Car crash in slow motion - five weeks to submission


My story...

I have not had a great experience doing my PhD (which is in the arts). Fanastic supervision and a good topic but I have really struggled with the work. I have not been happy with anything I have written and have had a whole year out due to illness and phd-related depression.

I now have five weeks until I have to submit or I walk away with nothing.
I have no introduction, no conclusion.
All of my chapters have been through several drafts (seen by my sup) but they all still have gaps.
Chapters 1 and 2 have minor gaps and I need to write conclusions for them.
Chapter 3 has some more major gaps - a few sections where there are notes instead of fully written up text and one section which needs redrafting.
Chapter 4 trails off into nothing - I haven't written the final section at all and some sections need redrafting.
Chapter 5 which I am working on at the moment needs significant redrafting throughout.
My supervisor wants to see the whole thing by the end of next week (four weeks to submission). This is not possible given the amount I have to do. I will have to send her what I have I guess, but there is no way it will all be done by then.
I will then have proofreading, footnotes, bibliography, and my abstract to do as well as formatting and responding to any further comments from her in the final 2-3 weeks + whatever I don't get done by the end of next week.

What am I going to do? I have spent too long on this (5 years) and created so much trouble for my family and friends. But now I am looking at failure. I feel like I have ruined my life and I have hurt and let down those who have supported me.
On top of this I have a full-time job. I have taken a couple of weeks off which I am just coming to the end of and then I will take a few odd days off each week but will need to work two/three days a week definitely for the remaining time.
And... keeping that job is dependent on me passing the PhD.

Any ideas for a miracle?! Anyone think this is even remotely possible? There is no possibility of any further extension - my supervisor is clear on that and my doctor said she won't support one as she is of the view I need to stop working on this thesis in order to improve my mental well-being.:-(


Hi Faye,

Yes you can do it. I was in the same situation as you 8 weeks ago, which means I submitted 3 weeks ago! If you search for 'My Final Push' you can read the diary of the last few weeks.

I had no conclusion, a not very good introduction, one main chapter to completely write from notes, one finished draft chapter, and a third which tailed off. I was also in my fifth year so knew it had to be done. Like you I have had a great supervisor but have suffered from depression and anxiety and had to deal with bereavement, marriage break-up, moving house etc etc.
I just sent my supervisor the chapters I had done and she didn't see the introduction and conclusion. I could have done a lot more proofreading and written a much better conclusion but I know I will get some corrections and realised it was better to concentrate on the really important bits as other stuff could be rectified after the viva. As long as your research is sound then you will be OK.
Can you take any more holiday from work? I'vce used up all my holiday for the year nearly, but decided the thesis was more important than having time off later in the year. I'll worry about that later.
You need to make a plan of what you need to do and try to stick to it rigidly. Look at the priorities. It's better to have an un-proofread finished chapter, than half a perfect one. Can you get friends, family or colleagues to do the proofreading while you work on the content?
Five weeks is a long time and you can do it.


Thank you so much Pam.
I can't express what it means to me for someone who has been in this situation to give me some hope, as you have done.
I am feeling quite emotional and tired at the moment but your post has renewed my drive to carry on. I'm going to keep working on the chapter I am redrafting, hoping to have the majority of it tackled by the end of tomorrow.
I will need to work on work-related things Thurs, Fri and Mon. Obviously will work on the thesis all weekend. I will have another talk with my boss and do my best to negotiate some more time away. After Monday next week it does look like a relatively light week work-wise (everyone else is on holiday).
My husband and hopefully my Dad can do some proofreading for me.
I am just trying to push the thought of failure to the back of my mind and keep going.
Thank you again.


Sorry to hear you're having a tough time of it! By the sounds of it it's not been an easy ride for you (mind you I shouldn't put PhD and easy in the same sentence really) but you do sound like you have a substantial body of a thesis there! You're so nearly there!
I'm sure those close to you don't feel like you do, even though you may think that at the moment. PhD is mentally and emotionally draining and 5 years is a lot of time to spend on something. It sounds like you've got good supervision support, so that's on your side - can you not meet with your supervisor prior to submitting to them just for a chat and update/buoy of your confidence?

Working and studying is really hard, so you have my sympathies there. Why is your job dependent on this?

Proof reading is a great idea. I'm doing psychology as my PhD and am in the second year, but have time on my hands due to ethics delays. I've proof read several of my friends theses so if you're stuck I'm willing to help out. A fresh pair of eyes always helps I find, it's certainly helped me out a lot.

Maybe split your time up into segments - do a weekly checklist (I find these helpful) to meet targets and reward yourself for the ones you meet. Even if it's really little stuff like your favourite chocolate or a trip to the movies/watch your favourite programme. You still need to have some down-time.

Hope this helps


Hi Faye,

I don't usually reply to posts but when I read yours I felt compelled to let you know that I am in pretty much exactly the same boat as you! I am due to hand-in in about 4 weeks, and I'm struggling to keep the momentum going. I have a substantial amount to do still too, but I am taking each day as it comes and making sure I only have short-term goals. So I have a plan for the day, and I definitely reward myself every time I meet my goals. Small things like buying something online at the end of the week actually helps! I recently rewarded myself by buying some fiction books that I am planning to read after hand-in! Just try to keep going, getting small things finished really helps and you don't notice the bigger things coming together. Nearly everyone I have spoken to agrees that it all comes together at the end.

