I have heard and experienced anecdotally that students often go through various phases in academic education, be it undergraduate or postgraduate, starting with enthusiasm and excitement, then running into a dip, before climbing out again and feeling more motivated, although later fatigue may set in. This can occur over the course of a single year, but also over the course of a degree (see, for instance, 5 Phases of PhD Motivation Explained). There may be some connection with the stages of culture shock, and for some students traditional culture shock might be compounded with the aforementioned phases.

Have studies been carried out on the phases students seem to go through and are they as widespread, even universal, as experience would suggest? References to particular studies would be appreciated. I would also be interested in references to effective coping strategies for recovering from the first serious dip, which may otherwise derail a student's studies.

  • 2
    Relevant: Motivation level
    – Compass
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 14:32
  • Or this one: Your life ambition. Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 14:39
  • If you want particular studies then you should be researching this yourself and not relying on others to do this for you.
    – awsoci
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 21:59
  • @awsoci: Thank you for pointing that out. This is my first question on academia.SE, and perhaps I misunderstood the (reference-request) tag. I can edit the question to remove any mention of references or studies, if that would improve it for this site.
    – J W
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 5:52
  • I'd suggest reformatting the question a little so it becomes clear (read: precise) what exactly you are after; otherwise, it appears to be looking for opinion on an idea.
    – OK-
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 23:59

1 Answer 1


There is a brilliant book called "How to Get a PhD" by R Murray that I found really useful when I was studying. In the references to that book I found the following:

Hockey, J. (1994) New territory problems of adjusting to the first year of a social science PhD, Studies in Higher Education, 19: 177–90

You may also want to investigate studies in the Journal of Graduate Education but I cannot find any online links to its content.

  • 1
    +1 I just spent 3hrs reading How to Get a PhD. The testimonials given in Ch 7 really resonated with me, and I'm anxious to make the recommended adjustments to my current situation. Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 21:43
  • There is also "How to Survive your Viva" by the same author. Also useful! Commented Apr 2, 2015 at 9:33

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