100 PhD Rules of the Game to Successfully Complete a Doctoral Dissertation
Niamh M. Brennan
College of Business, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Purpose – A doctoral dissertation is a challenging undertaking requiring determination, persistence and
resilience over a long time: four to six years’ study or more. These PhD “rules of the game” are intended to
help students successfully navigate this challenge.
Design/methodology/approach – The author has assembled 100 PhD rules of the game from the
author’s work over many years with masters and doctoral students. Each rule is accompanied by
some further short guidance. Additional citations are included directing readers to resources embellishing
the 100 PhD rules of the game.
Findings – The paper documents 100 PhD rules of the game.
Research limitations/implications – There are many other PhD rules of the game not included in the
author’s list of 100 PhD rules of the game.
Originality/value – This paper is a one-stop-shop brief introduction to the author’s 100 PhD rules of the game.
Keywords PhD, Dissertation, Doctoral studies, Rules of the game, Thesis
Paper type Viewpoint
1. I use the phrase “rules of the game” tongue-in-cheek, capturing theoretical physicist Edward
Teller’s sentiment that (pure) research “is a game, is play, led by curiosity, by taste, style,
judgment, intangibles” (cited in Reagan, 1967, p. 1383). Kalfa et al. (2018) have a darker take on
playing the game in academia.
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