A year into my part-time PhD I discovered another student at a nearby university doing an extremely closely related topic. We met and discussed how our approaches differed. In the end his topic actually moved even closer to mine, and obviously he submitted years before me. But my supervisor reassured me that this was ok. My approach was still valid, there were still major differences between our PhDs. Also even if we had done almost exactly the same work that would be ok too: two different analyses of the same source data. So don't panic. It will be ok. I'd speak to your supervisor about it though. They should be able to reassure you and offer a sensible plan.
At the end of my second year a book was published in my field on ostensibly the same topic. The books was so new and I was strongly recommended that I read it ASAP. It was not available as a ILL or in the UL so I had to (insult to injury) pay 40 pounds for it. I read it and spent a night crying in the boyfriend's arms because I felt like my thesis was over. Over a few days I did a detailed list, actually quite mechanically, with columns, listing "same", "not done well", and "different", and "cra*". Unfortunately for me a big case study I had been working on I had to scrap. Fortunately there was a lot different and enough to crack on with. I don't even think about it anymore, and a year later reading the book again, we approach things from a completely different angle.
So, now it feels disastarous, but you can get over it. Just be willing to dry the eyes and ditch parts, but be willing to work on others. You might even find that reading something so close to your own work helps you really refine what it is that you are actually doing....
good luck (sprout)
This issue is a b*tch, but a very common problem. When I started my PhD my area was very novel, but it was also suddenly very topical. Within two years, there were two books, a major conference, and two students in other countries producing doctorates with virtually the same title as my thesis. This work has covered all bases and left very little of my work original. BUT! as long as you move the subject-matter along in some way, then it's okay. Remember what a doctorate is about: an original *contribution* to the knowledge of the field. (not a wholly original topic/subect-matter).
I was speaking to an Australian prof. about this problem, and he very quickly assured me that often it can be an advantage rather than a hinderance. Eg. you suddenly see the holes in your own research.
I've simply spun my research a little differently and focused heavily on the lesser discussed issues. I've also kept a distance from the research produced, so as to avoid duplication of ideas or similar wording.
I suggest you speak to your supervisor and get him/her to 'okay' the similarity in research.
Thank you for all your replies. I can see where my research is novel compared to the other PhD but what 'wobbled' me was how good their writing style was. Mine just seems rubbish in comparison.
Sorry to have a moan - having a bad day today (sprout)
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Don't worry scotchegg, we all have our moany and wobbly days, it's a big part of what the forum is for :-) And I agree with bilbo, I think we're always so much more critical when reading our own work, it's impossible to be truly objective. I for one can barely stand to read what I've written as it just seems so awkward and trite on every occassion! It's like watching yourself on camera, everyone squirms but it doesn't mean there's actually anything wrong with it.
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