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Advice from former students

Do's and don'ts
Build a good cohort group - they will act as your support group during your fieldwork and will be of great help when you reach your writing stage. They can help in reading your drafts and be your sounding board for ideas.”
Read other dissertations. This was a suggestion offered by my own supervisor, as well as others, that was valuable. Take a look at previous dissertations, particularly well-received ones, to get a sense of what you are working towards.”
If you belong to a minority community outside the academy, create an informal mini one of at least two or three people to help you navigate and survive the ‘token’ experience inside the academy.”
Join reading groups - try attending several in your first year - they will help clarify your thought process and help better your MPhil thesis.”
Immerse yourself into intellectual life in the department, across anthropology and more widely. Be part of the department as much as you can – go to seminars, drinks, reading groups, classes etc. Make the most of London’s amazing intellectual life by attending seminars at other universities and public events. As a newcomer to London, I found this really amazing in comparison to what I’d experienced before, and uncovered lots of useful new lines of inquiry to then reflect on in the field and when writing up. Because my topic is pretty interdisciplinary, I also expanded to looking outside anthropology at things going on in adjacent disciplines such as geography and politics, which broadened the landscape later on when looking for postdocs.”
Try attending the seminars and all the relevant conferences where you can hear clever people, those spaces can become an inspiration, and help you in your own process of becoming a doctor.”
I wish someone had told me to invest more time in my cohort in the early stages. They are your support system in the chaos of gaining a doctorate.”
Participate in as many public engagement and outreach projects as you can. It is a fantastic way to talk about your research in an open and relaxed environment and you will have the chance to meet people with diverse professional backgrounds. This is also a great way of developing writing, organizational and communication skills. If you feel like you are distracted or unmotivated, participating in outreach projects will give you a small break and help you focus your energy on something worthwhile and rewarding.”
Start a reading group (pre or post-fieldwork). This is a great way to read widely on your topic and to connect with others sharing your interests. If you advertise it beyond the department (e.g. Anthropology Matters listserv) you may also meet people from other universities. When I started a reading group it attracted people from across 10 universities, many of whom then submitted abstracts for a conference panel I convened.”
Do cherish those people that seem to care for your work, there are few, but they are gold.”
Really get to know your fellow PhD cohort … you can offer each other invaluable emotional support, friendship and advice, as well as a critical sound board as you develop ideas. And in the longer term you can work together on new projects.”
Enjoy it! My supervisor used to tell me to enjoy my PhD as it was the freest time in my life I’d ever have - it used to rankle me a bit, but now it’s over I do know what she meant and look back with nostalgia! It’s a unique time of life to deeply immerse in your passion and to set your own agenda and surround yourself with like-minded people.”
Organisation and supervision

“DONT. GET. um. where was I... oh... DISTRACTED (.................................for too long).”


“Manage expectations and be a good project manager. Implementation is as important as planning.”


“Write early and write often. Get into good writing habits from early on. This might seem like an obvious point to make but writing is not only an outcome but a process of thinking. Much of my eventual manuscript was from weaving together pieces of writing that were completed earlier on. Experiment with the format of putting an argument or piece of work together that best suits you – much of the skill of gaining expertise in this area is understanding your own thinking processes and working with them, rather than against them.”


“UCL’s research log is awful to use, but it also provides a useful reminder of the many opportunities available to you and any useful activities you are not engaging with. Try it, you probably won’t like it, but it will help.”


“Learn at least basic statistics. It helps a lot in data interpretation and even during the writing stage. Learn shortcut tools in MS Word, Latex, Referencing, etc. They are useful when writing. UCL’s IT division runs training on these.”


“One of the first daunting tasks is choosing your PhD supervisor. It is all too easy to be star-struck by someone’s work. You may have read their work extensively or cited them in your masters’ thesis. It is likely that you will think they will be the best choice for you because your research is related to theirs or seems to fall under their expertise. However, even if you’ve answered yes to both statements, do not be fooled into thinking this will make them the best supervisor for you. Remember, after four intensive years you will become THE expert in your research area. You want someone who will have the time to read your stuff and provide timely feedback, not an unavailable academic superstar. You also want someone who will be able to put pressure on you when you’re running out of steam or taking too long to finish a chapter. You want a good manager and someone you can talk to.”

