PhD Success Lab
DIGITAL MENTORING PROGRAMME TO GET YOUR PHD DONE
What is PhD Success Lab
It is an online course that PhD candidates follow over a period of 12 weeks. You receive weekly instructions and material that you study and follow to progress with your PhD. The programme includes educational video lessons, and detailed worksheets, and is enhanced by virtual live sessions, a discussion group, and close interaction with the programme instructor.
Why join PhD Success Lab
Do you want to make it through your PhD on time successfully and without unnecessary stress and struggle? Join the PhD Success Lab and acquire all the skills necessary to do exactly that.
In our 12-week digital mentoring programme, you’ll hammer out specific objectives and divise a crystal clear plan for your PhD project that will guide you all the way through PhD completion. You’ll learn a sophisticated system to monitor your progress in regular intervals so you’ll never ever feel lost.
Time and project management
During PSL, you revamp the way you spend your time, developing a laser-sharp focus on key outputs so you spend your day and weeks on exactly those activities that move your project forward. We’ll train you to shed unhelpful beliefs about yourself, and you’ll adapt the mindset of a successful PhD candidate instead.
Difficulties with dissertation writing are a thing of the past after PhD Success Lab. We’ll show you how to plan the writing of your dissertation, including all activities that have to be completed until hand-in day. During PhD Success Lab, you’ll learn the specific writing approach that the most productive scientific writers use, and you’ll join an interactive writing exercise to get started right away – no matter how far you are in your PhD.
We’ll teach you the techniques you need to communicate with your supervisors in an efficient and reliable way. You’ll learn approaches to solicit better feedback, and you’ll get real-time advice how to tackle sensitive or problematic discussions. We’ll also show you how to bring your supervisors on board regarding your completion plans so they can support you in achieving a timely PhD submission.
What you’ll learn
- Defining the PhD project and project goals
- Identifying work packages
- Estimating project duration
- Scheduling project tasks
- Monitoring and controlling PhD progress
- Increasing personal organisation
- Enhancing commitment
- Identifying key outputs
- Setting weekly goals
- Planning daily work
- Clarifying thesis requirements
- Defining a timeline for dissertation writing
- Adopting efficient writing strategies
- Interactive dissertation writing challenge
- Responsibilities of PhD students and supervisors
- Organising productive supervisory meetings
- Getting better supervisory feedback
- Discussing difficulties with supervisors
- Incorporating control tools in supervision
Who benefits most
PhD Success Lab is a perfect fit if you’re enrolled in a PhD programme or have started on a PhD project already. It is helpful for you if you’re in the first year and want to avoid common problems. It is also highly suitable for you if you’re well into the PhD process and have experienced problems, or if you’re delayed with your project. Also for PhD candidates who are in the last year, the programme will provide useful strategies to bring the project to the finish line.
HOW IS IT TAUGHT
PhD Success Lab is delivered fully digitally to your desk. You’ll learn in small weekly units that follow your PhD progress. You can directly implement the new knowledge to your PhD project. You’ll work at your own time and at your own pace as you have 24/7 access to all course material including videos, audio files and PDF worksheets. You have life-long access to the course material.
You will not experience the anonymous training atmosphere of other online classes, and you will not be left alone in your PhD process. Instead, you’ll appreciate our supportive environment and teamwork opportunities which will enhance your learning experience.
To enhance your learning experience, you’ll be part of an interactive discussion group to address your questions and problems, and to discuss your PhD progress.
Finally, our experienced instructor will be available for individual questions through live support sessions throughout the programme.
ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR
Bärbel Tress (PhD) is an enthusiastic Research Career Expert, has researched and taught at various universities and research institutes across Europe, served as an Associate Editor for an international peer-reviewed journal, and regularly has supervised students herself. For 15+ years, she has coached and advised PhD students from all fields to help them get successfully complete their PhD projects on time. She is a graduate of Heidelberg University (D), obtained a PhD in Landscape Ecology from Roskilde University (DK), and worked as researcher and lecturer at universities in Wageningen (NL) and Aberdeen (UK).
