The journey

  • Day 1
  • The most important thing for a PhD
  • PhD Talk – I speak funny now
  • Procrastination
  • Let’s procrastinate
  • Progress over perfection
  • It’s a journey
  • There is light at the end of the tunnel
  • Rest breath and live
  • Hello again old friend
  • Tired
  • Supervisors are human too
  • Changing supervisors
  • Dealing with difficult supervisors
  • You can do anything, it’s up to you


  • Research proposal ingredients
  • Research proposal the biggest speedbump
  • Theoretical frameworks for research
  • Structuring my proposal


  • How to write…when you don’t want to
  • Writing a journal article – scoping review
  • Systematic literature review – simple steps


  • How to organise your folders – coolest naming system ever

Data analysis

  • Data analysis, methods, results, SPSS
  • Qualitative analysis

Qualitative analysis

My Recipe

Because I’m mad, I decided on mixed methods (both quantitative and qualitative analysis). It’s a great way to stretch one’s mind, but for a structured, process-oriented person like me…this was a quite a challenge…so here’s what I used to wrap my head around qualitative analysis…

  1. Get an overview of qualitative analysis
    Qualitative vs Quantitative analysis

2. Types of qualitative analysis. As a newbie to qual, I started with thematic analysis by Braun & Clarke which is popular at the mo. Thematic analysis falls under the first type here (Basic qualitative/interpretive). TYPES OF QUALITATIVE RESEARCH

4. Coding.

The Essential Guide to Coding Qualitative Data

I used Nvivo software to help me grasp the concept of coding by showing me examples of codes and themes that could be identified from my data. This video broke thematic coding using Nvivo down nicely for me Nvivo Thematic Coding (Tip: Google the Nvivo and the version e.g. Nvivo 12 and type e.g. Mac or Windows as functions can be different).

Good luck and best wishes with your journey :)…

Data Analysis, Method and Results including SPSS

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

So we’ve collected data, now it’s time to analyse.

Awesome tip: Write your methods and results chapters while you’re doing your data analysis. You’ll have some idea on the methods your using already, but this really helped guide what I was going to do next.

Method – How to write, where to start

Philosophies, paradigms, epistemologies, atiologies – where to start and where does it all end?

Bless Saunders and thank you Dudovsky for introducing us. He created an onion. I used this to guide writing my method. Each layer is a heading within my methods chapter. I used Dudovsky’s chapter on methodologies for the topics to discuss within each section.

Wanna know more? Click here

Analysis of Saunders Research Onion - Thesismind

Data Analysis and Results

I’m totally new to SPSS, so I spent about 2 weeks understanding the basics (and terminology) first which really helped.

AWESOME Youtube Video: SPSS Tutorial for data analysis | SPSS for Beginners

While I was watching this, I set up a Microsoft notebook with these bits:

  • Overview
  • Terms
  • SPSS Commands

My tools that I had open while doing my data analysis and results:

  1. SPSS Survival Manual Pretty much just follow what this says and it’ll help you to clean, analyse and interpret your data like so:

2. Results chapter of my thesis: Find a thesis online that’s on a similar research topic to yours for ideas on structures, headings, content, interpreting results.

Fill it in while your going through the SPSS survival manual above.

Hope this helps 🙂

Till next time 🙂 Best of luck and you’ll do awesome.

PhD Progress Report

Argh I hate writing progress reports…although it does tickle the inner lawyer in me…


So every year of your PhD you have to give a progress update…

Although there is a template from the ethics committee…it doesn’t give you examples of how you should word your updates (and I need structure)….

Loved this one – thank you Liyana!!


Coolest folder naming system ever!!!

Free stock photo of wood, light, art, dark


Had to share this brilliant folder naming system with you….credit to the PhDer who came up with it but has remained anonymous…

Pretty much name things as per the phase of the event.

01_Research Plan

02_Research Proposal

03_ Ethics



06_ Results


08_For exam

Or For a literature review





Your sub folders within each folder would be related to each phase, making it easier to locate everything.

It’s a good idea to put a README set of instructions that explains your folder naming logic too (incase you get amnesia).

Plus, my 2 favourite must have folders / subfolders: A “Reference” folder where you save any resources / references / info.

Sharing is Caring 🙂 Feel free to let us know if you have an awesome system going too.

Best wishes!!


