10 Questions For The Next Year Of Your PhD

Starting another year of your PhD?

Congratulations! I’ll bet it’s been tough so far, but you’re making progress I’m sure. As you start another year it’s a good time to take a step back and reflect. Here are ten questions to get you started.

What have you done in the last year? List all of the different things that you have accomplished, in particular things that you have done which have a direct impact on your thesis. Take some time listing these; you have probably done a lot more than you first think of.

What’s been the most difficult thing that you have achieved? Think carefully about what was really tricky and what you did to overcome it. Something like this might crop up again in the future, and you’ll know how to tackle it then.

How has the way you work changed? Things change all of the time. Think about how you get things done, how that has changed and whether that change has been for the better.

What drove that change? If it was in response to external circumstances, are they ongoing? Or was it a one-time situation? If you instigated the change, did it have the desired result?

What opportunities have you had to share your research in seminars, conferences and other situations? Think about how you felt at those situations, and what you learned from how you delivered your material. If it was successful, think about what you can take away from that for future presentations; if there were things you wanted to do better, list a couple of things that you need to do or try.

What has it been like working with your supervisors? Check your diary or meeting record and see how often you have met with your supervisors. If you have made notes, look over them again to see what you are actually taking away from meetings. Reflect honestly on how it has been.

Is there anything about the relationship you would change and how might you do that? The relationship with your supervisors, whatever else, is a working one. Reflect on what works, and what benefits you might get if it was different. Think about what things you might need to do in order to get those benefits.

What are the big challenges for the year ahead? Make a list. Take some time with this. Acknowledge to yourself that this might change. All the same, this is a snapshot of now, your goals and the things that you need to do to keep your research on track, or possibly to complete it.

What do you need in order to meet those challenges? Some challenges will require breaking down in to smaller, simpler tasks; others will require you to learn things, or even design how you will tackle problems. Now you might only have the outcome in mind that you want, with no idea of how you will realise it.

What do you want to achieve in the next year? Think about what you would love to stand up and proclaim proudly “I have done it!” Remember that a PhD is more than just the research or the thesis. You are the PhD. Figure out what you want that to mean.

What other questions do you want to ask at the start of this year ahead? Share them in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)