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mum with small kids and doing a PHD

I got into so much strife during my PhD because I forgot about primary school half term breaks in which I found it impossible to get any work done.

mum with small kids and doing a PHD

During my PhD I was expected to attend a postgraduate seminar every two weeks and present my work here once a year.  I hardly ever went to these but did present my work every year. I was expected to meet my sups twice a term: I mostly did this.

I was the carer for our kids (twins) while my partner worked and 2 years of my PhD was while they were pre-school and 3 while at school. It was sooooooo much easier once they were at school. I have to admit I found it near impossible to get anything done while they were still ay home. If your kids are like mine they will stop sleeping during the day by about age 3-4. That only really leaves you with getting up real early (did this a lot) working in the evenings (did this a bit but was always tempted to hang out with my partner instead) or getting carers and I wanted to be the one that raised them. However, there was a plus side when they were pre-schoolers. I used to have to spend a lot of time just fucking around bored and watching them before they started school: mostly at skateparks. And having my study gear there did make this time go quicker as it gave me something interesting to do.

Let us all know what you decide,

Advice on something my supervisors want me to do in my thesis please...

I haven't actually done this myself but I know of one well-known thinker who did something similar many times.

In French philosophy one of the central textual forms is the interview where one thinker questions another. I know this may not sound very academic to Anglo-American thinkers but it actually is. Although these read as interviews, and were often intially conducted as such, the inital audio recordings are often later taken away and transcribed with the interviewee then vigorously editing or even re-writing their intial spoken answer.

Anyway many of the interviews with Michel Foucault - try the collection called 'Foucault Live' although there are other relevant texts - begin with a biographical example of how he got interested in an area of research ad how his experiences influenced his research goals, methodology etc. This is particularly the case in relation to his early books on psychiatry and medical clinics that were informed by his experiences working in such institutions.

He has also written a book on the self-reflexivity of writing; although it is very hard to understand even for the work of this writer. Its called 'Death and the Labyrinth'.


Help - applying for scholaships at more than one uni

You are in the same boat as I was in 2003.

I ended up doing my PhD at Cambridge as I got a stipend from here for me and my family - there is quite a bit of ££ floating around posher unis compared to others - even though they department was sooooo unsuited to the type of philosophy I wrote my PhD about. I would have rather gone to Essex but all I could get here was a scholarship that paid the difference between foreign and home fees - about £6000pa - but nothing to live on. I know I could have written a better thesis at Essex and got more out of it. But if was just not feasible for me.

My point is that unless you have a way to earn more than shelf-stacking burger-flipping wages it can be very hard to get by if you are full-time; and unless it has changed in the meantime I am pretty sure you can't be a part-time foreign student because they wont let you have a student visa, unless of course you come from a country that doesn't require a visa. That means you will have to work - and work long hours if your wage is low - as well as study.

Having said all that; just apply for anything. You never know what you might get offered. If you promise to attend somewhere and then pull out to go somewhere else they aren't gonna hunt you down and kill you.

Copies of the thesis - where to print?

======= Date Modified 03 Mar 2011 00:37:22 =======
If it is a submission that will go to the exteral examiners it will need to be bound professionally.

I used these guys


They may be London only though.

They were brilliant. From memory the 3 soft copies of my thesis cost about £80. They also do same day work if you are in a panic and up all night before your submission day like I was; have it in their email inbox by 9am and pick it up after 2.30 that afternoon and ferry to your submission office.

When I picked up the soft copies they gave me a 15% discount voucher for my hardcopies. So I went back there the next week and picked up 2 hard copies which with the discount came to about £60.

The best thing was that if you are at a London university they know all of the required colors, fonts, lettering etc. so you don't have to investigate any of this stuff yourself it is all done when you submit your PDF to them on their website.


The Cost of PhD Plagerism (German Defence Minister Resigns!!!)

I read somewhere that they were gathering evidence for plagarism in Martin Luther King's thesis at the time he was killed too.

Loneliness of the long-distance researcher

You could be describing my Phd experience. I attended lots of conferences to ease my academic loneliness. But as far as the quality of my thesis went I actually think the distance worked to my advantage as i could write up my ideas without as much policing as those other doctoral candidates who were constantly bumping into and getting button-holed by their sups and other members of department. Also your non-academic friends, those that are interested anyway, help you make sure you don't spin off into technical and theoretical obscurity and constantly keep you mindful of the 'what is the point of studying that' question.

I passed! Now for an important question...

Congratulations. You made it without going crazy.

Just my opinion but I never call myself Dr. except when representing the university to outsiders; eg. at open days for new students etc. It sounds/feels a bit pompous to me to give myself a title that most others don't have and I have seen the way that many roll their eyes when colleagues calls themsleves Dr so-and-so at inappropriate times; I recently heard several loud groans roll along the length of a queue when one of my departmental colleagues insisted that a receptionist write Dr. before his name when compiling a list of those waiting. I got the qualification due to my love of philosophy and because it meant my department would let me supervise postgrads and not for any title.

