PhD Lit Review: Is 500 words a day a good benchmark? Watch

TWDelaney
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Is 500 words a day sensible and productive target to aim whilst doing a PhD lit review?
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Reality Check
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(Original post by TWDelaney)
Is 500 words a day sensible and productive target to aim whilst doing a PhD lit review?
Not really - in my experience it doesn't work like that. Some days I could produce 4,000 words in a few hours. It'd be utter crap though, and have to be resected back to about 350. On other days, I'm not interested in writing at all - just reading and thinking. Then on other days, I might bang out a small paragraph but one which needs minimal revision and which I'm really pleased with. I always think these 'average' words per day are troublesome, because if you set yourself a target and don't achieve it (through good reasons, such as 'thinking time' ), then you're automatically setting up something which you've 'failed' at.

Did you do a first year report/poster (I don't know what your field is)? What was your writing rate then?
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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Very sage points from Reality Check above. My PhD supervisor keeps telling me off for setting myself word targets per day. She says it's not healthy or constructive, for the reasons given above

Sometimes it's better just to go with the flow :moon:
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Slowbro93
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I third the above comments, whenever I'm in a rhythm I just go along with it. And there are other days when it's just not happening
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TWDelaney
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Very constructive and valuable comments people, thank you very much.

I've literally just started my PhD, so this is a preliminary literature review. My current approach is basically to read in the mornings (and early afternoon if I go down a rabbit hole) and to write up in the afternoon.

But yeah, I take on board very much what you are all saying, just go with the flow.
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Slowbro93
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(Original post by TWDelaney)
Very constructive and valuable comments people, thank you very much.

I've literally just started my PhD, so this is a preliminary literature review. My current approach is basically to read in the mornings (and early afternoon if I go down a rabbit hole) and to write up in the afternoon.

But yeah, I take on board very much what you are all saying, just go with the flow.
What discipline is your PhD based in?
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AKB2000
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I find word targets work because they get you to start doing it everyday and overall 500 words isn’t that much, you can then review what you’ve written, correct it, improve it and possibly concise it then go again the next day. In my opinion
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DrSocSciences
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I set myself a weekly rather than daily limit, as that was easier to adhere to. That way, I allowed for productive and less productive days, without derailing my schedule nor my confidence.
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QHF
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Word count targets are useful for some people but aren't automatically useful for everyone. Personally I found there were parts of my doctorate during which aiming for a minimum of new 200 words per day was very helpful: it got me writing and making progress every day, and when I got into the flow of things I could then write many more words; but at the same time 200 is quite a low number, so if I was having a slow day it wasn't an unachievable goal. In my own practice I'm sceptical about the value of 'just thinking', as I find I think by writing and working. But you might find that in your practice, in your discipline, things are different.

Like a lot of the work of a doctorate, this is one case in which you're probably best off trying something and seeing if it works for you, and then adopting it or scrapping it accordingly.
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