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PhD Phases


  1. Starting out
  2. Working towards the upgrade
  3. Growing as an independent researcher
  4. Writing up


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 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 booked via SkillsForge.


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. Think about what skills you will need to use as you begin your work, start 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 in the Sciences (PGR100) or in the Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (PGR101)

  • Practical Project Management for Researchers (PGR277B)

  • Time Management for Researchers (PGR232 and PGR325)

  • Writing a Literature Review for the Arts Humanities & Social Sciences (PGR258) or for the Sciences (PGR259)

  • The Seven Secrets of Highly Successful Research Students (PGR237)


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 in the Sciences (PGR174) or in the Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (PGR144)

  • Clear and Concise Academic Writing (PGR269)

  • Fundamentals of Good Writing (PGR302)

  • How to Construct an Argument (PGR303

You may also find it helpful to consult one of our Royal Literary Fund fellows who can give you advice about 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 for Publication in the Arts & Humanities (PGR260), in the Social Sciences (PGR262) or in the Sciences (PGR304)

  • Fundamentals of Designing a Poster Presentation (PGR113)

  • Making the Most of Conferences (PGR115

  • Presenting with Confidence (PGR229)

  • Writing and Giving Conference Papers in the Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (PGR159)

  • An Introduction to Public Engagement (PGR322)

This may also be a good time to speak to on of our dedicated Careers Consultants or consult our online career support page 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 in the Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (PGR104) or in the Sciences (PGR103)

  • Using MS Word to Create a Thesis Template (PGR308)

  • Preparing for the Oral Examination (PGR105)

  • Inside or Beyond Academia: Should I Stay or Should I Go? (PGR230)

  • What Researchers Offer - Understanding and Communicating your Professional Value (PGR296)

  • Winning at Job Interviews (PGR143)


Many of these courses are delivered as a live webinars, but some are available on-demand in the PGR Core Library on KEATS or offered as blended learning courses. 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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