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Losing a parent mid-PhD

Hello Hildagarde,

I'm very sorry to hear about your dad. Like you, my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer during my program. My way of coping with it was to take time off from my program so that I could take care of him at home, in hospice care. He wanted to die at home, and while we could have just hired a full-time nurse, it was an opportunity to spend quality time together. In retrospect, it seemed reassuring to him to have someone to talk with every day during a frightening and emotional time. My supervisor and friends supported the decision. Some professors and colleagues were not as understanding, and would ask questions such as, "What are you going to do all day?" Anyone who asks that has never looked after a terminally ill person.

One of the things you should consider is that while your mother needs your emotional support right now, it will be even more important right after your dad passes. The problem for a widowed person is that everyone "disappears" once the funeral is over, and that person is left to cope with the day-to-day tasks alone. For example, if your dad is the one who usually takes care of the bills and household accounting, maintaining the car, etc., your mother is going to need you to pick up the slack. Even if she's a strong person, there will be times that she will be overwhelmed, and you'll need to make yourself accessible to help her.

As far as how much time to ask for, people are different when it comes to coping with loss. Some people cope better by keeping busy, and jumping back into a work routine. Other people need time away, and don't feel up to facing a lot of people right away. Do whatever's healthiest for your emotional well-being.

Another thing you may consider later is bereavement counseling. If it turns out that you need more time than expected, the counselor will be able to provide the university with a letter, or documentation, to support the request for an extension.

I hope I don't sound like a jerk, but it might not be realistic to think that you can work as productively as usual from home right now. If 20 minutes per day is all you can do, that's good enough. The time you have with your father is so precious, and deserving of your attention.

Just as a disclaimer, I've always spent a lot of time with family even before my father became ill, so my decision wasn't an attempt to make up for loss time, or anything like that. It was just my way of coping.

Whatever you decide, I wish you all the best as you accept life's changes with grace.

Completion bursary

All I got was a slice of cake, and a handshake. :-(

Focus group or individual interviews

In my research job, one of the reasons we sometimes use focus groups is that they enable us to include a larger number of non-English speakers (or limited English speakers) in the study. This is useful in cities such as NYC or London, where there's a lot of diversity. In many cases, the focus group members have helped each other with translating, or clarifying what they want to say. (It's also far less costly than hiring a translator for individual interviews.)

I'm sure you're well aware of some of the challenges involved in moderating focus groups, but this is one example of how it can make your data pool more inclusive.

It sounds like an interesting research project!

Viva in a week.....freaking out

It doesn't sound likely that you'll get a "fail" or "R&R", so you should be fine! :-)

Viva in a week.....freaking out

======= Date Modified 18 Jul 2012 16:22:00 =======
Off the top of my head...for example..."ethnography" is a methodology, and it usually involves using mixed methods (interviewing, surveying, participation observation) for data collection. A reasonable viva question would be, "Why did you choose ethnography to address this particular research question?"

Mid-PhD crisis - advice?

Hi SadieT, I'm left wondering why there seems to be a big gap between what your supervisors want you to do, and what the examiners are telling you. Have you discussed this with your supervisors?

You wrote that one of the examiners is in your department. Perhaps you could make an appointment to meet with that person, and explain that you're confused by seemingly conflicting advice. You just want clarification so that you can move forward.

I think one of the mistakes PhD students make (including myself) is trying to incorporate ALL of the advice they are given. You have to make judgement calls about what you believe will be beneficial to your project. There's an old saying: "To many cooks spoil the soup!" You're the top chef in the kitchen right now. As long as you can defend the choices you're making, you'll be fine. This is just my opinion, based on my own experience. Others may have a different perspective.

Viva in a week.....freaking out

Congratulations on nearing the last hurdle!

1) It's perfectly fine to go in with a list (or index cards) of your references. You're not expected to memorize every title and date. The advice I received was to focus on the analysis of the data, and the rationale behind the methodology. The examiners were interested in what I learned from the experience (a meta-analysis of the research process). I felt the dissertation and viva were an exercise to demonstrate understanding of how to do good research. The ability to identify mistakes, and ideas that didn't work, seemed to be the point of the exercise. Try to view the viva as a discussion, not an interrogation.

2) "Little mistakes" are just that - little mistakes! Focus on the big picture. If an examiner points out a little mistake, you can say something such as, "Yes, I noticed that too!..." and move on. Prior to the viva, my sup said that sometimes examiners like to show off for each other. Don't let it throw your confidence - it's just a bit of theatre.

When I'm nervous, my brain and mouth tend to disconnect, so before the viva, I recorded myself giving the opening statement, and discussing the project aloud. I also did a mock viva with a friend, which was helpful.

You can do this!!!

Good Luck!!!

My final push diary

Quote From snelison:

i'm getting so bored of cutting and pasting bits of writing and changing chapter structures. you get to the point where you wonder if the changes you're making actually improve anything or whether its just a waste of time!

This quote from Oscar Wilde made me laugh:

"I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out."

It makes one feel a bit better knowing even the greatest of writers have days like this!

It may feel like slow going now, Snelison, but the more you polish now, the less you'll have to revise later!

Dr. Doodles

======= Date Modified 17 Jul 2012 16:08:36 =======
"Fluent in four languages - including sarcasm." LOL!

Is your salary commensurate with your degree?

"Ady", I have to commend how you always seem so positive in spite of it all!

"Stressed", that's a good point...If I could give one piece of advice on this forum, it would definitely be to try to start working in your field during the course of your PhD program! Like you, I began as a "Graduate Research Assistant", and became a "Senior Research Associate" before the Viva. However, while my responsibilities and workload have increased, I'm dubious that a salary increase will follow. I'm worried about what the future holds...

Is your salary commensurate with your degree?

I was wondering whether employed PhDs on the forum feel their salary is commensurate with their degree. Of course, money isn't necessarily the most important reason for pursuing a doctorate, but in general, do you feel your salary is worth the time and work you put into it?

CV Advice

If U. of Bolton Press has a good reputation, I would use that one on the CV for now, because it has already been accepted. To me, "accepted" comes across as stronger than "under review" even if it's an impressive publisher. Just my opinion, though.

Good luck! (up)

CV Advice

To avoid confusion or raised eyebrows, you should probably put one or the other, but not both.

Just passed my viva !!


What a great way to start the weekend! 8-)

Masters difficulty...

Hello Stranger! I think pretty much everyone can relate. Graduate work is stressful. On top of that, you acknowledge that you're a perfectionist and very hard on yourself. You didn't specify whether you've been diagnosed with clinical depression, or just feel depressed about the current circumstances. Either way, would it be helpful to talk with a therapist? Does your school have someone on staff at health services?

As you already know, getting enough rest, eating properly, and exercising are important when you're working hard to meet deadlines. Spending time with friends and talking about something other than school is also important.

If you were swimming, and found yourself in deep water, the worst thing you could do is panic. In the same way, it sounds like you're panicking right now, and just need to take a deep breath, regroup, and do the best you can.