Overview of cheep

Recent Posts

phd appendices - approx how many words d'you reckon?

Oooh! Ive never heard of a minimum word count - what a scary prospect, think I would have found that tough too actually. Well in that case - my bibliography was 9,000 words which I think is pretty standard although maybe on the large side (people in my field publish a lot) - my whole thesis was around 97,000 (near my upper limit but then i can waffle on! and in my viva they asked me to write a bit more after having said it was the largest thesis theyd had!) and like I said the appendices accounted for very little - i guess if you were close you could always add additional info into the appendices - i originally had some info in there which was more for the examiners interest (species summaries and crop histories etc..) which i took out in the end. I reckon 10,000 for both sections tops.
Good luck with it - so glad Im not in your shoes again - its worth it though!

What is a VIVA?

Guess all the other posts cover it but if you do have one then enjoy it - i am very nervy and hate meeting new people and talking in public but I enjoyed the fact that two people had actually read my thesis in depth and were interested in it - a novelty really! We went through the thesis chapter by chapter - they pointed out things they werent sure about asked questions to check I knew about the work (ie had done it) gave me tips for publishing and we had some debate about what I might change and where the work fits into the field elsewhere. It was fun although it did last 3.5 hours and I was knackered at the end of it. it probably helped that my examiner was so friendly and told me straight away that he loved the thesis and enjoyed reading it. Most people i ve spoken to enjoy it even if it is in a masochistic way. I tihnk you know if you are going to fail or not by that stage or you should.

Introductions & conclusions

Hi betty
Having had my viva I can tell you the things which my examiners particularly liked/wanted added:

Write a thesis structure section at the start of the thesis intro/lit review just saying 'this thesis consists of four/six experimental chapters etc... chapter 1 consists of, chapter 2 relates to, chpater 3 and 4 outline etc...... all refs are in a bib at the end etc.. or whatever goes with your work.

This then tells the examiner what to expect as he goes along how it is all going to fit together etc.. My examiners loved this (I got this from a thesis i admired). Write a concise abstract for each chapter if you can. I didnt do this and it was one of my corrections even though i thought it was adequately covered in the chapter intro- they wanted beating over th head with it!
it helps also to add a summary or 'key findings' in the form of bullet points at the end of experimental chapters - make it all clear and obvious!
finally in my discussion chapter i made a flow chart at the start of how all the cahpters fitted together to answer the hypothesis and the examiners loved this as they seem to read the thesis in bits and this helped them rebrief on what it was all about and also makes your 'story' clear and justifies why you did each section of work - helps show a good flow of ideas.
It helps to get an independent who isnt into the subject too (hubby, dad friend) to read it and tell you if they understood what the thesis is going to be about even if they dont get what the technical bits are.

Failing this pick a thesis you admire written by someone in a similar field and see how they did it - could parts have been clearer and would summaries have helped here there etc..

how do you organize your working day?

i do exactly this - work ridiculously erratically, waste time making plans to feel productive and then ignore them. Some people are just disciplined and some arent. My husband used to work 9-5 every day during his undergrad and then take weekends and evenings off! - he was religious about it whereas i would sleep in and then end up in the library at midnight - i still havent managed to catch his work ethic from him!.
As long as you get it done in the time I guess it doesnt matter - I find the problem is that because i dont work regularly i never get to take proper guilt free relaxing time when i dont feel I ought to be working. the time i waste is not relaxing either because I am still worrying about not doing what i said i would do...
one day Ill get there!

Starting PhD in Sept, what to expect?

It will be like starting any new job really but with a little less structure once all the induction bobbins is out of the way - if in doubt in the first few weeks till you find your feet - read anything you find to read will be useful. Theres not much more you can do to prepare worry about it when you get there. once you know where to get a cuppa, where to meet other phd students and how to get around the campus youll be fine. Your sup will be used to new students - mine very much left me to it but yours might be more involved. Make sure you take time to meet the key players - lab manager, library folks etc... and then just enjoy it - it will be the best of times and the worst of times as they say!

phd appendices - approx how many words d'you reckon?

I dont think you should worry yourself about this - write it and then see how many words there are and cut down if you have to although unless you are adding refs in for the sake of it the bib will be as long as it will be! you cant start taking out key refs to make it shorter. You dont have to have appendices at all you know - just see if there is anything that can logically be put in there to avoid spoiling the flow of the thesis. Theres no way to generalise on this - depends on your subject. i have only two pages of appendices with sites amps on them - about 50 words - everything else was in the main body. i find the word limit for theses is generally more than generous so just write and see how it goes when you get there after checking each chapter length. Your examiner will not thatnk you for a thesis which is two words shorter than the limit he wants it as short as possible. If it is coming down to appendices counts then you probably need to write more concisely.

Been rejected AGAIN

In the UK prospective employers are obliged to give you feedback on your interview if asked for and I cant see why unis would not do the same. Ask and they will probably be happy to tell you then you can see if it is something you can change (more experience, different answering style, better english, whatever) or something you cant. It is just likely that there is someone else who is better than you at each interview or more suited to that post rather than that you are doing something wrong. But they will certainly be able to give you pointers and it may keep you in their minds for future positions as they will ahve spoken to you again personally. i would certainly admire someones initiative in following up an interview rejection.

Laeaving PhD - mention skills to employers?

