How to write a PhD (in three years)

How to write a PhD (in three years)

top twenty tips
from Dr Imogen Tyler (Doctoral Director, Lancaster University Sociology Department which is home to 85 PhDs and co-Director of the Centre for Gender & Women’s Studies where we are pioneering new forms of mutual writing support for MA, PhD students and staff at Lancaster.

  1. I (imogen) am writing a lecture called how to write a phd in 4 yrs – which is funny because I didn’t manage that myself – nevertheless 1/2
  2. I will tweet some top tips from myself and from Rowena Murray
    whose book — how to write a thesis- is my first top tip for phd students 2/2
  3. @cgwslancaster @PhDForum @SociologyLancs
    Imogen’s Top PhD writing tips
    Tip 1: buy yourself a copy of Rowena Murray “How to Write a Thesis”
  4. @cgwslancaster @SociologyLancs @PhDForum
    Tip 2
    Write every day. This might include
    Notes on readings
    Plans of work
  5. @SociologyLancs @PhDForum @cgwslancaster
    Tip 3
    You are a writer.
    Understand &. Visualise your PhD as “a long piece of writing” from outset
  6. @cgwslancaster
    Tip 4 Communicate with supervisor(s) ie. email them once a fortnight to say how you are getting on
  7. It is important to remember that you OWN the project. It is YOUR PhD. Your supervisor can advise you but you need to understand yourself as project manager, director, and worker.
  8. Tip 9
    Ownership. This is your project. Your supervisor can advise but you need to understand yourself as project manager & labourer.
  9. Tip 5
    Ask your supervisor(s) if you can a timetable meetings at the beginning of each time – this creates a writing structure for you
  10. Tip 6
    give your supervisors something to read for each meeting. It might only be a report but supervision often more productive with a focus
  11. Tip 7 have a 1)phd title 2) list of research questions & 3) working abstract. Regularly return to & revise these (& useful to do if “stuck”)
  12. Related to this tip, write an outline of the PhD structure –with key questions under chapter headings
    Rewrite this at regular intervals as the thesis develops.
    You supervisor might ask you for something like each once or twice or year or at panels, but surprisingly not all supervision processes involve this
    Lets look at some examples. of a working abstract, PhD outline and research questions. 
  13. Tip 8
    Writing is rewriting. Learning how to edit a major PhD skill. Reading passages of writing out loud can assist with editing process.
  14. Tip 9
    Organise your writing days & week ie. 2 x writing sessions of 2 hours each morning would be 20 writing hours a week.
  15. Tip 10
    a PhD is a project not a problem. You might encounter problems along the way but don’t turn the PhD itself into a problem “love it!”
  16. Tip 11 some premises
    1.Learning comes through writing
    2. Quality comes through revision
    3. Regular writing develops fluency (Murray p.18)
  17. Tip 12
    Fields & audience
    Which field(s) are you engaging with ( can be tricky if a few) helpful to imagine the ideal examiner to figure out
  18. it can be hard to define a field sometimes–you might work in the broad field of sociology, for example, but in a subfield of welfare studies, or critical race studies, or parenting studies–you need to be able to map this–and my students often actually do this in the form of a Venn style diagram (see slide)

  19. tip 13
    Be specific in writing goals ie. write 500 words about abjection this morning and NOT do some reading & make notes about abjection
  20. Tip 14
    Find 2 finished PhDs from lib in your field. Have a close read & use a supervision to discuss strengths, weaknesses– helps a lot
  21. Tip 15 if you isolated find a group of people online to work with-see @PhDForu— & create online writing groups – @_erica_lewis our expert
  22. Lets talk about writing groups…(see slides)
  23. Form a writing group with other PhD students. Use to read & comment on work, to practice talking about work & for moral support
  24. Lets look together at how you can organise your time into writing blocks in this timetable (see slides)
  25. tip 16
    Arrange your life to write. Timetable 2 hr writing sessions into diary & fit other work & social life around these blocks.
  26. Find a good place to write, warm and without distractions–could be at home or a library–could be a café full of people which puts you at ease.. Lets talk about where you write best….
  27. Tip 17
    Get “loved ones” on board. Explain why it is important to you (people think you are not really working when at home for example)
  28. Tip 19
    Don’t use Internet during your 2hr writing blocks & attempt to restrict social media use to #playtime (will try this myself!)
  29. Tip 20 & last tip for today
    Think about how good you will feel when you finish — visualise the end of chapters & submission celebrations

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