Blog 2018-05-22T09:52:53+00:00
06/11/2017

The Paradox of Climbing the PhD Hill: Lowering Your Expectations

There is always a fear when doing academic work that you are not up to the job. That your work isn’t ‘good enough’, that you’re not clever enough, perhaps, to deliver what it takes. But what if you don’t need to be ‘brilliant’? What if it is more about stamina, persevering, sitting with the difficult questions, and keeping at it, pushing your work forward, keeping going one step at a time? What if it is more akin to climbing a hill (let’s not call it a mountain, it’s only a hill and it is absolutely doable, though sometimes it may [...]

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09/10/2017

HappyPhD Course: Changes Ahead (and 50% off)

I got a message from someone on LinkedIn congratulating me on my 5 year work anniversary: it is apparently five years since I sat down and typed those first words that would develop into the HappyPhD course! Now, five years on, it is time for an update: I will soon be taking the course offline to make space for a new version. When I wrote the course I did it straight from the heart: I had only recently finished my own PhD and all my experiences were fresh. I put every story that might be of help into the course. [...]

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29/08/2017

Less is More: Why Working Shorter Hours Is a Better Idea

I have just finished 'The Slow Professor' by Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber. It reflects on time pressure and stress in academia, and on how academic life has sped up to such a degree that quality of research, teaching and life suffers. (It was a present from prof. Hein de Haas - do check out our ‘How to Write a PhD’ interview with his tips on productivity and self-care). At one point in the book my jaw dropped: it is the chapter on time management, where a number of books and approaches to the academic schedule are discussed. This part [...]

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16/06/2017

Your Thesis Defence: Prepare to Defend!

I like the expression ‘thesis defence’ as it captures exactly what a PhD viva is about: you are defending your work. You are not just presenting, you are defending. Like a sword fight. (A friendly one, mostly.) I attended a thesis defence last week, and it reminded me of the first thesis defence I ever went to. My supervisor had advised me to go; my colleague’s work had been very well received, and he considered her thesis a must-read. Much to his chagrin, the defence didn’t go so well. Not because she didn’t know what she was talking about, quite [...]

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10/04/2017

How Many Top Publications Do You Have? or The Curse of Performance Metrics

“I don’t really believe in citations myself. I don’t really count citations. I don’t value anybody’s work by the number of citations they have. I think it’s a mistake.” A quote by Nobel Prize winner James Heckman, uttered at an unusual panel at the 2017 American Economic Association meeting. It was titled ‘Publishing and promotion in Economics: The curse of the top five’, a reference to the top five journals dominating the Economics field. One of the anecdotes told was about graduate students endlessly deferring their ‘entry to the job market’ until they were sure of a top five publication. [...]

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15/02/2017

Life (real life) is not like that

“Your basic worry is, of course, your PhD proposal. I wonder if you have made some progress in the meanwhile. Your trouble may be that you try too hard (‘do something really groundbreaking, brilliant and fascinating’). Life (real life) is not like that. However, no matter the topic you settle on, it will develop into something interesting once you get into it. You can’t expect life as a PhD to be a bed of roses...” Quoted from a letter my LSE mentor Gordon Smith sent me in 2005 (back when we still wrote letters!). During this time I was writing [...]

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