Read the feedback of previous participants of Paper Writing Academy below.
Want to Know More?
5 live-support sessions
2 implementation weeks
Join alone or with your colleagues, any group size can enrol!
12 weeks, short weekly units
Dr. Bärbel Tress
Whether beginner or close to completion, you'll benefit at any stage
HOW TO BOOK
PhD Success Lab is offered three times per year to make sure you can participate when it best suits you. You can either book a single seat for yourself or ask for a campus licence if you want to register several people from the same institute.
You can directly book your seat for the next round of the programme. You can pay online and will receive a receipt for your payment. We also offer complete payment at once or a 3-month payment plan.
If you want your institute to make the booking for you, please let us know. Then, get in touch with your supervisor or graduate coordinator and ask them to be in contact with us. We’ll send an invoice to your institute then.
How We Helped Others With
PhD Success Lab
“Every single module of the PSL programme has been extremely helpful to me. I learned something new with every lesson. I found each advice really powerful and was given simple instructions on how to follow it through step by step. Since I enrolled in PSL and gradually started implementing all the tips I can really feel an improvement on how my PhD is going. I am more confident I will be able to hand in my dissertation successfully and within my timeframe. I am very grateful for the great effort you put into making this programme!”
“One of the major successes of the PhD Success Lab (and definitely something I have been implementing) is the goal-oriented planning. The initial exercise of mapping out the 3 year program was invaluable and has helped me keep my mind on the “larger picture” while the daily to-do lists have kept me focused on what I can control each day as I progress towards the larger goals.”
“The PhD Success Lab has encouraged me to ponder questions and initiate actions that I would not have considered otherwise. Due to the instructions in PSL, I took time out to define my project plan and to reconsider my goals and I will keep using the project plan from now on as an accompanying document. I am sure that the regular meetings with my supervisors that were suggested in the course will help to improve the interaction with them. I have adopted many useful elements from the course, e.g. I have improved my productivity and now work with time-boxes for writing, reading and other PhD related tasks. I started using a task-manager and the weekly-planner that I use both for work and personal tasks. With the weekly planner I really liked it’s focus on work-life balance and that I can plan my spare time more intentionally. Every morning I fine-tune my weekly planner online to plan my day – that’s how it works best for me.”
“I am a first year PhD student and I started PSL without much confidence in my own work, feeling lost by having still two years ahead and several unforeseen delays in my project. With the course, I started to structure my weekly and daily plan with a clear mind, because it started to be the first thing I do when I come to work. I learned that using this time, when we are mostly free from other meetings or not so tired from the day, is key for success in planning my work ahead.
One other exercise that helped me enormously with my progress is the inclusion of a writing block, also in the morning. In this way, I give priority to my writing tasks, and was able to comprehensively organize my literature review, documents for doctoral application, and posters for conferences without feeling overwhelmed.
The module on effective communication with your supervisor is by far my favorite one, because it not only helped me realizing how privileged I am with my supervisor, but also to have more productive meetings with him. I learned that I need to prepare for those, and that sending him a meeting outline is a game changer for more meaningful feedback.
I would also like to highlight how important the live sessions were to improve the sense of community, since the course is held online. Listening to other PhD students, also with different demands and challenges from their field helped me to grasp more the different PhD periods, as my colleagues are mostly in their final year.
Overall, I would like to express my deep gratitude to Bärbel and her team for providing us with such a well-structured and resourceful course. I am looking forward to my next course with them when I start writing my first PhD paper.”
“The PSL helped me to structure my tasks and made me more focused. I got more productive with each lesson. Now I see the time-killing traps and can avoid them. The tools such as Todoist and the daily and weekly planner helped me organize my time and focus on the most relevant tasks for completing my doctorate. In addition, it was nice to talk to other Ph.D. students with similar issues and to know that I am not the only one with these numerous problems. I am very grateful for the instructor’s commitment. It was enormously helpful to get tips when I was struggling and needed support. So huge thanks for that!”