“If you can afford not to, don’t teach in your final year. It’s a great experience which you should definitely try, but the cash can’t compensate you for the extra pressure and stress it places on you.”


“If you come from a different country, especially outside the EU, and you are considering traveling around, remember to ask at the Student Centre for a letter that you can keep with you, so to give you mental peace and be able to prove -in case of need- that you are part of a bigger community.”


“Research e-log and paperwork: Yeah, we all whinged it was a pain but let me tell you just doing it regularly will save you a lot of grief instead of leaving it to the end which is basically an impossible nightmare. It’s also ultimately useful as a record of all the stuff you’ve done and helps you keep track so it’s not a complete waste of time! This goes for all the paperwork-y elements – the longer you put them off the worse it will be, admin takes ages so get a jump on all that stuff and ask for help if needed to figure it out (e.g. ethics applications at the start, examiner requests and printing and submitting thesis at end etc).”


“If your relationship with your supervisor is not working, ask for help in the department, don’t think it would change on its own. It won’t. If department is not helpful, turn to the Dean of Students at UCL. As one famous UCL academic said some years ago – remember that students are customers and they have the right to demand good service.”


“Be proactive, meet regularly: You might look to your supervisor to set the tone of the relationship, but I found I got a lot more out of it by also discussing with them my own working style and expectations. Think about how you work best and lock this dynamic in early. For example, I work best to deadlines so we structured critical literature reviews before fieldwork and I would send fortnightly fieldwork reports during fieldwork. During writing up we scheduled in regular meetings fortnightly to monthly even if there was no work to comment on. Although it might be easier to hide away when you aren’t managing to write, I found it helped with a sense of momentum even during writers block.”

Upgrade

“Writing the proposal and doing the upgrade is super daunting but is such a great  opportunity to pinpoint your distinctive take and imagine yourself into your fieldsite. Remember they just ultimately want to know the project is feasible and has legs conceptually. It also provides a good touchstone to come back to during and after fieldwork to remind yourself of what you wanted to find and see how things have progressed and changed – and it’s great practice for the viva!”

Fieldwork

“Gut feel. Pay close attention, whether in the early days of fieldwork, and in your initial writing, to what you are naturally drawn to – part of developing your original viewpoint is engaging with what stands out to you or captures your attention most, amongst the set of things that you have access to at your fieldsite(s) or that you could write about. I wish I’d done more of this following of (for want of a better term) ‘gut feel’ – I felt I did this in the end in my writing but I got there in a roundabout way after trying to come at the analysis using various different frameworks.”


“I risked my life and took very irrational decisions during my fieldwork, just because I was worried that I didn’t have enough data. I had malaria, and yet kept postponing seeking medical help.”


“Put aside fieldnote days. If you can, build in regular time for writing fieldnotes. Because I was doing fieldwork with NGOs it didn’t have to be 24/7 – I would take jottings in the evenings from the day, and have at least 1-2 days a week dedicated to writing long form notes about the week. I would also try to reference the news and political events in my fieldnotes in order to help me scale up to connect these events later in the writing process.”


“Flexibility is the key for surviving fieldwork. And patience. What you’ve planned during your pre-fieldwork year may often turn out impossible to do for various reasons. If and when that happens do not panic. Be ready to think on your feet and adjust your research questions accordingly. What you thought as important to study, will often turn out as less important to the people you’re studying.”


“Managing your field work can really be a daunting task. I recommend taking “baby steps”. What is more urgent or important? If possible, address that issue immediately, otherwise, find a temporary solution for it and then use that time to plan for the next steps or turn to the next problem. Some of these issues are not as big as you think they are when you are thinking about them in a smaller scale. If you are in a remote field site, try to anticipate potential problems as much as you can. This may be, for example, buying (if possible) a spare part to have as a backup or having the contact information of several providers in advance.”

 

“Reflexivity is key. While investigating the world outside, embark on a simultaneously journey within. A reflexive researcher is not only better able to maintain their physical and mental wellbeing, but also more likely to develop the creative adaptive skillset which is needed to successfully survive the chaos of fieldwork.”


“Don’t worry about gaps. It’s only with hindsight that I wish I’d asked that question, gone to that event, kept notes on that exchange… I have millions of repetitive notes on one thing and nothing on another. It’s so hard to know at the time what will emerge as important conceptually later on. Just try to be consistent with your fieldnote writing practice to control for this as much as you can.”


