9 months left and feel I can't complete


My PhD is due in almost exactly 9 months, and I have suddenly gotten nervous about whether I have time to finish it.

I have been working on this part time (VERY part time) for 8 years. I have a full time job, small children and other commitments.

My work is in the social science area. I have written two book chapters – each of these will be form the basis of my literature review. One of these needs only a little updating. The other is a little short and will need to be extended by 4,000 or 5,000 words.

I probably have about half of my methodology chapter written in draft form, but it needs a lot of work.

I have collected my data and prepared it for analysis, but I am not good at quantitative analysis. I have hired a statistical consultant to guide me through the final steps of the process, but this has not been completed yet. It might happen that there are fundamental flaws with my data, in which case I’ll be in real trouble.

So, in 9 months, I have to write an introduction, extend one chapter of literature, pull my methodology together, write up my results (and I’ve no idea how to do that) and write the conclusions.

Sometimes I think it’s very achievable. But other times I feel like quitting because I just think that it cannot be done.

I have about 30,000 words written of variable quality and in various stages of completion. My maximum word limit is 80,000 but my supervisor recommends producing less than that in order to make life easier for the examiners. Can this be done? A part of me would love to be able to find some way of getting an extension, but another part of me knows that even if I had another 5 years I’d still be working on it for that time – I’d just take my foot off the pedal. I really need a deadline to get myself focussed.

Any advice?


Hi Galgani, I'm also in the same situation as you. I have about 11 months left for me to finish writing up my thesis. I have roughly 40K words, in short chapters, but they are still disorganised. I think you already have a positive start because you have written two chapters, only you need to edit them here and there to fit in your thesis. Since I am also not good in statistic matters, I would have done the same like what you did and get someone to help with the data and such. Why don't you give yourself like, monthly deadlines to properly finish a chapter, that sort of thing ? I am also giving myself deadlines to tie up certain chapters. Hope that helps.


Hi Galgani!

I am at exactly the same stage with 9 months left, and I think that it is perfectly do-able. I even think that I have enough time to publish a couple of papers and go on holidays!

I am also struggling with statistics, but I keep positive, I do the descriptive analysis and organise my data, that it is quite easy to do and time consuming. I hope I will get some help later with the more complicated stuff. Good luck !!!

Avatar for Pjlu

Hi Galgani,

Can you take any leave from your workplace-even say four weeks to give you a good run at analysing data and writing up analysis. It might give you that head start you need. It really is hard working full-time, managing your family (esp. when children are young and really need lots of attention) and completing a PhD. But it isn't impossible. However, what might be helpful, is realising that while you can do what you have to in 9 months, lightening your current load in some way will help you to do this. Do you have kind parents who can help with children...look after them some weekends, etc?

Again, just for this final year (or almost) it might be time to have a look at all of the supports and strategies you can legitimately muster together and put them into place so that you have a run of time (even if this is periodic rather than sustained) to get some major tasks completed. And it isn't as if this is forever...it will be over by the end of the year.
Best wishes, P.


Hi everyone,

Galgani - I am at a similar stage to you although I don't have children. I am in the full time job though where lately, I have had to bring a lot of work home with me so my evenings have been taken up with that.

I need to submit by the end of September and although I have a lot in note form, I only have two chapters written in their entirety. I am simply struggling to find time to sit and write - and when I do have a block of time, I sit there thinking about all the things I need to do rather than just getting on with it!

I still hope to submit on time although there are days when I am not quite sure it will get finished. My supervisor has mentioned applying for an extension but I want to avoid this if possible - I think, like you, that it would not necessarily improve my productivity, I would just procrastinate for an extended period!

At the moment, I am just trying to think positive - each day is a new day so if one day is not productive, the next one might be!

I also thought along the same lins as Pjlu and I have booked some days leave from work so hopefully that will kickstart my writing...

Good luck with it though and keep us updated on here - it will be good to see how we all progress as the year goes on



Hang in there guys! You can do it!!!

I have less than 5 months to finish, but I can relate on the feeling of panic and anxiety over not being able to get it done on time! Let me tell you - that feeling doesn't disappear as time goes by - we just have to accept it each day and make the most of each day as they come... it's somehow been the only way that I've been able to get things done in the past, and they do get done!

Also if you haven't done so already, make sure you get all the support you need - sit down with your family and friends, if you can't then pick up the phone - everybody important in your life, not just your supervisors should know so they know what you're going through and be supportive of you - even if it means telling your friends that you will be on social hiatus while you focus on your research. I personally found it very motivating to know that everybody around me understands my situation and not find any more reasons to procrastinate while feeling guilty that you're not working on your thesis or that you're not spending more time with friends and family. You'll have hard days and good days, but they come and go and just take each day as it comes - make the most of it. Think about why you're doing this, and remember how excited we all were on the first day we started our phd... it's a long-term investment in exchange for an intense period of work up front.



