5 Things To Think About Before Starting a PhD

Hello, my name's James Arvanitakis and I'm the Dean of the Graduate Research School

here at Western Sydney University. And you're watching his video because you're

probably thinking about doing a PhD. So, five things to think about before you

start a PhD. The first is to think about a topic that you really really interested

in, something you're passionate about. I've known people that have done a PhD on a

topic they thought would be interesting or they thought would be a topic they

should study, rather than something that they were passionate about, and it starts off

ok but they get a little lost, little bored and they run out of steam. Now I think that's

a bad strategy so like I said the first thing you should definitely think about is

identifying a topic that you're really interested in, take a bit of time, research

that topic. Get excited about it. You're going to spend the next three years of your life

reading about it. The second thing to think about when you're thinking about

doing a PhD is your supervisor and supervisory panel. Here at Western Sydney

University we have at least two supervisors, usually three, for every

student and that's really important because what you want to do is get

people with a range of experience. The right supervisor is someone who is interested in

your topic. They don't have to be a hundred percent expert in your area but they should be

someone who knows that area, knows where to guide you. Your support supervisors, maybe they can

be people who are more expert in the area that you want to research or maybe


experts in this period of time that you're looking at studying. So find

the right panel and that takes a little bit of time on your part to contact people,

send them emails, see if they're interested in pursuing your topic. That's

really really important when thinking about pursuing a PhD. The third thing to think

about if you're thinking about doing a PhD is to think about a long-term plan. Why is it

exactly that you want to do a PhD? Only about 50% of PhD students actually go on and

into academia. Others enter private research, work as policy people, work for

non-government organisations or international organisations like the United Nations.

So having a bit of a long-term plan about where you think this is going to

get you is really important before considering doing a PhD. The fourth thing about

thinking of doing a PhD, is to think about enjoying the journey not just think of

the end point. You shouldn't just do a PhD because you want to be a doctor or have

the title doctor in front of you title. It doesn't really get you upgraded on planes

unfortunately. Trust me, I know. But you should think about all the things you

can learn along the way. How to be a good researcher, how to become an expert

in your field

how to have an impact, where to integrate into policy debates. These are things that are

part of the journey, so doing a PhD isn't just about the end point of actually

handing something in and getting that title in front of your name, it's about the journey

that you take and all the things you learn along the way. Ok the fifth thing to think about is are

you prepared. Is this a really really good time to take on the journey of a PhD?

As I said before, a PhD takes about three years, sometimes up to four years.

It's a long commitment. Are you prepared for really what should be a grueling battle. A lot of

time spent researching, a lot of time spent

at conferences, interacting with other PhD students but also a lot of time on your

own. Being really disciplined and treating it like a job. You've got to think about

is this the right life stage for me to pursue a PhD? If it is, then you should do a PhD. Now I would

love you to come to my university, Western Sydney University, it's a great place, but this is advice you

can take to go to any university. It may mean you change your mind about where you originally

wanted to go, but regardless these are five really important lessons. So best

of luck, and like I said, I hope to see you at Western Sydney Uni.