I’ve started a PhD, now what?

I have been thinking about doing a PhD for many years. It seems that the stars have aligned, an opportunity has come my way and now I am thrilled to have finally enrolled in a PhD on innovation networks @ Swinburne University, Melbourne. So after the overwhelming excitement that a swim at the local pool now only costs me $5, I am thinking about my 4 week and 6 month PLAN for my PhD project.

I am absolutely aware that time is the enemy. I do not want to be one of those PhD students who gets 2.5years in and suddenly realises that there are 80,000 words to write… So I am taking some time to think about how to organise myself, plan effectively and prepare for success!

The top 3 tips I have for PhD planning are:

1. Install Mendeley I am converted. So far this product hasn’t disappointed. For a referencing tool I was using End Note as this was my organisation’s default product. Except I had a few problems accessing my database from home across VPN – so I started looking around. Mendeley ticks all the boxes for me. I took 5 mins to transfer my reference list from End Note to Mendeley. Its now available on my work desktop, laptop, iPad and iPhone. It’s stored in the cloud (beautiful) so I am never searching for a paper. It’s helped me go completely paperless – all reading, highlights, notes are done online. It’s social. I have joined a group in my research area and suddenly I have a whole pile of references recommended by colleagues working in my area, not to mention international contacts! So far the in-text referencing works well but I haven’t yet published using Mendeley so I am trialling it for this purpose. Despite my short time of ~ 1 month using Mendely, I strongly recommend that you take Mendeley for a spin as part of your PhD research.

2. Install Wunderlist If you don’t want time to creep up on you, then get control of your tasks by writing them down. This tool is free, elegant and will ensure you remember all the big and little things you have to get done as you start to get you head around enrolling, planning and getting that literature review done…speaking of which..

3. Start your literature review! You know your topic, your research questions (which of course will change), now start reading! Even better, start your planning on what your literature review will be. What journal will you aim for? What is your topic? Will you publish alone or with a colleague? What methodology will you use? Use #2 and #1 to help you with your literature review. Most of all, set a realistic target for completing a draft and break down your task so you are more likely to finish. It’s your PhD, enjoy it. I certainly am and these three things are the focus of my PhD life in week 1.