Books for PhDs

I believe having some good guide books at hand, is like having having good mentors. These help me gain some clarity and navigate through my PhD journey. I will share some of them, that are useful for different stages and aspects of PhD, and hope it could help other people who are also in this journey. This is not a comprehensive list, only the ones I have read myself and found helpful.

Before starting a PhD

Navigating through the PhD and the academia

Research motivation/inspiration








[Book] Deep work

Deep work is rare

  • Least law of resistance: people tend to find the easiest path to get things done. Instead of using deep thinking, instant email and message make their life easier to find the answer.
  • Measuring the productivity of knowledge worker is hard
  • Busyness is used as a proxy for productivity

Bibliography management using Endnote

Do you need a bibliography management tool?

If you find yourself

  • Struggling with a growing list of references
  • Couldn’t remember where is that important paper you want to cite
  • Having a headache with citing the paper correctly in your paper

you might find bibliography management useful.


Who doesn’t need a bibliography management tool?

If you only have a few papers to cite and working on a short-term project, you may not need it that much. It is not the most user-friendly software, and it still requires some manual work.


Why you need bibliography management?

  1. This helps you set up a personal library of all the references and enable you to look them up more easily. You can also annotate the item to make it easier to recall what the paper is about.
  2. EndNote is able to generate citations and save your time editing the citation style manually.
  3. Even when you don’t have the paper by your hand, you can access your bibliography on EndNote online as long as you have an internet connection.

What is EndNote?

EndNote is an application that helps arrange all your references in a catalogue. You could think of it as a bookshelf, where you can put your papers in various category so that you can retrieve them easily when you want to refer to them.

How to start using EndNote?

  1. Download the software or request it from your school. If you are a student or staff in a university or research institute, check with IT if you could request a copy.
  2. Register an EndNote account so that you could sync your local library online. This enables you to access it anywhere as long as you could connect to the internet.
  3. YouTube tutorials provided by the EndNote official account is a very good place to start learning it. Most videos are less than 10mins and will help you start using them right away. For example, this video helps you start using EndNote X9 in 6 minutes!
  4. Practice it right now. Try to find some references you want to archive and add them to your library.


… and you may encounter some common question

How to import a citation?

Importing the .ris file into EndNote is easier. You only need to download the .ris file, double click to open it and choose the library it belongs to. Importing a BibTex citation is not that straightforward. But luckily most source will provide a .ris format.


I couldn’t find the paper in the search box

When this happens, you could search the paper in the university library and export the citation into EndNote. You add a few manual steps but at least you got the paper you need.




Literature Review

Why we write a literature review?

  • To convince people that the research needs to be done
  • To establish the connection of the current research and previous research
  • To identify the research gap in previous work
  • To emphasise the importance and impact of the current research

How to begin to write a literature review?

  • Do an overview of the history of the field
  • Build of bibliography of the field
  • Find the key thinker in the field and follow their recent work
  • Read recent survey paper




  1. LinkedIn Learning (2017) Purpose of a literature reviewAvailable at: (Accessed: 18 April 2020).
  2. LinkedIn Learning (2017) How to develop a literature reviewAvailable at: (Accessed: 18 April 2020).