I'm getting nowhere!


Well, I've been doing the PhD for seven months now and I still haven't worked out what the gist of my project is going to be! Has anyone else found this, that you're still not sure at this stage what your main topic/argument/question is going to be? I feel as though I'm not consulting the right material, and that I haven't been doing proper research yet. I've been reading texts/journals, but haven't ventured into archives, etc. Is this normal? Do any of you still feel unsure about the direction of your PhD?


In my experience that's completely normal. So is choosing something that doesn't work out and then changing your mind! I've just finished my first year and it took me most of it to figure out which direction I was going in. Don't worry and keep exploring ideas.


Hi Bellaz- I'm in my second year and still like that, so I wouldnt worry too much (maybe I should though!). I think a lot of the PhD seems to involve revising how you think about things, and while this feels like getting nowhere (in that there isnt much to show for it) in the long run it will be clear that you've thought about your topic in depth. Or at least thats what I'm hoping


Thanks for the encouragement! I feel like I haven't hit upon the right material, and I seem to keep going in circles with my thinking. I thought I had a solid direction, and then I found some material that totally blew it out of the water! The thing is, I don't want to get sent in a completely different direction with a topic that I'm not so keen on, because you have to have something that really interests you to keep you going for 3-4 years. I keep thinking that one day, I'll find something and everything will magically click into place, but I'm now starting to realise that it doesn't work that way, that you don't have this moment when everything becomes clear. Arghhh!


When you start the PhD, you think of three years as a more-than-adequate amount of time for your project. Then you realise that the time just flies by, and it really isn't that long a period for a project of this magnitude.


You're absolutely right when you say that three years isn't a long time. It goes by so fast that it's hard to believe! I thought I'd have plenty of time, but the days just disappear in a flash. The next thing you know, six months have passed and you feel you've accomplished nothing. It's so hard to gauge your progress, because we're all on our own and have no way of knowing if we're getting anywhere. We have our sups, but I think they actually play quite a small part in it all.



no worries. Like you, I've just only began in October 2007 so it's been a good 7 months. I still feel that my argument is not strong enough yet. I still don't really know what I am trying to say. All I know is that I want to write a city's urban history within a given 30 years and that for now, I have a methodology paper to worry about and a chapter outline and then everything else will come later.

I always worry about being asked "what is your argument?" or "what are you trying to say?" cause I wouldn't know how to assemble it into one compact and direct sentence or two. I always need to refer to my methodology paper.

But, I have to admit that I am in a much better place than last month and the month before. So I am guessing that with time this argument will start to materialize into something very concrete.


Thanks everyone! PhD girl, I know exactly what you mean when you say you wouldn't have a clue if someone asked you to summarise your argument! I too feel that way, like I don't know what the central question in my thesis is going to be. Vince, you're right we haved progressed in our thinking, but are unable to see quite how. I know that there has been movement of some sort, but just can't work out how. I was on the bus this morning, and had a slight panic because I realised that I haven't been doing much work recently, and decided to go home and do some reading to make myself feel better. It's a strange guilt that comes with the PhD, isn't it?


Bellaz, I'm nearing the end of my second year and I still have no idea myself. I have had to keep revising my project goals as nothing has worked and I've had a lot of bad luck with equipment failing and losing samples. I wouldn't worry about it. Keep reading though.


Maree, thanks for the lift! How are we supposed to know if we have progressed or not? I think this is one of the major worries for PhD students. We're just reaching for anything we can find which is remotely connected to our topics, and you just feel like you're not progressing. I've come to a standstill, and am actually thinking of taking a few days off to clear my head and start afresh.