The Nordic PhD

Surviving and Succeeding

by Christopher McMaster (Volume editor) Caterina Murphy (Volume editor) Jakob Rosenkrantz de Lasson (Volume editor)
©2018 Textbook XVI, 162 Pages


The Nordic PhD: Surviving and Succeeding is an edited book written for prospective and current doctoral students by a mix of doctoral students and those who have recently completed their doctorates. The premise is simple: if you could go back in time and talk with yourself when you began your studies, what advice would you give? Isn’t hindsight a bonus? If only I knew then what I know now!
The Nordic PhD: Surviving and Succeeding follows editions focused on study in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, the U.K., U.S., and South Africa. What sets The Nordic PhD: Surviving and Succeeding apart from many others on the market is its down-to-earth and practical approach. Furthermore, its originality also lies in the fact that it is grounded in the context of doctoral studies in the Nordic countries.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Foreword: Enjoy the Journey (Lene Tanggaard / Charlotte Wegener)
  • References
  • Preface and Acknowledgments
  • References
  • Part One: Practical Matters
  • Chapter One: Technological Tools for 21st Century PhDs (Simon Krogh)
  • Introduction
  • Note Taking: Don’t Trust Your Memory
  • Reference Manager: Yes, You Need It!
  • Citation Databases: Who Said That?
  • Analytical Tools: Hmmm, I See!
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Two: Paper Is Power: The Art of Making Notes (Julian Geiger)
  • Introduction
  • Reading: On the Lookout for Know-How
  • Experiments: Journey Beyond the Horizon of Current Knowledge
  • Data Analysis: Deciphering the Map
  • Supervision: Traveling as Crew Members
  • Conferences: Sharing with Others
  • Final Notes
  • A Quick Toolbox
  • References
  • Chapter Three: Feedback as an Integral Part of Academic Writing (Andreas Kamstrup)
  • Introduction
  • Let Your Writing Flow with ‘Flow Writing’
  • Feedback Seminars
  • Forming a Feedback Group
  • Co-writing a Paper with a Senior Colleague
  • Feedback Roles
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Four: Failures and Setbacks: Contaminated Cell Cultures, Missing Data and Rejected Manuscripts (Roope A. Kallionpää)
  • Introduction
  • Do Not Blame Yourself
  • Prioritize Your Values
  • See the Big Picture
  • Small Baskets
  • Remember that Some Questions are More Difficult than Others
  • List Your Worries and Develop Backup Plans
  • Get Back to Your Notebooks
  • Do Not Lose Your Hope in the Publishing Process
  • Utilize the Failures for Learning and Discovery
  • Share Your Difficulties
  • Be Aware of Your Mood and Put Health First
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Five: Writing the PhD Thesis: Planning, Getting Started and Getting Done (Jakob Rosenkrantz de Lasson)
  • Introduction
  • Planning
  • How Long Will Writing Your Thesis Take?
  • Mind Map Your Project and Research
  • Draft the Skeleton of Your Thesis: A First Go at the Table of Contents
  • Getting Started
  • Start with the Easy Chapters
  • Full Speed on Writing in the Morning
  • Write, Edit, Write, Edit, Write, Edit …
  • Print Your Thesis Draft: Feel the Weight of Your Work
  • Getting Done
  • Write Shorter and More Focused Chapters
  • Make Your Text Coherent
  • Allocate Enough Time for Proofreading
  • Final Words
  • References
  • Part Two: New Opportunities
  • Chapter Six: I Feel Like a Complete Idiot!: Starting a PhD Program in a New Field (Christine Cox Eriksson)
  • Introduction
  • Understanding the Project
  • Entering an Existing Project
  • Application for Ethical Vetting
  • A New Field of Study
  • Instrument
  • Analysis Tools
  • Understanding the Field
  • Publishing
  • Conferences in the Field
  • Research Networks
  • Study Visits
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Seven: Returning to Academia (Anne Vorre Hansen)
  • Introduction
  • The Double Role: Project Manager and PhD Candidate
  • The Project Manager
  • The Candidate
  • The Virtues of Research: Thinking and Writing
  • The Process of Thinking
  • The Process of Writing
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Eight: But Do I Really Have Anything to Say?: Conferences and the PhD Student (Bethanne Paulsrud)
  • Introduction
  • Before the Conference
  • Finding the Right One
  • Preparing an Abstract
  • Preparing you Presentation
  • During the Conference
  • Make a Plan
  • Giving Your Presentation
  • Audience Feedback
