Signup date: 25 May 2008 at 9:59pm
Last login: 11 Dec 2019 at 11:17am
Post count: 3744
The key thing you have to answer is what is your contribution, and why do you deserve to get a PhD. Yes that has to be situated in the wider literature, but the literature review is not that important. What counts is what you have done for your PhD, what the results are, and why it is important enough for you to be awarded a PhD. Focus on that.
The key thing I think is that it's output that counts, not hours done. As the others have said, for some tasks like data entry it can be very time-consuming with little obvious reward. But you have to put those hours in. Whereas writing may not take so much time, and can be done by some people in short spurts.
I had to complete my part-time PhD in no more than 5 hours total a week near the end, for the latter half really, including the writing stage. This was due to an MS-like illness, which also meant I couldn't work on it for more than an hour at a time, and then it would take me days to recover until I could do any more! I got very good at getting a lot of writing done in little time. No messing around, no surfing on the Internet. It was about producing output in concentrated bursts. And if you think along those lines I think it may help to be a more productive scholar.
Also getting feedback as a PhD student can be tough. But it's a process you go through, and it should teach you to be a better scholar. It will also prepare you for the often much more brutal experience as a post-doc, when e.g. you go through peer review of academic journal papers etc. That is generally much much worse than what you'll get now from your supervisors. You have to develop a thick skin. A PhD isn't about being the best, or the cleverest, but about keeping going, even through the tough times.
Being asked to rewrite and rewrite - often to different requirements of different supervisors - is quite normal in my experience. And many PhD students are not critical enough in their writing, especially when talking about research by other scholars. It's not enough just to mention it, but you have to engage with it, and assess its relevance, effectiveness etc. Of course there is a balance to be struck: equally you can be told off for being too critical of other scholars. But it's a skill you have to learn to complete a PhD successfully.
So deep breaths, and knuckle down and get on with it :) Also second year - assuming you are full-time, i.e. over about 3 or maybe 4 years total - is well known for being a torrid experience. Second year blues is a common PhD experience.
I looked into transferring to another university (Oxford actually) a few years ago when my supervisor moved there. I found that they, like a lot of other universities, have a rule about how much of a PhD must be done with them. I was halfway through my part-time PhD, but too far through to transfer. Made it an easy decision! I believe the minimum study time rule can sometimes be bent, especially if you are moving with an existing supervisor. But many universities do have such a rule. So don't assume you can move at this point. It may not be possible, at least to where you want to go to.
I'd caution you to think very carefully about dropping out. You are likely to have considerable problems trying to get funding again, and will have to work extremely hard to persuade a new supervisor and funder that they should take you on. To be honest they may wonder why you didn't pick up on your concerns in time before. And yes, you could have similar problems in a new PhD.
I am one of the rare people who won funding again after walking away from a first PhD. But I left the first PhD for medical reasons - developing a progressive MS-like illness at age 22, combined with a funding council (EPSRC) who would not support a switch to part-time study. I retrained from scratch as a historian, picking up new BA and PG Masters, then started a history PhD part-time. I expected to self fund throughout, but applied for funding for my second year onwards, from AHRC. I won it, but think I was very very fortunate, given my prior history. I did have to declare my prior funding on my second funding application form.
Good luck with whatever you decide to do.
I took a 5 month medical break / suspension in the middle of my second go at a PhD. It was that or I would walk away, again. I was struggling too much to deal with my progressive neurological illness, and needed a break. It was a slight fankle (Scots word - ok, hassle) to arrange, because my funding body (AHRC) would only approve a break on medical grounds. But there was no problem at all getting approval given my diagnosis, and my supervisor supported me in my choice to take this break.
I did *nothing* PhD related for the 5 months, and had a proper break. I looked after myself as much as possible, and viewed it as a chance to recharge my batteries completely. After the break I returned, refreshed and recharged, and successfully completed the PhD.
It sounds as though you need a total break too. Don't waste the 6 months by doing PhD things.
At my university history wanted 80-100,000 words for a thesis. There's no way as I was nearing the end I was going to to reach 80K. I was assured by my supervisor that quality counted over quantity. Other academics said the same, though one advised I bulk out my thesis with electronic appendices of the databases I had built, put in a CD inserted at the back. My final thesis was about 70K. I passed with minor typo corrections. It was not a problem.
Clearly this isn't quite the same as your situation, because you don't have a stated minimum to miss. But it may provide some comfort.
Good luck with the final stages!
You should expect to be asked to pay back future funding you've received in advance, so any monies paid for AFTER the official date you leave. But universities don't always seek to recover this. When I left my first go at a PhD in 1996 I wasn't asked for any money back, though I expected them to.
I found this article exasperating to be honest. It's quite badly biased against humanities, where funding is so scarce that part-time study and self-funding is much more common, and those people *do* sometimes get academic jobs including lectureships at the end.
I also totally disagreed with point 5. I've seen more PhD students failing for not focusing on their thesis, and doing anything but it, than the reverse. Yes for academic employment purposes it is important to do other career-related things like journal publishing and attending and organising conferences. But ultimately if you don't focus on your thesis enough - and this is particularly important for ca100,000 word thesis as in humanities - failure is guaranteed.
Quite a few of my Twitter friends were Twittering about it just after midnight too, rather exasperated.
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