Top 15 advice for PhD students

Planning on starting a PhD research? or already doing one? Then there are few thing you would like know. The PhD Journey is longer than you expect. Life of a PhD student is much different. It requires some support. Below are some facts I learnt through my journey of PhD.

01. Publish your work in peer review journals

Always target on publishing your data in peer review journals. This purpose would teach you many lessons. Data for publishing should be very much valuable and also should be useful to the scientific community and to the world in general. This would encourage you to work harder and smarter. Publish all your findings. do not leave them in the drawer, behind the books and papers or in your computer.

02. Start and finish your PhD in the shortest time you could

PhD research takes long time than you would expect and target. So do not drag it. May be you might need to work extra hours than you planned for the day or week. But do it because it worths. Your research is not an Eight hour job for a day. Your working hours are 24/7. So you can work any number of hours per day.

03. Read a lot

Keep reading on the literature. It helps to know the current researches done by other scientist in the interested arena. It helps you to build up your research further and of course it will pinch your brain for new thoughts and ideas. So keep reading, active reading. Read daily because it is an investment.

04. Do search for literature 

Search on information is a skill to learn and develop from the start to the end. learn where to search the research articles, how to search online, what to do if they aren’t available online, how to organise them in your computer or files. And once you have got the article, know how to read it and extract the information.

05. Write a lot

Keep writing your ideas, and your analysis. This would help you in publications. As you write more it increases your writing skills more and thus would help in your publication. Reading would help you in the writing style. write all your ideas, questions, protocols and analysis at least even in a paragraph. Write everyday, may it be 500 words or 250 words but do it daily.

06. Be organised

Managing your self helps you in many ways such as saving time, less stress. once you master the skill of organising and managing that would help you in wast areas and lead you to be a successful researcher.

07. Practice time management

Time management is a skill to mastered by all the PhD students to be successful.  This would help you to do all your works planned for the day. So you could do almost all of them and not to miss, just because you had to have a meeting unplanned. Be ready for meetings with your supervisor, advisor or committee at anytime. Sometimes they just pop in.

08. Increase your networking

Having connections with the other researchers are very important. This does not mean only with your colleagues, but also the researchers outside your lab and who work in your area of interest or related fields. You could develop networking by attending conferences and so on. Go and reach people, talk to researchers during the tea or lunch time. You could also reach out for many in social networking.

09. keep clean databases

Always enter your data to the computer as you are working on your experiments. Do not wait until you finish a target. This helps you to have all the data entered in the way it need to be as your brain’s thoughts are fresh over the particular experiments. And most importantly have regular backups – may be very regular.

10. Keep yourself motivated

Continues motivation is a hard thing to, especially for a PhD. But teach your self to be motivated. Find something interested often, set small goals make them your motivation.

11. Choose your Supervisors with mindfulness

Having a great supervisor is vital for you and your research. Their knowledge on the area of interest, support, networking and also the human qualities matter the most.  The supervisor-student relationship is much vital for the most points mentioned above.

12. Prepare yourself to be the expert on your topic

Make sure at the end of the project you are the expert of your topic of research. Work in and out of your research to know almost every pinpoint details. Grab the knowledge on the same as much as you can. Reading, working at different corners of your topic, networking and writing helps you to achieve this.

13. Own your research

Think and tell yourself that the research you are working on is yours. So learn and work on every detail of your project. I must say that proudly own your research.

14. Develop the skills

Develop the skills required. Apart from the practical skills, you should also develop skills on writing, communicating, giving presentation and talks and many more.

15. Enjoy your PhD

I might sound freak to some of you, but yes you heard me right “Enjoy your PhD”. Enjoy every bits and pieces of it, do not stress too much. Keep the stress at a level required for working towards the success. Its like learning to dance in the rain.


Ms Roshan Niloofa BSc, MSc (Immunology), MIBiol (Sri Lanka), PhD (reading)

Institute of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biotechnology

University of Colombo 

Sri Lanka




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