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Thesis help please!

Hi alfa11,

Hope you are feeling more settled about your structure and have some direction by now, but just wanted to say it can be a moving thing. I had a guiding structure I wrote at the beginning (think chapters with titles, then subtitles within the chapters) and then as my research progressed, I used it to help me work out when to stop reading and write, and also from time to time when I had to think about the overall direction of the thesis, it helped me to consider it as up for discussion. I restructured a few times through the PhD, reorganising the order of chapters or sections, taking things out and adding things in as I refined my thoughts on my topic.

I tried to think of my research design document as a working document, open for revision, if that makes sense? It helped to have a place to go back to to reconsider the big picture.

Hope that helps, and good luck!

BENKHALED - agree with allion2004 and TreeofLife - it depends on university and their regulations, most likely expressed as a word count rather than a page count, but follow their guidelines!

Still so upset

Hi excommunicate,
I can't help much but can say I have been there. I got revise and resubmit, then major corrections (more major than they should have been at that stage, and with no help from my supervisors or internal examiner). I got to the point you are describing, where the anxiety was absolutely paralysing. I was going between hyperventilating to crying and back again, working for short periods of time but cracking up in between. I ended up at the doctor getting Valium for a few weeks which helped calmed me down, but of course you need to be very careful with it, especially if you are also a drinker, which I was. More crucially I found someone else (a relative who is an academic) who got me to report to him every day. He was in my field but I think even someone you get on with really well would help - someone you can meet with for 30-60 minutes every day or second day to talk about what you are doing and report to. Has to be the right kind of relationship of course, it wouldn't work with anyone! But for me it took my mind back to the thesis.

It helped that he was very kind - he would say this isn't what you need to do occasionally but gently, and just help get me back on track. Most importantly, it took time but I got to the end and got the PhD signed off.

That was two years ago - now I am trying to find time to do writing in between my casual teaching jobs. But the most important thing is not to underestimate the power of the trauma you have been through. I did what you are doing - come on, sort it out and just do it! You can do it, but sometimes you just need the right type of assistance.

I am a big believer in counselling working in the right circumstances but if your current counselling isn't helping, feel free to look for someone else - it may not be the right match. Or it may be but it takes time! Most importantly, don't give up but don't torture yourself. You can get there. If you want to message me personally, feel free!

Take care and thinking of you xo

Last year PhD but..

Hi SecondWing,

RinaL offers some very good advice. Can I offer a little bit more that may help?

As RinaL pointed out, impostor syndrome is rife in academia. I doubt that your real abilities are reflected in your confidence and estimations of yourself, but it won't help for me, a stranger who hasn't read your work, to tell you that. RinaL makes a great suggestion to get someone you fully trust to read and comment on your work. Luckily I found someone who could fulfill this role for me. It could be your supervisor but it doesn't have to be. You just have to trust their opinion and know they will be honest.

In terms of the teaching, I think you should forget about it for right now. Not because you can't do it - because right now you are beating yourself up about not feeling confident in what you are already doing - you don't need to add to that list right now! One thing at a time.

To that end, progress helps you build confidence, but as you also know lack of progress kills confidence. You need to get more progress. One way to do this is to make lists of all the tasks you see that need doing, making the tasks as small and specific as possible. Then as you start working through them you can starting ticking them off. Start with something manageable and work your way slowly through the list. If you get overwhelmed and don't know where to start - ask for help.

Finally, with writing - don't let perfectionism prevent you. Just write. No one has to read it until you are ready for them to. Writing anything down helps, because you can go back and edit it and add to it and delete stuff until it starts to look like what you want it to. Writing nothing leaves you staring at a blank page. When you are doing, you are much less likely to muse and wonder what you are doing wrong and worry about how much better everyone else is doing. I get it - I have been there and am still fighting my way through, but my PhD is done! You can do it too. But don't put so much pressure on yourself - focus on getting something, even something that seems small, done each day. Small equals progress too, and even little bits of progress help you build confidence in yourself and feel that you deserve it. Good luck!

Too late to prepare for viva (tomorrow)

Well done and congratulations! Now I hope you are celebrating!

Quit PhD

There is no risk of legal action Shack93. You have written agreements that are a normal part of planning the PhD and noone could hold you to that legally. People pull out of PhDs a lot. I personally believe if you really have got there in your head, it is a brave person that makes such a big decision, especially in light of well-intentioned reactions like those here saying it is so close and you are nearly there. They have a point about that - don't get me wrong. I just think it is your decision and it would be easier for you to talk about it honestly if there was more openess to all the options available to you.

Honestly, there is a lot of truth to what people say - it is so close and you are not far off. On the other hand, you know you best. You know your own mental health and you are the only one that can make the decision. I'll just say this: I have been where you are now, paralysed with anxiety, with weeks to go, and I know that I could not keep working under those circumstances, let alone make a big decision like quit/continue with PhD - which is life changing either way (sorry, not trying to put more pressure on you!).

Whatever decision you make, you want to not regret it later, right? So get your head in the best shape possible to make that decision. You need more support - what you have may be working to a point but you need to ask for more. Go back to your GP, seek counselling if you haven't already, take a break if you can. Even a week would be beneficial. If you have a good relationship with your supervisor, talk to him or her. But you can't either finish the PhD or make this decision (either way) wisely if you are so stressed and paralysed by fear or whatever it is that is holding you back. I took Valium (prescribed) for a few weeks for a few weeks to get myself back into a settled head space so I could work. For you, it may be that you decide to quit. I hope you don't because you are so close, but it isn't my PhD and it isn't my mental health that is suffering. Only you can make that decision. Either decision is brave if you make it when you are clear-headed and most of all, honest with yourself without being hard on yourself. Take care and good luck! And please let us know how it goes - I for one would love to hear whatever the outcome.

PhD and mortgage

We actually had the experience that my PhD stipend for 3 years and my partner's basic retail wage were fine. As our mortgage adviser at our bank said, what does a permanent job mean these days anyway? She saw it as a guaranteed income for three years. We were at the entry level of the housing market, and were not borrowing a lot - certainly we were not over extending ourselves and had been paying rent at the same level our mortgage would be which I am sure helped! As well as it being before the global financial crisis. But the advice to go to a broker is good - they know what banks might be more open to possibilities. Good luck!

Shut Up and Write??

I would also love to be part of this, if you are willing to have me ;-) I am in the humanities, if that matters.

Losing hope whilst working on thesis corrections...

Hi anz07,

I just wanted to say you are not the only one who has been in this position. A few years ago I got revisions to do, that needed to be signed off by my external examiner. I was in such a state of anxiety trying to complete them I was having panic attacks, hyperventilating and crying over my books. Every time I went to write something, I second-guessed it from the point of view of my most critical examiner, who was also my external whose decision it was whether I passed or not. I ended up seeking medical intervention and also most crucially, working with a mentor who helped me get through the final steps (my relationship with my primary supervisor had broken down considerably at that stage). It really helped to have a second person to talk through the changes with. In the end, I handed over the thesis and received, within four days, the news I had passed and could graduate. If I had any advice, it would be a) find someone you trust that you can work with/talk to about the changes you are making, because getting feedback from someone on your side will help distract you from the examiner and focus on the revisions and b) look after yourself - and if you need help with the physical and emotional ramifications of going through it, seek help now. I always thought it could wait until after the PhD - but it really helped to have a reminder to look after myself, and that was my best strategy towards completion.

You can do it - just keep going! Good luck.