Signup date: 30 Oct 2020 at 6:33am
Last login: 08 Jun 2021 at 5:36pm
Post count: 5
Sorry it's been so long since I logged back in to thank you for your posts, but I do want to let you know I really appreciated your advice, support and offers of PMs. I'm now about 8 months in and, despite having difficulty finding data (dammit), I'm in a much better place mentally than when I started. I think the biggest shock about starting the PhD is just how different it is from any other form of earlier study, and that was extra disorientating having a delayed start and with the pandemic. It hasn't been easy, but I gradually found my way. I also tried to stop putting so much pressure on myself to know exactly what I was doing all the time, relax a little, and remember why I wanted to do the research in the first place.
Anyway, I hope you're all doing well, and thank you again.
I was in the exact same position as you and strongly, strongly recommend reading at least 'The Unwritten Rules of PhD Research' from this list. I bought a few of these books and that, along with 'How to get a PhD' by Philips (mentioned in the comments). I'm only a month in but feel completely lost too and these books have been more helpful than my university.
Em89, thank you so much for posting all of this. I've just posted a thread (my first, pending approval) about how my first month is feeling exactly as you described - a lost, isolating mess. I'm not glad you went through that of course, but relieved to hear that it is, at least to someone else, normal. I have felt so bad I've just wanted to cry, and this makes me feel less alone.
On a completely separate and more relevant note, congratulations on your incredible journey and story. You've been through so much and been so determined and strong to continue and kick your PhD in its butt. I'm genuinely really impressed and happy for you. Well done on making it through so much difficulty to a strong end - and hopefully a strong start to your post-PhD career. :)
I just started a FT PhD a month ago after years of industry work after losing my job and finding a studentship. I've also done a significant amount of WFH in the past so don't have a problem with working solo for long stretches when I know what I'm doing. However, I've found myself almost completely at sea since starting the PhD both emotionally and in terms of the work I'm supposed to be doing, and it's really starting to affect how well I'm coping.
Because of COVID 19 and having an extremely vulnerable partner, I can't go to campus to meet people or study. I've heard that a lot of the support and networking that people build and experience is based around these meetings and sharing of spaces on campus and I'm really feeling the loss of that - I feel like I'm doing a distance PhD by myself, almost with no communication other than the monthly supervision meetings via Zoom and generic workshops. It's really lonely and isolating. I know that a PhD is supposed to be about discovering things yourself, not being led by the hand, but this feels extreme. Also, starting my PhD was also seriously delayed due to red tape, 3 weeks later than everyone else, and am only due to have my welcome induction next week (!) so I had no idea what I was supposed to do for the literature review initially, and have only figured it out through blogs, articles and books on PhD life. In the first supers meeting, they asked what ref management I was using - I didn't even know what they meant at the time, or even that I was meant to be conducting a literature review. Now I'm using Mendeley and am reading as much as possible, but instead of feeling motivated and enthusiastic about hunting for papers, I feel like I'm drowning in an ocean of knowledge I'm supposed to absorb, while my initial proposal feels like it's becoming progressively more irrelevant. I know that proposals never end up how they start out, but I feel like it's a catch 22 - I need more direction to focus my research, but my supers just tell me not to worry about direction yet, and the proposal will naturally evolve. I get what they're saying but how can I feel purposeful about reading if my sense of direction is shrinking instead of growing?
It's really lonely trying to figure out what 'normal' feelings of displacement are when there's nobody else to talk to. I've tried to bring it up with my supers, who are generally nice people, but they don't seem to be interested in the emotional support end of it at all. I know not all supers are, but it doesn't help when I don't have peers or colleagues to turn to instead. For example, when I wrote to them about experiencing imposter syndrome, all I got back was 'I see no reason to worry about this yet'. I'm sure you don't, because you have a good idea of what's due to happen. I have none, and telling me not to worry isn't going to help me stop worrying.
I'm sorry if this post is rambling. Any advice for a lost starter?
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