Leaving your thesis introduction till last? It could be a mistake…

The introduction to your thesis is the first thing the examiner will read. It’s your only chance to form a first impression, if the examiner doesn’t already know you. It sets the background, context and motivation for your work. And so it’s at least as important as every other chapter.

And yet a lot of people leave writing the introduction till last and if you’re near the deadline, it’ll be written in a rush. This is a mistake. If you write your introduction as a hurried afterthought, or as just a dry list of things that will be covered later then they will want to skim read it to get to the proper work in later chapters.

It is far better to write an engaging introduction, having spent time thinking about why your research matters and why anyone would want to read about it.

Why you might write the intro last

If you are writing chapters but you don’t yet know the full story, then it might make sense to write the introduction last.

If you’re doing this, I guarantee you will be stressed in the run up to submission. Why? because you’re trying to finish the research and the writing all at the same time.

It’s like cooking for a dinner party and constantly running out to buy ingredients while the guests are arriving. It’s not going to end well!

Stop, finish your research, then resume writing once you know what you’re going to say.

Writing an engaging thesis introduction

The job of the introduction is to make the reader want to read the rest of the thesis.

Examiners are busy people. When your thesis arrives on their desk, there will be that moment of dread… will this be an interesting read, or will it be like wading through wet cement?

A good thesis introduction will set up a sense of anticipation.

Why is this work important? And why should anyone care?

Here are a few tips to help you write an engaging introductory chapter:

1. Start with the big picture

Start with an idea of how the whole thesis will be structured. What will be covered in each subsequent chapter? Then when you talk about specific concepts in the intro, you can say “this will be discussed further in chapter …”.

Without these references to what you will cover later, the examiner might be wondering, “why are you telling me this?”

2. General > specific > general

A good structure to follow for the chapter is to start broad. Why does your field of research matter to the wider world?

Then you can talk about specific things related to your niche, and say why those matter to your field of research.

Then at the end of the chapter, try to link your specific niche back to the general, wider world again.

3. Give them something unexpected

Examiners have read a lot about your subject, but they don’t know you.

Give them something unexpected; a unique perspective, something that interests you or that you find fascinating, and they will be interested to read more.

4. Set boundaries

At some point early in the chapter (but not necessarily the first paragraph) tell the reader what you will cover in the chapter.

In my thesis, I included the following paragraph after a brief introduction of about 2 pages as to why nanoscience and nanotechnology matter:

Though there are several excellent general reviews of nanoscience and technology
(3–6), each to some extent reflects the authors’ personal research interests
and expertise. Due to the pace of development and breadth of research,
a truly comprehensive review is probably impossible, and certainly beyond
the scope of this thesis. The following brief review presents the properties
of semiconductor and metal nanostructures, in addition to the principles of
self-assembly and self organisation.

So I set out clearly what the review would cover, while pointing the reader to more general reviews for reference.

This meant I could be highly focused on specific principles, but also relate these back to the general motivation of the field.

It helps if you know what you want to cover, and how it relates to your research!

5. Relate your work to the best in the field

When you talk about the state of the art in your field, focus on the very best work.

This not only reduces the number of papers you have to reference, but it gives your thesis a feeling of quality by association. It shows that you have some standards and appreciation for good research.

Say why that work matters, and you help to justify your own.

6. Where are the gaps?

Once you’ve talked about the best work in the field, what gaps in the knowledge remain?

This is where you introduce your work:

Although giant strides have been made in recent years in the field of …, there remains an open question as to …

The work described in the following chapters attempts to …

7. Tying it up and introducing the next chapter

Your introductory chapter needs a conclusion, but it also needs to set up a sense of anticipation. You want the examiner to want to read the rest of your thesis (or at least the next chapter).

So it’s good to summarise the general principles you have just introduced, state a problem or question that needs an answer (and why it matters in relation to the general aims of your research field), and give a quick hint of how the next chapter will help to answer that question.

If man-made nanostructures are to follow a similar path [to nature], exploiting guided self-assembly to rapidly form functional structures, we must study both the physics of structure formation at the nanoscale and the influence of structure on function, specifically optical and electronic properties.

Scanning probe techniques provide a versatile means of characterisation of these structures.

Specifically, scanning near-field optical microscopy (SNOM)
provides a means of optical characterisation with resolutions beyond the classical diffraction limit, in parallel with topographic information. These techniques, along with synchrotron based spectroscopy to probe deeper into the
electronic properties of nanostructured assemblies, will be discussed in the following chapters.