Simple steps for a systematic literature review (Part A: search terms and database search)


Thanks for the support, it shows that there are others out there going through the same journey too (hopefully we all get to celebrate success together too) 🙂

So these are the steps I followed to figure out my search terms and select databases to search for:

Search Terms

  1. Go to your university or institution library website
  2. Go to databases
  3. Search for Ebscohost or ProQuest
  4. Type in your main search terms or topic that you are researching.  A drop down list should appear with search term options (see below) if not, press space after your term and the drop down list should appear.


5. On the right, there is another field (on the left of the green search button).  You can select where you want to find your search terms.  I went for title and abstract .

6. Once you hit search, a list of results will come up.  There is usually a section on the page that shows your search terms (see yellow highlighted section below).


7. (Save your search terms) Select and copy this on something like “sticky notes” or “notepad” that you can have open on your screen and copy and paste into the other database search fields.

8. Depending on your topic, you know you’re on the right track when you have 200 or less results.  3 million results says your search term is too broad.

Mega Database Searches

You could follow my previous post and find relevant databases through the subject guide on your university / institute library website.


Fast track: Do what I call a mothership search.  These sites search multiple databases for you. (For more info:

Find these databases through your library website:

  • Ebscohost
  • ProQuest
  • Wiley online
  • Springerlink

You can even select which databases you want it to search (just make sure you copy the names of the databases that usually show up in the limits section on the left of your results screen.  You might need to state which databases you searched in your literature review especially if it’s a systematic.

Download each of your searches into your citation manager (e.g. Endnote etc) so you have a copy of the reference.  You can usually find some button that says SAVE or SEND up the top right in the results screen.  TIP: RIS = Endnote (why don’t they tell you these things….)

I create groups in Endnote with the name of the database and date searched and which search term group I used e.g. Proquest Search 1 dd mmm yy


If following the Joanna Briggs Institute guide for scoping reviews that I mentioned in my previous blog.  You will have 2 reviewers to screen (filter through the good and rubbish results you found).

This website makes it all the less painful, allows both of you to go through the same set of results together and even gets rid of the duplicates when you import into it. You import your references from your citation manager and off you go.

You may need to ask your university or institute if they have licenses for Covidence but it sure makes life easier.

Major tip from my supervisor (that no one tells you) is Do all your searches on the same day…as articles get published, your results will change with time. You need this if your review says that “as of the time that I write this, this was the literature on it and what it said”..


Hope that helps…

Don’t worry if you have to do your searches multiple times or change your search terms.  It happens to all of us.  Just make sure you allocate lots of extra time for this so it doesn’t stress you out.

Once you get the hang of it, it’s much less painful….trust me.

I say undergrad is theory only, master level is application but in a PhD you need to learn and apply your learning at the SAME time which is like learning how to walk and running at the same time which is why I guess PhDs are PhDs :).

So give yourself time to practice the theory and get good with Endnote, database search etc and soon we too will be able to do literature reviews in minutes…..and remember that you are human.

Writing a journal article – scoping review

Yes…I did a course on writing a literature review which gave me an introduction..

No…it’s not helping me write my scoping review for my Phd

Because…it needs to be publishable…


So although I haven’t said hello in awhile, hopefully this will help someone else with writing their scoping review for publication as part of their PhD. 🙂

I haven’t finished it yet but I wanted to share some starting points.

Why? Because when I googled “scoping review” or “process to write a journal article” – I didn’t find anything that said:

Baby step 1) open your computer

Baby step 2) turn on your computer and breathe…

(Basically big, complicated articles that didn’t tell you the step by step details of how to get started and why in simple to understand language for baby PhDers like me).

Here’s my step 1:  What is a literature review?

Did you know there are different types of literature reviews? I wish someone had said a scoping review is a type of literature review (they’re not different things).

Here’s a start:

Image result

The full spectrum of reviews is in this journal article (Grant and Booth, 2009) that is of academic standard (your supervisors will be happy if you reference this): Check out Table 1

This Pickering systematic review process has come in handy for PhDers.

Step 2:  Where do I start?

Step 3:  Step 1 and 2 above (your aim and criteria for the review)

My literature review is about my PhD topic.  So my aim and search criteria relates to that.

Example: PhD on Why green apples are sour?  Search criteria for literature review: Aim: to explore existing literature on green apples (don’t bias it by saying “sour” as your search should be broad to begin with). Major tip from my supervisor.

At this step I drafted with my supervisors the aim, search terms, inclusions and exclusions following this guide (Joanna Briggs Institute) methodology for scoping reviews.  Just google or ask your supervisors for guidelines for your particular scoping review relevant to your field / topic.

