Graduate School Advice Series: 7 Habits Of Highly Visible PhD Students


Graduate School Advice Series  Academic Footprint 7 Habits Highly Visible  Phd Students Academic Footprint

Do you want to be more visible and grow your academic footprint? Nowadays you don’t depend exclusively on academic journals and presentations at conference for the scientific world to discover your research.

The Internet revolution has given the digital scientists new tools to create their content and distribute it and to interact with other scientists.

The more effort you put in building your online presence the bigger the reward, but do not be scared. You can start small, with some little actions. The goal of growing your academic footprint is to have more eyeballs on your work. We want that your name appears frequently linked to your field of research.

We assume you do great and meaningful research. That we cannot fix for you, you have to do good science. We also assume that you have produced some scientific output, like papers and presentations.

What we propose here relies on two principles:

  • Reuse and promote your old content.
  • Be helpful to people in your field.

We proudly present some effortless actions you can do once, or on a daily basis, to grow your academic footprint.

Reusing Content To Gain Visibility As A PhD Student

The goal is to gain visibility by spreading around your scientific output. You want to flood the Internet with bits of the scientific you. This is how you want to grow your academic footprint.

The work of a scientist is not done once you publish that paper or give that talk. You need to do some “marketing” of your science. You need to make your work reach as many people as possible, and then let them decide if your research is good.

Doing great research only matters as long as people can notice it.

Habit 1: Upload Slides To Slideshare

You worked so hard on those slides. All data were correct, no typos, figures were distributed harmonically. You even acknowledged that co-author that didn’t have the courtesy to read his co-authored manuscript!

Don’t you think it is a pity to just use them for 15 minutes in that presentation in that sesion of that conference where no presentation had anything to do with your research?

It is time to reuse those old slides and put them to a better service. We are going to make them available for everyone via Slideshare.

How many times have you thought: “Oh my, I don’t understand this paper, I wish I could attend a presentation of this guy.” Guess what? Many people think the same of your paper. so do them and yourself a favor and make your slides available via the Internet.

You will not only grow your academic footprint, but you will also help others.

Habit 2: Tweet One Of Your Publications 

There are many ways of using Twitter to grow your academic footprint. The most straightforward way is of course to tweet about your work.

Do you have a new publication? Tweet the tittle or a description together with a link to the paper on the website of the journal.

Do you have some old publications? It’s time they see the sunlight again, so tweet about old papers too.

Extra tip 1: link to the website of the journal and not to a pdf in your website, so the counter of viewers and pdf downloads increases, which gives more reputation to your work.

Extra tip 2: don’t only tweet about your papers or only when you have a publication, it makes you look like a sad scientist or a douchebag.

Extra tip 3: Use a hashtag, so people can search for it, indicating the topic of your papers (like #genomics or #stringtheory)

If you want to know to start with Twitter, check how to create a Twitter account and who to follow on Twitter.

Habit 3: Create A Blog And Write A “My Research” Page

Here at Next Scientist we are great fans of science blogs as vehicles to grow your academic footprint. In a blog you can share your ideas and see the latest post on top of the timeline. But next to this, you can have static pages.

You can create a page (a static page, not a post) with your Research. You can put a link on the header of the blog so everybody can see it. In it you can create subpages with your current projects and also with a list of publications. Like you see in some lab websites.

In this place you can also collect all the output you have been sharing in the Interwebs, like presentations and posters. You can upload pdf files of those that you have already presented at conferences, so you boss doesn’t get mad for showing non-published content.

It’s a great way to let people discover the details of your research and who knows, maybe start a collaboration because they found your last project useful for their work.

If you want to know to start your own science blog and don’t know how, check our video tutorial “How To Set Up Your Own Science Blog And Grow Your Academic Footprint”.

Habit 4: Write A Blog Post Describing One Of Your Publications

Now that you have a blog in place, it’s time to squeeze the juice out of it.

While tweets disappear soon from the spotlight, the half-life of a blog post is much larger. And while a tweet is limited to 140 characters, in a blog post you don’t have a limit to the size of the text.

