A hiatus... and more BIG PhD questions

by Luis P. Prieto, - 4 minutes read - 767 words

After a long hiatus for personal reasons, we are back in business! Continuing from our last post from 2021, here I highlight one of the blog’s big foci for this starting year: the “big PhD questions”. The post goes over what Google has to say about this (!) and asks for your ideas and opinions on what big questions about the doctorate we should investigate next at the “A Happy PhD” blog.


The latest post in this blog was published at the end of October 2021. You might be wondering what has happened for the past three months. Had I died? Got tired of writing this blog, or disinterested by the topics of doctoral productivity, wellbeing and supervision?

None of them. Nothing further from the truth.

Suffice to say I had to take a long break for personal reasons – a happy event, mind you, and one that prompted a lot of reflection. I hope you will pardon this (unannounced) interruption, and that you are all well, healthy and full of energy to finish your dissertation (or to help others finish it).

So am I!

For 2022 we are going to try different kinds of posts: interviews with insights from doctoral education experts, supervisors and, yes, doctoral students themselves; distilling practical lessons for the PhD from selected books (so that you don’t have to read them – I know you are all a busy bunch!). And, we will focus on solving the big question marks of any doctoral journey…

What other BIG PhD Questions do you have?

In the previous post I delved into the big question that prompts all the other problems and satisfactions that we have talked about in this blog: “Should I do a PhD?”. I am aware many of you are already past that question and well in the middle of doing your PhD, facing other big, challenging dilemmas and questions (on top of your dissertation’s research questions, that is!).

Yet, doctoral students being so different, and doctoral journeys being so varied, it is hard for me to grasp which questions loom large in your minds, keeping you awake at night. In an effort to go beyond my own experience and see what is in people’s minds, I turned to… Google Autocomplete.

Yes, you read that right. That nifty dropdown in Google Search that uses algorithms to try and guess what your query is, to save you a few seconds of typing. It is an interesting tool to investigate the zeitgeist of a topic, and there are even games that use it as a central device. I just typed “is my PhD…”, “are PhDs…”, “my PhD…” and similar sentence beginnings, and observed what suggestions came up. Those are probably what most people are searching for. Some of the results were hilarious (“my PhD is in dance”), and others were frankly disturbing (“my PhD is killing me”).

I encourage you to try it as well… You will probably get different results from mine, as Google customizes the results to your geographical location and other things it knows about you. But the real point of this post is not what Google thinks people is looking for.

The point is: what are YOUR big PhD questions?

Below, you can find a poll with a few of my own ideas and the most interesting ones that came up with the aid of Google. Please provide below your own ideas for BIG questions we should investigate in the blog (with the “Add new idea” button), and vote for the questions you would most like to see answered (with the “Vote” buttons). You have about one week, until Saturday, February 5, 2022, to answer!

NB: In case you cannot see the poll embedded below, you can also access it here . Sorry for the technical gimmick! :)

Thanks a lot for keeping on reading the blog, I truly appreciate every visit and every idea.

Update (11 Feb 2022): As you can see above, several interesting “big PhD questions” came up in the poll: How can I fund my PhD? How to focus my PhD topic? Should I quit my PhD? How to network in my PhD? Thanks to everyone that contributed! The most popular big PhD question was: “Is my PhD advisor a phycho?" We cannot generalize given the size and un-scientificness of the poll, but it is both interesting, and very sad. I’ll start working on a post on this right away. Do you have any pointers or stories about psycho (or just a$$hole or unhelpful) advisors? Send them to

Header image by mohamed_hassan from PxHere.

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Luis P. Prieto

Luis P. is a Ramón y Cajal research fellow at the University of Valladolid (Spain), investigating learning technologies, especially learning analytics. He is also an avid learner about doctoral education and supervision, and he's the main author at the A Happy PhD blog.

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