6 months break from PhD


======= Date Modified 12 Jul 2011 12:28:30 =======

My supervisors have suggested that I take a 6 month break to decide if I want to continue with my PhD.

Their reasons

I'm not spending enough time on it
They're not sure I'm passionate about academic research
I'm not making fast enough progress (4 months in)
They think I might be more interested in my practitioner rather than an observer view

I've agreed to this now, but am puzzled.


Ok first question are you full-time or part-time? That dictates how much time you should be spending on it.

Then how much time a week are you spending on it? And how much do your supervisors expect you to? (they should have quantified this)

Progress is a harder one. People can drift for a year in a full-time PhD doing a literature review. Personally I think this is a waste of time and I hit the ground running in my part-time PhD, completed the literature review inside 3 months, and started researching properly afterwards. But I was a bit unusual! What progress have you made, and what progress do your supervisors want?

I can't comment personally on the practitioner/observer issue. I don't really understand what you're referring to apart from anything else.

I took a 5 month break during my part-time PhD. That was only possible because I needed to take a break for medical reasons. My funding council would only allow breaks for either maternity break or medical reasons. I was reaching breaking point, battling with the progressive neurological illness and the PhD, and would have quit if I hadn't taken the break. The break allowed me to recharge my batteries, and come back afresh.

I hope your break helps you sort things out. Sounds a bit strange though, so early on. I would have thought you could jointly decide the way ahead without such an extended break.

Good luck!


BilboBaggins has once again given excellent advice and I would urge you to think through all the points she has made(up)

Best wishes with whatever happens


======= Date Modified 15 Jul 2011 16:23:19 =======
I've really struggled with the practitioner-oberserver side of things and have to conciously keep reminding myself during my write up to sideline the practitioner angle to a degree. However, I have spilt my recommendations into two; academic rec for future research and practitioner rec for improvements in the field. I've not submitted though I'm pretty close so hopefully I have gotten around any tension between the two sufficiently. I have also stated in my intro that part of my motivation for undertaking my study was to make recommendations for current policy and practice. Again we'll see if I'm convincing.

Six months of a break is a long break and conversly to say you have not made enough progress in four months is a very short period of time. Are your supv pure theorists; do they have experience in practice in your area? Would it be possible to have a practice-based supervisor onboard, even in advisory capacity?

Just my thoughts...


Some types of PhD research actually favour a practitioner approach. So does your PhD design methodology and the course you're on, allow for enough of this? Action research, in particular, is a great approach for practitioners. Maybe this is an opportunity to tweak what you're doing and find an alternative that really suits your style of working. In my field, Education, that's been recognised by dividing us into EdD and PhD (I did PhD as I'm not a practitioner). But maybe all other disciplines could jump on board and recognise this division, and the difference in skills that each celebrates?


======= Date Modified 15 Jul 2011 23:00:55 =======
Good points everyone, I've now had time to reflect and I think they're correct. I've been doing consultancy to earn dosh whilst doing the PhD supposedly full time. The reality is I have only been doing it part time and that's been pretty obvious. Also I really like the consultancy work, and a particularly interesting once in a blue moon project came along and I feel really conflicted. I suppose they've done me a favour in allowing me to do this paid project then decide at xmas whether to give up or take the PhD forward part time alongside my other paid work. The paid work isn't really practitioner it's more strategic stuff. I agree though if this project is successful i can see my PhD focus diverting to be aligned with it. When I started the PhD none of this work was on the horizon and I didn't seek it out, the work found me, and I find that I am more excited by the work than by my research.

I think they're being kind giving me a cooling off period to decide am I an academic or an expert practitioner. I think I already know the answer.


Quote From Snowdropbooks:

I think they're being kind giving me a cooling off period to decide am I an academic or an expert practitioner. I think I already know the answer.

You can be both.


As long as you can afford the practicalities in life (food, shelter) do what makes you most happy.

Avatar for Pjlu

Hi Snowdrop,

The work that has come up sounds great-understandable why you feel torn. However, Beajay and Ady's points about not necessarily having to choose between both are really good. I found after being in my role as team leader, then coordinator and (always) teacher for many years, I was reluctant to go down the pure theory pathway. So even though I started out years ago as having always wanted to do the PhD, after completing the Masters, I realised that the Doctor of Education program was far more suitable for who I now was someway into the journey.

