PhD candidates

Take the initiative!

Take the initiative regarding your research but also regarding your supervision. You can solve many things. Try to find a golden mean if your supervisor and you don’t have the same goals regarding theories or methods. Suggest for example to compare these theories or methods. If your supervisor still decides to purely work on his own ideas, than just remember that he is the most experienced one of you two.

Perhaps you can spend some text of the discussion part of your theses to the advantages and disadvantages of both theories or methods. You might suggest trying some other methods in future research.

If you come in conflict with your supervisor, ask yourself the question whether you want to stay with your supervisor or if you want to look for a new one. Often, if a PhD candidate and a professor dispute concerning science, the Professor’s opinion is put before that of the PhD candidate. If you come in conflict with your daily supervisor you can ask your promotor if there’s someone else to supervise you. Also consider to ask for a third opinion, for example of a confidential counselor, a PhD coordinator etc.

Write, write, write

An important recommendation that has been given by PhD candidates of the research school of communication (NESCoR) is to start writing as soon as possible. Discussion can be stimulated by a draft and this will probably ameliorate the text. Writing articles increases your value on the scientific labor market. 

Make sure that you receive enough supervision/ support

If you don’t receive enough supervision, try to find more supervisors (a post-doc that is working in the same field for example). He/she can be your daily supervisor or co promotor. The advantage of a postdoc is that he/she knows the field and knows your position because he/she has also been a PhD candidate (recently).

Another option is to assembly a supervision committee. Try to find more people that are working on the same subject or have expertise on relevant domains. Ask your supervisor what he thinks of your idea and ask him whom he recommends. Send the members of the supervision committee a letter with the procedures of the committee. For example: at least one meeting per year is set up and draft articles need to be reviewed by all members. Note that the chance of disagreement between the members rises if the number of members increases. Also, the time of consultation increases.

Visit conferences

Try to present (a part of) your research at a scientific conference. The comments that you receive there might be fruitful and can be very stimulating.

Courses

Try to visit some relevant courses, for example at your research school, but also more general courses at other research schools, like project planning, scientific writing, ‘Writing English for Publications’ or teaching.

Local PhD candidates representative (PO)

Contact the local representatives, they can tell you what is happening in the field, and you can share your experiences with them.

Research school and Graduate Schools
Often, the PhD candidate is automatically enrolled in a research school or a graduate school at the start of the PhD trajectory. This can have many advantages. Research schools often offer courses and sometimes they possess funding for courses and conferences. In some cases, they also offer a bonus if the theses is defended in less than four years.

In the event that a PhD candidate is not enrolled automatically, it is recommended to enroll anyways. It is advised to ask your supervisors’ approval first.

Job evaluation conversation

Ask your supervisor for these job evaluation conversations. Try to discuss your expectations, your difficulties, your questions regarding your research and other fulfillments of the PhD trajectory. It is also recommended to prepare a schedule of your trajectory and to adapt it to the latest changes. Always keep copies of these schedules.

Agreements regarding authorships

Try to make agreements regarding the authorships even before you’ve started writing (see Fine & Kurdek, 1993). Often, the first author is the one that has written the draft version of the article and that has put the most effort in the article. If your data is used, you should be at least co-author. Fine & Kurdek (1993) indicate that the position of someone does not automatically justify a high position on a paper. Normally, the PhD candidate is first author if the article is based on the PhD research of the candidate. Also see the guidelines of the ethical committee of the American Psychological Association (1983).

Read the PhD regulations

Read these regulations as soon as possible. These regulations tell you which requirements you should meet before you’re allowed to start with the trajectory, which rules you have to follow and the procedure of the theses defense.

Correspondence

Keep a copy of the correspondence with your supervisor/promotor. Create for example a directory in your mailbox purely for this correspondence.