“You may discover along the way that the real issue is something different, something you weren’t even aware of when you planned your research. If you’re doing multi-sited ethnographic research, you may be half-way through when you realise that the second site is proving to be more challenging place than you’ve ever envisaged. Remember to write all of your frustrations down. Dead ends in research often turn into very productive research material. Explaining why something didn’t work, or could not be studied/researched, can become a research topic in its own right. Everything you end up doing, or more, not end up doing despite planning it, will become your data. Write everything – even the thoughts about walking out on your fieldwork and your entire PhD. Just keep writing (and keep going, do not walk out).”


“Down times and flexibility: You can’t be “on” 24/7 in the field and it’s important to practice self-care and not expect that you’ll be superhuman. You still have to live and make it sustainable for you so make sure there’s time to rest. Also, it may happen in fits and starts – there may be months without much and then a day where everything happens, so build in that flexibility to be able to be there when you need to be.”


“Invest in the right tools, such as an excellent external hard drive, and sign up for cloud storage too. Backup your data and try and organize them as you collect them. There is nothing as horrendous as losing your data after your fieldwork.”


“While out in the field, it is likely you will encounter all sorts of issues. You need to feel confident that you can share those with your supervisor. If the best advice your supervisor can give you before sending you off to do your fieldwork is to bring a Swiss knife with you, think twice. Your identity and your entire self will be scrutinised during your fieldwork. You may think you’re the one asking questions, but you will end up answering double more while researching others. Everything from your nationality, ethnicity, gender, accent, sexual orientation will be under the microscope by the very people and communities you’re studying. It won’t be a necessarily positive experience. Perhaps you will wish to talk to someone about those issues as these may become an obstacle for the actual research. Is your supervisor up for it, or do they think all you need to know is how to gossip and drink? Ask them all these questions before you settle on who you want to work with as your supervisor.”


“Giving back: I organised to do a pro-bono research consultancy with one of the NGOs and this was a great way to contribute while in the field and also see things from a different angle.”


“I wish someone would have told me how lonely it can be to do fieldwork. If you intend to tour the museums of Europe gathering your data, or travelling somewhere exotic, be it a city or the jungle to study your subjects, be they human or non-human animal, it can be extremely lonely and you can feel isolated. I travelled to the jungle to study apes, and although I was surrounded by beautiful nature and had some wonderful people to keep me company, what I found was that conversations often centred around work. Working in the field can be tough because of the rigorous requirement to hike through spikey vines, creeping past elephants, or wading through a swamp, but in addition to those physical challenges what I found more difficult was that it was virtually impossible to switch off my brain from work. My interactions with other humans centred around my work, my team and park managers; often times people wanted to know what I was doing, how I was getting on with the work, and at other times instructed me (unsolicited) how I should conduct my research better. So, I found that I never had
a day off, even the rare visits to the town or city were spent dealing with fieldworkrelated bureaucracy matters or making purchases of vital supplies for camp. For those of you starting out this year, I highly recommend you spend time not only planning your data collection but also include a plan of how you will ensure that you also take time out to relax, and to also forge connections with people who are not invested in your research; these few years will be intense and at the same time a truly wonderful experience conducting research.”

Academic life, thinking and writing

“Write, write, and then write some more. Exhale, now edit.”


“Look for your distinctive take on the topic from the outset. It would have helped if I had this more firmly in mind from early on. Whilst covering the literature is obviously important, having in mind that the priority is forming a distinctive and original perspective. In one sense this is present in requirements for ‘original thinking’ that are part of a PhD, but I think this definition of original could be considered more broadly than I originally saw it. Maybe not everyone sees it this way, but if my goal from the outset had been to end up with a distinctive piece of work, in the same way that a novel, a music composition or a piece of art, then I think I would have felt clearer in what I was working towards.”


“Soft skills are as critical as hard theory building and field level ethnographic skills. Grab opportunities to present both within and outside UCL; your ideas would attain clarity and polish.”


“I wish someone had told me to plan publications early but worry about actually publishing later. Prioritise the PhD but have a plan for after.”


