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PhD Phases


When considering your development as a researcher it can be helpful to think in terms of different phases of your PhD.

  • What are your immediate goals?

  • What skills do you need to develop to achieve your goals in good time?

  • What are your longer term ambitions?

  • What can you realistically start putting in place now to help you achieve your ambitions?

Here is one way of looking at the PhD journey in terms of different phases and some of the courses run by the Centre for Doctoral Studies or Library Services that may be useful during each phase.

Remember, there is no single PhD student experience and everyone will have different development needs at different times. Work out what yours are and what training would help you.

The courses suggested here are by no means an exhaustive list and researchers are encouraged to think imaginatively about development activities - training does not have to happen in the training room.

All courses can be book via Skills Forge.

1. Starting out

The early weeks of a PhD can be a whirlwind of inductions, meetings, form filling and new tasks. Try and take a moment to think about the tasks you are going to need to complete over the first few months and what skills you will need to use as you set about your work, begin your background reading and consider your research question.Talk to your supervisors about what will be expected of you and what skills you should look to develop. 

Some suggested workshops

  • Starting your PhD
  • Efficient and effective academic reading
  • Practical project management for researchers
  • Time management for researchers
  • Writing a literature review

2. Working towards the upgrade 

Once you have laid the initial groundwork for your research project, your thoughts will turn to the first major formal requirement – the upgrade from MPhil to PhD. Requirements for the upgrade vary between faculties and department so you will need to check what is required of you, but in most faculties this will be the first time that you will be asked to formally submit some of your writing about your research to be read by someone other than your first or second supervisor. 

Some suggested workshops

  • Preparing for the upgrade
  • Clear and concise academic writing
  • Fundamentals of good writing
  • How to construct an argument 

You may also find it helpful to consult one of our Royal Literary Fund fellows who can give you advice your writing here. 

3. Growing as an independent researcher

Having successfully upgraded to PhD status, you will be expected to move forward with your research, working with the support of your supervisors, but also developing the independence that comes from growing as a researcher. In terms of your development, while considering the tasks you need to complete for your research project and the skills you need to accomplish them will be of utmost importance, it is also essential to start thinking about what you can do now to help achieve your longer term career goals. 

Some suggested workshops

  • Writing and giving conference papers (Arts/Humanities & Social Sciences)
  • Writing for publication
  • Making the most of conferences


This may also be a good time to speak to our dedicated Careers Consultant or consult our online career support here. 

4. Writing up

With most of your research completed, the writing up phase is about turning that research into a thesis that will meet the criteria for the award of a PhD. How much writing remains to be done at this stage will vary with discipline but for all students it will mean working to a strict deadline. It is also a time when you will need to be giving serious attention to the post-PhD stage of your career. 

Some suggested workshops

  • Writing up your thesis
  • Preparing for the Viva
  • Applications & cover letters
  • CVs
  • Applications
  • New paths
  • Career strategies fo a recession
  • Interviews

Many of these courses are available in the PGR Core Library on KEATS, delivered as a live webinar or blended learning course.  See the training themes pages for more information.

If you have any questions, you can contact us at doctoraltraining@kcl.ac.uk

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