Do I really want a PhD?


It sounds really absurd but I have a really big problem. All my friends and family think that I can do the PhD and that I will be successful but I am worried and anxious that I cannot do it. I have a lot of degrees and studied a lot but I always had an aim and knew that I will reach my goals. With the PhD I am not sure and very lonely because no one including me understand my fear. I feel like fallen into a big whole. I started with my PhD 4 months ago and everything is fine my supervisors are wonderful and very helpful the uni is great but even though I know my main topic, I am still trying to find my research problem and question.
Are these things normal for a PhD student, who just started? I feel lost :-(


Hi Marry! Well, I don't think any of us can tell you whether you really want a PhD or not, but what you describe sounds fairly normal for someone who has just started! Are you worried because you don't want to do it, or is it that you do want to do it but are worried that it might be too hard? If you do want to do it, then you will be fine- it can take a while to get into a PhD and sort out exactly what you are doing and why. Have a look round the forum- you will find that lots of people worry about these things to start with, but soon get into the swing of it! And it sounds like you are happy with your supervisors and university- that's really important so it's a good sign that you will be okay. Have you moved to a different university or different city? Tell us a bit more about you! KB


Hi Marry,

All sounds normal to me! I recall sitting in a class with a group of other PhD students & thinking I was surrounded by such smart people, what on earth was I doing in amongst them? One of the other students, after presenting a terribly clever sounding paper on his early research, said he kept thinking he'd be taken aside in the cathedral, on graduation day, & told there'd been a big mistake & he shouldn't be there.

A fab supervisor is worth a lot - you only have to read some of the posts to realise they're not all good.

Good luck & remember they wouldn't have taken you on if they didn't think you could do it. I have to tell myself this each day!!

Happy Christmas, Mog


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Hi Marry,

I started my PhD in Oct 09 and what you describe is "better" than normal from what more experienced PhD students tell me. It does sound like you have a supportive structure around you to help you achieve you goals (uni, supervisor, etc), so thats brill!

The best piece advice I have had is "start writing", it really works! I was really confused a month ago, and this really helped me. Even if you start writing "I don't know what I am doing", this starts to get you thinking and using that wonderful brain you have that got you where you are now.

Also, I am still working through what area I am working on and what problems I will look to focus on and solve, so you are not alone on that one :-)

Take care and all the best