A PhD is a higher level research degree, and you would normally be expected to have a Masters degree or relevant professional experience before starting a doctorate. Doing research for a doctorate is a unique and personal experience. You are becoming an expert in your chosen field and making a contribution to that field by creating new knowledge. It can often be challenging, so you need to manage the process and look after yourself as well. 

Scroll down for our recommended strategies and resources. 

Application process

Research proposal

When applying for a PhD, you need to demonstrate a clear understanding of what you want to research and how you are going to research it in order to show it is feasible. Look at this clear guide on what to include in a research proposal.


The relationship with your supervisor is crucial so it is important to find someone who you can work with and who can give you the guidance you need. See this useful guide for what to consider when choosing your PhD supervisor.

PhD process

From planning to viva

The PhD process may not always be explicitly explained so it is good to ask questions, seek advice, and build a support network of colleagues and peers. The training sessions and events hosted by Brookes' Graduate College are a good place to start, covering key skills such as working with your supervisor, research ethics, publishing and networking, and the final viva. 

Advice and experiences

Everyone’s PhD journey is unique. However, hearing other people’s stories and how they managed the process is very valuable. Below are a selection of good blogs on all aspects of doing a PhD. Use the blog search boxes to find posts on topics that relate to you.

Doing a doctorate and professional development

The beginning, middle, and end phases of a doctorate all have their own rhythm and challenges. The Vitae website has good guidance for each stage of a PhD and for developing a professional identity and transferable skills.

Part-time doctorate

Managing a large research project over an extended period of time while also fulfilling work and family commitments means finding ways to stay connected with your research and protect valuable thinking time. See these good tips for how to manage a part-time research degree.

Objective perspective

Sometimes you need to step away and talk to someone who isn’t involved in the process. Here at the Centre for Academic Development, we offer one-to-one sessions especially for PhD students. You may also find advice on our other pages useful, for example:

Connecting with others

Doing a PhD can be isolating, especially if you are doing a lot of writing on your own. It is a good idea to seek out other people who are also writing up their thesis as you may be able to support each other. See Brookes' Writing Hub for events and writing groups: 

Further resources

For more information on all aspects of undertaking a PhD, see this helpful book list created by Brookes Library: