where you can see previous posts I have already written.

    Thank you for you attention and I hope to hear from you soon!
    Best regards,

  272. I’m not sure who will read this. I just have a question. I’m not a student, I don’t have a deploma or anything. But I do have a thesis about general relativity. Have no proof that I am right but I just want someone’s opinion on it, who could I contact? Sincerely Scott Peterie

  273. Since starting my PhD and discovering your blog early this year I have already: updated the font in my template (with unexpected positive feedback from my supervisor!!), added (and use) the brain focus app on my phone, started a touch typing program (I’m getting there), and most recently discovered my thesis totem (the Phoenix rises from the ashes).
    Each of these small but significant changes have had a positive impact on my PhD.
    So, thank you Thesis Whisperer & contributors!! I will continue to use your site for productive procrastination and enjoy my PhD path more because of you🙂

  274. A friend of mine used to review books for a magazine so when I just read your post on reviews and the critical thinking book it inspired me to get in touch….I’d be happy to review a book a quarter for you if that would help, as I am sure others would too🙂

    I understand the busi-ness challenge as I am just getting back to your blog after months away, but I think one a quarter I can manage🙂. It’d be good to get me out side my discipline’s world view.

  275. Dear Dr Mewburn and the Thesis Whisperer gang:

    Thank you so much for everything you do on here – it has really been a godsend to me throughout my PhD!

    I am coming into my final half-year of my PhD in Melbourne. Recently, i ran into a bit of an awkward issue with my supervisors that I was hoping to get some wise, but impartial, advice on. I see a lot of comments above so no expectations as you must be inundated, but I wonder whether you or other students have come across similar issues.

    More broadly, I’ve been troubled by the way the academic ‘system’ is self-defeating, where it seems there is more focus on how authors are ordered, than on actually producing a good academic review/product.

    Okay, so I have 3 supervisors (One main (male) and two co-supervisors (male and female)) – on paper anyway.

    To be brief. I was recently invited to write a review article by a journal in our field. I chose to take it on and asked my 3 supervisors to be co-authors. Anyway, I wrote the review and send around for feedback etc. I received substantial and useful feedback from my 2 co-supervisors, but very little of use from my main supervisor.

    To clarify, this has been the case throughout my whole PhD to date – my main supervisor has been very ‘hands off’ and I’ve come to question what he is actually adding the academic aspects of the PhD (he’s best described as a ‘manager’). He’s not a bad guy, just not a great supervisor/scientist (well seemingly not anymore anyway) and his feedback is always very benign and its mostly – ‘agree with other supervisors’ etc, but no critical feedback per se. Most of the grunt work seems to have been carried out by my co-supervisors – for which I am very grateful.

    Anyway, when it came time to decide on the author order. I suggested that one co-supervisor go second author and the other go last (senior) and the main go in the middle (long with another external co-author). This wasn’t received well by main supervisor as he felt he had ‘contributed substantially’. This makes things a little awkward for me, as I now have to lay out why I don’t think he, my main supervisor doesn’t really deserve the senior author spot based on contribution to the manuscript.

    A part of me thinks just get over it and let them fight it out and don’t make a meal of it (i.e. just do what main supervisor wants), but another part of me morally thinks that I owe it to my co-supervisors to stand up for them and give them credit for all their help – especially since I am supposed to be the one deciding since I am the invited author. I know that by bringing it up, I risk ’embarrassing’ my main supervisor and ultimately putting myself at risk in the longer term for future opportunities and referees etc (even if it is dealt with diplomatically). However, it just seems so wrong that I am probably going to take the ‘practical option’ and throw all this under the rug – which only perpetuates the big picture issue here…. I want to take a stand, but I feel like it will lead me down a path of more resistance… Am I blowing this all out of proportion?… or should I make a point?…

    I have to submit this paper in a week… I would love to hear what you or others have to say… but no pressure.


    Patrick (not real name – but as you can imagine I would rather be anonymous to avoid this getting back to my supervisors…)

    • Also brings up the thorny aspect of how one decides the order of authorship on a scientific paper based on ‘contribution’. This can be clearer cut in research studies where roles are more clearly defined, but with a review article where ideas and thoughts/writing are the main contribution – things become a bit messy and debatable (from each authors perspective)…

  276. Dear Inger,

    I had emailed you a couple of time with articles I had written, and which Emma Gillaspy thought suitable for the Thesis Whisperer. However, I haven’t heard back from you despite it being over a month since I emailed you.

    Did you receive the emails I sent? Or is there a safe place I can resend them?

