book-reviews

How to Get a PhD: A Handbook for Students and their Supervisors

by Estelle Phillips and Derek Pugh

Rating: ★★★★

I came across this when looking for a guide on effective supervision of students. While only one of the chapters is explicitly targeted at supervisors, it is certainly suitable for generally guiding supervision, containing a great deal of specific advice to the student about the process of undergoing the PhD, which a supervisor can also make use of as a guide and reminder.

There is a pragmatic, descriptive focus to the book, with the authors emphasising the importance of students being responsible for their own studies, and not shying away from or minimising the common and significant psychological pressures of a PhD. A great deal of practical advice is given on the subject of the supervision relationship, including means of opening up necessary communication, strategies for a student to manage a less-than-perfect supervisor, and a clear description of what students should and should not expect, depending on their subject. Some details of the book are now slightly dated so far as the specifics of PhD programmes in the UK, but these are of no significance compared to the overall accuracy of its descriptions and examples as they pertain to PhDs across British academia.

The authors write extremely clearly, and the book is easily consumed in a short span of time (though this is given that the reader already understands the process being described, so students may take longer). I rather wish someone had shown me this (or rather, I had had the foresight to find it) towards the beginning of my own studies. I will endeavour to make sure any students of my own benefit from it.