Don't get me wrong. It is not that I am not proud of the qualification. I am very proud and I think that we all should be. But, having said that, in my case I have also completed an apprenticeship in one of the trades (blacksmith) when I was younger and think that this was, for me at least, a more significant achievement; I felt it to be more challenging and found that it took much more work, effort and endurance. I wouldn't wish to denegrate this earlier experience by making myself feel aggrandised about my academic experiences in the same way that I wouldn't wish to suggest to my former colleagues in the forge that I now describe myself as somehow superior to them; and lets face it that is what prefixes like Dr, Sir, Lord tend to signify and why many are so ready to use them and why so many roll their eyes.


How does your relationship with your supervisor work?

Sorry my post ended mid sentence. I went over the word limit in a big rant; sorry. As you can see even after geting the degree I am still bitter towards my sups; but not as much as I would have been if I towed the line like I was supposed to.


How does your relationship with your supervisor work?

Hi Paulknit,

Hope my experiences are helpful in some way.

During my PhD I was supposed to meet with my supervisor twice each term and I nearly always did. Each of these meetings ideally discusses a significant piece of written work that was emailed in beforehand; for example a chapter or at least the bulk of one, sans introduction and conclusion. I seldom achieved this by my second year; I will explain this below. I attended 3 universities over the course of 4 degrees and taught at 2 further universities – not to mention talking to swathes of peers at conferences - and all of these had a similar frequency of supervisory meetings and work submission for doctoral candidates. That is, a few times a term and at least one biggish submission per term. Your frequency of meetings and submissions seems over the top to me. Maybe this is because you aren't in the humanities as I am; I dunno. Are you lab based? What about other students in your department with a different sups what is expected of them?

During my first 18 months my supervisor was very similar to yours. Red-penning everything and filling up the pages with comments as well as suggesting that what I had done in the interim between meetings was barking up the wrong tree; despite the fact that this work was often only done begrudgingly by me at her suggestion to start with. That is. I felt she encouraged me down a lot of wrong avenues until I took matter into my own hands in my second year.

In my second year I came to understand that my supervisor while reading my work carefully and making heads of comments in the margin was actually making only two species of comments. Both of which you mention above; making remarks about my writing style, or lack thereof, and vague comments like 'explain this more'.

I eventually formed two separate theories about what was going on here. First, she didn't actually know as much about philosophy as she believed. This would explain the vague and unhelpful comments and the frustrating nowhere-going discussions at our meetings. Or second, she had a terrible memory and at our meetings could not really recall what it was that I was exactly doing. This would explain why she continually seemed to make suggestions for alternate argumentative directions that flew in the face of my thesis question. Even with hindsight I still don't know which one of these, if any, was the case.

Whatever was going on one thing was clear. What she was trying to do was exert her dominance over me. That is, for her supervision entailed one person knowing more than the other and dispensing advice; it didn't seem to matter what the relevance of the advice was just that it was given constantly and flowed interrupted and unaltered in only one direction.

So in my second year I took matters into my own hands. I started telling a lot of lies to her and the department and well as not going to supervisory meetings, not handing in work very often etc. I basically did the minimum I could to not be thrown out of the department; I came close a few times. This lack of effort and commitment was a complete front as I was still slaving away in the background on my own and testing my arguments at conferences. In the end I did well at the viva and did not have to make any corrections my entire thesis has now been accepted for publication as a book. I don’t say this to boast but instead to show the example of an arguement produced not with the guidance of a supervisor but DESPITE the activity of supervision. Furthermore, I suspect that this is not unusual. I am sure that if I took this woman as seriously as I had promised to when I signed up at the initial interview that I would probably have failed or, at best, ended up producing something that celebrated her own work.

My advice is to fight to get some space to develop your ideas yourself without all this badgering. If you guys have a good relationship come out and say this. Maybe

Finding peace & quiet

Hi Daisy,

Finished my PhD last year and was in the same boat as you regarding peace and quiet - although things did get better in the last year as my daughter started school - and I TOTALLY sympathise with the guilt of not being there for your kids after-school etc.

In relation to this last problem there is no solution that I could think of. The way I dealt with it was simply to surrender the hours between 3.30 and 8.00 to being an attentive parent; this ultimately meant my thesis took 18 months longer to write than it should have.

Anyway heres what I did regarding yours and Virginia Woolf's problem of nowhere suitable to study.

One year in to my thesis my 2 room flat was driving me nuts due to the others running round, changing nappies, laughing, crying, shouting, eating etc. As the only option I could think of was buying a desk for our bathroom - I am not near to a local library or my uni - the best I could come up with was setting up a mobile office. So I sold my car and bought a £600 ford transit van with windows in the back. I got a couch and a desk off trademe bolted them to the wooden floor and researched/wrote my thesis in here. Depending how much $£$ I had for petrol I would either do a 10 minute drive to a churchyard in rural Cambridgeshire or just study while parked in our street. The only problems - besides everybody thinking I was strange - was that I didn't have power in the van so I had to write by hand; but I figured I could create the digital copy at home even with chaos going on around me as I only had to read off my handwritten notes.

