Tips for doing a PhD

In this article, we've put together some tips for you to have a successful PhD trajectory. Of course, not all of these tips will be applicable to everyone, but we hope that by reading them, you'll be better prepared for what a promotion trajectory entails and how you can contribute to a successful defense!

Take initiative!

This applies to everything, whether it's the direction of your research or a lack of guidance. Many things can be solved by yourself. For example, if your supervisor wants to take the research in a different direction than you do, explore the possibilities together. Perhaps multiple theories or methods can be used side-by-side? If not, keep in mind that your supervisor is an experienced scientist who wants to guide you in a direction where they have the most expertise, and you can learn a lot from them in that field as a beginning researcher. Additionally, in the discussion section of your dissertation, you can diplomatically address the advantages and disadvantages of the method and make suggestions for alternative research methods. Furthermore, you should be mindful of your position. Someone who has only been there for two months is likely to accomplish less than a PhD candidate who has been there for three years. However, fundamental choices may have already been made by that point.

Write, write, write!

One important recommendation that PhD candiates from the research school in communication science (NESCoR) gave to beginning PhD candidates is to start writing quickly. By putting something on paper (such as a working paper), your colleagues can read your work and start a discussion. Additionally, this paper could potentially be turned into an article with the help of feedback from colleagues. Writing articles during your PhD research generally increases your value on the academic job market. Additionally, writing experience will help you improve your writing skills, and feedback from scientists in the field can be used to enhance your PhD research.

Ensure adequate guidance

If you're not getting enough guidance, seek out more mentors yourself. This could be a postdoc who is doing research in the same area as you. The benefit of this is that they are close to you as they have recently been through the same process. Suggest to your supervisor to make this person a "daily supervisor" or "co-supervisor." Another option is to establish a guidance committee. Find multiple people who are working on the same topic or have expertise in another relevant field. Discuss with your supervisor what they think of the idea and whether they have any suggestions for members of the guidance committee. Write a letter to the members of the guidance committee outlining the process. For example, the committee should meet at least once a year, and committee members are expected to provide feedback on interim products. Keep in mind that as more people are involved in the project, there is a greater chance of conflicting advice being given. Additionally, decision-making and discussions may take longer as a result.

Attend conferences

It is recommended that you present a portion of your PhD research in the form of a paper at a scientific conference. The feedback you receive can be very useful. For example, you may receive feedback on points that you had not previously considered. Additionally, it is encouraging to talk to scientists who are conducting research in the same or similar fields.


See if there are any courses in relevant areas. Courses from the research school are the most obvious. If they are not available, look at courses from research schools in related fields, either in terms of content or methodology. Additionally, you may consider general courses such as courses on project planning, scientific writing, or statistics.

Local PhD council
Get in touch with the local PhD council. The local councils keep PhD candidates well informed about what is happening, and experiences can also be exchanged with other PhD candidates.

Research and Graduate schools

When you start your PhD, you may automatically be enrolled in a research school or graduate schoolThis can have several benefits, such as offering courses that may be of interest to you. Additionally, in some cases, you may be able to access funds from these schools for courses outside your own research school or for attending conferences. Some of these schools also offer a bonus if you complete your PhD within four years.

However, there may be cases where you're not automatically enrolled in a research school or graduate school. If this happens, it's a good idea to take the initiative and contact a research school or graduate school yourself, ideally in consultation with your supervisor.

Performance review

You should also request a meeting with your supervisor to discuss your progress. During this meeting, you should clearly communicate your expectations, any difficulties you're facing, questions about the research, and your plans for the rest of your PhD. It's also recommended to create an outline and timeline for your research progress, so that you know where you stand. You can revisit this outline and timeline during your next meeting with your supervisor.

Agreements on authorship

Before starting a joint article, it's important to establish clear agreements on authorship. Generally, the person who writes the first draft of the article (and does most of the work) is the first author. If your data is used, you should be included as a co-author. According to Fine & Kurdek (1993), the PhD candidate usually takes first authorship in the case of a jointly authored article that is mainly based on the candidate's research. You can also refer to the guidelines of the ethical committee of the American Psychological Association (1983).

Read the promotion regulations

Make sure to read your university's promotion regulations before starting your PhD to avoid any unpleasant surprises. These regulations outline the requirements for starting a PhD, the rules for the PhD trajectory, and the procedure for the promotion itself.


Finally, it's a good idea to keep a record of all correspondence with your supervisor. Since much of the correspondence may be via email, create a special folder to save these emails.

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