Approaching deadline to submit the manuscript of my thesis and feeling overwhelmed


Hi everyone,

I'm a Ph.D. student in humanities in my 5th year, and my supervisors decided to set the date of my viva even though I still have several chapters to write (actually a little more than a half of my Ph.D.). To make a long story short I'm overdue and it doesn't look good to ask for one more year, not mentioning the fact that I've ran out of funds and will soon be short of money. I'm making slow progress and I'm really starting to panick, as the deadline is in 2 months and a half, and it has taken me so much time to write the first chapters. I'm even thinking about quitting, even though my supervisors said they were very happy with my work so far and that it even exceeded their expectations.

Aside from the fact that I feel the time I've got to complete the manuscript is way too short, I also lack motivation because although I'm passionate about the theoretical aspect of the research, I need to present a creative part which to me is a complete failure, I didn't have all the skills to develop the creative project properly and it really is a mess of tentative sketches. I appreciate many things about research and of course it would be a shame to stop now, but I've been super anxious throughout my Ph.D., have brooded a lot over not being able to work more efficiently, and then there's also the fact that I don't want to pursue a career in academia. I've got mixed feeling about my topic and I've thought about quitting a lot before, my supervisors know I'm feeling overwhelmed but seem to think there's no other choice than just getting it done as quickly as possible, and they claim I'm able to do it. I also have a supportive community of Ph.D. friends around, so I'm not isolated. I'm just going through a very tough time, I feel more paralyzed than challenged by the situation which I've described, and I find super hard to either make the decision to quit or find a strategy to finish, I'm going through some sort of denial. My fears are pushing me toward quitting but I feel it would be lame to give up now. I've known my main supervisor since my Masters, he's helped me getting a fund to do this Ph.D., and although at the end of the day it should be about me, quitting would really feel like a huge betrayal.

I'd have liked to know whether anyone could relate or think about a similar situation that could help me see things more clearly, thank you for reading my post.

Avatar for rewt

Hi Andraste,

I am sorry I missed your missed your post earlier.
I went through something similar for my Master's dissertation, where I wrote most of it in just under two weeks with minimal sleep. Similarly, I had the data but kept putting off writing, which made me feel overwhelmed, so I would delay writing even more. To be honest, it was quite rough but I got a decent grade despite scoring a zero for my conclusion (even I couldn't understand my sleep deprived conclusions). Though I feel kinda lucky that I had that issue then and could learn from it for my PhD.

Since then, I am still a procrastinator with writing issues but I have learned how to manage some of my issues. The biggest things that helps me is to write a structure and not edit my work until I have a draft of everything. As I find that once I have a rough draft of everything, the overwhelming feeling drops a little bit and I can prioritize my work better. Mainly because I think the overwhelming feeling is more a fear of failure and perfectionism. So I try to get past the overwhelming phase by producing the bare minimum I think I need to submit and tell myself the good bits will compensate for the bad bits, but crucially I know I can submit. After that I can focus on improving individual areas instead of the daunting challenge of writing several chapters. Though that is what worked for me and you will probably be different.

Writing a PhD thesis is probably the most academically challenging pieces of work you will ever face. A PhD would not be worth it if wasn't hard. So don't give up now when you are the final hurdle it (allegedly) gets easier afterwards.


Hi rewt! Thanks for your feedback, I really appreciate it. I had the same problem with my Masters dissertation (although it took me two months rather than two weeks--which is really impressive), I definitely tried to organize better for my Ph.D. thesis and well, it became a maze anyway.

I guess the fear of failure/perfectionism point is on spot. One of my two Ph.D supervisors advised me to do just that, write a whole imperfect draft first, and then edit it. I really get the point, but I struggle to do that as my outline is not clear enough (I guess). There's something very different to what we call "results" in different disciplines, and in arts/humanities it's not "hard" data, rather a mix of ideas, analysis and in my case it also includes feedback on a creative process. Anyway, I guess I just need to forget about the stress and take it one day at a time as we all need to do...


Hi! I don't know if you're already over it, or if you're still struggling but I think we all struggle with writing and once I talked about it with my therapist and she said something quite interesting that it helped, so maybe it can help you.
She told me that when we're in the process of writing and we can't actively write the words, deep in our brain we're working on our ideas. Therapists call that "contemplation time" which is defined as that period of time when you think you're not really doing anything, but your brain is working and when it's ready you'll be able to put all those ideas and thoughs into words. In my case it helped to relieve my guilt of sometimes going on for days without writing a single word.
Writing is a process and academia is hard enough without it - and without us feeling guilty and blaming ourselves for absolutely everything. When we let go of that guilt and that need to be working all the time is when our brains become free to do what it needs to do.
I hope this gives you some peace of mind and that you have been able to finish your thesis :)


Hello, I clearly understand your situation. Although the deadline is in 2 months a half, kindly do not panic. Try to work faster and seek required help to complete all chapters on time. Don not think about quitting. Focus on the completing the thesis and work closely with your supervisors. Everything will be Okay, Andraste.


Hi Ann Inbox for tips that helped me during my journey-- it was tough but it definately helped.


I can imagine that feels really overwhelming! Does your university have either a counselling service or a study skills centre? They can be really useful in helping you step back, see the bigger picture, and make a plan to meet your writing goals and look after your wellbeing at the same time.


Hello, I can help