PhD Tools: "Always return to your primary sources"

[This is part of a series on the tools I used to write my PhD. Check out the other parts here.]

This phrase became a kind of mantra for me during the final write-up of my PhD. Friends and colleagues have since become accustomed to my frequent invocation of this phrase. I wrote up a longish blogpost which stemmed from my frustration at the takeup of primary sources and their use by fellow researchers and analysts in the Afghan context.

With regards to my PhD, I often felt that when I reached a point where I was stuck, the thing that would unstick me was a return to the primary sources. For my specific project, I was lucky to have a rich variety of sources on which to rely. Some may not have this luxury, but for all but the most stalwart of abstract theorists, there is going to be some kind of primary data on which you are basing your research work and writeup.

Thus, whenever you get stuck or you feel your writing starts becoming too self-referential and circular in its logic, go back to the primary sources. I think you'll find this helpful, and you'll return to your writing reinvigorated with new ideas and approaches.