Anyway. Palgrave are publishing my thesis this year and in order to do my rewriting I am currently having a leisure battery - like what they have in caravans - installed into the van so I can run a laptop and light in there. And this is despite the fact that we now live in a new house with a quiet dedicated study. I now don't think that I can think or write as well when I am not in my philosophy van.

Oh Dear, I am overworded!

======= Date Modified 28 Feb 2011 00:57:40 =======

I had this problem on both my masters and my PhD submissions; both of which I passed.

On my masters thesis (word limit 20,000; actual size 27,000) and my PhD thesis (word limit 100,000; actual size 118,000) I claimed on my declaration forms that I had kept to the word limit. For example, I declared my PhD to be 98,720 words long; I remember this as it is my date of birth mixed up a bit. The question of word limit never came up at my viva so I never actually had to lie out loud if you know what I mean. My discipline was philosophy and the two universities involved were London and Cambridge; for both I did not have to submit a digital copy. I should add that my PhD had extensive (30+ pages) of lists of abbreviations used and bibliography and I reasoned that because of these it would be very hard for my examiners to work out exactly how big my thesis was.


Urgent help...Submitting without Supervisor's support

======= Date Modified 18 Feb 2011 13:54:01 =======
You need a lot of confidence for submitting without your supervisors support. I did this last year. I had breezed through a BA and MA in my home country and arrived at Camb very confident in my abilities; I work in Continental Philosophy. After the end of 5 years my sups almost had me convinced that I am an idiot: she endlessly tried to get rid of me. I had two glimmers of hope: first, once upon a time, I considered myself a good philosopher and maybe I still am despite not feeling like one; second, my wife had long been telling me thay my sups real issue is that I am working class with a lot of tats etc. And my sups just didn't handle being in proximity to someone who looked like me and came from my background. With these in mind I just thought 'fuck it, if I am going to not get a PhD anyway then I am going to not get one my way'. In other words, the end result of being kicked out the department didn't look too different from being laughed out of a viva.

Anyway, I submitted without her support, got told by externals not to spend more than two hours fixing my typos at the end of the viva. It was very sweet revenge on my sups. My thesis is being published by Palgrave late 2011.

My poinit being although some respondents have told you that submitting without sups support is problematic, pit was the best thing I ever did. If I'd known this I could have subomitted at least 18 months earlier

Ps. Sorry for all the typos above but i am only able to write this out once and not edit it.

Read everything in your bibliography?

======= Date Modified 18 Feb 2011 13:23:00 =======
I hope my own experience might be helpful to you.

When i submitted my thesis i split my biblio into 2 sections. The first was called 'works cited in this text' the second called 'works that influenced my argment'. Both sections contained about 150 books and articles. My discipline is social theory/philosophy And was entirely theoretical and i imagine that compared to others i may use citations quite heavily: in my 115,000 word thesis i had 1285 footnotes. Is this normal, i don't know.

Before i went to my viva i made sure that i could outline, even if only roughly, the arguments made in thefirst set of texts. I was aided in this as ever since i was an undergraduate everytime that iread an interesting chapter or article i wrote itup on an index card. I now have thousands of these; sometimes they are up to 1000 words long. So it was these that i used, amongst other materials to prepare my argument and jts defence at my viva.

Anyway, the point of my story is that i was lucky that i did as one of my externals - whose work i had directly taken to task in my thesis: although notin as serious a way as itdeserved - really agressively tried to trip me up with reference to key parts ofthis literature: and not the parts of it of that i had expected either. The point being that i was able to demonstrate to the other examiner - and to this examiner also but only begrudgingly - that i had a firm grasp of these texts and to justify my interpretation of them. My viva was successful but onlybecause i had mybibliography at my fingertips. Don'tknowifthis is helpful to you.

I apologise for the horrible writing and editing. I am using my freinds ipad which he bought damaged and hasn't repaired yet. Ithasamind of its own about letting you makecorrections, use the spa ebar etc.

What gadgets/other things you've bought have been really useful with your PhD?

======= Date Modified 27 Jan 2011 00:16:42 =======

it took me four years to write my thesis and I had to do most of the work in a huge panic in the last nine months because of all the "gadgets/other things" that hindered me. That is, I wish I had stayed away from - or at least been able to exercise more self control around - TVs, DVD players, MP3 and MP4 players, radios, lap-tops with internet connections, refrigerators, toasters and in particular cigarette vending machines. If you are anything like me, the best thing your Mum could do for you is look after any of these that you may own before giving them back after your viva.

Good luck with your PhD.