Signup date: 18 Aug 2020 at 4:09pm
Last login: 06 Oct 2020 at 9:34pm
Post count: 60
I know just what you mean! I'm the first in my family to pursue higher education and because I grew up away from academia, I always put academics on pedestals, like every person working in research was some how answering the great mysteries of life. In reality, we all work on a tiny area that we become experts in, but the nature of research is such that we never truly become experts, because we are always seeking to further our understanding. Sometimes we will come to the wrong conclusions, and sometimes we come to the right conclusions that are only 'right' in the time and context the exist. So in a few years time, your research may be changed, to adapt to the change in context and time. I hope that makes sense
Hi! I know you've read and commented on my experience, so you know it's entirely normal to feel like this. Getting overwhelmed by data is normal, I have weirdly close attachment to post it notes. I would read something, jot down the take away message from it, and put it on a post it note and stick it to the wall. After a bit I was noticing similar conclusions, so I could group them. Once I had this, I started to ask questions about my area of the wonderful wall of post it notes. From that I was able to work out areas that were lacking in my field of study. Then I started to look for literature specifically related to that, form then I was able to find out what needed questioning. So start broad, and slowly start to tailor your research down to some distinct questions.Is the work you'd like to do already done? If so, hows the methodology, can it be improved? Can it be expanded on? Or is what your interested in unanswered, if so, how can you answer it or design studies that begin to explore it?
It's hard to be 'picky' when it comes to an advisor, as they'll have many students requesting them as supervisors. Your approach, whilst it has merits, may come across as bit egotistical. You do need good advisors, but you won't necessarily know who's the right advisor for another students experience. For example, I know an ex student of my supervisors found the approach really unhelpful where as I found the fact that I was given so much free reign really helped me develop my skills.
You're far better off arranging a chat with potential advisors now, than contacting their students. Have a chat with them, send them your ideas and interests and then see if you're a good fit. You can build the support you want after knowing them, for example you might request they give you deadlines, or you negotiate on how feedback will be given.
Finally, for when you go into the academic world you need to learn how to adapt to work with many different personalities, so whilst it's important to have a good supervisor, I don't think you need to treat it like online dating. Best of luck
- I found three typographical errors upon re-reading my thesis after submission. They were super small, but they're haunting me.: Sorry but I'm laughing right now, I found all my tables and appendices had changed to 'Error not found', I'd written 'tits' instead of 'it's' and missed loads of connecting words. I had so many typo's (I'm dyslexic), my examiners were not aware of my dyslexia and still put 'minor typo's'
- My supervisor allowed me to submit earlier than we had previously anticipated. What if he just wants to get rid of me and get it over with?: he won't, it looks bad on him. Academic's have intellectual ego's, we do not let our name be attached to substandard work. It's been submitted earlier because you've exceeded expectations, well done!
- My thesis isn't a groundbreaking piece of research. If anything, it has only managed to make a minor adjustment to an already existing idea.: It's still a contribution to your area, however you need to see that. You need to be excited by your research - you adjusted another study but these findings are new, and they're yours!
- FINALLY, my masters was in creative writing. As such, when I entered into the English literature and creative writing PhD program, my academic writing was rusty. I feel as though I made substantial edits with my supervisors help, but I'm never 100% confident in the things I write.: I had a career in marketing before going back to studies, so my writing was not academic, but my supervisors helped, your's seem to be really impressed with you so please don't worry
You sound like you've done an excellent job, now be kind to yourself, and remember so few people actually get to a point where they've submitted a thesis. You're doing great
I want to reach out and give you a virtual hug. I know how you feel, I felt like I was going to have a breakdown waiting for mine. I had mental health issues throughout my PhD too. I know it's hard, but most academics are adapting to this strange new world we are in now, so things are taking a lot longer than usual. There's no other advise than to sit tight. Stop checking your emails though, give yourself set times to check or it becomes obsessive to the point of distracting form day to day lives.
- I feel like the language in my thesis is simplistic. The thesis itself is very easy to understand compared to papers and other dissertations I've seen which were heavier in jargon and more dense.: jargon isn't great, your work should be academic but readable. Thesis that rely on jargon are, from what I've read, hiding weaknesses. For example, the one chapter I was uncomfortable with in my own thesis was jargon filled, I guess it's a 'wow them with big words so they don't see you're talking out your ar$e', so I had to change it.
- One of the theories that I applied to my thesis was learned while writing the thesis. What if I misunderstood it or there are holes in my knowledge?: A thesis is about learning, so you've demonstrated your capacity to learn. Sometimes theories are open to interpretation, just defend your own interpretation.
