The Art of Doing a PhD

This page contains resources on “The Art of Doing a PhD” – or in other words different good advices for surviving graduate school. The page is constantly under construction and I will continuously add stuff here.

I made a presentation on the subject at the Doctoral Colloquium at the UbiComp 2007 Conference:

A newer version of “The Art of Doing a PhD” presentation is available below together with a presentation on how to write a paper:

The Fish Model

I often use the ‘fish model’ depicted below when I need to explain prospective and current PhD students what the flow of a PhD looks like. I still need to explain it here, but there are detailed descriptions of it in the presentation above.

The 3 Core Research Skills – Simple Guidelines

Here are a set of simple guidelines / outlines for (i) giving your PhD talk, (ii) writing a paper, and (iii) reviewing a paper. The three core skills in research. If you master these, you’re a researcher!

PhD Talk outline

You should always have you PhD talk ready – you never know when you need it; when your uncle at the dinner table asks; “what is it exactly you’re doing?” Or when you meet the most famous professor of your field in the elevator (the so-called elevator pitch). You should have 3-4 version of you PhD talk:

  • 1 min – this is the elevator pitch, which you can say by hearth without any slides, demo or anything
  • 5 min – this is the slightly longer version where you can tell or show a bit more on what your PhD is focusing on. Exists both with and without slides.
  • 20 min – this it the full talk that you give when you visit another lab or at a conference (e.g. at a doctoral colloquium). This is with slides and preferably a demo.

The outline of a phd talk is this:

  • Background – what is the community, problem, and motivation
  • Prior work – what is the state of art and what research / technologies / studies exists
  • Gab – the “however” sentence; what is missing, what is your research statement/question
  • What – the “therefore” sentence: what you (plan to) do
  • Methods & Plans – how will (did) you do this?
  • Contribution – reflecting back to the background and introduction, what does your research contribute to the overall research question and community

Finally, if you built things (hardware, software, design probes, etc.) you should alway be able to demo your research — as the say at MIT;

“DEMO or DIE!”

Paper abstract/introduction outline

  • Backgound
  • However, gap
  • What we did
  • Contribution(s)
  • What is means

Paper review guideline

  • Past Work / Related work
  • Contribution
  • Significance
  • Validity
  • Originality

See also How to Write a Litterature Review by Saul Greenberg.


Other PhD Thesis’s for Inspiration