Definitely - in fact I would be tempted to play down that you were going for a phd to start with and label it as a valuable year in research. Outline what you achieved (any experiments and results) and definitely list transferable skills

e.g. you will have had to show adaptability to a changing question and a new job
time organisation
working to deadlines
logistics - organising equipment, time in labs or whatever
any technical skills you gained
protocol writing
attention to detail with data
improved IT skills
lone working under your own motivation
writing skills - outline any reports you did
critical reading of references etc..
presentation skills
networking with other researchers
etc.. etc..there are a mass of other things that can be milked out of it!

even leaving shows you were willing to take a risk because you know what you want for your career and this isnt it (although Id stick it out if you can unless you are really unhappy- a phd is worth having and youll always have it) Besides you cant just leave a blank space for that year - that is the worst thing to do.

How did you come up with the idea for your PhD?

I dont want to be rude but i dont see that you can be sure you want to do a phd in the first year of uni! its a major commitment not just another course.

Think about it later maybe in your last year when you may have had some research experience with a dissertation although being a supervisor I never advise going straight from a BSc to a phd - the latter is far more of a job and it helps if you have work experience and can show you are keen in that particular field not just looking for the next thing to do. I favour taking on people in this position as they are usually more committed and not expecting it to be similar to a BSc (which it certainly isnt).

Having said that the majority of well-funded projects advertised come with a basic question or area of research that a department or external funder is interested in knowing. There are not many phds which are thought up entirely by the student. If you do have an idea you can apply for funding yourself but unless you are under the wing of a supervisor (e.g. for your BSc diss) then it might be very tough. Finish your degree, and in your last year think about it and then identify an area you wish to work in and contact potential supervisors to see if they have projects in a similar vein or spare money (!) and an interest in it. Most phd questions change markedly throughout the 3-4years of study so it is a general premise you need first adn proof of your research capabilities.

Improving writing

help with rephrasing sentences, experts can help with technical passages. It gets really easy eventually and never underestimate the value of the thesaurus!

PhD failure

That is awful I feel so sorry for her, but I do think that though supervisers only have a certain responsibility to ensure you are on the right track. Mine didnt even read my last two chapters before I submitted it and Im dont think this is unusual (?) after all it is your on work and opinions and i do feel there are plenty of opportunities to read others theses and see the sort of standard that is required.
Did she have a mock viva? I think these would be helpful for more people even if its only with fellow phds. A lecturer from another department kindly offered to give me a mock viva (this involved him reading the thesis so I owed him big time for that!) over a coffee which allowed me to practice just keeping up a stream of talk about my phd which is not something you often get to do without eyes glazing over! he also made me think about a couple of difficult questions that may come up (also regarding a paper i had written) and to prepare for them in a relaxed way. It paid off for me at my viva as I felt quite chilled and even enjoyed it and I am a very anxious person.

Can she appeal to resubmit for a phd? someone at our uni appealed an Mphil award and was allowed to rewrite for a phd. It would seem to me that if she has got publishable work out of it it may just be the writing that is not up to stratch?

Ever have the feeling you've not done enough?

i think it totally depends on your subject and uni. After 3 months I had set up my major experiment, recruited all my field sites and read stacks but this was because i needed an experiment to run for three years (ecology - could have done with 10 years really!) by the end of the first year I had to write a mini thesis - cursed them for it at the time but loved them for it when writing up as it formed the basis of the real thing. This was a comprehensive lit review and the findings of my first year of experiments. Other people I know spent the whole of the first year just doing a lit review and formulating their theory/question/whatever. Its very unlikely that you havent done enough - if not your supervisor should have picked up on it (although they are likely to always push for more). Like everyone else you will end up doing way more than you need ( I had two experiments that i didnt even write up as they werent as good as subsequent ones). If in doubt read more and write a lit review - this is never wasted time as it may help you change your focus and you can copy and paste most of it for your thesis. if you are nearly at paper stage after your first year then it sounds like you have been working really hard and have done plenty!
I wish i had done silly things along the way like thinking properly about chapters and writing everything up in the final format as I went along - would have given me a head start later, so if you dont have anything concrete to do you could start to think about these things to help yourself later.
Apart from all this enjoy your first year - its the time to network , think about doing more outlandish things that you ll never get round to and form working relationships - year 2 and especially three will be much harder as options close off and the pressure starts so enjoy having a life while you can.

Barely Passed Viva - horribly depressed

Dont worry about it! I passed my viva and my examiner kept saying how much he loved the thesis - was so positive throughout it and I know I was lucky - he was probably just a nice man and yours was probably a negative person, I had a list of only 6 corrections to do - some really minor like adjusting a graph but one was to correct all points made throughout by him in my thesis (typos, missing scientific names, differences of opinion on refs etc..)- when I got it this was literally something on every page - it was covered in (often indecipherable) red pen and he had said it was well written! So i think it is normal to have it covered in corrections. A lot of them will just be differences of opinion and you may not agree with them but unless you defending them specifically in the viva then just crack on and do whatever needs to be done then go out and pop the champagne. Just do them as soon as possible and youll be fine. You passed! - dont feel like a fraud, get the corrections done and prove them wrong. Remember your examiner also stakes his/her reputation on the body of work they rate as a pass and you will want to be proud of it for years to come so if it means making it better through a load of corrections its worth it - I found it hard to stop correcting it as it can always be better....

sick competition among PhD students

Im surprised, i never felt any competition with my fellow PhD students maybe because we all worked on vastly differetn subjects as we were at a very small uni - but I dont really see how you can compete as you are all doing different stuff. i have always found my fellow phds to be the best and most understanding people to discuss things with, couldnt have done it without them, but then we try and meet up socially once a week and not to bother each other during office hours... maybe something like that would help you all to get a better relationship?

favorite phd quotes

Good for when you need motivation and feeling unconfident

'energy accomplishes more than genius'

'noone can make you feel inferior without your consent'

'If you do your best today, you will have the best day possible'

'nothing worth doing is easy'

'better three days without food, than one day without tea' - this might just be me though....