A PhD Rollercoaster:
A Diary of the Ups and Downs of Being a Doctoral Student

What's it really like to do a PhD? 

There are lots of books of the 'how to' variety for organising yourself, dealing with supervisors, and writing papers and theses. But what about the emotional journey? What about the changes to your health, your social life, and your relationships with those closest to you? What about all the mistakes you make while trying to figure things out? And what if you're not sure about life as an academic, what then?

Researcher and writer Nilam McGrath passed her PhD with no corrections, and then spent a decade helping PhD students navigate their PhD journey through her popular Ups and Downs of PhDs workshop. In this book, she weaves together her personal PhD experiences with those of her workshop participants, with one clear message for all doctoral students: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

If you've ever felt lonely, isolated, stressed or just down-right confused at any point during your PhD, then this no-nonsense book, with its TOP TIPS and LEARNING POINTS taken from each year Nilam was studying, will reassure you that it happens to the best of us, and that there is light and (a good) life at the end of the dark, anxiety-ridden tunnel.


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Audiobook now available on Audible

Here’s a little taster of how my PhD journey started…


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Remember, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Here are some tips from my PhD rollercoaster…

Watch the keynote that inspired the book…


Read what people are saying about ‘A PhD Rollercoaster’…

'I think this book is going to be a source of comfort to a lot of people at a very stressful time in their lives.' Dr Matt Greenwood-Nimmo, University of Melbourne.

'A PhD Rollercoaster should be mandatory reading for PhD students across disciplines! By cracking the lid on the often opaque and intertwined social, emotional, physical, and professional challenges of completing a PhD, this book provides a platform to think about doing academia differently, in more healthful ways. Nilam so artfully (and delightfully humorously) uses her own personal diary kept throughout the course of her PhD to draw out insights and perspective that will no doubt be useful to anyone embarking on the PhD journey, as well as those guiding students through it.' Dr Stephanie Coen, Queen's University, Canada.

'Every PhD student should read this one. It's the untold story of the personal and emotional rollercoaster that will be yours, but fear not, Nilam will help you through it. All PhD life is here.' Prof Anne Gregory, University of Huddersfield.

'This diary captures beautifully the psychological highs and lows, rewards and frustrations of doing a PhD. It challenges some academic conventions and the restrictions they can place on the student. This is balanced with practical suggestions such as 'read outside of your discipline' and explore whether you want to be a researcher or an academic as this will influence the decisions you make. There is an overall tone of optimism that even when the 'going may be tough' completing a PhD is a positive personal and professional experience that will help you influence and create your professional future.' Dr Elaine McNichol, University of Leeds.

'This well-written, candid and engaging account of one person's PhD journey should prove a valuable resource for current PhD students, individuals considering doctoral study, and those responsible for the supervision, professional development and pastoral care of PGRs. I found myself identifying with several of the experiences and emotions, some of which are not always easy to 'own-up-to' as a research student. I wish this book had been available when I was doing my PhD.' Dr Caroline Hodges, University of Bournemouth.

‘An invaluable insight into the doctoral journey that is at times poignant, hilarious, real and informative. The diary extracts add colour to a process that is often viewed as an exercise in cerebral gymnastics, whilst the narrative speaks to the uniqueness of each person’s journey on the route to PhDdom. A must read for anyone thinking of signing up for doctoral study.’ Annisa Suliman, Leeds Beckett University.