I was qualified to do either and was invited by the University to apply for either-in fact one academic advised the PhD, simply because my thesis will be the same no matter what and she thought that academic prospects might be just that much better with the PHD. But nowadays, I really know my own mind (it's only taken me almost half a century!) and I have selected the Educational Doctorate and as of Thursday am officially on the books as an enrolled 'Doctoral candidate'. But my main point is that you may be able to have and do both. I am definitely part-time. There is no way now I would risk my current role and job and income (plus I love it too much) but I also really want a doctorate and to go that further step.

I know you and I haven't seen 'eye to eye' on the forum over the last couple of threads and I know that we can agree to disagree on how we interpret feelings or how we frame them to ourselves, but I felt quite sad when you posted about your break and thought that perhaps it is too early to have to make this decision. I also think it is possible to be a highly theoretical practitioner- in fact it is a great thing to be:-)


======= Date Modified 16 Jul 2011 01:23:27 =======
If you want to do consultancy then what about doing your PhD part-time? It's something that is very common in my field, but is also common for people like medics studying for doctorates alongside their clinical jobs. Have you considered that? Might it be an option? PhDs don't always have to be done full-time.

EDIT: Ah just reread your post, and you're considering part-time as an option. That's good 8-)


======= Date Modified 25 Jul 2011 09:13:10 =======
Thank you for the positive comments. Ive just returned from holiday and still conflicted. I'm wondering if the PhD should be delayed until I've finished with working. I stopped work and 'retired' in order to do the PHD as my luxury....I know that sounds strange but the research was for my own purposes and self fulfilment. Then fascinating work came along out of the blue, and I have been seduced by the 'dark side' ha ha. Ive loved doing all the reading for the literature review , fascinating stuff, and amazing that I've spent so long capable of doing my work, but never knowing a lot of this academic stuff. That's an interesting thought in itself. One supervisor suggested that I do this reading as a 'hobby', hmmm, there's a put down if ever I've heard one! During my break I won't have access to journals etc via Athens so this is my main concern, and I feel this possible loss greatly.

Avatar for Mackem_Beefy

I gather former employer has come back to you with some contract work?


It would seem as though the forum has helped you think things through and maybe see the direction you'd like to take. From an outside perspective is it possible for you to work and study part-time? I did my PhD part-time as I was employed in a clinical role. It would appear that your latest 'job' opportunity may actually be helping to focus/shape your PhD so is it possible to combine the two, thus giving you more passion for the PhD topic? It is very early in your PhD (4 months) to be worried about significant progress so it would be a shame to quit before giving it a real chance to evolve. Hope you make your decision soon.


Not a fiomer employer, but a new one, hence my interest. I agree it's a possibility i could comport time and the job, but both supervisors were dismissive when i suggested that, their reason being that they thought I wouldn't be able to switch styles between the two worlds. I'm mystified.

Avatar for Mackem_Beefy

Quote From Snowdropbooks:

Not a former employer, but a new one, hence my interest. I agree it's a possibility i could comport time and the job, but both supervisors were dismissive when i suggested that, their reason being that they thought I wouldn't be able to switch styles between the two worlds. I'm mystified.

Is this a full time, permanent contract?  Agency approach with an offer too good to refuse (non of my business - don't answer, just someone I know has ended up in a pickle)?

I don't know what your commitments are as regards the PhD, however, this is where I have to take a slightly different angle to Dunni.

During my first post-doc, we had instances of M.Sc. students taking on fulltime work during their project placements.  That was reflected in the quality of the work returned and in all honesty, a good many of them should have been failed.  In the end, we failed one whose work was so poor it was unintelligible.  The others, we were 'told' to pass (i.e. make Uni. look good especially to foreign fee paying intake).  Failed students were bad press for the Uni. when they went back home.

The point I'm making is juggling more than one major task at once can be extremely difficult.  Your time management has to be top notch and the time you dedicate to each task has to be quality time.  These students did not and their work suffered.  I also know of part-timers who found they could not juggle work, PhD and family commitments.

If your new employment is of benefit to your PhD, then I would say go ahead if you think you can manage it.  However, Many people fall by the wayside during the PhD process because they don't understand the intensity of the work that can be involved if the PhD work really takes off.

I understand from past posts that your husband has a PhD.  Ask him honestly if he would consider working full time whilst trying to still continue with a PhD.  I believe your supervisors are asking a valid question.

If you feel you can plan your time around both, give it a go.  If not, perhaps you should wait until the world of work has finished with you.  The new role seems really to have grabbed you, so ask which you want to do more.

Some manage (as others on here have testified), however, some don't.

Best of luck whatever your choice.