“PSL really helped me improve my project management. With the tools introduced in the 2nd part of the course I could structure my days and weeks in a meaningful way and I lost far less time during the day because of forgetting tasks or ill-preparation. My favourite tool is “Todoist”, the online tool for managing To-Do Lists, and I don’t use it just for lab work and PhD related tasks but also at home. As it also exists as an app, I have it always with me and with that I could overcome my old habit of always forgetting the things I have to do. Thank you!”
“Even though I joined the PhD Success Lab in my final year of my PhD, it had the power to make a difference and increase my productivity. By spending about an hour per week on my PSL homework, I managed to get a better overview of my remaining PhD tasks and to structure my days efficiently. But most importantly PhD Success Lab gave me the confidence to finish my PhD in time. I am still impressed over how the tips and tricks I received in PSL magically eradicated my fear of writing and am now ready to dive into my thesis. PSL will not only help you to finish your PhD on time, but it does also teach you convenient project and time management tools which can be applied in any future job.”
Update from Magdalena, some months later: “I submitted my PhD thesis today, all according to the plan I made during the PhD Success Lab. I’m convinced that nothing would have run so smoothly without that course. It helped me with reducing my fear of writing, and forced me to make a plan and stick to it. So thank you so much for creating this course and helping so many PhD candidates.”
“During the PSL programme, the way I thought about my PhD and myself shifted fundamentally so I could make a big leap forward. The very biggest game changer was the decision of writing a monograph instead of a cumulative dissertation, since this had blocked me for so long. I talked it over with my supervisor – and it took three weeks from thinking about this possibility until the final click moment, and it actually changed everything. Due the the PSL lessons, my way of working became much clearer and more organised. I’m now straight onto my final work. Motivated by PSL suggestions I have taken a step back and looked at everything I have done for my PhD already. Suddenly I realised that I had enough material, I just needed to put it together. Waiting for my supervisor to read my drafts or to find time for me had blocked me for so long. Now I took the decision to stop doing that and to simply start writing my dissertation. Every word I write now really gets me where I want to go. It has increased my motivation so much that I write now for an hour every day. Of course, there’s still a lot of work to do before I hand it in. But I can see the end now. And I no longer look down at my feet as I walk along, but ahead at the goal. Thanks a lot for the PhD Success Lab – it helped me so much! “
“The PSL course gave me the amazing opportunity to structure my PhD better and widen my set of management skills in order to head into my research project with an organized mindset. What I have enjoyed the most throughout the course was having generated a great roadmap in order to navigate the PhD waters better, while sharing and learning from the highly experienced trainer!”
“First of all, I liked the concept of this digital course, and the fact that everyone is flexible in when to work on the lessons. Especially as someone, who works with living organisms, my days and weeks are not always exactly planable. Tools I regularly use now are the Work-Breakdown-Structure from the project planning module. I not only use it for the whole dissertation project, but create also detailed ones for sub projects. Furthermore, the task-manager that you introduced is now my tool for everything that does not belong to my daily routine work. I haven’t had the chance to try out the suggestions about supervision, but I will have my TAC-meeting next month and I think I will be well prepared for this event with the course material.”
“It has been a pleasure learning from you over the past 12 weeks. I am a very different person now in comparison to when I started this programme. I am more focused, well-organized, and motivated. I have also gotten better at time management, I like the tool you provided us to manage our tasks. It was also a great opportunity to meet other PhD students and to know that I am not alone.Thank you for your time, support, and encouragement!”
“Thank you for this really helpful and interesting course!! I really enjoyed it and with each module that I worked through I learned how to manage this big PhD project a bit better. Without this course I would have been lost in all my tasks and duties. I absolutely enjoyed the live sessions, in which we talked about the PSL modules, what we were working on. We also shared personal experiences with different kinds of struggles during our PhD. I really appreciate that I got so much helpful advice.”
“I really feel that I progressed with planning my project and focussing on my most important outputs. With the tools we learned in the PhD Success Lab I feel I have a very structured approach now. PSL also put writing on my agenda and now I can see why it is important to already think about that in the beginning of a PhD and to develop a productive approach – thank you for that! Overall I can definitely recommend the course to anyone starting, it was very beneficial for me in knowing how to approach such a big project.”
