“The PhD Grind” book review - Overall planning

Last updated on:2 years ago

Recently, I have read The PhD Grind written by Philip Guo. I want to take down some review notes about scientific research before my attendance of being a PhD student. This content is just overall planning for the following days.


Before start plan your PhD grind, you have to know a general thing:

Almost nobody in my field pays their own money to pursue a PhD degree, since it’s not financially worthwhile to do so.

And this:

Students are expected to publish two to four related papers as the first (lead) author and then combine those papers into a book-length technical document called a dissertation.

So, what you can do now is to find an advisor as soon as possible. Usually, you find one before you start your degree.

And you should try to figure out what it needs (eg. The number of journals papers, conference papers, and classes points, etc.) to allow you finally get your degree.

First year

I realize that my current skills and abilities still can not fit the research program of Top-tier universities. But I also learn that I can cultivate these skills and accumulate knowledge of specific research field on second-tier and third-tier universities.

It is highly important to clarify what the supervisors and students long-term expectations are.

Junior lab members must pay their dues and be “good soldiers” rather than making presumptuous demands from day one

Soldiers first.

Real research is never done in a vacuum. There needs to be solid intellectual, historical, and sometimes even physical foundations (e.g., laboratory equipment) for developing one’s innovations.

Ideas are always built upon other ideas, so it’s important to find a solid starting point.

Read papers, but avoid over-consuming.

The only way to earn a PhD is by successfully producing research outputs (e.g., published papers), not merely by consuming inputs from taking classes or reading other people’s papers

The technical skills and judgment that I gained from those experiences made it possible for me to now implement my ideas that I truly cared about.

In the first year, try to help ambitious colleagues and your boss, seek the chance to publish papers with them, even you are the second or third ranking author.

This strategy of finding and setting short-term deadlines for myself would work wonders in keeping me focused throughout the rest of my PhD years

It’s efficient if we can make an effective deadline to slightly push ourselves.

Taking classes, adjust yourself to the new environment. Carry out research on the field with foundation. On the second term, write the first research paper. At the end of the first years, submit the first research paper!

Second year

I came into the meeting prepared with notes about three specific ideas and pitched them in the following format:

  • What’s the problem?
  • What’s my proposed solution?
  • What compelling experiments can I run to demonstrate the effectiveness of my solution
  • *`Thinking in terms of experiments—when proposing research project ideas.*

Plan a more controlled laboratory study.

Learn how to take your research notes, write down your ideas immediately. It can give you tips to think about your whole research projects.

Try to build the research environment, spend your time in doing research, write papers on the fourth term.

Third year

There are no textbooks, no lecture notes, and no instructors to provide definitive answers

Grinding smart requires perceptiveness, intuition, and a willingness to ask for help.

Try to be a leader. I’m not accustomed to making an argument with people. But sometimes we need arguments for our projects. This is nothing personal and will be fine.

Fourth year

I spent the next two months combining all of my papers into a 230-page dissertation document.

Oral defence: the student gives a one-hour public talk summarizing their dissertation research, and then there is a one-hour private session where the committee asks probing questions

I didn’t have time to present all five projects during my oral defence talk, so I chose to present three projects.

When we start preparing a dissertation and oral defence, it means we are at the stage of the endgame of a PhD.


[1] Philp Guo, The PhD. Grind

[2] Guidelines to draw a timeline of your PhD