  • Networking
  • After the Conference
  • Follow Up
  • Publishing Opportunities
  • Review and Plan Ahead
  • Share
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Part Three: Wellbeing and Support
  • Chapter Nine: Maintaining Your Mental Health All the Way Through the PhD Process (Kamma Overgaard Hansen)
  • Introduction
  • Taking Care of Your Brain
  • Sleep
  • Stress
  • Impostor Syndrome
  • The Right Amount of Insanity
  • Seeking Help
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Ten: My Disability Does Not Define Me (Bethany Rogers)
  • Introduction: Setting the Bar Higher
  • ‘Njóti sá er nam’: He Who Learns Will Benefit From It
  • This Is Harder Than I Thought: Diagnosis and Self-care
  • I Don’t Want Them to Think I’m Crazy: Talking to Your Supervisor
  • Winter Is Coming
  • Chronic Illness: Getting a PhD Without Leaving Your Bed
  • Þetta reddast: It Will Work Out!
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Eleven: Studying with Sensory Processing Disorder: Reframing Disabilities as Strengths (Laurie Prange)
  • Introduction
  • Sensory Processing Disorder
  • Being a Researcher with SPD
  • Determining Your Working Style
  • Having a Plan for Potential Problems
  • Utilising the Work Environment
  • Reaching Out for Help
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Part Four: A Matter of Relationships
  • Chapter Twelve: The Evolving Relationship Between Supervisor and PhD Student (Louise Floor Frellsen)
  • Introduction
  • The Beginning of the Project
  • The Evolution of Supervisor Meetings and Multiple Supervisors
  • Transitioning to Knowing What the Right Next Step Is
  • During the Writing Phase
  • Nearing the End and Being in Charge
  • Final Thoughts
  • References
  • Chapter Thirteen: You, Your Supervisor, and the Importance of fika (Bethanne Paulsrud)
  • Introduction
  • You and Your Supervisor
  • In the Beginning
  • Your Relationship
  • Supervision: Making the Most of It
  • Planning Meetings
  • Expectations
  • Be Prepared
  • During the Supervision Meeting
  • Language Help?
  • Think Outside the Box!
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Fourteen: Parental Leave During Your PhD: Planning, Plotting and Passing! (Natasha A. Webster)
  • Introduction
  • Planning Parent Leave Is a Career Strategy
  • Parental Leave in the Scandinavian System
  • The First Year of Leave
  • After the First Year
  • Making Flexibility Work for You
  • Final Words of Advice
  • References
  • Chapter Fifteen: Boundary Spanning Research: The Industrial PhD (Carsten Lund Pedersen)
  • Introduction
  • Conducting Boundary Spanning Research
  • Practical Advice for When You Begin
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • Part Five: Going North to Study
  • Chapter Sixteen: No Tuition at All?: Opportunities for the International Student (Julie A. Niziurski / Judy Bruce / Sharon Stein / Christopher McMaster)
  • Introduction
  • No Tuition Fees? For Real? Did You Find Any Hidden Costs?
  • How Did You Locate a University and Supervisor?
  • How Often Did You Have to, or Did You, Go to Your Scandinavian Institution?
  • Do You Think There Were Any Advantages from Studying Domestically, and What Were They?
  • How Is Your Degree Acknowledged or Recognised in Your Home Country?
  • How Did You Find Access to Resources if the Library Was Half a World Away?
  • Was Language a Barrier?
  • Did You Get Enough Support Throughout the Process?
  • What Should I Absolutely Know Before I Do This? What Are the Tricks or Traps? Any Parting Words?
  • References
  • Links for studying in Scandinavia
  • Chapter Seventeen: Speaking Scandinavian: From the Classroom to the Lunch Room (Luke John Murphy)
  • Introduction
  • To Learn, or Not to Learn
  • How to Learn
  • When and Where Should You Speak Scandinavian?
  • Maximising Your Mileage
  • God arbejdslyst!—‘Good Luck!’
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Eighteen: Challenges for International PhD Students Studying in Scandinavia (Andrei Andryieuski)
  • Introduction
  • Challenge 1: Interaction with Others
  • Do You Speak English?
  • Interaction with the Supervisor
  • Interaction with Scandinavian Colleagues
  • Finding Friends
  • Challenge 2: Self-Management and Work
  • Project Management
  • Perfectionism
  • Lack of Experimental Skills
  • Reading, Writing and Presentation Skills
  • Challenge 3: Practicalities
  • Visas
  • Taxes
  • Accommodation
  • Conclusion
  • Acknowledgements
  • Note
  • References
  • About the Contributors

