Tell me what to do


Problem with a adviser or senior staff

A book/website cannot help with this. Talk to a trusted mentor, or the university graduate student support



Don’t know what I want to do

Think about where you want to be in 5 years. What is the first step towards getting to that goal? What is the first step in that first step? Go do the very, very first part of that first step

Don’t have any support

Likely, you are not the only person to feel this way. Go and create a group for PhD students – you can meet and support each other

I must write a whole chapter/article by the end of the month, or 2000 words a day

  • No you don’t.
  • This sounds overwhelming when you are stuck. Lower your expectations to extremely manageable goals:
  • Aim to write 100 words a day. This is an easy goal. Setting a daily achievable goal is much better than setting a daily goal that you can achieve occasionally. In all likelihood, you will write more than 100 words a day. But you don’t need to psychologically punish yourself if you don’t.
  • Figure out if you (a) genuinely cannot write (still thinking things over), or you’re suffering (b) writer’s block, or (c) procrastination, or (d) perfectionism. If it is (a): do a different task. If it is any of the others, go write something. You can edit bad writing later.
  • The more frequently you write, the easier writing will become. Go and force yourself to get into a writing flow


My results aren’t significant

Your results are not statistically significant. There are many types of significance: clinical significance, meaningful significance, statistical significance, theoretical significance. Don’t rely on p-values to interpret the value of your work.

I don’t want to do a PhD anymore

Either you need a break, something good to happen in your research, or to stop your PhD. When was the last time you had a day off? When was the last time something good happened in your research? If you can’t remember the answer to either of these, then you can’t really tell if you want to quit. There is nothing shameful in leaving your PhD, but first, take a break and have a good, honest talk with your mentor(s), friends, colleagues, advisers, and anyone else who gives you honest advice.



A lot of students complain they hate their PhDs, but they actually have been doing a lot of procrastination and avoiding. Once they start to sit down and get into the work, they begin to enjoy it again. So maybe have a think about whether this might apply to you.