“What I am most thankful for learning due to the PhD Success Lab is how to organize and plan your weekly tasks. Believe me, this re-gained me some precious time! In addition to the project planning material, I enjoyed the regular “progress check-ups” so I can self-evaluate my progress and I am always ready to change: either to slow down or to speed up a bit to keep the PhD project on track.
My absolute favourite tool is the task-manager, where you can put down everything you need to do all week long and categorise it based on priorities. Nothing get’s forgotten or lost since I am using that tool!
Finally, I would like to say that I am impressed about the reactivity of Bärbel. You would think it is an online course so there will be no follow-up but that is definitely not the case. She follows up on your progress, your questions and enquiries. Which is something I have never seen in other online courses out there and that is actually refreshing. So a huge THANKS for that!”
“I found it very helpful to realize that life is not only about the PhD. I tend to feel guilty not working all the time, not showing amazing results at the next meeting, etc. But the PhD Success Lab material about this really made clear that relaxing, free time, holidays, and to look after oneself is just as important to be more productive. I hence feel more relaxed during no-work hours or taking some time off. I really like the PSL programme since it makes you think about your self-management such that you do not blindly run into your PhD. PSL is practice-oriented – you can implement what you learned immediately with the worksheets. Thus, PSL helps to build your own organisational structure. Moreover, it is great to have someone to talk to. I appreciate the coordinator’s great commitment, that she actively asks people if they need help, provides tips, makes sure that she’s catching up on them. Thanks a lot for that!”
“The PhD Success Lab has been great. Not just the content, but the contact with Bärbel and the other PhD candidates. We covered many topics that make you work more efficiently, but also about coping emotionally with juggling life, PhD, family.”
“I’ve had so much help from attending the PhD Success Lab! During autumn I felt demotivated and frustrated by my own situation, feeling slow and not being able to take action. Now that I’ve worked on sharpening the objectives, planning the project in detail, and seen how important it is to plan the day and week ahead, I feel much more in control and I start believing that I can do this [PhD].”
“I’ve enjoyed the PSL programme, I think it was exactly what I needed for just starting a PhD, a nice general overview of all the tasks and challenges you should focus on in a PhD with tools and strategies to tackle them. The task manager is probably the most helpful tool, and I am glad you just suggested one straight away, as I am the kind of person who would spend way too long searching for the best one! Thanks for all your help getting me more comfortable with the PhD, it was very daunting at first but you’ve made it seem much more manageable.”
“Before I started this course with Bärbel I was totally stuck with my PhD. I had never thought that steps to control my PhD are available in any form of courses. I have joined several courses prior to PSL, but this course gives you all information you need in an organised way. It makes every step on the way to the PhD more feasible just by following the advice in the modules and start to build up the suggested habits. I have benefited a lot from the lessons about project management. And also, how to communicate better with my supervisors so now I benefit more from meetings I have with them. Additionally, communication with my fellows in the PSL insiders discussion group and sharing stories to support each other were extremely helpful. After PSL I am now networking with other PSL participants and we are contacting and supporting each other. Moreover, I enjoyed our live discussions with Bärbel on how to apply the steps of the programme in the best way and about our individual problems that we were facing in our PhD life.
I can say that this course offered me what I needed – especially that you do not need to struggle; you can learn how to do a PhD with minimum stress. That is why I extremely recommend this course for international students especially. Thanks Bärbel for the amazing programme.”
“As a member of the graduate school GLOMAR (MARUM, University Bremen), I was given the opportunity to participate in the PhD Success Lab. The programme offers a great balance between organisational PhD project management and inner mindset development and support. All learning materials and tools are comprehensibly introduced by Bärbel (and Gunther) who are also extremely supportive, knowledgeable and have a high motivational power which is transported through their videos and live sessions. A great advantage of this programme is the possibility to work on the course content at your own pace in combination with unlimited access to the learning platform and all materials therein.