Does this structure work?

My examiner wrote in his report that the first chapter of my thesis was one of the best introductions to the subject he had ever read, including those published in the literature.

I was never a particularly good physicist, compared to some of the people I have worked with. But first impressions count, and introductions matter.

The invincible mindset

If I were to ask you the number one factor that will determine whether you succeed or fail at your PhD, what do you think it will be?

Having better time management and procrastinating less?

Having a better system for dealing with literature?

Better resources?

Or even just having more time to do what you need to do?

Well it’s none of the above. They might be important, but there’s something more fundamental that makes everything else possible.

The importance of mindset

Everything starts in your mind. Your mindset, or your way of thinking about the problems you face is the basis for everything.

The way you approach a problem, the way you react to the challenges and surprises ahead depends entirely on the way you think about it.

A positive psychology makes all the difference in the world. It’s what will help you keep going when you face problems, it will help you stay creative when you need to be at your best, it will help you start the day excited about what you’re going to do and it makes a real difference to your chances of success.

But if you believe that no matter what you do nothing will work, then you aren’t very likely to achieve what you are really capable of. You can try all the time management techniques in the world, but if your own psychology is working against you then you’ll never make progress.

Fortunately, no matter how stressed you are right now, a positive attitude is something you can practice.

There are lots of positive mindsets to take, here’s just one to get you going.

The invincibility mindset:

No matter what happens, I will deal with it

Lots of things can go wrong. It’s easy to imagine the worst, and allow that to become a crippling fear.

  • What will the examiner say?
  • What if I fail?
  • What if this goes wrong or that goes wrong?

It’s easy to end up focussing on what might go wrong. The problem is though that it eats away at your confidence and stops you doing the things you need to do to succeed. It makes you doubt yourself and your work, and that makes you hesitant with everything you do.

Now of course things can go wrong. But you have to take the view that whatever happens, you will deal with it.

Let’s look at the worst case scenario.

If I fail (at part of the PhD, or the PhD as a whole) then is it the worst thing that can possibly happen? No. I’ll deal with it and move on. Whatever happens I will deal with it. But in the meantime I am going to give this my best shot.

When I did my PhD in experimental physics, my failure rate was probably well over 90%.

I let it get to me, and it ate away at my confidence until I reached a point where I was constantly expecting to fail. I saw myself as powerless… out of control. That meant I undermined my own efforts. I was sloppy in my preparation and rushed experiments.

It became a self-fulfilling philosophy.

But when I shifted mindset and accepted that things might go wrong, but decided to do things meticulously anyway…  my success rate increased and I made faster progress.

Whatever happens, I will deal with it. It cannot hurt me. I am invincible. So I’m just going to do my best.

What if the examiner asks a question I don’t know?

When I started writing, I knew that there were holes in my knowledge that the examiner might find. He had invented one of the techniques I had used… he could easily ask me something I didn’t know. Or he could ask me a basic undergraduate physics question involving maths I hadn’t used in 4 or 5 years… that would be embarrassing.

But my view was that If I get asked a question like that, I’ll just be honest. If I don’t know then I don’t know, and if I have to work it out or guess based on what I do know, then that’s what I’ll do.

I couldn’t go back and relearn every bit of physics I had forgotten (or not learned in the first place), and so since I couldn’t do anything about it I decided not to worry about it and get on with it and do my best at what I was doing.

I thought… well I’ve put the work in. The research is competent, I understand its implications and its limitations, but if I fail then I fail. So be it.

It takes the pressure off, and builds your confidence at the same time because it assumes, at a fundamental level, that you have the ability to cope with whatever happens…

It gives you a kind of invincibility. Nothing can harm you, because whatever happens, you will deal with it.

One of the big blocks that comes up again and again in my conversations with PhD students is a kind of reluctance to make a clear statement about what they are trying to argue. I think this is because it could be a point the examiner could disagree with… and so instead they write 1000s and 1000s of words circling around the issue.

But there is no avoiding it. You have to state your central premise clearly. So just say it. Take the invincible mindset, and have the courage to say what you think.

There is uncertainty in the future, but you have to be willing to take risks in order to move forwards, knowing that you are able to deal with whatever happens.

Writing a thesis is hard, but it’s not THAT hard.

