How can you bear to read your thesis?


Hi guys :-)

I submitted in August and have my viva coming up in November, with a mock two weeks before. I feel like it might be time for me to pick up my thesis and look at it - but I just can't do it!
I've tried to at least flick through it, but I felt this rush of panic and then I closed it again.... it's literally the last thing I want to look at, and I'd be happy if I didn't have to read it ever again....

Any tips? :-)


Hi Claudia.

I'm not in your lucky position of having submitted.. but i hope that the thought that this final push may make all the difference would be enough. I really think after however many years you could just, just, this one last time.. its like running 26 miles of a marathon and then not doing the last 0.3 (turkey)

on a practical level, i would promise to buy myself something if i read it ( or even better get someone else to promise to buy you something ;-) )

Continue this thread for the next few weeks telling us what you're up to.. we can all help you from afar.

best. Chuff


The trick is to wean yourself back into it - so don't just dive straight back in reading cover to cover. Pick through the main points first, familiarise yourself again with the overall structure and how it links together. Gradually build it up bit by bit and it will seem less daunting.


Hi Claudia, i've been in same kind of position, my viva is on Thursday!! I only submitted a month ago and promised I would have one week off and get stuck back in, but in reality its only been this last week or so that i've done ANYTHING!!

I, like you, did not ever want to pick it up again, I think we all feel like that. You feel this massive relief on submission that you've done it, and then you're faced with another mountain to climb! for me, i've felt like this whole 4 years has been one hike around the mountains, getting to the top of one and then being faced with another, unable to free wheel it back to the bottom!! :) submission should be that last bit, but its not, you get a longer break and then have to climb again! That's how I see it for me anyway...

But, I guess I've just had to talk myself into fact that this will (hopefully) be it this time!

I started slowly, listed what I wanted to definitely do as preparation. And before I really started properly reading through the thesis again, I just got some of those thin post-its and marked off each chapter, and key figures/tables/points of interest in the thesis. This helped me to just refamiliarise myself with it, it wasn't a massive daunting task, but helped me just to pick it up again and not feel so scared of it.

Maybe that would help just to do a little task like that first, and then slowly build up to reading it. Maybe just say, right today I will go through the list of contents etc and check for any typos, then do references/appendices, and work it up from there?

Good luck and let us know how you get on. Don't worry you still have time!



Quote From DanB:

The trick is to wean yourself back into it - so don't just dive straight back in reading cover to cover. Pick through the main points first, familiarise yourself again with the overall structure and how it links together. Gradually build it up bit by bit and it will seem less daunting.

hi claudia!
congratulations for submitting!!
Dan's is the best post I have read! I should have done this for my masters viva. I was so tired of my thesis I also couldn't bear to look at it. Hopefully it will be a lot different for my phd thesis!

Maybe you can try to look at your thesis for a few minutes, then go do something else. And then maybe go back to it, bit by bit.

:-) :-) :-)
love satchi


Hi Claudia,

I recognise your dilemma. Like you, I have submitted a few months ago and will probably have my viva end of October. Like you, I am sick of the thesis and reading it over and over again.

To make the viva preparation a bit more interesting, try to use different methods of engaging with the subject. Perhaps imagine that you need to write an article regarding what you have done in your PhD, from start to finish. Or try and organise a training session in which you explain to others what a PhD is like, explain to them what your PhD is about. Another means would be to write a summary of your thesis page by page (as per Tinkler and Jackson).

Good luck!:-)



I posted this somewhere else last week and am not necessarily recommending it just letting others know what worked for me.

My viva was scheduled for 8 weeks after my submission (this was last Monday). I took 3 weeks off after submission and then started studying. I stopped on the afternoon of my 2nd day with the recognition that I was just making myself extremely nervous and paranoid by finding typos etc. I, perhaps foolishly, said to myself that 'currently there is only a handful of people around who are as well read on this stuff as me; ergo I will not study'. I did make a ritual of reading my thesis from cover to cover each Sunday for 5 weeks to keep it in mind (although I didn't do this the Sunday before the viva as each time it took me several days to calm down and stop cringing at how much I hated my own work).

