The PhD stu­dent’s guide to sum­mer

THE (Times Higher Education) - - BOOKS - Zachary J. Fos­ter is a PhD can­di­date in Near East­ern stud­ies at Prince­ton Univer­sity.

Sum­mer is the best season for PhD stu­dents. It’s a chance to get a head start on writ­ing, to mem­o­rise your dis­ser­ta­tion el­e­va­tor pitch and to be­gin pre­par­ing your job ap­pli­ca­tions for the autumn. Ac­tu­ally, scratch that last one. There are no jobs left in academia. But here are some other things to cross off your sum­mer check­list.

Let­ters of rec­om­men­da­tion

Muster up the courage to ask for a let­ter of rec­om­men­da­tion from a fac­ulty mem­ber in your depart­ment you’ve made eye con­tact with at least twice.


Set your email to “auto-re­ply: out of of­fice” to give peo­ple the false im­pres­sion that you have an of­fice. And al­though you’ll still be check­ing your email ev­ery three min­utes or so, be sure to wait five days be­fore re­spond­ing so peo­ple as­sume that you are do­ing some­thing im­por­tant and have “lim­ited ac­cess to the in­ter­net”.

Lan­guage study

Take a sum­mer course in Ger­man so that you can claim pro­fi­ciency in Ger­man on your CV. De­ter­mine which three Ger­man sources you are go­ing to cite in your dis­ser­ta­tion. This will con­vince your read­ers of your com­pe­tency in ad­just­ing the source lan­guage to Ger­man on Google Trans­late.

Read­ing lists

You’ll have some time to dive into that long list of mono­graphs you’ve been mean­ing to read since you first started grad­u­ate school. Also, you’ll be able to start mov­ing ar­ti­cles on your com­puter from the “Read Soon” folder to the “Read ASAP” folder.

Move back home

Move back in with your par­ents for the sum­mer to save money on rent. Hang out with old high school friends who still live in sub­ur­ban [in­sert any city]. Feel su­pe­rior to them un­til you re­alise that you are mak­ing be­low min­i­mum wage and liv­ing with your par­ents.

Archival re­search

Visit the archives and write a blog post ro­man­ti­cis­ing the time you con­tracted sca­bies from all the dust. Be sure to re­mem­ber the names of ar­chiv­ists you meet. It will be im­por­tant to men­tion them in the ac­knowl­edge­ments sec­tion of your dis­ser­ta­tion to prove that you ac­tu­ally did visit archives.

Make a splash

Pitch the re­sults of your study to a jour­nal­ist. Make sure that they fo­cus only on the most im­pact­ful find­ings – ie, the one that took you 40 ex­per­i­ments to pro­duce and is re­pro­ducible only if you do 17 and a half jump­ing jacks up­side down while the ex­per­i­ment is in progress.


At long last, you’ll have an op­por­tu­nity to con­duct your field­work out in the field. Call it “field­work” only if it’s in an un­der­de­vel­oped coun­try (oth­er­wise it’s “re­search”). Be sure to buy knee-length rub­ber boots. The field can get rather muddy dur­ing the sum­mer mon­soon season.


Fi­nally, try to get your first ar­ti­cle pub­lished. Your ad­viser prob­a­bly told you to aim for the most pres­ti­gious jour­nal in your field, but spare your­self the blow to your self-es­teem and just sub­mit di­rectly to the highly se­lec­tive In­ter­na­tional Jour­nal of the So­cial Sciences, Hu­man­i­ties, Nat­u­ral Sciences, En­gi­neer­ing, Math­e­mat­ics and Un­der­wa­ter Bas­ket Weav­ing.

It re­cently ranked among the top 10 most pres­ti­gious jour­nals based in the west­ern half of down­town Visakha­p­at­nam,


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