Deadline is this summer - let's do it together!


Dunni and Pink_Numbers both your layouts are different to mine but you say Dunni, all the disciplines have different expectations.

Mine is very traditional:
Chapter One: intro, movtivation and rationale for project, context setting, ontology and epistemology, uniqueness of my approach (!!) and research questions
Chapter Two: conceptual framework leading to my lit review
Chapter Three: methodolgical approach and method choices
Chapter Four: findings / analysis 1
Chapter Five: Fingings / analysis 2
Chapter Six: Conclusion, drawing it all together.

Read Fay Weldon in back of the Sunday Times magazine ('A life in the day') where she says that she does all new writing in the morning as that side of the brain works best then and all editing etc in the afternoon. Think I will try that approach.


It is very interesting to see all of the different layout styles and I am sure they are all correct!  I think you need to go with the general style of your discipline and with 'what fits' as the content will undoubtedly impact on layout style. Supervisors should have an influence on what has been set as a precedent before and passed of course!

Ady - I would love to try Fay Weldons approach but based on the fact that I only get one afternoon a week and evenings for writing/editing, I am doomed ;-)  Let us know if it makes a difference. My motivation is much better in the morning but my time-management is not compatible lol.  I can imagine that after a nights sleep of postulating new information the morning is a better time to capitalise on any new ideas that come up. I do find that a quiet child-free shower is an excellent time for these little queries to pop into my head  :$ Its probably best not to divulge that one to my examiners in the viva......:p


Hi everyone. My phd is on a legal problem and my structure is similar to Ady's. I have:

Chapter 1 lit review
Chapter 2 what I think the problem is
Chapter 3 methodology
Chapter 4 data collection and findings
Chapter 5 data analysis 1
Chapter 6 data analysis 2
Chapter 7 conclusions and recommendations

When I'm in wrting mode I don't let myself stop each day until I have done 500 words. It does'nt matter if it is 500 words of rubbish, because I can always cut it out, but at least it makes me feel I have done something.

I find sitting in the car on the school run a good time to think about things - although one person told me when I began that it was important to have 'reflection' time and so I don't feel guilty now when I just sit!


I'm so glad so many people have joined, reading all your achievements really motivates me to stay on track. Thank you also for those of you that has shared their thesis structure, it has really helped me think through my chapters for my own thesis.

Dunni, I do find being driven around (because I'm too scared to drive and zone out at the same time), and having a bath great for getting my thoughts together.

Ady, I too would love to try the Weldon method, but I am utterly useless in the mornings! I'ma typical programmer, a night owl. Please do let us know how you get on with it though, as it is facinating.

Patience, I have a daily writing goal too. I agree with you that just getting to that goal makes me feel like I haven't wasted my day... but then I come on here and read how much more work other people have done and I have a minor panic... ;)


Hey there everyone! What a fab thread. In an all-too often moment of 'aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah', i googled "phd how to get motivated", and came up trumps with this. Having procrastinated from my current chapter-3 hell for a good half an hour reading the whole thread, i now feel ready to try and focus again...

My name's Vi, and I'm a last-minute PhD student. Pink - my deadline is 1st July!! Have been through Denial, now firmly in Panic but really need to push on through to 24-hour Workoholic stage ... ;)

I'm a little bit behind, and I'm also getting married in early September and i'm a whole heap of panic-ridden shoddiness at the moment! However, on the bright side my thesis only has to be 50,000 (yey) and, well, it just has to get done doesn't it!!

So I'm here to also offer any advice I fact in searching for tips on how to stay focussed when writing a reeeeeally hard chapter I came across this little gem:

Good luck peeps, keep going and remember: every minute you work now, is a minute closer to the finish line!

over and out,


Hi Vi, welcome to the thread :) wow, thesis hand in in 1st July then getting married in Septmeber? You have a very full year this year! It sounds so exciting!

Thank you for the link, it was an interesting read. I read elsewhere (lifehacker I think) about working standing up... has anyone tried this? I'm farrrrr too lazy to even contemplate working standing up all day, ha ha ha.

I have a confession to make, I actually do most of my work in my bedroom. Am I weird? It's the only place the cats will let me work without meowing me to death for attention. I do do what the article says - to move around, and I have may positions in my bedroom (;)) to write.