Not like rowing across the Atlantic or climbing Everest, and it’s not like surviving in the wilderness after a plane crash. It’s not even as hard as raising a family

There is no massive physical effort you have to make, other than sitting and typing. And there’s no real danger either.

The invincible mindset allows you to work without being afraid, and once you remove fear, then you’ll be surprised how many perceived obstacles melt away.

What’s the point of a PhD?

The point of a PhD is really simple…

It’s to prove that you can conduct research on a professional academic level.

Ok, so you’re supposed to contribute something too, but that’s just how they test that you’re capable.

So you set about your project probably not really knowing what you’re doing.

Then you realise how hard it is, as you run into more and more problems.

But gradually you solve them. You find better ways of doing things, faster ways, easier ways.

And when you’ve solved a problem once, it’s much faster next time it crops up.

So after a few years, you’re a much better researcher than you were at the start,and all those problems you solved add up to a detailed and unique practical experience.

First year students come to you for advice and you can instantly see what they’ve done wrong. To you, it’s just because you made the same mistake years ago. To them, you seem like a wizard.

What are your best time saving or productivity tips?

If you could pass on one piece of advice that will save other students masses of time, what would it be?

Leave a comment below and share your wisdom!

The self-sustaining cycle of thesis productivity

How do you stay productive, day after day?

One day you’re on fire, the next you struggle to write 50 words.

It’s frustrating; you know you’re capable of doing it, but that just makes it worse on those days when you can’t get going.

1: The first working hour of the day is the most important

If you start the day achieving something, then you’re more likely to stay productive for the rest of the day.

But if you don’t know exactly what you’re going to work on when you sit down at your desk, then your default routine takes over (email, news websites, etc). Two clicks and you’re stuck in a procrastination loop.

So wait before turning on the computer. Spend 10 minutes or so just thinking about what you’re going to do. Start with something easy you can finish!

2: Stop while you still have something in reserve

At the end of the day, don’t work till exhaustion just because you are “on a roll”. You need rest to stay consistently productive!

Stop, and set yourself something easy to start with tomorrow.

The self-sustaining cycle of consistency

If you do this, taking care of the beginning and end of the day, you will be able to keep your momentum from one day to the next.

Achieving something early generates momentum. That means you get plenty done and can finish the day happy with what you’ve done.

Then it feels OK to stop, so you can rest properly, and leaving yourself something easy to do means you can achieve something early, which generates momentum…

Thesis Submission Guidelines: 10 tips to avoid disaster

A bit of forward thinking can save you a huge amount of panic when it comes to thesis submission day.

Here’s a quick checklist… Most may be obvious, but you only need one to go wrong to have a very bad day.

1. Double (and triple) check your thesis submission deadline

Do you have it in writing from an official source? Don’t rely on what anyone tells you!

Do not assume you will be able to get an extension if you miss the deadline. If you think you will need one, apply for it early.

2. Where do you submit it?

Do you know where the office is? Also, what time does it close? You don’t want to show up at 4:45 if it closed at 3:30.

3. What paperwork needs to be filled in?

Universities love bureaucracy and paperwork. And thesis deadline day is not the time to have to battle with someone because you don’t have the right forms signed by the right people.

Make sure you know well in advance what paperwork needs to be completed and whose signatures you need.

4. What formatting is required?

Best to know this one early… what margin size, line spacing, typeface is required for your thesis? It’s good to sort this out right from the start, so that you don’t have to reformat in a panic at the end.

5. Does it need to be bound? If so, how?

There are probably very specific requirements for this. Do you know where you can get it done if your thesis needs binding?

6. How many copies?

It’s usually at least 2, sometimes more

7. Do you have guaranteed access to a printer?

With enough paper and ink? Do you have a backup printer in case one breaks down or you can’t get access to it?

8. Have you checked how your figures look when printed?

If you have complex figures and diagrams (especially in colour) have you checked how they look when printed? Things don’t always come out the same on the printed page as on the screen. If you rely on colour images, check them on the printer you intend to use.

(See “How to design figures for a PhD thesis“)

9. Check your title page.

There will be spelling mistakes in your thesis, that’s inevitable… but check your title page very carefully, and get someone else to look too. It’s the first thing the examiners will see, and you don’t want to mis-spell your title (or even your own name!)

10. Give yourself time to compile and print

Pulling together multiple chapters from different files? Converting to PDF?

This may seem mundane, but things can go wrong when you try to create a large file (especially in Microsoft Word). Your references may become scrambled, your figures may disappear.