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Enjoy the Journey


This book covers a range of questions and issues related to taking on, surviving and finishing a PhD. Taking a specifically Nordic view of doctoral studies, it addresses a range of questions students in the Nordic countries have asked themselves and others on the journey towards a finished thesis. What is specifically Nordic about a Nordic PhD? What does it mean to survive and succeed, and how can one stay the course and make it as a doctoral researcher in a Nordic country? The collection of texts in this book offers a variety of answers and leaves the reader with a nuanced image of the Nordic collaborative mentality and research practice. It embraces an abundance of perspectives on the doctoral journey, some of which have a particularly ‘Nordic’ take, while others are of a more general character. They will help you understand and navigate the often-complex process of getting started, working on and finishing a PhD. In a sense, the authors write with the intention of making the process easier and more transparent for other students by sharing their own stories, their hopes, dreams, sorrows and difficulties as they were encountered and managed as part of their own PhD endeavours.

You may think that a book on the Nordic PhD addresses a narrow audience up North. This is far from the case. The book is aimed at those around the world who are considering doctoral studies and those who have already settled in a Nordic country to study for a doctorate. Why go? Why stay? Nordic research life holds rewards and perils. From these chapters, you will learn that we have rather ← ix | x → non-hierarchical and informal working cultures. You will learn that autonomy is honoured, which means that you are rather free but also risk being lonely. Education is free but everything else is expensive. Winter is hard but there are cosy lunch and coffee breaks—and you should never regard it as a waste of time to take part!

There is a lot of advice to be found in this book, and advice is always tricky. We may not learn from others just because they tell us what to do. We need to walk the paths ourselves, navigate by our own beacons, stumble, and learn from it all. Therefore, this book is not just about the Nordic PhD. It is a genuine product of the non-hierarchical and informal Nordic mentality. The authors are speaking straight from their own doctoral experience; their voices resonate with us because they are right beside us, their readers. The contributors share their various perspectives and experiences, not as teachers, but as peers. This is close-up and personal advice from people who are travelling the Nordic landscape of doctoral research themselves—as natives or as newcomers.

As Nordic natives, we have learned about our own particularly Nordic take on research life only by travelling abroad. We started working together as supervisor and doctoral researcher and soon built a straightforward, fruitful and fun partnership around our shared interest in creativity, innovation and learning. Not least, we found that co-writing was productive, and we presented a paper about student-supervisor co-writing at an American conference (later published as Wegener & Tanggaard, 2013). This paper told the story of the apprenticeship-like relationship evolving around our collaboration as supervisor and student, and in particular how we collaborated on an almost equal footing when writing papers. We wrote about co-writing in a general sense, but, after presenting the paper to an American audience, we realized that there was something Nordic about our relationship. The American students and professors attending our presentation asked us to write more about this, as they saw a huge need for less hierarchical and more equal supervision as part of the doctoral journey. Inspired, we flew back to Denmark and began to work on a new book: “A Survival Kit for Doctoral Students and their Supervisors” (Tanggaard & Wegener, 2016). We are therefore excited to see this Nordic take on the doctoral process get even more attention with this great book on the Nordic PhD.

