Overview of Corinne

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Politics at work

Changing supervisor could be a good move, but only if you work in a large department and, even then, I would be very careful on how you deal with this. Some people have a lot of influence, and if you are in the position to change, I would approach the potential new supervisor on the grounds of his expertise, rather than criticising your current sup.

If, as it was in my case, your department is too small and no one else is available (or if you are too close to the end to change), I would -again - be careful and try not to be confrontational. I know that it's very, very hard, but the completion of your PhD worth it. If you confront him, you just stimulate his worse side. Try to keep contacts with him as short and professional as possible.

Focus on your work and leave that sorry figure in the background. Meet other people, discuss and exchange ideas with other experts in your field. Try to create other, external, contacts that may be useful in the future. But always keep your thoughts on this person for yourself. You often find people who amicably listen to your complaints, but you must also expect some back-stubbing. No matter how high up these people are. They protect their caste.

I found this forum of great help. I am not sure that i would have got to the end without this support. So, you know that you can unwind here at least. Let us know how you get on.

Failed PhD, resubmit in another country?

I don't have experience of this, and I don't know in what country you live. However, when you submit your PhD in the UK you also submit a declaration where you say that you didn't submit that material for any other degree. So I think this means that here you wouldn't be able to do so.

Also, if there are serious issues in the thesis - so much that a re-submission after major corrections has not been offered after the viva - perhaps that means that extra work wouldn't make it to PhD standards.

If I were your friend I would accept the MPhil, and then think seriously about what didn't work and why (E.g. lack of skills, etc). Then re-apply for a new project if this is what he/she really want to pursue. 

Suffering from depression

Hi again! As I said, I understand your situation.

However, I think that the main point here is getting you out of the spiral of negative thinking. Because, even if the dream job materialise now, there is no guarantee that other problems won't appear at your door-step (e.g. nasty boss, long hours, etc.). So, I think that is matter of learning how to deal with the dark moments in our lives.

Obviously, I don't know your situation in detail, and what kind of connections you have. But in the current situation the dream job is unlikely to materialise from nowhere. You need to have contacts - that's why I suggested the charity or voluntary work - you need to be proactive and create the opportunity if you don't have any.

You are a clever person and you know very well that staying passive and expect things to change by themselves is not going to provide a solution.

I know that is tough, but you can find your way around this.

Suffering from depression

Hi Mlis, I am really sorry to hear that you feel so down. I understand your sense of frustration, and it is totally understandable that you feel low after you put a lot of effort in completing your degrees etc. It is a very bad time for jobs in general, even worse for people wishing to work in academia, or with PhD experience. I am sure that your family understand this very well.

The only thing that I can recommend you is not to isolate yourself. Do take any opportunity to get out. Your world does not end with your fancy friends - have you ever considered doing charity or voluntary work? Depending on where you are and what you chose, there may be paid positions also in that sector. I did voluntary work for the local museum in the past, and I ended up with a temporary job in their educational department. Hardly a great achievement, but it was an important experience, I earned some money, and it looks good in my CV.

Who knows what is in store for you behind the corner? Do expect something positive to happen, and try to pursue every avenue that can lead to a job or outside activity. A positive attitude brings positive results.

When you get an interview try to sell your pluses. You certainly learnt transferable skills in the course of your PhD: how to manage time and resources, computer skills, organizational and presentation skills, perhaps a language or a technique that might appeal to the prospect employer. Learn to tailor your CV onto the specific job requirement. My Uni has a career services available to students and employees, but also to anyone external. Does your uni have something similar? It worth to have a chat with someone there.

Also, there are lots of short-term things that you can do: from giving private lessons (councils also organise short courses locally - language, computer, art, etc.) to dog- sitter. I know, these are not long term solutions, but they get you out of the house while you plan what to do long term.

I hope that things for you start to change for the better soon.

Any other PhD mums?

Hi Timefortea. I have one child, so although she has the energy of two I am probably less under pressure than the majority here.

As others have said, juggling family and PhD is not easy and I too constantly felt that I was letting down either one or the other. More often, I felt that I was doing everything badly! I think that there are no recipes, everyone have their own way to deal with the workload.

