The 7 secrets of highly successful PhD students


28 September 2009


It seems everyone has 7 secrets to success, and now someone has hopped on the 7-secrets bandwagon with something for PhD students. Thinkwell is an Australian company offering a seminar and associated work book on “The 7 secrets of highly successful PhD students”. I bought the book out of curiosity, but “book” is a gross exaggeration – only eleven pages of fairly simplistic advice. I hope the seminar has more substance. For what it’s worth, here are the so-called seven secrets.

  1. Care and maintenance of your supervisor.

  2. Write and show as you go.

  3. Be realistic.

  4. Say no to distractions.

  5. It’s a job.

  6. Get help.

  7. You can do it.

If you can work out what is meant from those headings, you’re doing better than me. After reading the “book”, I think a better summary would be as follows.

  1. Meet regularly with your supervisor.

  2. Write up your research ideas as you go.

  3. Have realistic research goals.

  4. Beware of distractions and other commitments.

  5. Set regular hours and take holidays.

  6. Make full use of the available help.

  7. Persevere.

Nothing too surprising there. Perhaps it should have been called “Seven obvious things PhD students should already know”.

If I haven’t put you all off, one of the authors is presenting the seminar at Monash in a couple of weeks. The details are as follows.

Bookings are essential (Monash students only)

The same authors have written several other booklets including “Time for research: time management for PhD students”, “The PhD experience: what they didn’t tell you at induction” and “Defeating self-sabotage: getting your PhD finished”. They are dreadfully over-priced and light-weight, but contain some snippets of useful advice. Students at Monash can borrow the books from me.