Signup date: 01 Nov 2009 at 4:56pm
Last login: 09 Aug 2017 at 11:32am
Post count: 273
Sorry, I wasn't meaning to blame you, just thinking of how the examiners might defend themselves if you appeal their decision.
I just noticed you mentioned a second viva - so this was a revise/resubmit, rather than corrections? In that case there should have been an option for the examiners to give you minor corrections after your second viva, which would seem the obvious choice if the only problem was that 5% of the revisions were missed?
I can understand the frustration - if your work really wasn't sufficient for a PhD you should have been made aware of that much earlier, ideally by your supervisor before you got to the stage of submitting. Sound like a good plan to talk to the student union rep and figure out whether you have a case for appeal (tell them about one of the examiners not attending the second viva, and any other procedural irregularities!), then you can decide what you want to do.
You're right though that it's not the end of the world, however disappointing. An MPhil is better than nothing, and, most importantly, you already have a job (which many people struggle to do even if they pass their PhD!)
Congratulations, and thank you for posting your story - always encouraging for those of us still struggling through revisions!
My experience so far has been similar - a lack of supervision and feedback on my thesis, combined with other pressures which meant I ended up submitting in a rush what I can now see was an inadequate thesis. Devastating to get the R&R result and essentially fail the viva (although oddly enough my viva itself went quite well, and won't need to be redone), but trying to stay positive.
Funnily enough, the discussion in the viva and the guidance I got from my examiners was exactly what it would have been helpful to have from my supervisors before submitting, but which I never got. Odd for the examiners to be more helpful and supportive than the supervisor, but I agree there's no point being angry and resentful of it after the fact.
Unless he's actually harassing you or doing anything to cause problems for you, I would ignore it. People do sometimes have a 'purge' of their social media to unfriend/unfollow anyone they're no longer involved with, so it might not be personal to you (I admit blocking does seem a bit odd, unless it was a mistake and he just meant to unfollow).
I agree it's unacceptable. 6 months is already far too long for a decision on minor corrections, without it dragging on into next year. Surely it should be simply a case of the examiners checking whether or not all the requested corrections have been done - and if they have been done, you have passed. That's my understanding, anyway - isn't that why it's called 'pass subject to minor corrections'?
There really shouldn't be any question of negotiating further revisions at this stage. It seems unbelievable that your university isn't enforcing its own regulations here. That may be in your favour in any future appeal, though.
It certainly is more usual in science for the supervisor to come up with the initial project idea, obtain the funding for it, and then advertise it to potential students. Did you not apply for a funded studentship that way? Or are you self-funded?
Either way, you could look at it as a good opportunity to design the project you really want to do. Presumably you had some ideas when applying for a PhD of what you were interested in working on? However, your supervisor should give you some guidance and advice to make sure your proposal is practical and suitable for a PhD - have they really said you can choose absolutely anything within the biosciences field? Surely it has to be something the supervisor has expertise in, and that their lab is equipped for?
If your major corrections were officially a revise and resubmit (i.e. you had to actually resubmit the thesis formally) then they may be able to ask you for minor corrections on the resubmitted version. If that's the case, then your best option is to just make the corrections they want.
However, if it wasn't a resubmission, then no there aren't usually any further revisions permitted; it should simply be a case of the examiners stating whether or not the required corrections have been done to their satisfaction, and you pass or fail depending on that. But I don't think they can fail you now for not making corrections that were never asked for -- that would be ridiculous. If that's the case then you should have a strong case for appeal.
I suggest carefully (re)reading your university regulations, and take a copy to the appeal hearing to refer to. Maybe a copy of your viva report as well. Stay calm and stick to the facts. Good luck!
My supervisor never read mine either. She told me that 'supervisors don't read the thesis' - which didn't sound right to me, but I wasn't confident enough of that to argue on the spot (actually was so confused and embarrassed that I think I actually apologised for assuming she would).