This well-structured 12-week programme equipped me with the tools and motivation to finalise my PhD according to my deadlines while managing and accomplishing all other additional tasks in an effective and sustainable manner. I highly recommend this holistic course to every PhD Candidate – to the one who has just hit the PhD road as well as to the one who is at the end of the long and challenging journey!”
“I want to thank the entire PSL Team. PhD Success Lab is a great programme to learn about the PhD journey. It is a programme to manage the entire PhD life – starting with a project plan until writing the final dissertation. PSL helped me write more research publications in quality time. It guided me to understand my PhD objectives with SMART analysis and taught me to streamline myself towards my goal. PSL’s suggestions of task managers such as Todoist and Trello are of great help. The efficient writing strategies that were provided helped me immensely with my writing progress. All PSL modules are my favourites!”
“I very much enjoyed the PSL course, it gave me a lot of new ideas, tools and strategies to implement, and especially helping me to work more structured on my PhD project. Also the tips for dissertation writing and strategies for optimizing supervision I found very helpful. During the live sessions, I enjoyed exchanging with others in the breakout rooms and I found the discussion of questions at the end of the session great since it helped to hear suggestions from other PhD students as well. Since I started the PhD only a few months ago, all the planning exercises were very helpful to plan my PhD project from the beginning. Thank you a lot for the great course. It gave me a lot of new input and strategies for my PhD!”
“I enjoyed the PSL programme, because it felt good to know that once a week there is a task that is important for me personally! The small entities are really manageable and one is still flexible to schedule it as necessary. It is helpful just having such a course in the first place as a constant reminder, for getting motivation, and because it gives a feeling of stepwise accomplishment. The calculation of the PhD time was also an eye-opener for me. For the writing part, I have little problems with writing and I am used to doing it regularly bit by bit. But I realised that defining small manageable tasks beforehand is a really helpful step, also for larger non-writing tasks. It helps me not to get stuck in one task when it proves to be more work than expected. My greatest benefit: I now feel fully immersed in the PhD project and on track, even though there is still a long way to go for me.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Due to my high workload, I can hardly make up the time to attend this programme. What shall I do?
You also might be thinking ‘I’m overwhelmed. There just isn’t enough time for me now to do this programme completely. I have to do my research as well.’ PhD Success Lab is not created to increase your workload but to ease your PhD work. Don’t forget, for this programme you have lifetime access. This means you can access all the files and guides far beyond the course of the programme, until the end of your PhD and even beyond if you wish. We’ve broken down the entire programme into small and very manageable weekly elements. You can go at your own pace. There is no rush whatsoever.
A PhD study is so individual. Will PhD Success Lab really solve my problems?
We have designed the programme with the specifics and individual characters of each PhD project in mind. Everything we teach in the programme can be transferred to your personal situation. You will always work on your own project and we always include individual tasks for you. In addition, you have the opportunity to express specific concerns in the four live support sessions during the programme.
I don’t know where to start, I am confused – can PhD Success Lab help me?
Yes, this is exactly the great benefit of this programme. We will be looking at every aspect of your project in a systematic way and you will begin to see what is most important for you to focus on. You will have absolute clarity about where to start and how to move on once you start following this programme.
What if I have not started with my PhD yet? Does it make sense to participate then?
If you are just about to start your PhD project or have the intention to do so very soon, we suggest you sign-up for the next PhD Success Lab session that will come in a couple of months. At this very early stage of a PhD project you might want to focus first on getting the PhD position secured and clarify the project. Then in the next stage, you would be absolutely ready to participate in the PhD Success Lab and we look forward meeting you in the next session.
What if I cannot make the full programme fee in one payment?
No problem! For this reason we offer you a payment plan, so you can pay the programme fee over 3 months. Choose this option at the check-out.
How can I prepare myself for getting the most out of the programme?
There are no specific preparations to make before you take this programme, apart from being committed to getting your PhD done.
I have already taken part in a course for PhD students at my university. Will it still make sense for me to participate?
