Finish in 3 years?


Hello all,

I feel that our university, keep drumming in the fact that we need to finish our PhD's in 3 years, however, there is this stigma associated with all phd's taking longer than this. I really feel there are conflicting interests to overcome? Any advice on making sure we finish in 3 years (would be good to get the feedback of others who have or expected to finish within 3 years.


Avatar for sneaks

My main tip would be start writing early - even if your sup doesn't want you to, and even if it will never make the thesis - that writing will be so useful later on, even if it just reminds you of a subject area!

I think the whole 3 year thing is so tricky. It probably will take me more like 4, but I sometimes think that maybe if EVERYONE I had spoken to about PhD hadn't said "you'll be lucky if you get it done under 5 years" and there wasn't this whole expectation that it WOULDN'T be done in 3, that I may have done a lot more. Afterall it is only a research job and in any other job you would priably be required to finish what you were supposed to before the contract is up, but then the PhD isn't a job in the sense it is so self-driven.


I fully agree with you comments, I also have heard that you tip is the best one you can give for finishing a phd on time. Thanks


I finished mine in 3 years partly because, like you, the culture in our department is that everyone must complete in 3 (and with the exception of one person, everyone has). Although this is due to pressure from the funding councils (universities lose their studentships if their students overrun) I think it does actually benefit (most of) the students too. Obviously, for people who are having serious personal or research-related problems then pressure to submit is unhelpul. But I think, as sneaks says, a lot of people have slipped into a "4 years is normal" mindset that is not necessarily the case. I think in order to finish in 3 years my advice would be:

Write, write, write. Even if a lot of it gets cut out, the practice will make you a better writer. Also it will give more time for editing later on, which means less chance of minor corrections in the viva.

Keep your question defined; start fieldwork/data collection early and stop as soon as you have enough data. Accept that you can't address every issue that is raised - make notes of these for future research. Use footnotes in the thesis to indicate you are aware that there are avenues that you didn't explore.

Restrict teaching to modules that are closely related to your own field, and only do as much as will give you some experience for the CV. Lots of people are derailed by supervisors pushing them to take over their enormous teaching loads, and it is completely unfair on them.

Balance your desire to finish in 3 years with the need to get some publications. Finishing a PhD with no publications to your name is a weak position to be in if you are looking for academic jobs. Try to co-author (your supervisor may put you on as an author if you offer to do some literature reviewing or data analysis).

Don't waste your time with loads of courses (go to the essential ones, obviously, if you need to learn a new technique or software). My uni pressed us all to go and do things like voice coaching and speed reading, and they were of no use whatsoever to me. think about the kinds of skills that are either essential to you in finishing your research, or will be good transferable skills if you want to leave academia.

hope this helps. Good luck with your PhD!