The Thesis Whisperer blog* has just posted a useful list of: Five things to do in your first year of your PhD:
4. Take as many courses as you can!
5. Pick your supervision (not so relevant in the UK)
Off the top of my head I’ve come up with four suggestions (I should probably aim for the magic number five but along with the list above that’s enough for now!):
Search alerts make it easier for you to keep up-to-date with the various research topics you’re interested in. For example: you can save a search query so that you are automatically emailed when any new item is added to the database that matches your search. Or when a paper you are interested in is cited by someone. Most databases will have some alerting options – for an example: see the Scopus Guide: “How do I create alerts”.
2. Get set up with bibliographic management software.
This is a definite must do. As you are starting to trawl the literature out there you want to keep track of what you’ve found. and as well as helping you store and manage your references this type of software then allows you to automatically insert citations into your work and generate a bibliography. There are lots of software options, but we use the web-based RefWorks. You can download references directly into RefWorks from most Library Databases and Google Scholar – see our RefWorks guide at: http://libguides.stir.ac.uk/refworks.
3. Register with our Document Delivery Service (DDS).
In your first year you are going to do a LOT of reading. No one Library can hold all the books and journal articles you will want to read – so when this library doesn’t have access to the publications you need you can use DDS – this is our Inter-Library Loan Service. It isn’t always the case – but at Stirling this is free for you to use. It allows you to request that we get a journal article or book from another library for you. To register go to http://www.is.stir.ac.uk/libraries/dds/dds-stirling.php and choose LOGIN TO THE DOCUMENT DELIVERY SYSTEM, then Create a new account. Then you are all set up to make your requests online.
4. Get to grips with writing a long document.
Although actual writing up is a long way off – I agree with the Thesis Whisperer that starting to write early is a good idea. With this in mind – read our: Guide to Writing Long Documents. This explains how to set up a template in Microsoft Word for your thesis. It will certainly help in the long run if you know what you are aiming towards. Setting this up early can help with things like putting in chapter headings that can later be used to automatically generate your Table of Contents.
*The Thesis Whisperer is a blog newspaper dedicated to the topic of doing a thesis.