The Unwritten Rules

This book is about the realities of doing a PhD. Many universities recommend it as a standard text for new PhD students. It’s deliberately informal, irreverent, and practical.

It takes the reader through the process of doing a PhD from the very start (with questions like what a PhD actually is), through the stages of the PhD, to the very end (with guidance on the realities of job applications and career planning). It has a lot about key concepts that most other books, and most supervisors, never think to mention because they assume that students know them already.

A running theme through the book is craft skills; hands-on, specific guidance and explanations about a wide range of topics, ranging from choice of research question to the implications of using one phrasing versus another when writing the thesis.

The book begins with a section for readers thinking about doing a PhD; advice on choice of topic, supervisors, and institution. It then goes through the practical issues a student is likely to encounter, including administrative procedures, and infrastructure. There are detailed sections on finding and making sense of relevant literature, and on academic writing, including why it is deliberately different from many other forms of writing, such as business writing or magazine writing. The section on research discusses the bigger picture, including different types of research, and how these interact with career planning and with the structure of the PhD. There are supportive sections on the viva, on conferences and seminars, and on life beyond the PhD, so the reader can be ready for the world after their PhD.


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