27 September 2018

Book ‘The Lean PhD’ is title story in Times Higher Education

Perfectionism is paralysing too many PhD students. A more pragmatic approach to doctoral research is needed.

This is the core message that Julian Kirchherr, visiting Research Fellow at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development of Utrecht University wants to convey in his book titled ‘The Lean PhD’. His book has been selected as the title story in this week’s release of the Times Higher Education magazine.

Julian Kirchherr

In his article Julian refers to his friend Tim, a PhD student who worked on his research for four years and dropped out because the project he was working on for six months was trashed by his supervisor.

A ‘minimum viable paper’

Julian likes to think of a PhD as a ‘lean’ start-up. No need to spend months and months on delivering a perfectly polished publication. He suggests a ‘minimum viable paper’, or an MVP, should be created at first. A draft, a concept, a manuscript. This can be created in a much shorter amount of time and it is much more effective. Yes, it will need polishing afterwards, but you know already in an early stage whether you are on the right track.

Struggling with imperfectionism

Julian now supervises PhD students himself. In the article he says: “I forbid my candidates from sharing anything with me on which they have spent more than two weeks. I want half-baked manuscripts. I want paragraphs that are still stubs and full of spelling errors. But the perfectionism that is rife in academia means that most struggle to comply.”

Further reading

The article in Times Higher Education can be read by registering freely on the Times Higher Education website.