I've seen people finish their masters thesis in 1 month after much deliberation and anxiety over choosing the right research topic. Of course PhD is a different game, but to an extent it is about having the right mindset rather than setting out to complete your phd in an artificially induced deadlines like clockwork. Some people take longer than others, but it says nothing about the individual's intelligence or skills. Life takes over, and $h!7 happens! So we move on... but we're all here because we love what we do...

How do you go about eating an elephant? One piece at a time ;)



Thanks to those who replied to my original message.

5 weeks ago I wrote about my panic at finishing the PhD with 9 months left. Since then I have gone through a roller coaster of emotions. I guess it comes with the territory! I have had periods of busy paid work when I haven't had time to even think about the thesis, and other times of intense work on the thesis.

During these periods of intense work I have managed to write 10,000+ words. There were days when I had great concentration and could write 1,400 words per day. It's not of finished quality, but it's not awful either.

My problem is that these successful runs are rare because my work and family distract, and it is hard to have a very long run of days of work.

I now have slightly more than seven and a half months to complete, and am now in one of those phases where I think that I will not be able to finish it. This may well be irrational, but there you go.

I do not depend on external funding, so that is not where my pressure comes from. The problem is my university. As far as they are concerned, my deadline is at the end of October. However, they can grant an extension of up to one year, or a leave of absence, in "exceptional circumstances".

Does anybody know how British universities define "exceptional circumstances"? Are they real, certified medical problems, or is it possible to get a leave of absence because of professional work pressures?


Hi Galgani,

I have been having the same anxieties and have looked into getting an extension as I am now working full time and am struggling to find the time to work on it. I have been told categorically that I will not get an extension due to work commitments elsewhere - the only way I can get an extension is for medical reasons, bereavement or some other unforeseeable disaster.

This has given me a bit of a shake up as I always thought an extension was there in the background if required. Now I know its not, I'm slightly panicked. I have put together a diary projecting the next 6 months to my hand in date and have blocked out weekends which I have to dedicate to writing up if I have a hope in hell of finishing. Putting it on paper makes it seem like no time at all but my supervisor seems to have faith in me and hopefully my organisational skills will work in my favour.

Every university is different so I would have a look at extension possibilities - although don't leave it until the last minute as apparently, if you do, you are more likely to be declined (one of my friend's who works for a different university mentioned this to me).

Perhaps we can keep each other going over the next few months? I know I will need the moral support to get through it! Good luck and positive thinking :-)


its so doable. i wrote my entire thesis in 5 months after a horrendous viva. that included doing reading for the literature review. if you put your mind to it, you can have a draft in 3 months. once you have a complete draft, editing is a walk in the park.

my advice is:

1) find a way to shelve your other commitments - can you get a nanny? take time off your fulltime job if you really want this phd - even if its for the initial 3 months when you need a draft.

2) believe in yourself. you're the only one in the world who can deal with your data. am much as you want to hire someone, they should be there to supplement what you are already doing. not to replace you. no one was born knowing anything. they all learnt it. :)

best of luck,

Dr. Jojo

Avatar for Eska

Thank you Jojo, that's just what I needed to hear! X


Hear, hear.

It's quite inspiring to hear from someone who's done a complete rewrite in less than 5 months!

I think a lot of us get caught up in the moment in a roller coaster of emotions that skew our own perception of how much work we've actually done! Staying positive and believing in your work and your ability to do it - once you've got your data, then it's just a matter of finding your voice to tell the story because you've done it!

Keep it up everyone!


Hello, I'm in the same situation. I have 10 month and 2 weeks to finish and I'm pregnant with twins in 3ed month. I'm almost done with writing the first draft. But it needs a lot of work, some part I wrote more than three years ago. Furthermore, my mother language is not English so I need some body to edit it. I don't work so I have all the day to work on my thesis. But I cannot concentrate at all. I really don't know if I could do it :(


hi guys.. am sure you'll all be fine: only believe.

i've been there.. a year on am still recovering... but looking back it was all worth it.

i found that overcoming self was the way i got through writing up. i depended on will power. not how i felt. i realised that i needed to finish this phd and move on.

it was hard.. but it came to an end - and successfully.

you'll be surprised by what you can achieve if only you believe in yourself.

hang in there. xxx

Avatar for mhmd

Hello all.

I'm probably the worst person to comment here because I'm still looking for a program to get a PhD. However I've been in similar situations and I believe in one great approach proposed by a great wise man 1400 years ago.

It says: << Little but sustained, better than a lot but bored off >>

If you could manage to write every single day just 500 words (that is a little bit more than one page) then you would have after 5 month 75,000 words and 4 month left to revise and correct.Now if you in a given day can write more than 500, that is great. If not, force yourself to write just 500.

Of course it is not how things work, because quality and correctness is needed, but the most important thing is that you keep a principle until you finish: never stop writing, even if you just write a few sentences, even if one word only. The most important thing is that you never stop writing.

In one book I'm reading about writing methodology for PhD and Masters and the author says the same: never stop writing, even if it is only notes or ideas.

This way you keep yourself motivated and keeping a promise you have made to yourself: never stop writing. A lot about research is self motivation. You've done a great job, given your kids and job. You've got it all to finish. So keep writing :)!