Compiling and printing your thesis is not always trivial. Give yourself a minimum of two days to sort any problems!

See also…

Your Final PhD Year

Will the examiner tear my thesis apart?

You’ve done years of research, you’ve got the results, you’ve done the analysis, drawn your conclusions… But what if the examiner tears your thesis apart?

Obviously you want to avoid the humiliation of having your thesis torn to pieces. So here are the 7 deadly sins of thesis writing to avoid at all costs.

1. Lies

Any hint that you’ve fabricated results, or tried to cover up major problems by lying, and the examiner will tear you apart.

If you feel tempted (or pressured) to lie about your research in your thesis or in published journals, it’s really time to have a good look at your situation, and talk honestly with someone you trust. The temptation is understandable, but it’s just not worth it.

2. Bullshit

Distinct from outright lies, bullshit involves trying to give the impression of expertise in a subject you actually know very little about.

It’s tempting to try to appear like you know everything, but it’s far better to give more detail on subjects you are genuinely expert in.

3. Plagiarism

Even if you get away with plagiarism in your thesis, you can lose your doctorate if someone finds out later. This happened to the German defence minister in 2011.

It is sometimes hard to paraphrase other people’s writing, so it’s better to try explaining the idea to someone verbally then writing about it in your own way.

Never sit with the paper in front of you and try to rearrange sentences to make it look different. It just doesn’t work.

4. Misrepresentation of other people’s work

You will have to write about other people’s work, and give references to back up your arguments. It’s very, very important that you know what these references actually say, because the examiner will tear you apart if you misrepresent other people’s work (especially if it is the examiner’s work).

Don’t cite anything you haven’t actually read.

5. Getting the basics wrong

It’s OK to have the occasional mistake, but if you make a fundamental mistake in your assumptions which then undermines your conclusions, then you are in trouble.

6. Ignorance

While you aren’t expected to know everything, you should have a good knowledge of relevant developments in your field and some knowledge beyond your highly specialised niche.

It depends how broad your field is, but at the very least you should be aware of who the top people are and the most highly cited papers.

7. Lack of insight

What does it all mean? How does your work relate to the wider field? What are the limitations of your research and what open questions remain (or are raised)?

You have to give the examiner an idea of what and how you think, beyond just the dry technical details.

You have to be willing to commit to what you think, and know that you can defend it.

It will be OK!

If you avoid these 7 sins, as long as the basic research is OK (it doesn’t have to change the world), and as long as you write honestly and don’t stray too far from what you are expert in, then you should be OK.

torn thesis

How I wrote a PhD thesis in 3 months

Before reading this post please note: it took three and a half years of full-time research to gather the data for my  PhD thesis; the three months refers only to the writing, which I did quickly at the end. I do not claim that everybody can write that fast, and, certainly, if you have not done the research it will be impossible. You probably won’t write as fast as I did, but you might gain some useful insights from the way I approached it.

After almost 3 years, I was on the verge of quitting my PhD in the summer of 2006.

I had nowhere near enough results, the equipment I was using didn’t work most of the time, and I could barely summon the motivation to get up in the morning.

So how did I turn things around, get the results I needed and write my thesis in 3 months?

1. Dealing with stress

After a near-breakdown, I started taking walks around the campus when I faced a problem in my research or found myself getting stressed.

I took the time to think about what I needed to do and get myself in the right frame of mind to come back and deal with the problem.

Previously I would have found myself killing time on the internet just to get through to the end of the day. This one change in habit probably saved my PhD.

2. Limiting the time available

Though my productivity increased once I figured out how to deal with stress, I was still doing experiments well into my fourth year.

I had a final submission date (at the end of my 4th year), but my research was still a bit chaotic. It wasn’t focused on finishing.

My supervisor (the brilliant Professor Moriarty) then told me that I would no longer be allowed into the lab after the end of March 2007, and that I would have to write whatever I had.

3. Adapting and acting decisively

Because of the limited time, I had to make some tough decisions. Anything I did, I would either have to finish or let go. There would be some loose ends, but that was OK as long as I tied up others.

I had to decide not to do certain things, and focus with energy and determination on others.

Still, though, the thesis would be a little thin. So I took on a side project based on another student’s research, which could produce some results quickly.

This side project produced the most interesting result of my scientific career.

4. Finishing research before writing

By the time I stopped doing experiments, I knew I had enough for a PhD. Not the best PhD ever, and not world-changing, but with two publications and enough data for another, I felt it was good enough.