You always start writing in your own style, but if you run out of creativity, try these two types of posts:

  • Describe a publication in simple words: forget the correctness and academic language, present your paper as if you were talking and describing it to somebody. Focus on the main ideas, innovation, surprising results, conclusions, or real world applications.
  • Show the hidden side of you publication: are there images you didn’t include in the paper? (You can also try FigShare) Did you find some cases where your work flops? Do you have some extra tips for those that want to extend your work?
If you need further ideas for your blog check the highly recommended books 31 Days to Build a Better Blog or Guide to your First Week of Blogging.

Being Helpful In Order To Gain Visibility As A PhD Student

With a blog and Twitter you are putting your content out there, hoping that curious eyes will look at it. This is necessary and it works, but you can target your self-promotion a bit by answering and helping people in your field.

When you attend a conference it is sometimes hard to find people interested in your work, right? Then how to do find them out in the Internet?  Easy, go to websites where scientists show their research interests, like ResearchGate, LinkedIn or their own blog.

Now that you found them, help them and they will reward you with considering you an expert. Isn’t this enough visibility and academic footprint?

Habit 5: Answer A Question In ResearchGate 

We all know that the smartest guy in a bar is the one that answers all the questions. The reality is that most of the times he is not being asked to give an answer.

In ResearchGate, a social network for scientists, other peers ask questions on specific fields of research. If you give a good answer or point the person in the right direction, you can expand your reputation as expert in that field.

A nice feature of this Q&A sites is that people go with their real names, so answers tend to be of high quality. No bullshiting or bullying allowed. The result is that great discussions originate in such forums.

Habit 6: Write A Comment In A LinkedIn Group

LinkedIn has a hidden gem. It is not that you can have an online CV, which is cool. It is not that you can export your CV as pdf, or that you can find science events, not at all.

LinkedIn Groups is the best place to find people interested in a very specific topic. Do you like liquid chromatography coupled to a mass spectrometer? There’s a group for that. Alternative careers for PhD students? Also a group. Do you like Next Scientist? There is also a Next Scientist group in LinkedIn.

You can have a look at the different conversations in the group and decide to contribute with a comment. Remember, be helpful and avoid criticisms and confrontation.

Once you feel more comfortable you can initiate your own conversations, for instance by … ta daaaa … sharing your new publication or one of your blog posts. You might get new readers for your papers or visitors to your blog. And, some feedback.

An extra advantage is that group members can see your LinkedIn profile and make sure you are the real deal.

Habit 7: Write A Comment In Somebody Else’s Blog

What to comment about? So you think Messi is the best football player ever? Well, me too, but don’t write about that.

Remember the 2 basic ideas to grow your academic footprint: reuse and promote your content, and be helpful. Keeping those in mind you can begin your comment with some praise like “Hey man, great post, very interesting”.

Next you can be helpful by contributing to the discussion with “A different way of doing A is using B, which can help you circumvent issue bla bla”. Last you can connect the blog post with some of your previous work (or somebody else’s) by saying “We had a look at a similar problem and we found out that … You can see a published paper on that here (link)”.

By the way, remember to sign the comment with your real name.


Thinking Of Applying to Graduate School? Check These Sample Letters For Graduate School

When applying to graduate school you are going to submit several letters. The goal is to give a good impression and get invited for an interview. You should adapt  to your needs a sample letter that has been successfully used.

[note color=”#efdcde”]Check our letters for graduate school, which include a statement of purpose for graduate school and a recommendation letter for graduate school. You can get the letters for graduate school here.[/note]

Additionally you can get sample letters you will need throughout graduate school, for instance when you are submitting your first scientific paper to a journal or when you are applying to a scientific conference.

Check the letters for graduate school here.

Now back to you: Do you know other tricks to gain visibility and grow your academic footprint? Hey, just legit stuff.

Photo by John Loo
About Julio Peironcely

Julio Peironcely, PhD is the founder of Next Scientist and a PhD by Leiden University. He helps PhD students to stay motivated, be more productive and finish their PhDs. Follow him on Twitter (@peyron) or read more from him on


  1. indranil sinharoy says:

    Hi Julio,
    Thanks for all the nice advises. I keep coming back to your shared resources here. You sure do have a beautiful looking blog with great material.


  2. Fathie Kundie says:

    I don’t know how to thank you.

  3. nice article. I was unaware of researchgate. just now I created an account. I hope it will be very useful. Thanks a lot.

  4. Very great post. I just stumbled upon your blog
    and wished to mention that I have really loved browsing your blog posts.

    After all I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I am hoping
    you write once more very soon!


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