Errors to avoid while preparing your PhD

When I wrote my master thesis, I realized that I started to understand my topic at the end of my text. Actually I should have written it over again, but I had no time and no energy anymore. The thesis was a kind of rough draft. I don’t understant what happened, but I don’t want this to happen with the PhD.

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This was Archibald’s motivation as he came to my workshop.

– When did you write the first time? I asked.

When I started to write my master thesis, he said.

What happened to Archibald?

Ideas need time to be clarified, developped, sorted out, structured. This process takes place while writing.

The error many PhD do: they never write

Many students believe, this process is mental – and never write during their research. The result is a difficulty to structure ideas, a text of poor quality, which does not reflect the quality of the research done before.

Start to write from the begining of your research. Keep writing regularly.

The simplest and most valuable tool for conducting a research project is a so called PhD notebook.

By putting your thoughts down in writing, you reflect on your own practice, you explore a topic and find ideas you’d otherwise never see.

The Phd notebook is a paper notebook.

It is not your laboratory notebook. Nobody is meant to read it.

In your PhD notebook you can

  • record and develop your thoughts
  • go back to your thoughts and review them
  • gain insights
  • solve tricky problems
  • gain clarity
  • trace your progress and evaluate your attempts
  • reflect on your research process


  • Brainstorms or clusters about your topic
  • Brief texts about a subject – related (or not) to your topic
  • Questions, problems, Thoughts, Feelings
  • Graphics, pictures
  • Outlines
  • Title projects
  • Ideas for introduction and conclusion
  • Ideas for the first sentence of the introduction
  • Weekly balances (What have I done? What have I found? What should I do next week?)

Take your notebook everywhere with you: ideas not only come when you seat at your desk – rather when you are relaxed, in a café, talking with friends, when you lie down, when you wake up. Ideas are fugacious, write them down immediately in order not to lose them.

Do you feel unsure about what to write in your PhD Notebook? Join the Challenge of December 2016!This challenge is a writing course which takes 10 days (not week ends). It is gratis.

Every day, you will get a writing exercise (duration: 15-30 minutes) to do in your PhD Notebook. The aim of this challenge is to help you to start a PhD Notebook, to collect writing prompts, to develop ideas concerning your own project.

Do you know friends or colleagues who might need this course? Share this information.

To you want to take part to the challenge? Click here to suscribe:







  • 28/09/2016
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