Eeerm, yeah not sure about that whole working-standing-up thing! But bedroom working is totally where it's at: I wrote my whole master's year in my bedroom and got the best marks i've ever had!!

One thing i do find really helps, especially when i'm getting stuck, is to treat myself to a working 'day out' 8-) I find a beautiful library, or a great cafe, and sit there for a day treating myself to coffees/teas (ok and may be a pain au chocolat) - and it works like a dream. I veto laptop use, so force myself to write on paper...maybe the lack of internet distractions helps (ahem) :$

What subject are you reading Pink? Was looking through the chapter layouts (mine changes about once a month at the moment), so interesting how people lay theirs out. I'm doing a thesis on how to evaluate medical tests (epidemiology/public health) and this is what i've got at the mo:

Chapter 1: General Intro: definitions of diagnosis, outlining importance of the field of enquiry, summary of previous work and emphasising the hole in current research that i aim to fill. ends in a thesis orientation.

Chapter 2: General methods

Chapter 3: Characterising my 'data set' (equivalent to 'materials')

Chapter 4: Analysis of methodological quality of my data set (this has a separate methods, results, discussion)

Chapter 5: Small mini-project on trying to estimate the total number of studies on tests that have been published

Chapter 6: Review of theoretical frameworks (methods, results, discussion)

Chapter 7: Development of a new comprehensive (yeah right!) theoretical frameowrk

Chapter 8: Application of my framework to a case-study

Chapter 9: Discussion

Just writing it down is panicking me! But it's interesting, and exciting to think that when it's finished i'll have produced this massive thesis :-)

Well, so i tell myself ;) just hope it doesn't get totalled in the viva (eek!)

Good luck with the work - and try the cafe idea, it really works.


Hi July, I think I should take my laptop to the bedroom given your excellent results, not sure hubby will be overly impressed :p Your thesis structure looks good, v. interesting too. From this point I broke mine down into the chapter subheadings with a brief precie of the contents. Things got changed a little but not too much from my planned structure.

I have just checked and have about 12 weeks to my planned submission, wimper! I have got to finish:
1. annotating (cut and paste) and inserting about 40 graphs.
2. compiling and inserting my abbreiations list.
3. updating the contents page with graph titles and page numbers.
4. writing my acknowledgements page.

I think this is all that is left. Once done I shall send it electronically to all supervisors for final comments. I shall destroy another tree and get it printed as a 'final' proof for me to read (as long as I can keep the babies from colouring it in!). Wow, how long will my sups take to read it I wonder? OMG what if they come back with some extra or major revisions/questions?

Oh well, will it be submitted by my birthday in May? I hope so cos I would love to go out and celebrate ;-)


I think the biggest distraction is the internet.
I have to stay online to actually work and it is so tempting to access all sorts of sites - from shopping to entertainment to sites like this.
Sometimes I use my laptop in front of the tv in the evenings and do even less work. If I''m doing something a bit boring I will definitely go on the internet instead of carrying on.


Hi All

I mentioned to Dunni I was at talk on CVs and cover letters given by two profs, both directors of research institutes y'day. Many of us here are likely to be applying for postdocs, res assistants or jnr lectureships so thought I would include what we heard here. Obviously lots of it was commonsense but good to hear their opinions of applications. Not sure if it will all fit here but if not I'll update in another post :-)

Cover letter:
-Assuming everyone applying will have PhD and teaching exp, cover letter assumes even more imp-you have to make your applic stand out.
-Address to specific person, look on website if nec.
-Flatter: state in your letter why you want to work/study at that instit / go beyond saying that you want to work there as it’s dynamic uni. Both said something like “I am familiar with the work of Dr. X and his current research on ... and feel my work on ‘y’ would compliment his”. Showing you are familiar with existing staff is impressive – do your homework on instit. Why that place, why do you want to work there?
-Re: above – now all about res clusters & communities so refer to how your work will compliment, fit in to what’s already there.
-Apply early. We queried this and one Prof. in particular said she would be unimpressed by an applic emailed mins before deadline.
-Be careful with all correspondence such as emails etc. If you’re short listed for interview normal practice is for interview panel to be given ALL correspondence from you in addition to actual application.
-Only submit teaching portfolio if actually asked. However, you can say you have one and can supply if nec.
-Strike balance between being assured and yet not cocky.
-In referring to yr current PhD, state WHY you’re doing it, WHY it’s important, don’t just give title and basic descriptor.
-Re teaching exp – not enough to state what you did but you should claim your role so “... has good pedagogic value.” Did you draw up outline, workshops etc?
-Letter not just extension of CV, it’s opportunity to act as a guide to yr career highlights.
-If on PhD scholarship, give brief description actual scholarship and something like “I was awarded scholarship as a result of an internationally competitive process”.
-Put value of scholarship down - demonstrates your value to your current org.
-For them, again assuming everybody has nec qual, how they decide is 1.Cover letter, 2. interview, 3. CV.
-If applying for particular teaching module, also refer to yr sub-disciplines of yr subject you would be happy to teach.
-Show yourself to be a catalyst, not just a journeyman!

