I got accepted to a university as PhD Candidate. My research proposal is sent & accepted, and I found a supervisor.

Though we plan to meet at least 1 time/month, I feel a bit confused about the way I should get started with my research. Of course, I plan to complete the literature review I started when I wrote my research proposal before engaging with fieldwork, and then with data analysis and dissertation writing. However, how do concretely those different steps go on? I mean :

  • When do I know I am over with the literature review and conceptual framework? I feel like I always find more papers and books to read every time I read a new paper. Continuing this way may mean always postponing fieldwork, which I know is not a good way to go...
  • When should I start writing some serious stuff concerning that literature review/conceptual framework? Before or after engaging with fieldwork?
  • When should I contemplate writing down a first contribution (i.e. scientific communication for a conference or article)? I feel discussing my theoretical perspectives with other PhD candidates/researchers may be fruitful to confirm/modify the way I tackle my topic. However, I don't know if working on a theoretical paper before engaging with fieldwork is relevant as it may change through time ...
  • 5
    Have you discussed this with your advisor?
    – GoodDeeds
    Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 18:41
  • We discussed that point quickly, but we did not go to the details. I'd be please to know how other PhD. candidates work with their supervisors in order to propose a way of working with him on september.
    – belbar
    Commented Aug 7, 2020 at 8:53

1 Answer 1


Start writing now, every day. Put down any ideas you have. Don't try to plan the whole project from the start. Don't wait to write until after the literature review, or after the fieldwork. Your daily writing will move the work along even though only a small part of it may end up in the finished dissertation.

Edit in response to comments.

Writing "even before you have anything to write about" is valuable because it can help you sharpen the particular questions you want to ask/research. You can speculate about what you expect to find (but be honest when you finally see the data). If you start writing every day you can develop a writing addiction that will serve you well as the dissertation deadline nears.

You can rough out a version of the conceptual framework now and refine it as you see more literature, and as your fieldwork plans develop. Don't think of the project as a sequence of distinct stages, even if the final written dissertation has that structure.

This is the short form of what my wife Joan Bolker recommends in her book Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day.

(This answer may be flagged or deleted as the blatant product promotion it is. I hope not, since many students have profited from this advice. I haven't included a link to the title so you have to work a bit if you want to get the book. That may make a moderator hesitate before deleting.)

  • I downvoted, though only partly due to the product promotion. I don't think the advice of "write every day" is particularly helpful in this case, when it seems the OP hasn't done any research they can write about yet. Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 22:19
  • I do not think this meets the bar for deletion as "spam," since you do disclose your affiliation and do give substantive advice in the first paragraph. However, the advice in your first paragraph is so generic that your post could be considered "very low quality" and deleted for that reason. I will pend a decision on that; in the mean time, I encourage you to expand your answer to give more concrete advice that specifically addresses OP's question.
    – cag51
    Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 22:34
  • @cag51 Edited thanks. Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 23:33
  • Thanks for your advice! Actually, I do write down every idea I have. I try to structure the literature review chapter progressively. Let's continue this way, then :-).
    – belbar
    Commented Aug 7, 2020 at 8:54

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