I've read your other posts, and it is so disappointing to hear how unprofessional your viva was. However, I think you need to tread carefully here. You're clearly very angry, and you have every right to be, racism and discrimination are serious issues, but you need to try and separate things out. What corrections do you agree with? There are corrections I've had I don't necessarily agree with, but I can see why the examiners felt they will strengthen my thesis. There are going to be corrections you don't agree with, but have to concede. I would try to separate those out, then look at the other corrections - can you prove that those corrections are malicious rather than a genuine perspective? A PhD is so subjective, for example I've been asked to include things in my background that my supervisors had told me to remove. My structure was praised despite my supervisors feeling the structure was disjointed in many ways. There are changes to my data, such as un-grouping sets of participants that my supervisors had felt should be grouped. That is the nature of the PhD. At the moment it sounds like you are going to war with everyone involved in your PhD, and whilst I absolutely admire you for standing up to discrimination and racism, and honestly I think it takes great personal strength to stand up to this when you have the perpetrator as someone with authority, you're directing this anger at a wider proportion of people. My concern for you is that all this will cloud your complaints against the actual examiner and therefor diminish your complaint.
You might be in a better position if you can go through and highlight how you can make the corrections and the pro's and con's of adding them
The questions were fair, and only once did I go off on a tangent. It felt more like a discussion than and examination and I honestly enjoyed it. Anyone who knows me will know I was absolutely dreading the viva, to the point I considered cancelling it because my anxiety was so high I went 4 days without eating! Originally they predicted it would take 1.5hrs, however it took 2 hrs, they did offer a comfort break at the 1.5hr mark but I asked to continue. They then asked me to go and make myself a drink and come back in 15 minutes. I did this and my partner came with me, we had a little chit chat whilst we waited for the external to come back to the viva. Then they told me I had passed with minor amendments, my partner cried, one of the examiners became emotional, I just sat there looking like an idiot waiting to wake up from this weird dream. It all got a bit blurry from there as all I wanted to do was call my dad. I'm the first in my family to do A Levels, let alone get a doctorate and it took my dad a while to see the benefit of University, I had deliberately not told any of my family or friends, apart from my partner and eldest child, so I didn't have to deal with their anxiety.
So, when they arrived, I felt a bit overwhelmed. For minor amendments there were loads, however once I started I realised there actually wasn't that much. It was difficult at times because you are used to your supervisors feedback so getting feedback from elsewhere can be difficult to interpret - plus some of the feedback was stuff I'd been asked to remove by supervisors (so please if you have to remove things, keep copies just in case!). I've worked through them and sent them to the internal, but there's a few other bits I need to do (however with dyslexia, it's really difficult to amend grammar and typo's when you have tracked changes).
So this has been cathartic for me, and I hope someone reading this might get something useful from it :)
I then had to wait for the viva date, I was very conscious of how hard my examiners were working at this time - being in lockdown with children and having to change to online teaching, butt he wait was absolute torture. I tried to study everything I could about the Viva, only to then hit a point when I did get my date through, that I couldn't bare to look at my thesis nor practice for my viva, so I did no prep apart from read it through once a few days before. My viva was remote, so I had to conduct it via teams. The day before my viva, my children go in to isolation due to COVID at their school, but thankfully are at their other parents house. I set up my 'viva station' only to realise that the Wi-Fi booster isn't working and had to suddenly relocate to my sons bedroom. My son is a pre-teen, so I had to quickly clear the pants he had left lying around and remove all Dr Who paraphernalia. I still haven't managed to sake off the smell of lynx mixed with 'sweaty teenager'! That morning I had surprisingly slept well, I had gone for a long walk and hike the day before with my partner, I had attempted to do yoga but instead drank wine so the combination of things helped. When I dialed in to the Viva my examiners were smiling and relaxed and I felt myself immediately relax. They re-introduced themselves and told me to relax, they confirmed my partner could be there for the outcome and we had a little joke about COVID and working from home with kids, a few pets appeared in view of the camera so it was informal, but still well structured. They told me at the beginning it was an excellent thesis and that they would be making notes just so they could give me my amendments straight away. I knew this meant I had likely passed but didn't want to get my hopes up. They didn't ask many of the standard questions except for my reasoning for doing this PhD. I was very honest and open - this lead to further corrections though as they wanted me to include my own background in life a bit further.
I had to find work, so before my finding ran out I dedicated every spare second I had to my thesis, which my children nick named 'mummy's big boring sad book'. I dismissed their feedback, including my daughters suggestions the thesis would look much better if I added unicorn pictures. I got a research associate job and managed to balance writing up the thesis during lockdown because I couldn't go anywhere in the evenings. The agreement meant I moved in with my new partner temporarily and she did most of the housework (bonus). I was getting ready to have my final draft checked when my supervisor had to suddenly go on leave due to a personal situation. no one else had time to read my thesis (and to be fair, i think they were sick of it by this point) so I had to make the decision to submit it without checks. This was terrifying given my journey and the fact that I am dyslexic and had no money for proof reading.
