From my research internship experiences (my previous University didn't really focus on research much) and what my current advisers told me, a general flow of a PhD is like any other long(er)-time project:
familiarize oneself with state-of-the-art on the subject
generate your own ideas (by trial-and-error) and integrate with current approaches
(with this phase becoming a lot fuzzier the more advanced your "project" is)
write it up for the world to know.
As a fresh PhD student, I'm currently in the middle of familiarizing myself with the state of the art, following the advice of many older students ("be a brave soldier in the beginning and do and read everything your advisers throw/send/e-mail your way"). And I do understand the importance of it (in fact, more often than not, I love it). But, it does give one an impression of self-uselessness sometimes (I have a talk with myself every few weeks or so to remind myself of my motivation and resolve the "uselessness" issue).
So, my question is: Typically, how much time would a fresh PhD student spend on going through state-of-the-art at the beginning of his/her PhD?
And some sub-questions:
- is it expected/typical to produce some kind of output (articles?) during this period?
- what kind of output is expected at the end of this period?
- what would be some indicators that this period is ending which a student himself can notice
In the end, just to provide some context: I'm doing a PhD in Europe, and we have a limit of 3 years for a PhD (sometimes extended for up to 6 months) and I'm studying Computer Science.