“Build your community of practice. One of the most amazing things about UCL Anthropology is the sheer number of PhD students all going through the same thing. We have so much to learn from each other across cohorts with those returning from the field and writing up sharing spaces with those just starting their PhDs. Our cohort shared an office which formed strong bonds, helping us a lot in the field through our shared WhatsApp group, deciding to apply for grants together to do shared projects, reading each others work, forming a Thesis Writing Coop, and hosting regular PhD drinks. Apart from making the PhD experience so
much better, if you want to go on into academia later, having this kind of strong community of practice around you is really important.”


“Do not worry if the project is not concrete, or if you don't have a coherent argument at first. I only reached that stage in the final months before submitting the thesis. However, I did write, write, and write, even though I didn't know exactly where it was heading.”

“Beware of how you phrase your questions during the seminars! Shooting a question directly might come across as too bold. Remember to start by saying thank you, and highlight something you find brilliant, amazing, or interesting. Then say “however”, or “I was wondering” and tell an example from your field or from what you heard or read somewhere else. Finish by making a long statement and wait for the speaker’s reaction.”


“Find what works for you with your writing practice. I frequently got writer’s block; I found variety helped, whether it was spending some time in the British Library, at home, or in the department – writing alone, then with others, etc. For others, routine is essential in terms of workplace. Some will say you should always write at the same time of day - for me it was just ensuring that I got in a few hours of writing per day whether in the morning or evening – practice makes perfect. I tended to write then read literature afterwards, whereas I have a close friend who does the exact opposite, reading everything before starting to write. There’s no one formula
so finding your own working style and rhythm is key.”


“If you come from a different country and culture, your cohort might become your family, but there is a point during the writing-up process, in which the only way to do your writing would be to become a solitary soul, like a jaguar. Remember maintaining equilibrium and taking good breaks for recovering and socializing after finishing each chapter, but do embrace the solitary journey for the writingup.”


“Accepting the clunkiness and specificity of the thesis format/genre: Something that held us all back was wanting the thesis to be all things – to fit the requirements but to also be a beautiful, coherent piece of writing like a
monograph. But the thesis format actively works against this, as does the time constraint. The thesis is ultimately an assessment that has to meet certain criteria such as contribution to anth, originality, literature, methods, etc. that books don’t have to meet, so it’s always going to be a bit clunky and awkward as a whole piece. I have never met anyone who likes their thesis and rather than beating ourselves up about this it would be helpful for us all to acknowledge that part of this is just a structural issue with the format. In the end, the thesis needs to “tick the boxes”, and if you want to go on with writing it’s just your starting point to then develop publications.”


“Academic conferences can be soul destroying. Travelling half way around the world to lead a panel that 10 people turn up to (5 of them are giving presentations), when your research is unfunded and you have left your family at home, is challenging to say the least. Finding other ways to listen to anthropologists talking about their work (podcasts, workshops, seminars) and to build networks (ask people to have coffee and chat, most of the time they will) can be just as effective.”


“In my writing up process, I discovered how important it was to develop my own network of anthropological interlocutors who were working on topics that were relevant to mine - we all work on such specific topics, so you might have to work to find "your people" - going to conferences and following personal recommendations are ways to expand your networks. I ended up accidentally setting up a transnational research network which is still going today, the Laboratory for Anthropology of the State in Colombia, and whose members are not just colleagues who spark ideas off each other but also good friends. Although the writing up is a very solo exercise in comparison to fieldwork, it can be just as collaborative if you find the right people. I think that in general, academic research is at its best when we support each other and think together.”


“If English is not your first language, take note of the corrections your supervisors make and apply this knowledge to the next thing you write. Also, take notice of the writing in papers and articles you enjoyed reading.”


“There are various, globally run Listservs and academic interest groups. Do sign up for them; they would help you stay at the top of your research and help identify opportunities.”


“At the end, say no, go into the tunnel and ONLY WRITE. For the most part during writing up, keep going to seminars, conferences, reading groups, teaching, trying to publish, organising events/panels, doing job applications. But then, there will come a point when you get to the pointy end and the submission deadline is coming up and you get that manic crazed look in your eye and feel like the thesis will never ever end and you are going to be writing it for eternity. Then you need to say no and prioritise writing rigorously, to safeguard your time to go deep into the tunnel and just get that shit done (this was around 3 months for me, for others it was longer and for some it was a crazy 3-6 week push at the end).”


