I created the PhDBlog in 2009 which seems positively ages ago. At the time I was responsible for an Executive PhD Programme at the University of Glasgow and spent a fair amount of time on the phone (remember those) to potential applicants talking through the challenge of doing a part-time doctorate. Those conversations tended to follow some familiar themes. What should you study? How would you study it? How would you find a supervisor and how much time will it take? A former colleague suggested that I capture some of these topics in the form of a blog.
Having never heard of a blog, I was sceptical to say the least, but I found my way to the Blogger.com tool and spent a few afternoons creating the early posts on this website. I then used the blog as a useful resource, a form of FAQs, for potential applicants. "I'll send you a link, read the material and then call me back" I would say when my phone rang about the PhD programme. Beyond this, I forgot all about it until one day, years later, at a conference someone said "I love your blog". Unaware that I had a blog, it took some time to figure out what they were referring to.
By that point I was working at Heriot-Watt and had to provide Google with a scan of my passport and a 1 cent transaction on my credit card to prove I was genuine in my claim that I had forgotten the log-in details to my own blog. When I did regain access to the site, I was amazed to find how often it had been read. I was more amazed, and a little embarrased to find a stack of unanswered queries from readers. With the help of another new colleague, it was rebranded as ThePhDBlog, I bought a URL for it and commissioned a lovely logo. I still can't quite believe that at one point is was Google's top answer to "what's the difference between ontology, epistemology and methodology?" ... this is still, by a country mile, the most popular post on the site. Over the last 5 to 10 years I have been more disciplined in answering queries from people and peeked behind the curtain to read the stats every now and then.
Last month, the site passed through half a million reads making it the most read thing I've ever produced. Thank you to those who have read the contents and reached out to say that they found it helpful. There are far fewer comments these days and the vast majority of those are from people offering "thesis writing" services so they get blocked and deleted by me. However, I remain passionate about research and about the joys / challenges of undertaking doctoral level work. I hope that the blog remains a useful resource and thank you for helping me to clock up 500,000 reads.
I am now based at Northumbria University in Newcastle and still speak regularly to doctoral students in conferences, events and training sessions. If you have completed your docotorate, well done. If you are studying toward your doctorate ... good luck and don't give up.