Just keep going! Good luck!


Thank you for your replies Heather and Ng.
I am not optimistic at the moment. I am losing more and more hours each week because I just start crying and can't open the document I need to work on, let alone write anything. I am already on antidepressants and seeing a counsellor and my supervisor is aware of my problems. I don't know what else I can do. As I have said there is no further possibility of extension.
Any ideas for how to work through the tears would be gratefully received.:-( Every day I lose to these waves of sadness just makes things even harder. I am at my wit's end.


======= Date Modified 30 Aug 2012 11:02:21 =======
Hi Faye

I think it's important to remember that PhD submission does not have to see the PhD in its 'perfect' final form, as long as you have a reasonable draft of each chapter present. Yes of course it's great if it is completely finished, but if you are obviously working at a PhD standard then they are very likely to pass the PhD with minor corrections or ask for a resubmission. Either way you have not then broken the final submission deadline of the university. Even if your final chapter is a little weak, if the rest of the PhD looks reasonable it is still very likely to pass subject to corrections. You are obviously a reasonably good PhD student as you have already obtained a job related to academia that you require a PhD for - so the recruiter obviously had confidence in your academic abilities. I'm sure the examiners will too.

The other point is that, if your doctor signs you off completely from work/study due to health problems, the university will be forced to extend your deadline regardless. It would be very surprising if they didn't. This obviously depends how bad the depression/any other health problems are.


======= Date Modified 03 Sep 2012 10:51:51 =======
Faye, I hope you're okay.
I have a few weeks til submission and feel like I have a lot to do too. Let us know how youre' doing
*internet hugs*


Hello Faye. You need to try and retain some objectivity and be pragmatic. I know it's easy for me to say and may seem impossible for you to do (can't see the wood for the trees etc) but listen up. You have nearly a draft of a full thesis by the sounds of it. Forget about your supervisors request for a complete polished draft and think about breaking down the task. Conclusions and summaries need only be short, perhaps a few pages, and can be written in a matter of days; keep the writing concise and to the point. In terms of redrafting sections, do only what is the bare minimum that your supervisor asks of you and ask him/her to be clear and help you prioritise what is most important that needs changing. If there is a whole chapter or section missing at this stage, concentrate on writing up these *now* and send your drafts directly to your supervisor for feedback (and make sure they get back to you quickly). Ask a trusted friend/partner to proofread and find spellings/typos in each chapter in the meantime, as you finish them. Don't panic about footnotes and bibliography - you could do this in one day if you really have to. There is no point in not submitting anything, as you have nothing to lose in submitting something (if you know what I mean!). Lose the idea of having a brilliant thesis you're happy with, and consider it instead as a 'working article' that your examiners will help you improve. By the way, I am a postdoc now but had to panic write before my final deadline too. I wrote up my final discussion chapter in 5 days and did my proofreading/bibliography overnight before I submitted. But passed with minor corrections :) You can do it, don't give up!!


======= Date Modified 27 Sep 2012 10:22:33 =======
============= Edited by a Moderator =============
======= Date Modified 26 Sep 2012 09:43:09 =======


Can barely see to type so sorry if this is incoherent...
Have to submit on Friday. I'll post the whole story up to this point another time.
Problem right now is I have frozen. Just shaking and crying and staring at the screen not able to type.
I have left to do:
Title page
Finish formatting figures
List of figures
Contents page
Footnotes - checking and filling in for whole thesis
Go to library to get books to finish footnotes (library is 2 hours away)
Finish introduction
Add paragraph to conclusion
Finish editing chapter 4
Chapter 4 conclusion
Add paragraph to chapter 2
Put whole thing together and check formatting
Get it printed and bound

I keep hyperventilating and sobbing when I look at this list.
Any thoughts on how to calm down?


It's amazing what you can do in a short time. In your post you produced a 'tick list' of things you need to do. Starting doing them and ticking them off. You can make it happen.

Good luck!


Hi there,
Just a quick suggestion which may save you some valuable time:
I found that google actually has quite a few online books now which can allow you to type the quote and will give you the page number - if this is what you need. Alternatively, you can google the quote and see if any previous publications have referenced it. Also, does your library catalogue give you access to online books?

Also, look back to your original post and see how much you have achieved in a short space of time. You are very almost there!!!!!!

Hope this helps :-)


You've done fantastically well. I know you must be exhausted but you're so close to finishing.

Are there any tasks you can delegate to someone you trust (e.g. arranging for printing, putting together a list of figures) so that you can focus on the bits that must be done by you?

Don't forget, almost every submitted thesis contains some errors, so if those last few things are not quite perfect, don't panic. There will be opportunities to correct them later.

Good luck:-)


======= Date Modified 27 Sep 2012 10:20:07 =======
============= Edited by a Moderator =============