I bought this book on the day I found out I had been offered a studentship at the University of Exeter. I was in the streets of Glasgow, feeling both exhilarated and terrified, and I naturally wandered towards where I always go to look for guidance when feeling unsure: books. In this case, Waterstones. This book caught my eye, and after reading it for half an hour, I was feeling calmer and somewhat reassured, so brought it home with me.
Having finished it, I was not disappointed. This is a very useful book if you’re just starting out your doctorate and you’re unsure about the process, what skills you will need, what exactly is expected of you, and what to expect of your university and your supervisors. It covers topics from time management, to types of research, to practical advice on writing your thesis, and much more. It’s peppered throughout with tips and real-world examples from students and supervisors. If you’re a PhD student and anything like me, it helps to understand that no one has it all figured out, that feelings of excitement are likely to be followed by periods of panic or anxiety, that you are likely to question the interest and relevancy of your research quite regularly, and that writing is a much harder job than most people think. In short, it helps you feel more prepared. I can’t comment on its accuracy since I’m still very early on in the process, but I’ve found that knowing what (probably) lies ahead helps.
On the downside, this is a very general book. There are considerable differences in doing a PhD in the Humanities or Social Sciences, and doing in it Science, Technology or Medicine, for example. The book mentions these differences, but doesn’t go into much detail about them, which means that some of the advice included probably won’t apply to your particular PhD. But it’s a good starting point for a more general view of the process, so I’d recommend it to those who, like me, are on their first year, and still feeling a little lost.