Diary of a contiuation year


I decided to start a thread about my experiences in a forth year. I hope it's of interest to any one esle who is going into continuation. I'd also be interested in hearing other people's experiences of their continuation, or writing up, if you want to add them.

A year ago I entered the next stage of my PhD journey. Three years were over, technically I should be finished but I was heading into a continuation year for my PhD. Armed with my chapter layout and time line to completion all I had to do was write my thesis. Not to hard right? Well by the end of September I was already behind on my timeline. I was supposed to have finished at least one chapter but in reality the word count was zero. But ho hum!
Autumn came and I tied up the last few loose ends of data collection. I finally divided my main research group into subgroups which made the results more interesting, and then analysis, analysis and a bit more analysis. I can play with SPSS til the cows come home! But writing slipped onto the back burner. Winter came and I started avoiding my lead supervisor, (in so much as you can avoid someone who you never see!) I knew he’d ask how much I’d written, so I avoided arranging meetings about things I really needed to discuss. In return he didn’t contact me either.
March arrived. This was where my timeline to completion ended. I was supposed to submit at the end of March, but instead I still did not have a completed draft of a single chapter (oops). Sometime around then I went to a party where I remember chatting to another final year PhDer who looked horrified when I mentioned how many words I actually had written. We were both aiming for September 30th and he had a LOT more done. Cue panicking slightly! With April and May I finally got some momentum with writing. I spent a week at a conference in Montreal and mostly hid in my hotel room with my laptop trying desperately to finish chapter 3. Finally I sent the first two completed drafts to my supervisors at the end of May. Four months and six chapters to go. I nervously waited for feedback, I thought the chapters were ok but my supervisors had not previously seen anything I’d written (oops again!). If they felt they needed a lot more work I was never going to finish on time, but comments came back with minimal changes needed. Phew.
I’d hoped to get the next two chapters off by the end of June, instead they were finished mid July. Six weeks for two chapters, and with 10 weeks to go I still had four more to do. Cue a few sleepless nights. Was I going to finish in time? Thankfully supervisors were pretty happy with these two chapters too. End of July I had a great day of productivity. 3000 words in 10 minutes through the power of cut-and-paste from my upgrade report. Pleased to finally able to make use of previous work! Through August I plodded on and cursed the stupid decision to move house six weeks before submission (if anyone is ever in this position – don’t move during this time is all I can say!



Into September and I finally wrote my introduction and chapter 6 of 8. I realised what I’d actually been doing for four years, and also what I should have been doing instead! With a few weeks to go I still had to finish my penultimate chapter (which had been started in July with my cut-and-paste special but had dragged on with another analysis that my time line to completion claimed would be done in September 2010!). On another good day I managed to redraft three chapters in an evening. I spent my procrastination time making an abbreviations list, my list of tables, list of figures and I wrote my acknowledgements in the bath!
Two weeks to go and I tackled the general discussion. Productivity hit an all time high. The penultimate chapter was finally done and the general discussion was written in 2-3 days. A week to go and I still had so much to do. September 30th was looking doable but there were appendices to sort out the abstract to finalise and the last of the redrafting. Thankfully references and formatting had been done as I went along and for once Word helped out and didn’t go crazy when I put everything into one document.
Final week and it all came together. My final document was finished, printed and bound. I sat the night before submission drafting this and thinking over the year gone by. If I could do it again I’d have got on with the writing sooner. I don’t know why I had such as block on just getting on with it. I was able to let it drag on because I got funding for another six months. In many ways this helped. But in many ways, without the financial incentive to get on with it, it was easy to let things drag and I spent far too many days putting the writing off for tomorrow. I’m reasonably happy with the final thesis but I do feel it was all very rushed at the end.
Good luck anyone entering into a final year.


Very enjoyable read, thank you for posting this! Well done on that dramatic race to the finish, I think in the end everyone has differing motivations they require to actually finish. I'm sure a holiday is well deserved (up)


This is so bizarre....
I joined this forum around the same time as you, under a different name and I recognize you ;). I have struggled my way through this PhD with more than life could ever throw at one person. Here, I sit, in my 4th continuation year, thesis due 31/01/12 with no idea how I am going to do it.
I signed up under a new name, too embarrassed to even admit I 'failed' to do it in 3 years...now, I am at the desperate stage of getting this horrible thing written up. I am not sleeping at night, I am stressed ALL the time and just want to throw in the towel. I am only doing it for my very patient family. It was good to read that I am not the only one who has ended up fiddling for months and months with SPSS when I should have been writing, had the 'theme' of my PhD changed so many times, I can not remember and now, I am expected to produce publication standard writing and I feel like I write like a 10 year old. Who knows if I am going to finish, I am not sure why I have joined this forum again but I think I was really just looking for someone who has found it really hard, during that last race to finish line....thank you for posting.


Interesting read Catalinbond and shows how different [or similar] it is for people. My write up was totally different to yours in that I wrote fairly steadily but once I got to the editing stage it all went downhill, rapidly :-(

Hang in there Seratonin (whoever you are!!). Keep checking into the forum for support if you need it and the knowledge that you're not alone. If it's any comfort I feel that I have morphed from a not too bad writer to one that is complete rubbish. If you're writing like a 10 year old, I'm more like an 8 year old.

Keep with it (up)