-if referring to teaching, go beyond just module code. 1 or 2 lines. Good idea to say how many in class or lecture – demonstrates you can do small & large grp teaching.
-Partic imp in early career to flesh out details.
-Show you have been proactive member of current dept.
-List all publications, including in-house pubs, partic in early career. Shows you are interested in your dept.
-If yr results are good, state them.
-Pull out skills from other employment, teamwork, multi-tasking etc.
-2/3 lines about what the different projects you have been involved with are about.
-If stating scholarship, explain beyond just giving title of it.
-If you have published in high ranking journal, state that.
-Events – what you’ve been invited to, presented at, discussant etc.
-In early career, better to include everything.
-Re referees: 1 Prof. said not good idea to have all 3 from same instit. Consider asking your external ex for reference.
-Like cover letter think in terms of complimenting what’s already there in the place you are applying for. Show how you will fit in.

It's so competitive out there I for one need all the help I can get.


Hi All,

Looks like everyone is having a pretty good week - fantastic to see!
I've had a massive week. The new job is ace, I absolutely love it, I'm just a little sad that I still haven't finished my PhD, and that I have to do both. I was really nervous that the new job were going to tell me that I couldn't work for them because they had expected me to submit over the Christmas break, but happily they were really accepting and ok that it isn't yet in (but still pretty keen for me to finish it).

I  have achieved this weeks goal of sending the next paper to sups. I have absolutely no idea what they will think, and am really bracing myself for the worst - I have such a bad relationship with them at the moment that every email makes me anxious :-( Thankfully, it is not normally as bad as I think it is going to be, so fingers crossed that it is not a complete disaster.

I also got the proofs back for a paper that was accepted, and annoyingly all of the page numbers had dropped off so I spent about a day going through the paper word for word checking that it was all perfect before it goes to press (found 3 typos), and adding all of the pg numbers to the refs.

So this week I have to finishing marking essays (really should do that today).
Make a start on the revisions for the final paper. I think it will take me 2 weeks to revise and to be in a position to send back to sups.

Happy weekend all!(mince)


@ Ady.

Thanks very much for the post, that is so helpful. Very grateful. Hope you are successful soon ( if you're not already)

Regards, Chuff


Thats really helpful Ady, a great post. I can see where I've been going wrong now in applications.
I think it may be difficult for some people to get a good reference from someone outside their institution - finding someone who knows your work thoroughly, particularly if their ext. examiner has not been appointed yet.


======= Date Modified 30 Jan 2011 09:10:16 =======
I agree Patience re: references. I will definitely have a problem there. This is my third PhD year and I hope to finish late summer (that's why I'm part of this thread!). However I returned to college as a mature student for my primary degree, then did a master's and now a PhD so all told, I have been here eight years. Moving universities wasn't an option due to my husband's work. I'm a bit more geographically flexible now as my children are a bit older. My three references at the moment are all from my current uni. I'll have to put the thinking cap on to rustle up a viable alternative. One of the professors in particular said three from the same place would ring warning bells to him. I guess it would be obvious that you were a non-traditional candidate in your cover letter so maybe it wouldn't be quite so much an issue in the CV??? That's what I will have to bank on...


morning everyone :)

I finished drafting another chapter yesterday! phew!

I have been reading everyone's post, I also can't see how most PhD students would be able to get a ref from another institution... unless I guess you've worked as a volunteer on a conference, and just happen to get noticed by the chair person or something! I hope you find the right referees anyway.

I'm off to start a new chapter...