Drunk and a bit dispairing


Hey all. Sorry, have had a few drinks after a hard day so might ramble a bit. I know the PhD process is different for everyone, but for me it has been reasonably straightforward until now. I have written a few chapters and had them published, my sup has been impressed and seems to have built up high hopes for me. Yet now I'm on to writing up my empirical (quantitative) papers I can't seem to get anything right, and I just feel like she's really disappointed with me. It's just so much 'constructive criticism' it's hard to take. I can't work out where and why I'm going so far wrong but I just don't seem to be getting it at all. I just feel really down and it would help if we could have a proper discussion about it but she always seems to be so rushed at the moment. She is making the effort to highlight the positive aspects but it barely disguises how much I'm doing wrong. For the first time in my PhD, I'm really beginning to doubt myself and my ability as a researcher. I know this is a common experience, and there are other anxieties that are making things harder for me than normal, but it's difficult to get this far feeling reasonably okay about how I'm doing, to suddenly feel like I'm stumbling at one of the final hurdles, and stumbling badly. I don't normally drink in direct response to my problems/anxieties, but I seem to be doing this a bit more than normal right now. Any advice/similar stories would be really helpful! Cheers, KB


Hi KB,

Sorry to hear you are having a tough time just now with it all. I have had heaps of ups and downs and self doubt throughout the process and can relate to what it feels like when it seems as though none of it is going right!

Two thing I have noticed:

1. The closer I get to the end the more pedantic my supervisors seem to be. My theory is that perhaps they are pushing me more because I am getting near the end. So that may be what's going on with yours, rather than what you have written being crap.

2. I also have found that the closer I get to the end the more I have been drinking, haha. Not sure how common that is in general. Maybe someone should write a thesis on that.

I have had a lot of up and down times and it always passes. When things have gotten really bad I have emailed one of my supervisors to say it would really help to meet up for a chat and that has sorted my out as she always helps me see things more clearly.

Take care and I hope things improve soon.


Hi Keenbean, sorry to hear that you're feeling a bit rubbish about work at the moment. It's a difficult business writing papers for publication, more so when your supervisor happens to be very well published and to have extremely high expectations of you. Just remember that you're an apprentice, learning the whole process of research. You already have papers published and this speaks volumes about your ability - you have the capacity. I can't see why your supervisor is going to be really disappointed with you. It might seem like you are making lots of mistakes (I did, with my first paper), but if it's something you've never really done before then it's bound to happen while you find your feet. All you can do is look at the feedback she gives you and take from there, build on it. For one paper that I wrote, and I had no idea how to do it, I looked at the styles of papers that were similar to my subject area and tried to emulate their format. It proved to be a successful way of learning how to write the paper in the end. I remember feeling just like you do now, drowning in constructive criticism and believing that it was a bad reflection of my abilities - but really it was just to help me learn how to improve and I did - just like you will/are.
Be careful with how much you drink and the reasons for it. I have personal experience of people who have used alcohol to deal with stress and pressure and know exactly what it can do - it can be a dangerous path to tread (sorry if that makes me sound like a patronising nanny). Best wishes.:-)

Avatar for sneaks

could this be about getting the 'story' right? I know for me writing publications is far easier - they are succinct, stand alone pieces. But putting it all together to make a big story is a fecking nightmare!

FOr example, I'm finding it really hard to pull out the 2-3 points I need to hammer home from my lit review - there's so much from different fields and my mind is going to explode! Whereas when I wrote my chapters as publications I just put the relative literature in, not all the other stuff.

Also - are you giving your sup completed drafts or half finished ones? I've learnt to hang on to my drafts until I think they're finished. Otherwise my sup doesn't really understand what I'm trying/thinking of saying and then rips it apart because she doesn't get it.

I'm sure everything will work out. You are a good researcher :-)


Hi KB.

Not wanting to state the obvious but could it be that the sections you are moving onto are more difficult ? If you found the others straightforward, and these are now more challenging and you would naturally get more constructive feedback? You will work through it, you go through days and weeks of not knowing night from day but you will get there... the fact that you are confused means you are a researcher. Only those who are not pushing the boundaries don't get confused.
Keep going but not on the bottle... there's only one place that ends.


Hi Keenbeen, I'm sorry you're feeling down at the moment. The PhD process is full of ups and downs I think, so remind yourself that this is only a temporary phase. Is the problem partly to do with the fact that you are dealing with the quantitative bit now, if so is there someone apart from your supervisor that you could discuss that with, who could help you? Another academic possibly or another student. A lot of "constructive criticism" all at one time can seem a bit overwhelming I think - but remind yourself how well you've done so far. Hope you're feeling better today


Hey all, thanks for your replies. I guess I am just feeling a bit down in general at the moment and that makes all this feedback seem more daunting. I don't usually take to the drink (I'm not really allowed to drink cos of my medication) but I will make sure I keep it to a minimum, the last thing I need is to become a raging alky! I think you're right- it is maybe the hardest bit, and I just don't have experience of writing these types of papers, but I feel a bit better about it today.

You are right Sneaks- I tend to give her drafts of things but then she treats them like the final version and then makes comments which aren't really relevant for a first draft, although they would become relevant later on before i send them off to journals. I did write FIRST DRAFT in the top right hand corner of each paper this time though, just to remind her!  I think part of the problem is that I took very naturally to my first few papers and my very first paper got accepted in a really good journal, so I sort of set the bar really high. And I can't really top that- it will probably be the highlight of my career even ten years from now! So now I'm struggling to even put a decent draft together I feel really inadequate and I can sense her frustration with me (although I admit I am probably over-sensitive and exaggerating this in my own head).

I guess I'll get the hang of it in the end- I am still learning and I need to remember that!
Cheers all, KB