Reflections on the PhD life as I approach the end of Year One

I was bored, so I wrote a tome. No, seriously, since Saturday, I have spent the majority of my waking hours writing this ~7000-word piece on preparing for life in academia. It started out as an e-mail to a friend, which became a blog post that was originally supposed to reside here, which then became a piece long enough to deserve its own web page.

Writing this piece has been a fantastic experience on many levels:

  • I’ve mentioned my ADHD in the piece so there’s no point in shying from it. I’ve recently been on medication for the condition, and this was the first thing I have worked on in years that I was able to get through with a single-minded determination. I was often writing uninterrupted for several hours at a time, and this has brought me a lot of joy.
  • I was able to reflect on the (academic) year that was and categorise various experiences into things that worked, things that didn’t and things that could work if I approached them differently. The reflection alone has been worth preparing this piece.
  • I learnt something new! I’ve been wanting to give Jekyll a try for a while, but never got down to it. Yesterday afternoon, I was more than halfway through writing the text when I decided that instead of hosting the content on my blog I would host it on a GitHub Page, since I wanted to save a full history of the file on GitHub anyway. And since I wanted to be able to edit the Markdown file in the future, I needed to turn to Jekyll. I spent a few hours tinkering with new technology and had the site up and running last night with a “Coming soon!” message. Today, I installed all the necessary software to “serve the website” locally, finished writing the text, edited it, reviewed it, committed the changes, and pushed it to GitHub. Et voilà !

I welcome your feedback! If you have any comments, please leave them here. If you prefer, you can create issues or pull requests on GitHub instead.

  • Renoir Gaither

    Achintya, you mentioned Adobe InDesign as a means of producing Posters: “Use a dedicated design software. Get Adobe InDesign or free alternatives: Scribus, Inkscape or GIMP.” I would suggest Adobe Illustrator as a better alternative to InDesign for posters or content that isn’t in a multi-page format. Adobe InDesign is a better choice for laying out multi-page brochures, magazines, journals or booklets, rather than, say, a conference poster.

  • Guy Bégin

    Hello Achintya,

    Lots of useful information on I «push» some of your recommendations to my students completing their bachelor’s degree with a capstone project. A funny thing though: when trying to save a reference to the page into Zotero, I get a DOI pointing to

    • Just tried it and noticed the behaviour myself! Weird, but I think it’s grabbing the DOI from the text here: Not sure how I can fix this at my end, short of removing all mentions of DOIs? You might have to manually add the entry to Zotero instead of using the browser add-on. :(

      Thank you for the feedback and for sharing the starter kit with your students!

      • Guy Bégin

        Looking back at your page, the DOI seems to be extracted from the discussion on DOIs in the

        Citing Own Work section. Nothing much you can do about it. Of course, I resorted to a manual addition.