Declutter the doctorate


It’s the new year and time to declutter. As a supervisor, how do you help PhD students refine their physical and mental working environments? It’s not just about decluttering the writing itself (The Thesis Whisperer has a great post on this). It’s more Marie Kondo.

Re modelling a decluttered approach, for eg:

  • Does everything in your study or writing area give you joy, as Marie suggests?
  • Do all those files on your desktop need to be there?
  • Do you have anything overdue or borrowed that needs returning?
  • Are your bookshelves easy to read and navigate?
  • Do you have an elegant and tidy email signature?

Re explicit support for students:

  • Do you actually talk with students about managing, labelling and retrieving  the sheer bulk of material  a PhD (and an academic career) generates and accumulates?
  • Do you notice, comment on and understand how your students are taking notes?
  • Do you share strategies for streamlining, for exploiting reference management software for example?

Here’s one tiny tip that’s worth sharing: if you type “Australian Association for Research in Education” into EndNote’s author field, you’ll get “Education, A.A.f. R. i.” as the author, and have to manually fix it up. If you put a comma at the end of the organisation’s title when entering it in full, it will be fine. It’s all in the record-making! And it’s all too easy for supervisors to assume that students know these tricks of the trade.

Wishing all PhD students and supervisors a happy and productive 2018!


Author: Lucinda McKnight

Dr Lucinda McKnight is a lecturer in curriculum and pedagogy at Deakin University. She has a BA in Fine Arts, Women's Studies and English from the University of Melbourne, an MA (Distinction) in Media, Culture and Communication, from the Institute of Education now at UCL, and a PhD in Education from Deakin University. Her cartoons have appeared in a number of publications, including Farrago and Health Voice. She has exhibited her artwork at Museum Victoria and the Victorian College of the Arts.

2 thoughts on “Declutter the doctorate”

    1. Hi TheGirl

      Thank you so much for commenting! I will have a good think about this and write a post- make sure you are following the blog via email (click on the button) so you know when it comes up. Do you mean the analysis chapters? What discipline are you doing your PhD in?


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