Five Things To Do in the First Year of Your PhD

The Thesis Whisperer blog* has just posted a useful list of: Five things to do in your first year of your PhD:


1. Socialise

2. Write

3. Routine

4. Take as many courses as you can!

5. Pick your supervision (not so relevant in the UK)



This is a great list and I’ve been thinking about what I might say from a librarian perspective.  thesis-books

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!):



1. Set up search alerts in the Library Databases (see our Subject Guides for the Databases you should be using:


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:



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 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.



Clare Allan

Subject Librarian







4 thoughts to “Five Things To Do in the First Year of Your PhD”

  1. Make friends with your librarian
    A great source of expertise and knowledge about what data and information is available through the library and further afield. Making contact with your librarian could save many hours of fruitless searching. With over 100 years of combined experience and knowledge they will probably have answered your question many times before…..

  2. Join the SCONUL Access and EduRoam Schemes

    The SCONUL Access scheme allows Research Postgraduate students (and some others) to join and borrow (print) books from other University Libraries in the UK and Ireland. To register simply complete this online form: and print the confirmatory email that we will send to you and take this along to the Libraries which you wish to join. There’s no limit on the number of Libraries you can join, although you may wish to check before your first visit in case they require any ID.

    EduRoam allows you to use your laptop or tablet device at another University which participates in EduRoam. A list of participating institutions is available here: You will need to configure your device before you leave Stirling. Information about this is available on the IS website:

  3. Take advantage of any training offered. The Graduate School offers a range of training aimed at researchers. You can get details via Succeed in the module My Learning, Researcher Learning

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