Generally, there is a need to understand the landscape around doctoral studies, including the geographical and cultural aspects. What we take for granted in our home countries may appear strange to foreigners. As one of our colleagues born in Eastern Europe once said to us, ‘I really do not understand the kind of freedom you have here. What am I supposed to do?’ While we often enjoy a lot of freedom in our workplaces, it comes with obligations often only spoken of indirectly. This kind of cultural code is good to know if one is to navigate new territory successfully. This is true when the territory is a new country, but equally true when entering a new organization and building a new identity as a doctoral researcher. ← x | xi →

That said, there is no such thing as a Nordic take on the doctoral process. Although we are similar in many ways, we also like to tease our Nordic neighbours about their food preferences, comment on their strange sense of humour, and compete fiercely with each other in contests of all kinds. The Nordic countries differ from one another in many ways, just as each university and each research group is different. Moreover, it is never solely a question of fitting in: culture is not static, and we as newcomers may bring about change, too. It is good to think about the kind of change one would like to represent.

As it is everywhere in the world, doctoral research in a Nordic country is demanding, at times a struggle, but also rewarding and fun. Fun and rewards are found when pursuing creativity, thinking wildly and getting involved in supportive teams and relationships. This book is a great companion for the Nordic PhD endeavour. With this in your luggage, you are encouraged not only to survive and succeed, but to actually enjoy the journey.


Tanggaard, L., & Wegener, C. (2016). A survival kit for doctoral students and their supervisors. Travelling the landscape of research. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Wegener, C., & Tanggaard, L. (2013). Supervisor and student co-writing: An apprenticeship perspective. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 14(3). Retrieved from http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/2030

| xiii →

Preface and Acknowledgments

The Nordic PhD: Surviving and Succeeding is the sixth edition in the global Survive and Succeed series, following editions from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, the UK and the USA (2014, 2016, 2017). The book was originally envisioned as a Scandinavian edition in the series, but this was changed to a Nordic edition, as contributors come from both Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway and Sweden) and other northern countries (Finland and Iceland). Throughout the book the terms Nordic and Scandinavia are used.


XVI, 162
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2018 (January)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XVI, 162 pp., 1 table

Biographical notes

Christopher McMaster (Volume editor) Caterina Murphy (Volume editor) Jakob Rosenkrantz de Lasson (Volume editor)

Christopher McMaster (PhD) has been lead editor on all editions of the ‘Survive and Succeed’ series. He completed a PhD in education from the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. His thesis was based on a critical ethnography of developing inclusive culture in an Aotearoa New Zealand high school. He has taught at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels in the USA, UK and New Zealand. Christopher was most recently an Assistant Professor of Education at Augsburg College, Minneapolis, USA. He now lives in New Zealand, developing a model of alternative education within a mainstream high school, and can be contacted at drchrismcmaster@gmail.com. Caterina Murphy (PhD) has been the editing partner across the global ‘Survive and Succeed’ series of books. She has a Master of Education (Hons) from Massey University and a PhD (Indigenous Studies) from Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi. Mentoring and lifting the aspirations of others is her passion. Her professional and research interests include career counselling, early years’ education, teaching practice, mentoring, qualitative research, gifted education and oral history methodology. She is currently the Head of Enhanced Learning at Edgecumbe College. This is her eighth edited book and she can be contacted at academicexpressnz@xtra.co.nz. Jakob Rosenkrantz de Lasson (PhD) is a Danish engineer in physics and nanotechnology, and obtained his PhD in nanophotonics (2015) from the Technical University of Denmark. In 2016, he joined the company TICRA in Copenhagen in a position as research engineer, where he currently focuses on consulting and R&D on antennas for satellites and space missions. Jakob is a co-editor on this Nordic edition in the ‘Survive and Succeed’ series.


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