“At the beginning, I remember feeling so inadequate [in seminars], that I would try to avoid contact with other people during the breaks. Sometimes, however, I bumped into them at the toilets. With time, I learned not to take any chances and wait till there was no one in the room.”


“Remember to trust your instincts. Sometimes your supervisors don’t know the answer but are too proud (or arrogant) to admit it. You're the expert on your research, be guided by them but not led by the nose.”


“Join writing workshops with fellow PhDs. Learning how to break writing into manageable parts and to write in short and focused bursts, rather than trying to find the ‘perfect’ conditions to start or finish a chapter (the week when there is nothing else happening that never arrives). Finish a sentence or sketch out an idea, rather than put ‘finish chapter’ on your to do list. Just before submission, I attended a brilliant writing course – Turbo Charge your Writing – that dismantled all kinds of myths about ideas arriving fully formed, procrastination and imposter syndrome. Do it if you can!”

Submission and viva

“Don’t leave choosing examiners to the last minute – start the conversation with your supervisor early in writing up, and get them to contact them ideally at least 6 months before your viva to sound out their interest and availability. In terms of choosing examiners, it’s good to aim for a balance between them so they can offer different things: e.g. career stage (established/early to mid career), area of expertise (regional/conceptual), location (UK/non-UK), etc. In the end, you want examiners who you respect but also who you think will be kind and constructive. These are people you’d like to have lasting relationships with.”


“Remember, this is just the beginning of your career, not the end. If you need more time to finish, ask for it on time. Another important point – do not seek perfection while writing up. Your thesis does not have to be perfect. This is what you’ll do (or attempt to do) while working on your monograph or other publications. A thesis is a document to show to your examiners that you’re the knowledgable expert in that particular field. It isn’t the pinnacle of your writing career, but a stepping stone. Don’t get stuck on the stepping stone. Get over it with grace and go full steam ahead into your next chapter – inside or outside academia. Share your knowledge and experience with the world and build on it.”


“When you're nearing the end, struggling with focus, and questioning who’s really going to be interested in what you have to say? Remember, that at this stage you’re ultimately writing for an audience of three, your supervisors, your examiners and yourself. Ultimately, your participants trusted you with their data and will wait their turn – just don’t let them down.”


“The single best thing I did in my viva was to ask permission from my examiners to audio record it. It’s been an invaluable resource afterwards to reflect back on and it allowed me to be able to be in the moment a lot more instead of frantically taking notes. In order to prepare for the viva, I read back over my whole thesis to have my head across the detail, prepared a 5-minute summary of the argument and my contribution to anthropology, and tried to remember the advice of my supervisor that it’s a defence – justify why you’ve made the choices you made rather than acquiescing to criticism. Also keep in mind your examiners are trying to help you strengthen your work and to take it constructively.”

Vocation

“Irrespective of whether you would be in an academic or a non-academic role after your Ph.D. - it is increasingly becoming essential to learn and be adept at a few software tools used for data gathering and analyses—being methodologically practical can help.”


“I wish someone had told me to take advantage of the range of professional development opportunities at UCL through the Doctoral School, LinkedIn Learning, the other faculties and the department.”


“Commercial translation. I undertook my PhD studies alongside a career in commercial research. If you are considering applying your skills outside of academia, it’s useful to have this in mind from the outset, whether through the topic of your research, the design of your project or the way the findings are presented. Note: I think this is something I could have looked to have done better myself, despite my the fact that I came to my studies with significant commercial experience. I suggest this because whilst there is significant overlap between the skills needed within academic research and commercial research, there’s also a divergence, notably in the timeframes and scope of work. Being now in a position of interviewing PhD researchers for commercial research roles, one thing I look for is some of this translation process to be understood and/or attempted, otherwise it can be tricky to have a sense of whether a PhD researcher will make a good commercial researcher.”


“Although research is primarily a solitary pursuit, openly engaging in collaboration with others can enrich the process and return progressive, radical some may even argue - activist outcomes.”


“I wish I had asked my supervisors an honest opinion on what my biggest strengths and weaknesses were. As someone who has struggled on whether to remain in academia, their advice would have given me some clarity on the career path I could pursue.”


