Reviewed by: Linda Baines (University of Manchester)
Seeing the bright yellow cover, I picked up 'Dr, Dr, I feel like Doing a PhD' by Lucy Russell, published by Continuum International Publishing Group in 2008 expecting that it would be a light hearted romp on the trials and tribulations of doing a PhD. The contents page seemed to confirm this. However, I was pleasantly surprised.
This is a short book, some 140 pages, and I expected it to be a quick read. Again I was caught out. I found that it was a thoughtful read that I wanted to mull over. Lucy Russell undertook her PhD after spending some time as a teacher and wanted to undertake research into issues that had emerged in her professional experience. She gives a substantive, interesting and entertaining read on her and others' experience of undertaking a PhD and some of the challenges, issues and tribulations that can arise.
Despite the blurb on the back of the book cover, she does not cover the process of doing a PhD or what you need to do to succeed in a systematic way. She describes how it feels to be a research student, the highs and the lows. This gave me some excellent insights and made me appreciate that these issues and feelings that can arise are usual and to be expected.
Unlike many of the guides on PhDs currently available, the book is written in the first person and this gives the reader a more personal insight into what the 'PhD experience' is like. Lucy Russell gives an insightful account of her own research, some of the challenges she encountered and how she dealt with them. She discusses the whys and wherefores and includes snapshots and anecdotes of colleagues and others who have undertaken postgraduate research, and includes some detailed quotes from several individuals, some of whom have gone on to illustrious careers. There are some very useful tips and starting points. She addresses issues not covered in other 'PhD Guides' such as dress code (what to wear when doing interviews), sensitive issues that arise in research, transcribing notes. Her account of her experience of her research and the issues that she encountered illustrate the issues that she is trying to describe. At times, I felt that I was there with her.
A very minor quibble on the editing of the book; on p. 23, there is a reference to the 'Higher Education Research Council'. I suspect that the author meant the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE); the Research Councils are different bodies and provide funding (studentships) for PhD students on a competitive basis via universities.
While the book is not a reference book, it is a useful additional and interesting read that provides a good starting point for someone who is considering undertaking a PhD. It does not assume any background knowledge of academic terms and is written in a clear, easy to read style which I enjoyed. And although the book is highly recommended, I would suggest that you try to borrow it from the library rather than spend £22.99 or £18.04 on Amazon (January 2011).