How to get a PhD

I mentioned this book before when I came across it in an article in The Guardian’s archives.  After reading ‘Authoring a PhD’ I wanted a book that described the process of research and what doing a PhD involves, rather than just writing the thesis.  This is without doubt an excellent reference if you’re looking for an overall description of virtually everything.  For example, it sheds light on the vagueness associated with words such as ‘originality’ and describes how a ‘Literature Review’ should be made relevant – something I noticed missing in some of the theses I’ve been scanning.  Another chapter I found very useful is the one about the relationship with the supervisor(s).

It gets great reviews on Amazon and I agree that it’s an excellent start – and companion – to anyone doing a PhD.  I read the older edition (my wife found it among her books from her PhD days).  The current one is the fifth and you can find it here and there is a Kindle version too.


Student Again

Before I completed my research proposal, I contacted Surrey in September and mentioned my interest in the subject of Performance Management and wrote a paragraph describing my research idea. I received a reply that same day and was promised another from the Professor specialized in the field. The following day I received an email saying the idea and subject had merit and that I should submit a formal research proposal for review.


When I completed my proposal in October, I shared it with many institutions and received very mixed feedback. Mostly positive with a common theme requesting more of a theoretical approach to add to the ‘existing body of knowledge’. This was fair feedback, but the main difficulty was the availability of supervision in my chosen area of research, not the shortcoming of the proposal. Surrey remained the only interested school so I put together my application and submitted it online before the end-of-October deadline. I also applied to King’s College London, who soon after advised me that they didn’t have a supervisor available. Imperial College London, where I did my Masters, told me the same before I even applied (they remained as my back up for September 2012 if needed). My only chance was with Surrey, who by December had reviewed my application and proposal in detail and had asked me to make minor revisions. I worked day and night for a week and sent in version two with the suggested changes, a few days before Christmas. This delayed the processing of my application and, thanks to the Christmas and New Year break, I was unable to start in January.

I visited the campus and met members of the faculty mid December. I had a chance to look around and to visit the library, who furnished me with a visitor pass allowing me to use their facilities. I felt welcomed before my application was finalized. It was looking good and the revised proposal seemed to capture what was required to proceed. The next few weeks were nothing but an agonizing wait.

It’s hard to believe we’re already in March and I am over the moon this week as I have received confirmation from Surrey of my place on their PhD programme to start in April. Next month, I am officially a student again.

Authoring a PhD

Having read the many positive reviews this book gets on Amazon, I thought it was time I had a look at it before my reading time becomes more focussed on my research. I’m still not 100% sure about my place on a programme but it’s looking good and my offer letter will be with me ‘in the next few weeks’ according to Admissions.

This book, in my opinion, is a little too long. I find myself skipping paragraphs and sections. Having said that, if I had to remove a section I would find it difficult to choose – so this is probably an unfair criticism. The chapter summaries are very useful if, like me, you’re looking for a quick read. It is very well written and covers everything about ‘authoring’ hence the title. It’s not a book about doing a PhD which is probably what I need to be reading at this stage. It’s more about the thesis itself and research planning. I need to know/learn more about the actual process, expectations of and from supervisors.

Amazon link and there is also a Kindle edition

Find a PhD

In preparation for the work that I will hopefully start soon, I have been searching for forums and blogs about PhDs and found a great place which has already been of help.  I joined their forum as a prospective student and asked a question in the forum about where to find archives of successful theses.  I received a reply within minutes, garnished with words of encouragement.

Check out the link below for everything you can imagine you would need to know about doing a PhD and click the link on the top right hand corner for the Postgrad Forum.