Settling into Study

  • You will need to find a sustainable routine that works for you and for your supervisor.
  • Obviously the nature of a PhD means that there is no set way to work or complete it, so you need to find your own groove. What works for a friend or a peer may not work for you.
  • In your first year you may be expected to attend lectures on research skills or advanced courses in your area while also having to prepare for first year upgrade.
  • ‘First Year Upgrade’ (the name may vary) is a progression check within the first twelve months of your study; it will help to be mindful of what is required from this check while working, such as a paper, report, or presentation. It’s necessary to pass this upgrade to continue on your PhD.
  • Make yourself aware of the progression points beyond first year so that you can structure your time and your year effectively.
  • Establish an agreed routine between you and your supervisor, such as how often you want to meet and what they expect before, during and after these meetings.
  • You need to talk to your supervisor about the expectations of your field, and how that relates to the expectations of a PhD (for example research outputs, conference attendance, and teaching to Undergraduates).
  • Grading works differently at PGR level; you are unlikely to receive quantitative grades for your work but will more often receive qualitative feedback and recommendations. This can make it seem like your work is never good enough, but in fact it is just a reflection of the open-ended nature of research.
  • Familiarise yourself with how your final PhD assessment will be examined. You will have an oral assessment known as a ‘viva’ or ‘thesis defence’, which will usually last for hours! You may not have to be concerned about this just yet, but it’s worth understanding the expectation of you early on so that you can mentally prepare, organise your workload, and develop your communication skills. It may be worth exploring what extra skills sessions you can attend at the University: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/skills/pgr/
  • The PG Hub also run skills sessions: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/library/pghub/skills/
  • Make use of the PG Hub, the Library and the Wolfson Research Exchange (floor 3 extension of the Library). Be aware that if the Library doesn’t have a text, journal paper or resource available that you need, then you can request that they purchase it for you to use. You can visit the Library directly, or use the ‘Article Reach’ tool for this: http://arlir.iii.com/
  • The PG Hub (located in Senate House) is a PG-only study space with bookable rooms and a relaxed community feel; the team there host an array of cultural and community events throughout the year for you to take a break and engage with.
  • The Wolfson Research Exchange (the REx) is exclusively open to researchers, so make use of this space! Every Thursday morning ‘Research Refresh’ is held in the space, which is designed for you to informally meet other researchers over cake and coffee. This is really popular as it has been proven to be a great way to mingle, de-stress and get you away from your desk (if you have one)!
  • During the day you can also study in ‘The Graduate’ (next door to The Dirty Duck, Warwick SU), which doubles up as a social space in the evening with regular events such as quiz and game nights exclusively for postgrads.
  • Identify gaps in your skill set; what is expected of you on your course at Warwick may be a world away from what has been demanded of you in your Masters or Undergraduate course. For example, the academic writing style that you have to adhere to in a PhD may be very different to that which you will have used before.
  • During your PhD you may have to produce research reports, journal papers and/or conference papers – and, of course, your thesis. These will fluctuate in style, and you need to be adaptable to what is required of you from each format.
  • Remember that different education systems have different standards, and so what may be good practice at one university may be forbidden at another, and vice versa. Familiarise yourself with the Warwick rules around plagiarism and referencing, for example, and seek out guidance if you have any doubts.