“Starting an academic career has been a lot harder than I imagined and I’m so happy I’ve had strong friendships from my PhD, and strong networks - that I went to conferences and met loads of different academic communities – I would definitely recommend this. I wish I had started publishing earlier, although that’s always a challenge when you aren’t yet sure what you’re saying. That being said I think trying to publish your less central arguments early on can help with your writing practice and confidence.”


“While it’s super important to finish your PhD on time, do not forget that once you’re out in the world, you won’t get far in the job market without the relevant teaching experience and some publications under the belt. Having a PhD thesis won’t cut it when you’re one of the 200 job applicants competing for one place. All of job applicants will have a PhD but if you want to be one of the eight people who will get shortlisted, you need to have more than just the thesis coming out during those four years. That is if you’re going for jobs in academia. If you’re looking for jobs outside academia, make sure you have gained some work experience during your PhD whether through volunteering during your fieldwork or working part-time while writing up.”


“The other thing I would say is a piece of advice that someone gave me when I started: A PhD is about developing a method of research and a set of personal working rhythms that will serve you for life. One of the outcomes of the PhD is your thesis. But the other outcome is you - the researcher. Be patient with yourself and hone your personal technology of the self over time!”


“Think about the career path you might choose when you graduate and start your networking exercise early on (at least by a couple of years). The first step in doing this would be to attend Departmental and divisional seminars.”


“The UCL Doctoral Skills Programme didn’t just assist my academic development, it also enriched my wellbeing and personal development.”


“Remember your worth and don’t internalise the system. Academia is unfortunately a bit structurally broken – as in, there’s a lot of competition, nepotism, luck involved with “success”, a lot of a free labour in just doing core
business, and a lot of rejection through job apps, publishing etc. It’s easy to let it get to you but it’s important to remember it’s the system not you, otherwise you will really burn out. Set up ways to ground yourself early on, to remember your worth outside your PhD (whether music, exercise, other work, gardening, friends, whatever!)”


“I wish someone had told me to make a concrete plan for skills development throughout the process and incorporate it into my progression to the PhD.”

“Another important thing to consider when choosing a supervisor is whether this person would support you if you’re interested in pursuing a career outside academia. You would be surprised that in this day and age, many PhD supervisors still consider careers outside academia as somehow less worthy either for purely egotistical reasons, or just because they have never worked outside academia and cannot therefore advise you on how to plan and apply for non-academic jobs.”

Looking after yourself

“Doing a PhD is a life-changing experience. Getting a qualification will become almost a side-effect of the massive transformation that will affect every aspect of your life. You will experience growth on a scale similar to that you likely last experienced as a teenager. From the moment you embark on a journey towards completing a PhD in Anthropology, you will be moving from one rite of passage to another.”


“I was extremely worried about my English skills, and how worse it got when trying to speak with someone I looked up to. This prevented me even from contacting UCL counselling services in times when I was experiencing a serious burnout!”


“Completing a PhD is unlike anything else and treating yourself with kindness throughout the process is so important. You will not write as easily as you did before. You will not understand as easily as you did before. You will take more time. That is why you have four years. Make sure that you keep on top of your supervisors and your department. Seek help and support when you need it. Don’t be afraid to speak up and assert yourself if you need something. Try your hardest to step away when you need to, turn off and do something else. Remember that you wouldn’t be this emotionally invested necessarily in another job and I found that treating it
like a job, with a 9-5, weekdays approach was the best for my mental health. Finally, recognise that each person does a PhD for a different reason and your path won’t be the same as the people in your cohort, your department or your research group. What you end up doing with the PhD is up to you and the best thing you can do is enjoy the process and look after yourself.”


“Be the change you want to see: Something that helped me feel less intimidated in seminars and conferences is trying to think of myself modelling the kind of academic culture I’d like to see in how I would engage – kind and constructive questions, not egotistical and posturing. If I felt too scared and too junior, instead of letting this intimidate me I would think about how me asking a question as an early career woman might inspire more diversity through encouraging others at my career stage or earlier to ask questions too.”

“Doing a PhD is lonely, the isolation that comes with it, especially after fieldwork can trigger waves of depression. Join or form a support group with your peers to help you collectively keep an eye on each other.”