Step 4:  Search databases

Where do I start? What’s the best database for my topic/aim/interest?

(Lesson learnt: If you google “choosing a database” you’ll find out how to find a good computer database not one for a literature search)  ARGHHHHHH

So … I spoke to my university librarian because they know this stuff like in their sleep. BEST IDEA EVERRRR!! They’ll likely guide you through the following:

  1. Go to university library website
  2. subject guide
  3. search for your subject/topic/field of interest
  4. It’ll come up with the relevant databases
  5. Big tip: when you click in the database, sign in or log into the database, this will let you save your searches in a folder
  6. For the rest of how to do searches and search terms, I suggest asking your librarian and supervisor who will guide you to the best resources.

That’s all I’m up to for now…

Hopefully next post I’ll come back with the rest of the steps having completed a successful review that is publishable.

Best of luck everyone!!

Dealing with difficult supervisors

So,  what happens when the supervisor starts throwing spanners into your work.  They have free reign and make decisions without consulting you and you wouldn’t know better anyway to say no…

It can be frustrating, but I found a solution.

  1. Just bear with it, if they mean well and you can live with it and overall you will get your PhD done, then just pick your battles.
  2. Focus on outcomes – rather than emotion.  What solution do you need?  Do you need encouragement from them?  Can you organise your project better to give them more regular updates to prevent them from micromanaging and annoying you?  Tell them what solution you need rather than get irritated and not having control over your own research (you’re still learning after all).

I found this article funny and helpful, hope it helps you too…

Difficult PhD supervisor angry


Supervisors are human too

I learnt 3 important things in the past few weeks:

Image result for control

  1. I am in control.  I used to let things and people stress me.  But I’m the one flying my plane and my life.

I was super busy with work and study, then had a conference.  For once, I left my laptop at home and attended the conference and ENJOYED it.  Before, I would worry about work, worry about study, worry about my supervisor getting mad at me for having “time off”…it did wonders for my mental health, happiness and industry knowledge to be present at the conference and really enjoy each moment.  I made the exhibitors laugh and got lots of goodies e.g. a brain shaped stress ball, yoyos, a baseball even…(that an exhibitor said I could throw in a certain direction and wipe out their competitor at the conference).  We all need a break and so do our minds, especially when doing a PhD.  It refreshes our creativity and gives us fresh air.  I am allowed to have fun and be kind to myself.

The biggest thing I’ve been doing lately during my morning 10 minute meditations is to visualise success and feel it.  10 minutes of visualising success, achieving my goals and feeling it in my body is super powerful.

I read a study somewhere about 2  basketball teams.  One actually practiced on the court and the other team visualised their game (without physical practice).  Amazingly, the second team that visualised played and scored higher than the other team.  The mind is a wonderful thing.  You are in control, no one else can stress you if you don’t let them and you can achieve everything you want to.

2. Priorities:  Who will be there after your PhD?  Who will celebrate with you?  Who will love you even if you don’t get a PhD?  When in doubt, and the Phd becomes your focus…I have learnt having clear priorities and sticking to them means I will never regret my decisions in life.

Related imageI have regretted spending too much time at work.

Stressing too much over study.

Stressing about what others think of me.

But I have NEVER regretting spending time with my loved ones.

I had to make a choice this week, look after a sick loved one and have lunch with family or say I’m too busy and try and catch up with the huge amount of study and work.  Study and work will always be there.  I am so glad I chose family…and I’m still getting time to catch up with my work.  Good for the soul and good for the brain.

3. Supervisors are human.

Image result for robotSupervisors, bosses, teachers, mentors, parents…sometimes we forget they are humans and not robots.  They too get stressed and have bad days and emotions.  If they got stressed, I would stress.  I am starting to manage my supervisors now…communicating with them early on if I expect issues or about my schedule.  They also learn that you’re growing up this way, when they can see you manage yourself and communicate to them your needs.  This means they stress less and I stress less.

I was actually thinking that to be a good supervisor, you have to be as calm as a driving instructor…but that is so unrealistic.  Has anyone noticed that there are a large portion of academics who are quite eccentric and lack people and organizational skills because that part of their brain is focused on their research?  (Including me)…lesson learnt, as Prof Jimmy Choo says “just be nice”  that’s all you need to do.

Be nice to your supervisors and understand that they’re human, be nice to yourself because you are human too, be nice when you become a supervisor one day…