With the start of the new academic year comes the next wave of graduates embarking on the journey that is a PhD. Having spoken to students both current and ex on Twitter, Facebook and heavens above even face to face, we’ve gone ahead and compiled a list of what we think are some of the most useful tips on how to survive a PhD.

So here they are in no particular order, our top five tips.

1.  Take a break and find something else to do outside of your PhD.
If you hadn’t realised before you started you’ll realise pretty quickly, PhDs are stressful and for some reason require a heck of a lot of work. But while you might think pulling 14 hour days in the lab will get you ahead, it more often than not comes with a hefty price: your sanity!
So take a break, preferably doing something as far removed from your PhD as possible. If you just can’t bear to tear yourself away from your PhD though, why not try PhD Comics, or striking up a conversation on the PhD Forum or tweeting us at @CiteAb.

2.  Talk to your supervisor, talk to your lab-mates, talk to everybody and anybody who will listen.
Talking to your supervisor is one of the most common tips people have offered up. As the person who sets the starting point of your project you can bet your supervisor is going to have a few ideas and expectations of their own as to how things are going to progress. For that reason it’s crucial that you’re both on the same page. Not only will you both then be happy with the direction your project’s heading in, but if there is a problem, having your supervisor in the loop means they’ll be more ready and able to offer guidance when needed. It also shows that you care and the problem is not simply a lack of effort on your part!

Despite how it might feel sometimes, you’re not the only person who’s struggling or has ever struggled with their PhD. So this might seem like an obvious one, but make some friends. They’ll help you both keep your head during the inevitable lows but as I mentioned they’ve likely already faced similar struggles and so will have knowledge to share and experience that you can draw from.

3.  Continuing on in the same vein as the last two points, join some societies. This has the added benefit of enabling you to apply to those societies you join for travel grants.

4.  Career progression. It might seem a tad premature to be thinking about what you’re going to be doing after your PhD but there are often a wealth of opportunities available to PhD students looking to expand their repertoire of skills. So try everything, you never know when random things my turn into new friends, new contacts and new skills, eventually your CV will thank you!

5.  I’m betting you’ve heard this next one throughout your schooling life: Don’t leave the write up until the very end!
Once again, your submission deadline like the end of your PhD might seem a million miles away but throughout your project even if you’re not writing you will hopefully be gathering information. For that reason a very good tip, would be to decide how you’re going to catalogue papers and notes early on. Luckily for us all there are a number of high quality applications that aim to take the stress out of referencing and which you use will more often than not be decided by what those around you are already using. Two of the most popular that have been suggested to us however are Mendely desktop or Endnote. As for note taking, here at CiteAb we use Evernote for recording the various groundbreaking thoughts that pop into our heads on a daily basis.

6.  Its a bit cheeky, but I would say use CiteAb all the time! Honestly it’s great, not only at helping you find the perfect antibody for your experiments but rumour has it CiteAb may also make you smarter and funnier!


Everybody’s PhD experience is different and we’d love to hear any tips or sagely words you’d like to share. As ever you can comment here, on Facebook or tweet us at @CiteAb.

– The CiteAb Team