I must say I found journal club a bit tiresome (in my MRes year, I think) - but then we had to prepare Powerpoint presentations and give talks, which took up a lot of time I'd rather have been spending on my own work. And the papers were assigned to us seemingly randomly, so weren't necessarily interesting or relevant to the person who ended up having to talk about them. We were assessed on it as well, which led to silly things like having to ask a pretend question if you couldn't think of a genuine one, just to get the marks for asking a question.
I can see how it would be a useful exercise though, if a group of like-minded people want to get together to discuss the latest research. Just not sure of the value as an obligation for a cohort of students with not much more in common than starting their grad studies at the same time in the same department.
Not sure if this kind of meta-discussion is out of scope for your group, but can you maybe have a discussion about what makes it a boring paper (bad writing, unconvincing results, uninteresting research questions, or whatever it is), and what makes for a good/interesting paper?
I don't know if this is cheating/fraud or not, depending on what the tutor is expected to do (obviously if they were to write part of the thesis, that would be plagiarism). Providing more general academic tutoring around the subject area would be a different matter.
However, I never heard of anyone hiring a tutor for their PhD. The main problem would be that a PhD topic tends to be very specialised, and it's unlikely many people outside the relevant research group(s) would have the expertise to be of much help -- it's very different from preparing for undergraduate exams, for example. Certainly for things like clarifying your research questions and developing your methodology, the supervisor would be the most obvious person to speak to.
For more general advice and support with the thesis writing process, universities often run (free!) workshops for final-year/writing-up students, which can be quite useful especially as they can advise on any institution-specific requirements (formatting, word count etc), which again an external tutor wouldn't necessarily know about. I wouldn't advise wasting your money like that.
I had difficulties including anxiety and depression during my PhD, and while the problems weren't caused by the PhD (I'd had them intermittently for some years before) they were probably made worse by some aspects. It can be a lonely and demoralising time, especially if things are not going well and you don't have a supportive supervisor or colleagues.
One thing I did notice was that when I went to the university health centre about my problems, I felt they were dismissed as a normal part of the PhD, e.g. 'everyone gets stressed about writing up', whereas my problems were much more long-standing than that. It's a difficult one because of course a certain amount of stress and worry is normal (both during the PhD process and in life in general) and that shouldn't necessarily be medicalised -- but nor should worrying symptoms be written off as just part of being a student.
I do agree that resilience is hugely important, and that we could probably learn a lot from looking at the people who don't get overly stressed or unwell, despite adversity and failure. Not in the sense of blaming the 'victims' or telling them to just get over it, but in terms of coping techniques and habits of thinking that might help the rest of us with our mental wellbeing. The book 'Learned Optimism' by Martin Seligman is very interesting on this subject.
It's definitely not just a problem for PhDs/academia, though. I was reading recently about the high levels of mental health problems and alcohol/substance misuse among medical doctors (particularly psychiatrists, interestingly enough), and it's probably the case in many other professions as well.
I think you're right that this could go on indefinitely if you let it. I didn't know it was even possible to be given further revisions after doing an R&R then minor corrections - surely there has to be a decision one way or the other by this stage? I'm surprised the institution isn't doing more to enforce that, as surely the situation is in breach of their own regulations now?
I'm struggling a bit to understand what your external's motivation could be for behaving in this way. My best guess is that she is determined not to pass you (for whatever personal or ideological reasons) but knows she can't justify failing you. That's the only reason I can think for dragging the process on like this. If she had a justifiable argument for your revised thesis not being up to academic standards, she could give her decision as a fail -- and then presumably whatever procedures the university has to handle a disagreement between examiners would come into play. The fact that she can't/won't do this strongly suggests that she knows no reasonable person would fail you, so the only way to keep you from passing is to keep you stuck in limbo like this until you give up.
I do think the PhD examination system works well the vast majority of the time (for all the criticism it gets) -- but this is a true example of how it can go bad, when one of the examiners is being completely unreasonable and unprofessional in their conduct, and no one can overrule them because academic judgement is sacrosanct.
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