Because I wasn’t allowed back in the lab, I just had to focus on writing. The hard part was behind me. The results weren’t going to change, so it was just a matter of making sure I was productive when writing.

It is much, much easier to write when you know the raw material isn’t going to change.

5. Preparation

I decided to work at home, not at the office, because there would be fewer distractions.

I got rid of the TV, and had no internet connection on my computer. The lack of internet meant I had to gather all the papers I would need beforehand, forcing me to think about what I would need.

I also set up a dedicated space (2 large desks joined together and a very comfortable chair, next to a large window for plenty of natural light), just for thesis writing.

6. Targets and consistency

I set myself a target of 3 months, broken down into targets for each chapter. This would give me about 3 months in reserve before the final absolute deadline.

I had a daily minimum target of 500 words, which I knew I could meet even on the least productive days.

This meant that because I smashed the target most days, I finished every day feeling good about my progress, which in turn meant I started the next day feeling confident.

7. Routine

The two most important parts of the day are the beginning and end. It’s important to build momentum early, and have a routine for ending the day too.

At the end of each day I always left myself something easy to do to get started with the next day, so I woke up knowing what I was going to do.

I also tidied the desk at the end of every day, which also helped close the day mentally and stopped my brain going over and over the thesis at night.

8. Applying ruthless standards to what I included

Whether it was the lit review, or my own work, I cut anything sub-standard.

I focused only on the very best literature, saving myself a huge amount of time. It also had the result of associating my work with the very best in the field.

I only wrote about what I knew about, which made the thesis shorter, faster and easier to write, and of higher quality than if I had included everything whether I understood it or not.

9. Taking time over details that matter

I took painstaking care over the clarity of the writing, the diagrams and the overall look of the thesis.

If a diagram took 2 hours, so be it. If I couldn’t find a high-quality image in a paper to paste in, I would re-draw it myself. Why? Because it adds so much to the feel of quality running through the thesis.

“The unreconstructed Si(111) surface”. This took a very long time to draw and make sure the diagram was accurate.

By applying obsessive focus to one detail at a time, I could make sure that I wouldn’t have to do it again. This brings me to the final point…

10. One draft

I always edit as I write, with one goal only: to make sure I’ve expressed the idea in my head clearly on the page. I don’t move on until I feel the sentence makes sense, with no ambiguity of meaning.

Clarity of thought is always the number one aim. But it is very difficult to come back to a piece of writing days or weeks later and sort out a mess of thought if you don’t clarify your writing while the thought is still fresh in your head.

This means I was constantly re-reading and revising what I’ve just written, but also means that when I submitted something to my supervisor it needed very few revisions and saved months, simply by getting as close to “right” as I could the first time round.

Please Note

I’ve had some comments on this post reacting as if I completed my entire PhD in 3 months. No, I did three and a half years of research first, then wrote the thesis. I also do not claim that anyone can write that fast, as it depends on a lot of different factors. This is why the title is “How I wrote…”, not “How to write…”

How much is enough when writing a PhD thesis?

So you’re working away on your thesis, trying your best to keep your eyes open, get the words down and meet the deadline.

But there’s that nagging doubt… how do you know whether what you’re writing is good or not?

How do you know if your arguments are deep enough, or if you’ve covered enough of the literature?

There is no number. There is no magic formula. Everyone’s PhD is different, and so all you can do is tell your own story.

But there is one element that you cannot live without, and which will help you to know what to include and what to leave out.

Insight

Insight is what separates you, the PhD candidate, from the undergrad student just following instructions or rote learning.

It’s not the same as technical knowledge. It’s the way you think about the subject, the way you interpret and explain the results.

Being factually correct isn’t enough. The examiner wants to see something they don’t already know; not just in terms of results or concepts, but they also want to see your perspective.

They want to see how the technical detail and the literature background informed the decisions you made in your research and how it relates to your analysis.

This is why it’s so hard for anyone to tell you exactly what’s required, because you can’t put a number on how much insight is enough.

They don’t want a bibliography with 1000 papers in if they aren’t relevant.

The examiner isn’t going to care whether your thesis is 130 pages or 150 or 300… In fact if your writing lacks insight, they would probably prefer it to be as short as possible.

