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A few pieces of advice for doctoral students in their first year

I clearly remember my first semester. I was absolutely dedicated to studying. Like, beyond whatever I ever had done before. I arrived on campus at 7:30 in the morning and left at 9:30 at night. I don’t want anybody to think that this was healthy. It was just that I was… really convinced that this was my calling and I spent just about every waking hour thinking about research.

MY research.

Reading, scribbling and highlighting

I worked excessively long hours because I wanted to, and thought I would be prepared to write my doctoral comprehensive exams right at the end of the first year.

Famous last words.

One proviso before I continue: If there’s something that I have always wanted my students to learn is that circumstances, populations (and therefore, policy options) are extraordinarily heterogeneous. So, giving blanket advice for undergraduates, or graduate students, does not work. We all have our circumstances. So, whatever suggestions I provide here are to be taken with a grain of salt and adapted to each person’s individual circumstances. Here are some pieces of advice that I provided when a number of people suggested my website as a source of wisdom for the PhD journey.

One thing that I strongly believe people doing PhDs need to do frequently is to remember that this is a training process. You’re not supposed to know everything. That’s what the doctorate is for: to prepare you to do independent research that can investigate phenomena to a deep extent so you can provide an original contribution to the literature.

If you liked this blog post, you may also be interested in my Resources for Graduate Students page, and on my reading notes of books I’ve read on how to do a doctoral degree.

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