I was lucky that I managed to do all my research and fieldwork + I had written a first draft of all the chapters, before I had my daughter. I was out on ML for a year, and I personally found going back very difficult. When she started going to nursery some mornings, it helped greatly. I found that having some time to focus only on the PhD made all the difference, and I was able to spend better quality time with my little one when she was at home. 

When I tried to work while looking after her, it didn't work very well. So, trying to compartmentalise as much as possible definitely worked for me.

Obviously everything come at a cost, both financially and emotionally. Childcare can be expensive, and if you don't have family and friends that can lend a hand, it can be pretty difficult.

Also, my social life became almost non-existent, and me-time went out of the window. Actually the PhD became my me-time!

Politics at work

I find a lot of similarities with my past situation. Now, luckily I am out of it, as I passed my viva with minor corrections, and hopefully this is it. Nonetheless, it's a situation in which the student can never win. We will need references later, and where else are we going to look for them?

I had to learn to step back, look for help and support elsewhere - although very cautiously - and kept my mouth sealed, whatever happened. I am pretty sure that I wouldn't have been able to get to the end otherwise.

On the positive I can tell you that I greatly enjoyed my project. Being able to research what I was interested in was a great plus, and as I said elsewhere, a great privilege that allowed me to meet many great people.

Unfortunately, the supervisor was not in that group. But in the end they are sad figures. I think that he is a very bright person, and he would have been able to climb the ladder without playing those kind of games. But this is his problem at the end of the day.

It was very hard, but I managed to complete pretty much by myself, and this is very rewarding.

I don't think that supervisors are all like mine or yours. I know many honest and capable people who genuinely care for their students and have a career based on their own capacity. We were just very unlucky.


The only thing that I can say is that I understand your feelings.

I submitted my corrections last week, and I was told yesterday that they won't be able to look at them until the end of September! I was wondering why they gave me the 3 months deadline, when I could do everything in 1 week. Here is the answer, the examiners are both on holiday! Aaaaarggghhh!!!

What happens if more adjustments are needed? There will be very little time left then. All this is nerve-wrecking to say the least. I know that I will spend the next six weeks eating my fingers. But realistically these people want us to pass. I don't think it's in their interest that students fail at this stage.

I will have to read the "positive thinking" thread a few times today though!

Bon Courage!

Faking my way through...

I think that most universities have a system to assess the progress of postgraduate students. Ideally, this would help the completion of the PhD programme. Realistically, many times annual research interviews are only a pro forma.

What surprises me of your story though, is that you must have applied for your PhD, and thus you must have written a rationale for your project, even if for broad lines. Usually you start researching in an area that has been overlooked, and even if you didn't have a complete knowledge of all the literature you should know already where are the gaps, what you might add and how.

So, forgive me if I am wrong, but the impression that I have got from your message is that you are still missing the research questions. If you don't have those well laid out and clear in your mind - that is what you are going to research, why and how - all the reading that you are doing ends up being an exercise.

It is clear the your supervisors, for different reasons were not capable of doing their job, or they should have picked up the problems that you found along the way. Again though, I can tell for personal experience (for what it worth), that there aren't many lucky people out there who have supervisors that are actually helpful. I cannot go into the detail of my own experience, but had I waited for my supervisor's help I would have probably never completed. It's not just matter of being supervised by an expert in the field, is about finding a person who is available to sit down with you and go through all the necessary steps that lead to your completion.

I think that if you are motivated to complete you have to go back to the first, basic steps. Stop reading, start writing. Even if they are just ideas and don't sound logic. Also, in my uni there are academic skills courses that you can attend on critical thinking, how to manage your PhD, how to write, etc. If your uni offers such course take the plunge and do them. You are not too late if you really don't want to waste this experience, but you need to make things move.

Positive thinking !!! it works

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I think that, as doing the PhD put you suddenly in a situation in which you fiercely compete with other postgraduates (for funding first, then to obtain results, then to publish, etc), we often lose sight of something very important: what we learn along the way. Everything we do become routine (read boring). When, in the last few months I wondered if I would ever see the end of it, I made a point to list all the positive things that came with the PhD. That's what kept me going.

First of all (for me), having the privilege to access resources that no one else had found before. I also met people that taught me what I know now, and that I wouldn't have had the opportunity to meet had I not done a doctorate. I travelled and saw things that would have never been accessible otherwise.