I went to the viva relaxed and passed with only a few typos to fix and was told 'not to spend more than a few hours on them'.

I hope this hasn't come across as boasting I am just trying to show that for some people - like me - panicing over the viva might make things worse. After all, it is almost certainly the case that your examiners - with all the marking, lecturing and admin that they have to do - will not have as tight a handle on the current state of your discipline as you do; nor will they understand your argument as thoroughly as you do yourself.

The only piece of the endless advice that I got from others before my viva that came in handy was that in the course of defending your thesis that you should be confident enough in your overall argument to not be afraid to concede small points. I my own case I admitted to one small problem that I had not really anticipated as well as agreeing that one of the examples I used to illustrate my argument had a few problems.

Good luck



good luck Claudia and trust me this is a common feeling about the have gotten some helpful tips here, DanB's idea is a good one. I am all done dusted and doctored and I still hate to even go within about 30 feet of my thesis. Its all bound and shiny on my shelf, and I hide it under papers and books so I do not have to see it! :D

Thesis repulsion is natural...but just small bits at a time, not in long stretches, and you will get through it!


ps sorry for double post

the other thing is to be confident about how your research is already locked deep in your memory and accessible to you--you know our thesis, inside and out, even if it does not feel like it, that material is in your head and thus another reason to not overly stress over the thesis reading...yes, do it, but its not as if you are expected or even able to memorise it....and again best of luck, I am sure you will get through it just fine. Thesis repulsion must be the sign of a healthy brain ready to get that doctorate!


What about thesis repulsion even before you submit? I seem to have it now as I am editing my chapters and can't bear looking at them so I am here instead! I don't seem to have any motivation to do them either but I need to do these corrections before I submit very soon. Has anyone ideas of how to handle this? I would really appreciate it.


Hi Claudia

Agree with others... it's normal to hate your thesis by this time (and sometimes well before... ha! ha!). Like you and others who have now passed, I had two months between submitting and viva. I was so exhausted from thesis/work, I took a month off... and travelled round highlands of Scotland - without computer and making sure I drove a lot - so not tempted to do anything academic. LOL Did me the world of good. If you can't get away... just take a holiday at home... read (non-academic) books, watch movies, go for walks... relax a little.

On the second month, I used "Surviving your viva tips" to help ease me back into thesis and forward towards viva. I found I couldn't 'read' the thesis at all at first... so I just took to looking at a chapter at a time - one a day... and definitely not in sequential order - just random - today, I'll look at... chapter 4... I'd read the chapter, picking up any errors and noting them on the page... then read the chapter again - and highlight some key points... then come away from it and try to write some questions and work on some answers. Some days I in between chapters I left it alone and skim-read papers by key authors... other times, I played games with dice... throw a six and identify 6 limitations, throw a 4 and list 4 key papers, throw a 3 and identify 3 contributions, etc. That was quite fun, actually.

Other thematic games I played... identifying key concepts, authors, ideas, methods... and turning them into questions using a question wheel (spinner) with who, what, where, why, when, how, which, then answers... e.g. A is a key concept in my thesis. ... Who conceived it (me, another author, a group of authors), what does it mean, where was it coined/found/used, why is it interesting, when was it coined, how can it be applied, which other theories/authors/methods/approaches can it be linked to... etc. (To make a question wheel - just cut out a seven-sided shape, write the words on, stick a cocktail stick through the middle and spin).

I also still feel like I never really want to see my thesis again... still... LOL But hopefully one day, I'll feel better about it.

The time will pass and you will get through it... best of luck.


Thanks for your advice everyone - I'm glad I'm not alone! I have managed to read a few pages now - hopefully I can manage the rest of if :-)

I've got loads of time at home (looking for jobs at the mo...) so I'm relaxing lots :$