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Funding yourself - How difficult is it?

I self-funded throughout. I should never have done it. I got teaching work, but it was never enough to keep me alive. I was in constant battle with the Fees office, who didn't have a clue. Nor did Welfare. They don't have experience in handling idiots who choose to fund their own studies. I came 2nd in a battle in my second year to secure a Uni scholarship, but they were only giving one away.The next year, they gave 10, but only to students under the age of 35. I missed out on all kinds of funding opportunities. I wouldn't wish this on anyone. My PhD cost me over £100k in lost earnings etc. Was it worth it - no. Not financially, and not in any other way. It's just I knew I could and should do it before I died. So I did. At 66, having sold most of what I own, I got it. But I didn't do it for the qualification. I did it out of passion for the subject.

Intro and conclusion chapter - how long did yours take to write?

My Intro was almost a Lit Review in itself, and was an argument in itself. I wrote it initially, then changed it ferociously at the end.Conclusion is hard. I'm now editing someone else's Conclusion chapter and it's like she suddenly amazingly realised what it's all about. Conclusion really has to get the essence of 'why I did this and what it means despite everything' in less than 5k words. It has to be punchy, strong, honest, and convinced. These are the two hardest chapters, and should be left 'til last, but given enough time.

Writing Techniques

I'd strongly recommend using either EndNote or Refworks from the start. I used Refworks, and made folders in that, where I could export and drop relevant Literature. You can save it in such a way that it allows you to see the abstracts immediately. It saves hours and hours of time,and also makes you focus on separating your work out into its component parts. My sup had never used it,and couldn't believe what a difference it makes - and he's been a Prof for 20 years! It also means that you can write a chunk, then go into Refworks and put all the references in, in just one hit.

However, it only works properly for journal papers. Books can be a problem. They have to be put in manually.

As for formatting, you don't need to make a whole lot of effort if you create a format style in Word from the start, and just click on whether this is Heading 1 type or Body text or whatever as you write.

Finish in 3 years?

I took 3 years and 2 months on the PhD, but suspended for 8 months at the start of my 2nd year to write a Lit Review with my sup, so it feels closer to 4 years. However the Lit Review was for a national strategy, was accepted as policy by the national government of the country involved, and we made the whole thing into a book, published by Wiley earlier this year. I feel as if I've done 2 PhDs - one of which wasn't even really on my subject.

However, I came into this as an old grumpy professional writer, so I know a fair bit about writing. The secret is the same as decorating a room - it takes longer to tidy up afterwards than slap the paint on the wall! What I mean by that is that the edits/revisions/checks/proofing and presentation always take longer than just getting the day's writing done. I write best in the afternoon, so every day I edited the previous afternoon's work in the morning, and wrote in the afternoons. Doing it that way meant that I got fired up each day by tidying the previous afternoon's work, first.

I started writing at the end of my first month at Uni, and started with my Lit Review, using Scopus and RefWorks. My Lit Review and Intro turned out to be huge - 45,000 words - and the Intro was like a secondary Lit Review. I'd finished the first draft of those by the end of my first year. I had to select and edit a lot at the end. All in all I wrote 200,000 words but edited out 120,000 (almost) and have kept the cuts in a separate file to use in other work.

Writing every day (or writing hard for 2 or 3 days a week), is the answer as someone said, and 500 words a day is very easy to accomplish. Breaking it down into manageable chunks is really helpful.

Finally, each of my chapters went through 10 drafts, but this had to be, as I'm working in a very fast-moving niche research area with at least 3k papers a year published in it. So I had to keep reading and writing and adjusting.

It's very possible to write a PhD in 3 years, but rather harder if you're working in a team and have to depend on the pace of the project generally. And Melsie, my research area kind of overlaps with yours!

Introducing myself

Hi everyone. I've been following the threads in this forum for a while, although I'm kind of out on a limb for various reasons.

For a start, I'm 66, Have two First Class BAs, and am self-funded to do my PhD. I've been a professional freelance writer for 35 years with shedloads of books and publications, none academic.

The last 4 years have been a nightmare. I'd never realised how bad academia can be. It's pretty brutal, and Pineapple, what's happening to you is beyond the pale. There are so many of you I can really connect with. I've worked as my Prof's Research Associate, and we have a report, and a book, published. I took 6 months out of my full-time studies to do this work because I needed the money. I got paid 4 months. Then I had to take the brunt of the copy-editing on the book - another month. I also spent 2 years teaching MA students.

I passed my viva 5 months ago, with major corrections. These were because my Prof, my supervisor, who had seen all 10 drafts of my PhD said he 'hadn't noticed' that I'd included quantitative data in my qualitative PhD. The internal examiner, who gave me a hard time on this, was right, but I should never have been placed in that position. I passed my viva.

Corrections are now done, and I await final verdict on a PhD which was described as a 'tour de force' and 'the best-written PhD we have ever seen' until it came to the methodological error - schoolkid error. Cold comfort. I can do Lit Reviews like falling off a log. Research is my thing. I hadn't got a clue on methodology, and just took guidance from my Prof.

I hope this is now over and done with. I've hated losing my professional identity and my status. I'll never get an academic job as I'm too old, but I'm moving on. It's been tough, and I've lost £100,000 which I didn't have, so all this has been done on credit cards, and my son has been paying my mortgage.

I'll never again value academic life. I'm a reviewer on THS, but frankly, for an outsider, this entire business, and it is a business rather than a passion, is rank. Coming at this from my position, I have to honour each and every one of you who goes through this mayhem. My love and respect to you all. You deserve to succeed.

word help

Key imperatives? considerations? determinants?