First Chapter

The writer Cory Doctorow once described a great way to open a story: begin with a person, in a place, with a problem. These things hook the reader’s attention; they want to know more about the person, where they are and how they’re going to figure things out.

I like it, and I think it’s a neat format for reflection on your PhD origins too. Your examiners won’t want a complete timeline for the last few years, but they might be interested in how you got started.

Chances are, early on, you were a person, in a place, with a problem. So:

  • Who were you? What was your background? What did you know?
  • Where were you? How far along in your PhD were you? How did you encounter the difficulty?
  • What was the problem? Why was it a problem? Why was it something that needed solving?

And how did you resolve the problem?

Thinking about a story like this can be useful in preparation for the viva. You have a tale to tell in the viva if you need it and a reminder of how you set out towards the successes you’ve created along the way.