I did my masters in Computer Science last year and it was a taught masters so I didn't do any type of 'Research'. The problem that I encounter now is that I'm going to start my PhD in the next few days and I don't have any idea about how to do it (I don't know how to write a literature review, for example.)

So, Is it possible to do it or will be very difficult in my case? And do you know any books that can help in building the foundation for me to be able to do the research?


  • 12
    Ask your supervisor/advisor. That is what they are there for!
    – Tara B
    Commented Mar 16, 2013 at 1:42
  • 6
    +1 for what @TaraB says. Now that you're starting a Ph.D, you might visit this site often, and you'll find that the most common solution to questions you'll have is "Talk to your advisor". Don't worry: no one expects you to be an expert in research when you start - that's what Ph.D training is for.
    – Suresh
    Commented Mar 16, 2013 at 2:31
  • Besides asking your advisor, I suggest you read lots of research articles to get an idea what (and how) a research work is in your field, how it is done and how it is written.
    – user4511
    Commented Mar 16, 2013 at 4:33
  • @vahid: sure, but even there it's probably a very good idea to ask one's advisor for suggestions for what to read.
    – Tara B
    Commented Mar 16, 2013 at 10:06
  • @Tara: Sure, it is always better to consult with the advisor.
    – user4511
    Commented Mar 16, 2013 at 14:50

3 Answers 3


So, Is it possible to do it or will be very difficult in my case?

Unless the faculty in your new department are negligent sociopaths, they would not have admitted you to their PhD program without a firm belief that you could succeed.

Your lack of research experience could make your PhD more difficult than for other incoming students, but mostly because it will take you more time to settle into a research pattern. If you want to speed up the transition, get involved with research as soon as possible. Do not fill your weekly schedule with standard homework- and project-heavy classes. Sign up for independent study/research credit. You're unlikely to produce publishable research in your first semester, but that's okay; your primary goal is to develop research habits, not research results.

In fact, I'd suggest getting in touch with faculty in your new department now to arrange for independent study time in the fall and to ask for reading suggestions. If you know who your new advisor/supervisor will be, ask them first.

  • 1
    And if the faculty in your new department are a bunch of negligent sociopaths: Run, don't walk.
    – Ben Norris
    Commented Mar 17, 2013 at 10:46

Let me say what I believe in here. Doing research is a skill you gradually acquire over years of reading, experimenting and criticizing others work. There is no magic here. If you are dedicated to learn, you will be able to do research. The main keyword here is critical thinking

  • critical thinking.. so is that possible for people who have mediocre intellect or is it a characteristics of only Intelligent people?
    – girl101
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 11:22
  • @user3237995 I believe it is possible for everyone.
    – seteropere
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 19:41

Even some of the most clever students are completely lost when it comes to starting out with research.

There are plenty of good books out there that provide general guidance on how to get a PhD and conduct research. These are of course no substitute for first hand experience, but they will provide you with a framework within which to conduct your research. As disciplines differ, it is probably a good idea to find one that is written by someone in a discipline close to yours.

Here is one general one that Amazon (and its reviewers) recommends:

How to get a PhD: a handbook for students and their supervisors by Estelle M. Phillips and Derek S. Pugh.

There seems also to be such a book devoted to Computer Science:

The Art of Getting Computer Science PhD by Emded Ahmed.

Amazon has no reviews, so who knows what it is like. From what is available on Amazon and Google books, it looks like rubbish. (The title isn't even grammatically correct.)

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