I will make mistakes ...
I have one huge advantage over most PhD students ... I make lots of mistakes. In fact I have made so many that the novelty has worn off and it no longer bothers me. The mistakes bother me, just not making the mistakes. I had the good fortune to go to an excellent primary school where we were never told, "That is wrong, child!". We had to correct errors and learn from them, but it was not a cause for a telling off ... that would come later at secondary school.
If I do everything correctly then I have only learnt the correct way. If I get something wrong, correct it and learn from that correction then I have learnt two thing; why not to do it the first way and how to do it correctly. Therefore, you may wince at some of the errors below, but feel free to to have both of us learn something.
The things learned
- Finding papers - There is no central repository of papers. The first joy of a PhD is finding out where you need to look. The second is know what to look for when you get there!
- Keeping track of papers - You can't (unless you are blessed with the phenomenal memory of Lachlan MacKinnon). You therefore have to get organised. Download all the papers to the same directory ... and then back it up regularly. You then need to categorise them. You can do this by putting them in sub-folders, but then you have the problem of what to do with those that belong in more than one - it can get messy. A better system would be to use either Evernote or Docear to tag/categorise them ... or you can develop another method that works for you. What you cannot do is leave them scattered all over the place!
- The goal keeps shifting - You can't know where your next discovery will take you. Enjoy the journey and don't worry about the title and the question changing constantly. It is all part of the process.
- Keep your calendars synchronised - I turned up late to the first meeting with my supervisors because I had not synchronised the changes in meeting times between the calendar on my mobile and my calendar in the cloud.
- Take a voice recorder - The notes I took by hand in that first meeting are not as complete as subsequent ones.
- Thinking I knew what my PhD was about - You can't know how to do a PhD when you start. If you did then there would be no point in doing it. Go with the flow and change your views faster than your underwear!