  277. What sort of gift for a supervisor, and should it be given after submission or actual conferral of degree? If wine, what sort, how expensive etc.

    • Sue,
      clearly it’s a personal choice but I’d suggest waiting until you’ve completed the viva rather than after submission. In my own case I live about 250 miles from the university and did most of my course online with visits every few months. So I sent my supervisor a thank you card and small gift by post when I completed the viva, and took him out for dinner the next time I went to the city where the university is located.

  278. Hello. I’m doing a coursework Masters at the University of Sydney, and I’ve lost my way. This may be a bit out of what you deal with, but do you know of any academic assistance or counseling programs in Australia? Or mentors, academic coaches, and so on? I’m just a bit lost, uncomprehending, and not progressing right now. Thank for your time and the inspiration of your blog.

  279. What is your area of study Alex as sometimes its just a few well chosen questions and a discussion that can help, to redirect where you are going. Worked for me as a PhD student in my final semester.

  280. I am currently busy with my MSc in Applied Maths and although I am interested in my topic and I have a good supervisor I’m feeling very apathetic towards my looming deadlines. One of which could prolong my studies if I don’t meet it. Do have any suggestions on how to shake it off?

    I love reading your blog, it makes me feel like I’m not as alone in my struggles with my studies as I thought!

  281. Hi thesiswhisperer,

    Thanks for so helpful information here.
    I want to know some techniques help me to write quickly. I found that most of my time goes in writing and format a good paper.
    I need some guidance from experts on how to structure my thesis, choosing right vocabulary, and review critically.


  282. Hi, guys!
    Is this the “comments section” you refer to when you say: “We’re interested in what you think of our site…Do you have any feedback or ideas you want to tell us? Leave us a message in the comments section!” My problem with this is: the heading is “Leave a Reply” not “comments section.” Are you using two terms to refer to one thing, or two terms to refer to two things? If the latter, where is the other thing? Please clarify!
    My substantive issue: I can’t see where to register for updates on particular topic threads. I get these automatically for a thread I once contributed to; I’m wondering if I’m only offered this option for threads I have contributed to. Could you amend the website to clarify this?
    More generally: I admit I have a bee in my bonnet about fussy or crowded home pages. But yours is particularly crowded. I know there’s a lot to fit in. But you don’t have to put it all on the home page, or in the margins of every article! If the logic is clear, even simpletons like me will be able to find what they want. After all, Isn’t clear reasoning the business academics are in? (Maybe not the only one, though? I’ve just been reading your fascinating section on academic bullying. As an ex-diplomat, my specialty is delivering unwelcome messages as gently as possible. Maybe the academic world could learn something from diplomats?)
    Best wishes
    PS I think you’ve answered below my query about threads I’ve contributed to. But I only saw the answer at the last moment, when I scrolled down looking for the “Post Comment” button. There must be a better place for it! And what if I want an update on threads I haven’t contributed to?

  283. Dear Inger,
    I am a long time reader and enjoy your articles a lot. They are basicallly whats keeping me motivated to finish my part-time cell biology phD someday.

    I have a question about how to define or find novelty. Where does it start? Is seeing the same results in a different setting “enough”? Or do you need to find something completly new?

    I have a “problem” at hand that started as a small cooperation and yielded some good results. Now technically the effects that I see are already published for a different cell line of the same “family”. Since its a small cooperation I can’t spend literally years to try to identify the mode-of-action to find something new there. The methods that I am using were used before but I could argue that mine are “better” because the outcome is much more controlled and analysed in detail than the previous study.

    When I think about it more deeply while writing to you, most of the things that I see in my experiment are published somewhere in different fields, but none has ever published the things as one whole story.

    Would this be sufficient for novelty?

    Thank you for your help!

    Kind regards,


  284. Re: Your article Niche Marketing for Academics 7/9/16
    I really appreciated this article. As an early career researcher, my greatest difficulty is actually feeling sick about someone reading my work, and I often wonder if I am simply not ‘cut out’ for this, or even why the heck I am doing it. However, I feel as though if I don’t see this through, I will never rest. My project has evolved over years of simple inquiry, I just want to know more, and so do others in my field and it seems I am the silly (privileged at the same time) one doing the research. I feel inadequate and worry that I won’t be contributing anything ‘that worth while’…therefore I fear other peoples opinions. I also don’t want to be perturbed by them either, as I said, this has taken hold of me, and until it ‘lets me go’ I must press on.
    Oh, you have a spelling error in that article as well, towards the end…appropriate was the word, if I recall correctly.
    Thanks for sharing.

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