I think, that in spite of all the odds -including a nightmare supervisor- the good outbalanced the bad. I passed my viva with minor corrections and I am very happy of course. But ultimately, what is really important, is all the above, what I learnt and what I have become in the process of doing the PhD. This is going to be part of me for the time being. I think that I am much more able to face challenges now than I was before the PhD.

So, I think that listing all the positive things that we have learnt, done and achieved along the way, may help at times of crisis. Yes, indeed we did it!

I hope I have been sufficiently positive :$

Post viva- no summit or finishing line in sight :(

I understand your state of mind. Although I didn't have major corrections, the PhD has been a very difficult journey, and I wonder if a mild depression might also be the cause of our feelings. It is very easy to end up in a spiral of negative thoughts when we don't have the necessary support from the environment/ people we work with.

It is of course important the support of family, friend, etc. but having worked for so long with completely unsupportive supervisors certainly did not help my self-confidence. I got to the end - or so I hope! - as I submitted my corrections last week. Nonetheless, I cannot help but feel completely deflated. I am writing for a publication just now, but I have the same state of mind that I had when I completed the writing up and the corrections for the PhD.

I don't know what will happen next, as someone else said, only time will tell. I can only suggest you to find other activities outside the writing, as you plan to do, to break the circle of corrections= negative thinking (E.g. I found doing Pilates classes very beneficial, for the body and for the mind). Do make an effort to improve your social life, that's also very important. If you surround yourself with positive people, you start to think positive. Equally, take the distance from the negative ones.

In short, take good care of yourself, if you break yourself down, you would nullify all your efforts to date. You are very, very close to completion, and from what you say, you are doing all the right things. You can always come back to the forum  for routine injections of positive thinking. I wonder what I would have done without these!

chapter titles

What do you think about: "X: A Critical Review of Sources" ? Perhaps it's not very imaginative, but at the end of the day, as long as it conveys what that chapter is about it should be fine. You are not competing for the Pulitzer! ;-)

chapter titles

My review of literature is part of the introduction, which is divided in four sections: History; Historiography and Review of Literature; Methodology, Aims and Research Questions; Thesis Outline. I otherwise have very long titles for my chapters, but I am in a different field.

Yikes-official letter from my uni post viva

Now I start to be concerned that I won't graduate until next July! But it is true that they are awfully slow. I shamelessly e-mailed Registry and asked if they were going to send any official notice with the outcome of the viva, and the letter materialized the day after. I will use the same trick after I submit the final copy in the hope that it will work!

I can understand your state of mind - on the positive, the clock starts from the date of your letter, so if for any reason you need more time to complete your amendments, this is your safety net. ;-)

However, I am sure that you won't need it. This is your official deadline (tree)!

Deadline is this summer - let's do it together!

Hi Ady, If it can be of any relief, I can tell you that I didn't feel this great sense of achievement after I submitted. Actually, I didn't feel that great after the viva either. The whole process of writing up is so stressful - or at least it was for me!- that I found unwinding very difficult.

I have finished with my corrections, nonetheless I will have to wait and see what the internal thinks. It seems a never ending story, although graduation start to be in sight.

It can be very hard when, after so much hard work, you have to go over things again, but you are substantially better off now than you were six months ago. You now know what to do to address any remaining issue (that surely is minor in comparison to writing it all). If you tackle it in small chunks you will be surprised about how quickly you can get things done.

Then, 1 month is really nothing in comparison to the time that you spent working on your project on the whole. It is so much better to spend four weeks to polish it now, rather than having to do it after the viva.

Bon Courage!


Post viva- no summit or finishing line in sight :(

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Tackling corrections is always daunting, expecially because we are at the end of the summer and we feel that we didn't have a summer really...

I think that you are doing all the right things. You are editing a very long document, and virtually cutting out material that is the length of an MLitt by research, so it will take time.

Working in small chunks is the best approach. I would also suggest not to lose sight of the thesis as a whole as you work along. Do stop every once in a while and look at how the chapters hang together, as some more adjustments may be needed.

If your list of corrections is clear it's indeed matter of tackling one point at the time, if some comments appear generic it may worth to ask for clarification. Are your supervisors or indeed anyone else (e.g. internal examiner) available to check your progress?