How to show insight

  • Stick mainly to things you know about
  • Avoid including random facts for no reason
  • Show how the ideas in the literature informed your research and your analysis
  • When writing, spend time thinking about exactly what you want to get across
  • Try to find the key concept that runs through the section or chapter to tie it together

and

  • Tell your own story. Because ultimately, it’s all about you.

 

The 10 commandments for PhD failure

This is quite an old post now, and I don't write in this style any more (it's a bit sarcastic). For a better summary of the key principles, written with a more positive outlook, check out this blog post

1. Isolate yourself

You are surrounded by other very smart people with different experience and ways of viewing problems.

But if you want to fail, don’t ask them for their opinions. Never ask for advice if you find something difficult, and never admit that you’re making less progress than you think you should.

Don’t discuss your research. Instead, wait till you write your thesis before you attempt to explain your work for the first time.

2. Don’t take time to think

You have to work hard if you’re doing a PhD.

Professors work 26 hours per day, so you must too. Clearly, that’s the best way to do your best work. If you stop to think, people might think you are being lazy, and it’s vital to maintain the appearance of being busy even if you’re too exhausted to tie your own shoelaces.

If you stop to think, you might be able to find a better way of doing things that saves you time… or a new idea that’s a breakthrough in your research. Then what are you going to do for the rest of the day?

3. Don’t ask for what you need

Your supervisor might say no, after all. Instead, carry on doing things the way you are whether it’s working or not.

You can avoid asking for things by following commandment 2. If you don’t think about what you need, you can’t ask for it.

4. Make lots of excuses

Things will happen that will slow you down.

It’s not your fault… you didn’t have the support, you didn’t have the resources, this didn’t arrive on time, there are too many distractions…

Excuses are a great way to cover up your own responsibility for your own research. Strip them away and the onus is on you to think about what you need to do to overcome the circumstances and make progress.

4. Spend all your time reacting to new things

Your inbox is your master. If you want to stay a PhD student forever then spend all your time reacting to new (but non-urgent) tasks coming in, rather than on your long-term goals or finishing what you’ve already started.

Wait till Monday before you decide what you’ll do next week, and then just do what you feel like doing at that moment.

5. Do everything important at the last minute

You work best with tight deadlines.

Doing everything at the last minute means that you won’t have time to think about what you are doing, and gives plenty of opportunity for excuses to crop up.

6. Ignore your own mistakes

Successful people acknowledge and think about their mistakes, then act accordingly.

But you learned from undergrad studies that a mistake is the worst thing you can make in an exam or in an essay. Back then there was little chance or need to learn from mistakes, as you only had to retake the exam if you failed.

Failing a PhD is all about working harder without gaining a deeper insight into your research. So don’t stop to think about what you’ve done wrong and what you can do differently, and never, ever admit your mistakes to others.

7. Avoid making decisions

You can avoid making mistakes in the first place by doing nothing.

Spend all your time worrying about whether this or that option is best, because you don’t and can’t ever know with certainty until you try (that¡s why it’s called research).

You could decide to try something new, but that means having to stop to think about the options. And you risk making mistakes which you’d then have to think about some more and try to learn from, or admit to.

8. Try to be an expert in everything

No good at statistics or data analysis? Never written a computer program before? No idea where to start with a new sub-topic?

Try to do it all yourself and don’t ask for help. Spend most of your time doing things you are bad at, and less time doing the things you’re good at.

It might take a colleague 30 seconds to do something it will take you a week to figure out, but then you can’t make excuses and look busy by struggling on alone.

9. Be totally passive with your supervisor

Just do as you are told. Don’t bring your own ideas to meetings, don’t ask for clarification, don’t stand up for yourself or what you think is best.

If you want to be treated with respect, act with dignity and act proactively.

But speaking your mind, voicing your concerns, coming up with your own solutions to problems means that they might start to see you as a human being and a capable researcher, but there’s also a risk of them disagreeing with you.

You supervisor is not your employer. They aren’t your owner, either. Your time is yours, and you are investing it in the PhD.

But just stay quiet and stay chained to your desk for 3 more years.

10. Forget why you’re here

You are here to succeed. You are here to finish your PhD and move on to the next challenge in your life.

It involves taking some risks, making difficult decisions, thinking creatively, overcoming obstacles. It involves thinking about what you are going to do right now, and acting decisively to achieve what you want to achieve.

But it’s easier in the short term to see the whole thing as an impossible burden, to hide behind excuses, be passive, avoid making decisions and focus on all the problems you face instead.