“Life happens all the time. While doing your PhD, and in particular for anthropology, while writing up your thesis post-fieldwork, stuff will happen. Stuff that will take away your attention and your focus from the thesis. You may madly fall in love, get married during fieldwork, have a baby, or lose a loved one. You may experience a burnout. You will probably start to feel at some point like you’re married to your thesis and just want a divorce. Be realistic with your targets and be kind to yourself. If you’re grieving you cannot be productive as before. You may have financial or visa problems that seem impossible to solve. The key is to always ask for help. Do not suffer in silence and do not expect from yourself to always be super-productive.”


“Throughout much of my PhD, I felt incredibly under-qualified and undeserving. Attending group workshops and private counselling sessions from UCL’s Student Psychological Services during the last two years of my PhD, gave me much needed comfort and the confidence push to complete my degree. It was particularly good to get me in the right state of mind before my Viva. If you feel lost, overwhelmed or unmotivated, I urge you to approach them and take advantage of the excellent counselling they provide.”


“Impostor syndrome is normal. Pretty much everyone I know in academia has it, and that includes some very established people too. I don’t know if that helps, but when you feel it, remember you aren’t alone!”


“You’re not working in laboratory conditions but you’re living a life while doing a PhD. Someone in your family may get seriously ill and you cannot expect from yourself 100% focus if you’re caring for them.”


“Be honest about how difficult doing a PhD can be. The classic figure of the lone ethnographer in the field for months on end is unhelpful if you have any kind of relationships and caring responsibilities alongside your research. It made me feel like I was never doing enough and that what I was managing to do wouldn’t produce rich enough insights. Wrong on both counts, but it took a lot of internal wrestling to accept that. It’s okay to take a break – go on holiday, see a film, talk about something apart from your thesis!”


“There will be chaotic days, meltdown days, and days where one feels like it's all futile. This stage shall pass; just keep on pushing.”


“Join academic support groups. There are loads of academic support groups, e.g. on Twitter (for example Academic Voices) advocating for better self care practices and structural changes in academia.”


“Writing up year will probably be the most stressful year of your PhD because this is when everything needs to happen – your research needs to solidify, you need to gain that teaching experience that you’ll need if you want a job in academia, and you’ll need to get that first or second journal article ready. And last but not least, you’ll need to submit a 80,000 word thesis on time. Schedule time in your diary every day and dedicate five minutes of kindness to yourself if you don’t have time for something more than that. It is all too easy to just give up. Some percent of students never finish their PhDs. Life takes over, stuff becomes overwhelming, so
before that happens make sure you have a plan to be kind to yourself even if it means setting an alarm in your calendar that will remind you to spend five minutes in silent meditative embrace with yourself.”

Contributors

Contributors Include (Among Others):
Dr Saffron Woodcraft, PhD 2019
Thesis: VOID POTENTIAL: Absence, imagination and the making of community in
London’s Olympic Park.
Dr Shriram Venkatraman PhD 2017
Thesis: Social media and the boundaries between work and non work in a South
Indian setting.
Dr Adam Runacres PhD 2020
Thesis: Engaging Conservation: Village-Forest Relations around Panna Tiger Reserve
in Central India.
Dr Josephine Msindai PhD 2018
Thesis: Chimpanzees of Rubondo Island: ecology and sociality of a reintroduced
population.
Dr Claudia Martina PhD 2019
Thesis: Individual differences in cognitive abilities and task performance in wild
chacma baboons (Papio ursinus).
Dr Alexia Liakounakou PhD 2020
Thesis: The Many Faces of Botox: beauty, crisis and Cosmeceuticals in Greece.
Dr Gwen Burnyeat PhD 2020
Thesis: The Face of Peace: Pedagogy and Politics among Government Officials in
the Colombian Peace Process with the FARC-EP.
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Dr Andrea Bravo Diaz PhD 2020
Thesis: Vitality, peace and happiness: an ethnography of the Waorani notion of
'living well' and its contemporary challenges along oil roads.
Dr Ivana Bajic-Hajdukovic PhD 2008
Thesis: Belgrade Parents and their Migrant Children.
Dr Tess Altman PhD 2019
Thesis: The Domestic Humanitarian: Responsible Neighbours, Fairness and
Ambivalence in Urban Australia.
Dr Toyin Agbetu PhD 2021
Thesis: The Gentrification of Protest: A study of governmental activism in East
London.
Dr Gabrielle Ackroyd PhD 2019
Thesis: Just Bricks and Mortar?’: Animating and de-animating the Irish mortgaged
house.