The PhD Student’s Checklist: Things to Do on Your First 100 Days


Starting a PhD can be very overwhelming to a fresh graduate who doesn't have professional experience yet or enough field exposure. It can also be daunting to an accomplished professional to go back to school again after some time. Whether you are a full time student or a part time one, knowing what you need to do can make a difference and at the same time boost your confidence.

So here are some things you can do during your first 100 days as a PhD student:

  • Know the desired outcome. Read a PhD's thesis from cover to cover. It's better if you can read more than one and those which are in your field of specialization and the research proposal you wish to make. Ask for recommendations and check out libraries and online catalogues for theses that you can use for your own research.

  • Begin with the basics. Since you're already doing your readings, it's only logical to get started and taking notes of the abstract, the way thesis questions were framed, research objective and the data gathering methods.

  • Deal with the design. Know your school's accepted formatting for the research: margins, spacing, headings, subheadings, paginations, length and citations. These are little things you can prepare ahead of time so you can focus more on the content later on.

  • Practice writing. This is not the final piece and you probably won't be using most of the things you wrote when you work on the paper but writing helps you practice and at the same time it can also help while you're studying available literature about your subject. Practicing will also let you identify when you write best.

  • Make realistic commitments whether you're a full time or part time PhD student, it's important to identify the number of hours you can commit to attending to your course work. The next more important thing is making sure you work within those hours. If you're working, consider how much time you can take of work when you begin working on your thesis and talk this over with your supervisor and your team.

  • Plan ahead of time, way ahead of time. If you have important family matters to attend to or you need to take a trip, make sure you've plotted it in advance in your calendar. Conferences, professional groups and annual stakeholders' gatherings are things that you may need to attend to so consider how these can be managed together with your PhD course work.

  • Familiarize yourself with your new environment. If you're new in town, get to know the place as well as alternative routes if you will be driving to class. Learning other modes of transportation is also beneficial. To make the most of your days, knowing places where to dine and shop will also help you become more efficient with your time. This also applies to knowing your new campus and the best places to do your research and the people who can help you.

  • Make new friends. Working for your PhD can be less daunting and lonely if you have a network of friends to support you. Make friends with other PhD students, those who are starting out just like you, those who are ahead as well as recent graduates. In short, get to know everyone. Their knowledge, experience and moral support can help you realize your dreams and acing that viva.

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