Second year horror:
Second year came, a culmination of things occurred. I went through a very traumatic experience, I ended up a single parent, I was severely traumatised, I had to become a part time carer for a terminally ill relative. I had no money, I had to go without food for a few days so I could feed my children because doing a PhD is making yourself 'deliberately jobless' and 'unavailable for work' despite getting a studentship according to HMRC, who decided that my children and I were entitled to no help what so ever. So I had to work 16hrs a week on top of a full time PhD and being a single parent to make ends meet. I was offered the opportunity to take leave from my studies but that meant losing my stipend which, as you can imagine, was not feasible with two additional mouths to feed. So I carried on with my studies. I had decided to include a systematic review, so I began working on it (luckily I had also contributed to another study which I will come to later). I was getting on great with this review until some smart ar*e published the exact same review, but expanded on it and it was annoyingly perfect. So that got scrapped, but I remained upbeat and began designing a protocol for my next study. I eventually got ethical approval, but then could not recruit - after 4 months of work I recruited one person who kept cancelling their interview. So by the end of year 2 I had no progress whats so ever. I hastily put together a plan with another study idea and went back to the work I had contributed too, and thankfully there was a lot of data I could use, so I drew up a protocol for a secondary analysis. My second year review went awful, my examiner is a really lovely person but couldn't pass me (I got a referral for a few months) as on paper I had not achieved anything, on top of that my mental health was horrendous, my supervisors were having to mark me down as not progressing and I hit the lowest point of my life....but...
...I'm a chronic over achiever and I decided to take a few weeks off from my studies unofficially. I got mental health support, I worked on my own health and I came back at it. I worked with the data I had and made some novel discoveries, I then progressed with my third study, it wasn't easy at all. I was waking up at 6am to get in a couple hours work before taking the kids to school, I was then working whilst they did homework after school, then when they went to bed I started working again until about 1am, and this continued for months. Finally, 6 months into my 3rd year, my supervisor was able to tick 'meets expectations', I was catching up! I successfully applied for for a small amount of funding to give me an additional 4 months at the end of my stipend. By the end of year 3 I had all the data for my third study and was ready to analyse it, I had the other 2 studies done and dusted and a good proportion of my background written.
So, I'm nearly a month on from my Viva and I've just submitted my corrections so thought it was a good time to write this. It's lengthy and I plan to cover everything from start to finish, but I'll use headings to help:
I applied for a studentship in an area vaguely related to my field of study that I felt I could shoe-horn my interest into. I contacted the lead supervisor and was able to attend a talk they were doing on another piece of research they'd had published, this gave me the confidence to then apply. I read everything they had published in recent years, then attended the interview (with a brief examination) and successfully was awarded the studentship.
The first day (weeks....)
I had no idea what i was doing. At least with my masters I had a set of objectives and a time table, with this I was given my laptop and that was that. I had been out of education for a while and returned following a 6 year career, with two children in tow. I felt like I was just wandering around aimlessly for weeks. I kept searching stuff, reading stuff but I still had no idea how to begin or what was expected of me. I had the handbook, which tbh was a really boring read and did little to enlighten me. I looked forward to my first supervision because I thought they'd tell me what to do. I now laugh at the fact I once looked forward to a supervision where by the second year I was having panic attacks before them. In this first supervision I was basically told to keep on reading and did I have any ideas yet, I think I just stared blankly at them and nodded. Eventually it was like something clicked in my head, I had done all this reading and was writing notes about what I knew and saw a massive gap in the literature that I wanted to answer. The only problem was it was beyond the scope of the actual PhD I had applied for, but I managed to persuade the supervisory team of my position and they supported it. I then went to a conference for students on the same studentship as me, hearing that so many of them had already begun on their PhD with set frameworks of what they were going to do outlined for them by their supervisors made me nervous, however I now see that my supervisors approaches were the making of me as a researcher.
The first year:
I didn't do the classic systematic review to begin with, my area was so novel nothing existed so I started with my first study. My first year sailed by and when it came to my first year mini-viva I sailed through, I was very far ahead of where I should have been, I had a paper I was writing up for publication and a good plan. My supervisors were happy with my progress and I admit to thinking at one point 'this is so easy, I thought a PhD would be tough'.
I can't answer your questions, just wanted to say everyone makes mistakes, it's part of being human. Your supervisor has reacted badly, why not write an email just outlining the issue. Take ownership 'I misunderstood and submitted this without discussion', highlight the consequences 'I understand this must have caused you annoyance and seemed disrespectful', highlight intentions 'it was never my intention to make you feel this' apologies 'I am sorry this occurred' and then offer a solution 'I can contact XYZ to ask the submission be held until we have discussed this fully' and then affirm 'I hope this will not affect our working relationship'
It's difficult with things being over email as we can't really read tone, but in all honesty, everyone makes mistakes and your supervisor will have made many in their life!
Masters DegreesSearch For Masters Degrees
An active and supportive community.
Support and advice from your peers.
Your postgraduate questions answered.
Use your experience to help others.
Enter your email address below to get started with your forum account
Enter your username below to login to your account
An email has been sent to your email account along with instructions on how to reset your password. If you do not recieve your email, or have any futher problems accessing your account, then please contact our customer support.
or continue as guest