I don't post much at all on here but here goes:
I'm approaching the final 7-8 months of a 4 year PhD (hard deadline, my institution will not allow submissions after that).
I'm now really struggling. If all the stuff I've got planned between now and the end experimentally comes off I know I'll be fine but I can't help but feel like it won't work. I have a niggling feeling that all my work to date is built on sand and my supervisors haven't told me. I also feel like I know the square root of nothing about my field. I feel like I'm lazy and bad at my work but my advisory panel haven't told me in one of the 3x yearly meetings we have.
I recently submitted my proposed thesis outline and my advisors came back saying it was good, only suggesting some minor changes to the themes in the general introduction. Despite this I feel like I've actually got no chance of passing this thing and that my advisors have just lied to me for an easy life or to avoid stressful/time consuming managing out. I realise that rationally this is ludicrous because it hurts their chances of future funding to have students get to submission then fail their viva, so they really don't want it to happen. I just can't get over this nagging feeling and it's crushing me to the point of self sabotage where I'm now actively procrastinating.
Sounds like you have a very unhelpful, critical inner voice going on there! It is hard to keep plodding on sometimes when you don't know for sure how or if things will work out - I am at that stage too, 8 months to go and don't know yet what my data will show if anything - but I'm sure at this stage there is plenty to be salvaged even if we don't get perfect data! It can be hard to keep the faith sometimes but if your advisors are suggesting minor changes, that's what they think you need to do. There's a final year support thread on here if you have a look around - a few of us are at a similar stage!
The feeling of failure will stay forever with researchers. When I passed my viva, I called my second supervisor and during the conversation, I told him that I am not satisfied with my work even though I passed. He said, I have spent last 35 years in the research and I have never been satisfied with my work.
You might think, your work is not up the mark. But trust me things will improve as you go. My suggestions at this stage, share your work progress with other friends (may be someone who you trust); try to get their feedback, ask them to highlight the gaps in your research. If you have some quality publications, it will be very hard for the examiners to fail you. Awareness of the gaps in your study is very important; you can prepare your answers for the gaps even if you have submitted your thesis.
I can relate to that uneasy feeling! I submitted my first draft 15 months ago and my 2 supervisors made comments using track changes...I thought that was all I had to do...BUT, they had actually not applied their minds to it properly and it took another 15 months on refining the writing with literally 20 iterations of each chapter (20 x 10 = 200). A year ago they dropped a bombshell saying that I had to get rid of the penultimate chapter!! Which threw out every chapter as I had to get rid of all reference to the topic...arrgghhh....Now that I have submitted, on reflection I think that my experience was due to supervisors who were too busy to pay attention at a deep level to what I was writing ANd I did not know the conventions of my specialism...I hadnot published an article before starting to write up....these two factors combined to make it extremely difficult...I have to commend my supervisors though because they never gave up on me and would not let me submit until they were happy with the product...now I wait for the examiners results....
I'm at my last year of PhD, so in theory, I still have some time to finish. I also started to panic recently. The best advice that I have received from one of the post docs in the group was- read other, recent PhD thesis from your field, the best even from the same group. I've read 3 of them and this made me much calmer. I always thought that I have not enough, but when I looked what other people had in their thesis, I think I actually have something and still have a bit of time to add more.
The thesis is never perfect, and what I've seen, people usually say a few sentences about what they think should be improved and because of time and money constrains they were not able to accomplish that. No one has been failed for that...
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