So, I was looking at my organiser the other day, and I noticed that I had quite a lot of tasks ticked off ever since the start of my PhD (which was officially on the 1st of October 2020). Some were admin, some were research; most were all about getting organised and establishing routines.
If we pretend for a moment that these tasks are numerical values, then I would liken the first two weeks of a PhD to a ‘normally distributed’ probability plot where tasks are distributed like so:
Mind you, this is the ‘normal distribution’ for a student starting their PhD in times of Covid-19. I am working away from campus which means that there is perhaps more organising to do than there might have been otherwise!
In the spirit of being organised, I will share my on-boarding experiences with you in the form of a numbered list of key things I did to ensure that I had everything I needed to start working! They’re even grouped by category!
Here’s what I did over two and a half weeks to get settled:
- Chatted to previous and current PhD students and asked for general advice
- Caught up with my research group via platforms such as Teams and Slack
- Attended weekly research group meetings/weekly coffee chats
- Set up an academic Twitter and followed key people from my institution and my research domain, as well as dedicated Twitter accounts for PhD students
- Set up a blog and decided how often I want to blog, and what about
- Updated my email signature to reflect my newly minted PhD status
- Had my first weekly supervisions
- Set specific dates and agendas for future supervisions
Also, because I recently wrote an MScR dissertation which made an original contribution to knowledge and had a direct link to my PhD:
9. Discussed the policy impact of my work with Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and presented my work to the SDS PhD team
10. Wrote a document to articulate the link between my MScR and PhD and thought about how my findings can be implemented in my PhD going forward
- Bookmarked all key university resources
- As I’m working from home, I hid away distractions and made sure that extra steps are required to access non-work stuff!
- Re-read my MScR dissertation and wrote a summary of it for quick future reference
- Sifted through meeting notes and seminar notes from the past year
- Digitised and organised my notes so that I can easily access them by date and topic
- Decided on how I will back up my files so that I don’t lose them in case of a critical PC failure
- Downloaded all the reading lists and course content from my MScR degree for future reference
- Created an index of key contacts including IT helpdesk and library contacts
- Went through the induction checklist provided to me by my supervisors
- Installed SPSS and NVivo through Napier’s software downloads page
- Considered the merits of different reference managers; I use Zotero but I might switch to Mendeley or EndNote
- Signed up for upcoming induction events for PhD students
- Recorded all recurring and prospective events in my calendar to get a sense of how I want to structure my working hours – I am aiming for a 9-to-5, Monday to Friday working week!
- Sorted some journal articles and books that I had saved over the last year to read during the PhD
- Set up a file organisation system
- Set up a dedicated browser for research and installed apps for tab management and productivity. Cluster is great for grouping tabs and New Tab draft comes in handy for on-the-go note-taking.
- Thought about potential conference or publication outputs from my previous work
- Created a weekly schedule for when to check email and when to check social media – I’ve heard that they can eat up a lot of time if not kept in check!
- Made arrangements for getting tech equipment for my university office for whenever lockdown ends
- Caught up with emails from all of my email accounts and created folders for filing emails away
- Completed all matriculation steps and arranged for a student ID card to be posted to me
- Filled out an Annual Update proforma for Skills Development Scotland – this is a handy form that allows me to easily communicate my findings to SDS every year!
- Enquired about renewing my PVG (Protection of Vulnerable Groups) certificate so that I am prepared to do data collection
- Scoped out professional associations and resources that are key to my work – some key online resources for me come from SDS, SGSSS, and the MyWorldofWork website
- Browsed Napier’s Covid-19 guidance pages
- Read Napier’s Research Degrees Framework, the Research degrees handbook, and familiarised myself with the formal deadlines and requirements for research degrees at Napier – I think it’s important to know what’s formally expected early on!
- Completed the ‘Introduction to IS induction’ Moodle module and downloaded the Napier app
- Read my research group’s outputs and caught up with their blogs
- Caught up with conference recordings from the EASST/4S conference
- Read PhD theses from my research group that are relevant to my work
- Started working on a literature search strategy
- Chatted to my subject librarian about doing thorough literature searches and utilising all the advanced features of Napier’s LibrarySearch
- Downloaded the literature search templates available through LibGuides and made my own versions of them
- Read the full PhD proposal my supervisors had written when applying for my PhD bid
- Drew some mind maps of key concepts and ideas
- Read some general PhD guidance from blogs and other sources (Simon Clark’s Youtube channel is a good source of wisdom, though nothing beats PhDComics!)
- Asked about teaching opportunities at my school
- Considered my options for taking on additional work
- Signed up for several upcoming events and identified conferences that I can submit my work to
- Checked what training is available through Napier and SGSSS in the immediate future
Tomorrow, I’ll be attending the ‘Evolving Education & Careers’ virtual careers conference hosted by dmh associates. Stay tuned for updates!
Image credit: The Scribble Workshop
My friend Slavi makes epic architectural sketches of Edinburgh; this one is of Kirkbrae House on Dean Bridge!