Every course is different, and what makes our programme unique is that we guide you step-by-step over several weeks. You will not be overloaded with a lot of content like in courses that last a few days, where you have to implement all the content you learn after the course itself. The PhD Success Lab is a programme you take while doing your PhD and it will accompany you on your PhD journey. You will learn and implement the necessary steps as they come.
My supervisor said that they can teach me everything about conducting a PhD study, so why should I attend?
We have been supervisors ourselves and we know there are many great people who advise students, yet, it is often a single perspective that you’ll hear, even if the person is well-informed. What we do differently from your supervisor: We worked with thousands of PhD students and learned about the problems and challenges they have with conducting a PhD. Based on this information we develop our guidelines, which clearly go beyond the perspective of a single supervisor. Thus you benefit from the experiences of many PhD students and supervisors before you.
How much time do I need to set aside for this programme?
This programme is designed to save you time and increase your efficiency. We don’t want to create additional work for you. By spending 2-3 hours per week on this programme you will reap the benefits and move your project closer to the finish line.
Will I get a certificate?
Everybody on the programme will get a digital certificate. It states the number of hours you spent on the programme and the ECTS credit points that you have acquired. You can submit our certificate to your graduate programme.
What equipment do I need to join this programme?
This is a fully digital programme that you can attend from anywhere at any time. All you need is a computer giving you access to the digital files that will be released on a weekly basis.
Does PhD Success Lab include fixed-scheduled sessions?
The vast amount of the learning material will be made available to you digitally, but we have 5 live sessions where we meet via video conferencing. These sessions are the only fixed dates that are scheduled. They come up approx. every second/third week on a Thursday at 3 pm (CET). The exact dates will be released in the programme calendar at the programme start. The first session is in the first week of the programme.
PhD Success Lab” is PERFECT for you if…
… you’re excited about doing a PhD study on a relevant research topic that will pave the way for a great career in research or outside academia.
…. you’re motivated to leave behind all the struggles with your PhD, and the doubts about whether you’re doing it right, so that you can be confident about your work and spend more time doing the research that matters and will move your PhD study ahead.
… you’re intrigued by the idea that you can streamline your PhD process by applying a systematic approach that will save you a lot of time and struggle, that helps you focus on key outputs and completing your thesis with ease.
… you don’t get as much support from your supervisor as you would like.
… you fear that your PhD completion will be delayed.
… you have postponed dissertation writing towards the end of your project.
… you fear your contract or project is over soon and you will get no extension.
… you are still in the first year of the PhD project but you want to do a PhD the right way.
… you are in the second year or further and you want to avoid struggles and delay.
.. you are in the last year of your PhD but are stuck with your project.
… you feel you are always spending too much time and thought on your PhD for the progress you actually make.
Programme start: 15 January 2024
Introduction to PhD Success Lab: Get to know how we work together in PhD Success Lab
Kick-off: 18 Jan 2024, 3 pm CET / 9 am ET / 9 pm AWST
PART I: Set up a system to plan and control your PhD project
MODULE 1: Defining the PhD project
Learn how to define your PhD project
MODULE 2: Breaking down the project workload
MODULE 3: Scheduling and controlling the project
Session: 8 Feb 2024, 3 pm CET / 9 am ET / 9 pm AWST
PART II: Adopt work patterns of a successful PhD candidate
MODULE 4: Getting organised and laser-focused
MODULE 5: Managing your tasks, weeks and days
Session: 29 Feb 2024, 3 pm CET / 9 am ET / 9 pm AWST
PART III: Master dissertation writing
MODULE 6: Requirements for productive dissertation writing
MODULE 7: The PSL writing system
MODULE 8: The dissertation writing challenge
Session: 21 Mar 2024, 3 pm CET / 9 am ET / 9 pm AWST
PART IV: Professionalise interactions with supervisors
MODULE 9: Optimise supervision
MODULE 10: How to tackle problems and control progress
Session: 18 Apr 2024, 3 pm CEST / 9 am ET / 9 pm AWST