I am never going to see the end of this...


Sorry for the tantrum...but I need to talk to someone. I am in the writing up period - submission by next June- and totally desperate. My original sup left Uni at the end of first year, and my new supervisor has been totally useless. My old sup still provide some feedback, but it take 3-4 months to get it back and in this way I will finish next century.
I was reading back my last draft and the whole thing looks pointless...I am totally demorilized and I don't know how to change this...I really want to withdraw, but my family insists that I have to finish, as I am too close to completion to leave...
Reading all these successful stories just add misery to my already miserable situation...:-(


Hi Corinne, Sorry to hear you're so down about your PhD. You probably should find a new 2nd supervisor who may be able to offer you a new perspective, and perhaps some motivation? I often felt the same way as you throughout my PhD, and if it hadn't been for my friends and husband telling me to keep going then I wouldn't have made it. Even if you don't like what you're doing anymore, you need to try and take a fresh look at it, see it as a process and aim to get the PhD if you can, especially as you're so near to finishing. I *started* the write up in January and had to finish by the end of August, so I managed to write up the whole thing in that time... you can def. do it in the time you have left. Start with a work plan and stick to it, keep sending the Chapters to your sups, find a new supervisor.


Hi Charls, and congratulations for your doctorate. Thank you for your kind words, but the situation is a bit more complicated than I can write in a post. Firstly, I had a baby in the middle of the PhD, and even if I took a year off, I find it very difficult to put the same effort as before. Then, my department is a small department, and no one else has the necessary expertise to look at what I am doing. As I am writing up, they are not even obliged to supervise me at all, as my 3 f/t years ended last June. My 2nd external supervisor is playing his game here. He has a recent PhD that wants to work here, and thus he doesn't have any interest in having my thesis finished and me as a possible competitor to his protégé. As I said, he speaks to our HoD and says that he wants to be part of it and that he will do this and that, but then after several months I have to push to get feedback on a single chapter. I know that there is a lot of good stuff in my thesis, but I am also aware of the problems. I just don't know how to overcome them. After 4 years the idea of getting an MPhil does not appeal to me, and I also wonder if it is the case to sacrifice the whole family (e.g. sending my daughter to nursery, etc) to get to the end of this with a very uncertain result. I also feel under a lot of pressure, as my in-laws and "friends" keep asking when I am going to finish, and why I didn't finish yet. I just feel pushed in a corner and cannot see a way out.


This does sound like a really difficult situation. So I think the first thing to say is that you should dismiss any thoughts that this is just "you", that you in particular are not up to it. Everyone, without exception, finds completing a PhD difficult - this is because it's the highest qualification you can get! And with the added factors you describe it would be extra-stressful for anyone in your situation.

A few suggestions:
* On the family and friends point could you speak to the people who tend to bug you the most (parents, in-laws) and let them know that you find it stressful to be asked about the thesis. In my experience the best way to do this is to express it as a thank you for their support and a request that could they continue supporting you in way 'x' (with the implication that you no longer want "support" in the form of way 'z', i.e. constant nagging). So - 'Hi Jill, it's Corinne. Thank you for being so concerned about me and for your helpful suggestions. I was wondering if you could help me in another way from now on? Would it be okay if when we chat we just talk about other things - you know, the kids, X-factor, whatever. I really need to take my mind off my work because I am working SO INTENSELY at the moment.' Can't guarantee but it might work. The only other thing that works is not to take their calls and that has fall-out, though can be helpful short term solution.

* Could family and friends help you out in other practical ways, in particular with childcare/babysitting? Even just having someone over for one afternoon a week might help? What are your childcare arrangements at the moment?

* If you're struggling to get feedback from sups do you have any peers who would be willing to read sections and give you a fresh eye on things. Anyone in your field? Even people outside your field could read for sense and typos.

* How were you funded? If it was from an external funding body your university will likely lose money/be penalised if you don't complete. This isn't meant to scare you! It means that no matter what signals you've picked up so far, someone somewhere should be able to understand that even without being human beings who care (!) they nevertheless have a vested interest in you completing. I'm also in my writing up year and fortunately my sup is very good because he recognises that I still need support and there is no point in him withdrawing it now because that would potentially result in three years wasted effort on his part, let alone mine, plus a possible consequence for the uni.
If it was internal funding, there's still a case to be made that they spent all this money and time on you and they should be interested in you seeing it through. Could you arrange a meeting with your sup/the head of department/ the head of postgraduate study even with an outline of your concerns and what you think you need to complete? If you could manage to be calm, clear, present your concerns in writing, etc. it might be a way forward? Have you raised any worries previously, e.g. at annual review meetings?

* This brings me to perceptions. I'm not saying that your sup isn't a problem, but sometimes when you are an isolated PhD student you start to feel like no one is there for you and you read into people's actions deep motivations that might be smaller factors than you think. At the very least (a) if he doesn't want competition for his student that must mean he thinks you're good enough to be stiff competition (b) as described above there are powerful reasons why he should be interested in you completing regardless. Are there any other members of staff within the department you could talk to? e.g. do you have a "mentor" or a "personal tutor" as well as a supervisory team?

* The most important point of all is that you don't need a PhD to be worthwhile. You are a valuable person. And I think you should be proud of what you have alrea


Hi Florence. Thanks for all you have written. It is of great help.

My daughter goes to nursery 4 half days a week (and it is also a considerable expense for us). I tried with the grandparents, but I ended up having to get up at dawn to cook lunch for everyone, and after a few months I thought it was just better to send her to nursery.

I was funded by the AHRC, so indeed my department wants me to complete. They are all very kind and we have discussed all the above several times. I was offered the opportunity to teach this semester, and it went very well. But my supervisors are an entirely different story. Nothing of what was agreed was actually put into practice by them. Complaining about it would only make things worse. It is a very delicate situation.

My first sup is not a specialist, he stepped in when my former sup (now 2nd sup) left. He is very easily manipulated person, and his feedback is very superficial. My 2nd sup is the specialist. He now works at a very prestigious Uni, and his feedback is very useful, spotted on, etc. but it takes for ever to get it, and I don't feel like asking for an extension, because I can work on this now.

I can certainly try to involve someone else in my area and get some informal feedback. Actually, it is probably the best thing that I can do. I have always been very independent and enjoyed working by myself, but now I now I feel that I need some support to get to the end.

Thanks again for your help. I am going to print out your message and stick it in front of my computer for the time being. I will read it back any time that I feel down!


I only just realised that the end of my post was missing!
Anyway, I'm sure you get the gist.
How are things now? Any improvements?


Hello! Thanks for getting back in touch again. Well, I am now revising all the chapters. I aim to have a full revised draft ready by the end of January, so that hopefully someone - if not my supervisors - will be able to offer some feedback. It's ups and downs.

I felt a bit more hopeful after your message, and having an external, positive point of view is of great help. I am very happy that you got back in touch, because it gives me the opportunity to thank you and all the people who spend their time to support people who -like me - are going through a tough time. So, thank you very much again for that.

I suppose that I can only take a step at a time and be moderately confident that there will be a positive outcome in the end. I am confident about my material, and four of the chapters correspond to papers that I presented at important conferences. My concern is more about the first two chapters, which seem to lack focus. But we shall see...How is your PhD going? Are you close to the end too?