the three types of books any phd student should start with

2022-09-20

There are three types of books that I recommend any PhD student to read as soon as possible in their career. Even better if these are read before starting the PhD. Regardless of discipline1.

I will provide one exemplary book for each category, and these are books that I have personally enjoyed2.

Reading about these topics will make you a better researcher no matter what.

A book on academic writing

Even if you are a native English speaker (lucky you!). Academia has its language. Using it properly takes out biases that would be introduced by submissions that don’t look normal as a result of language, structure, construction, and so on.

Hofmann, A. H. (2019). Scientific Writing and Communication (4th ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

An introductory book on statistics / qualitative research methods

Most people I have met, myself included, do not receive an adequate background in statistics in their BSc and MSc. And I mean the very basic stuff, including descriptive statistics.

Cumming, G., & Calin-Jageman, R. (2016). Introduction to the new statistics. London, England: Routledge.

If someone is starting a PhD that deals with qualitative research methods:

Creswell, J. W., & Poth, C. N. (2017). Qualitative inquiry and research design (international student edition) (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

An introductory book on philosophy of science

Even if your PhD is in engineering. Even if you are developing a tool for your PhD. Ever seen what the abbreviation PhD refers to?. What is the hypothesis you are testing? How do you know that yours is a scientific contribution? Is your contribution advancing knowledge? What allows you to state this? You need to at least know about philosophy of science.

Godfrey-Smith, P. (2021). Theory and reality (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Bonus: an all-round book on research methods

This type of book enables to appreciate different approaches and methods. You never know that they inspire you to try them out.

Creswell, J. W., & Creswell, J. D. (2018). Research design (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.


  1. If you are an educator: yadda yadda ontology / epistemology, my recommendations are biased with respect to my discipline, worldview, and experiences, and they are obviously wrong, and so on. I know. See next footnote. 

  2. These are not necessarily the best ones available. Books work differently with different people. Still, reading any book for each category matters way more than not reading one at all. 


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