Lost, really don't know what to do and want to quit



I am in my final year, science based phd, my scholarship is about to end in another 3 months and I have agreed to extend for another 6 months without scholarship. I have been working on the last part of my reserach and I have just discovered all the works that I have done 4 months back are useless and wasted as the method can't be applied to solve the problem that I want to solve. I really don't know what to do now. Only 5 months left before I have to submit my thesis and without this last part, all my works before this may be useless too as I can't prove anything. I am so scared. Supervisor is not supportive and does not give enough guidance since day 1. No post doc or any lab assistance or other phd student that I can talk with here. I have been plodding through my way all these years with very minimal guidance and help. I really don't know whether to just drop this method- I can't find any way to make it work anymore, or should I just change to another method- but I am afraid if even this another method will take a long time to understand and the same thing will repeat. I feel like a total loser and want to die.

Anyone has the same experience?
Any advice?



Don't quit! You will get surprised about how much you can do in 5 months time. If you struggle with time, ask for another extension. Your work is not a waste if time. NOTHING is a waste of time. Try method B, ask advice around. If your department is not helpful what about those colleagues you met in conferences? Ask them for a second opinion. They will direct you towards the right direction. Good luck! Remember, we need to take risks and challenges in life in order to succeed. You will get there in the end!


I wouldn't quit but I think you need some sound advice on your methodology.  Remember, its your PhD so if you want to finish it, do what you need to do to finish it. This might involve making your supervisor talk to you.  Say you need some straight answers and push them in a very polite way until you get them.

If you cant get answers from your supervisors or others in your lab, then you might try emailing an expert (easy to find from your literature review) or using a mailing list (run by an academy). There are probably other people out there who use the same method and will know its limitations or can point you in the right direction. 

Also, you are not the first person, and wont be the last person to go done the wrong path with their PhD.  The difference between those that finish and those who dont is perseverance :-)


======= Date Modified 06 Jan 2012 11:20:21 =======
Thanks Marasp and Potatoes,

I have asked my supervisor, he needs some time to check what I am doing but I don't put so much hope on him. No replies from other authors and I presented on different topics in the previous conferences. Method B seem very complicated- I can't understand at all and I'm afraid the same thing will just repeat. I am thinking of changing my objective or direction but I no have any idea what to do and this means I have to start from zero again. I'm becoming paralyzed and my brain can't function with all these pressures.:-(


======= Date Modified 06 Jan 2012 13:22:23 =======
Just a couple of questions: What area is your PhD in? e.g Hard Sciences, Psychology etc.

Why dont you have hope that your supervisor will help you?


======= Date Modified 09 Feb 2012 15:05:18 =======
My PhD is in engineering.

I don't put so much hope in him because most of the things that he told me to do waste a lot of my time and in the end they are not useful neither. That is one of the reasons why I had lost plenty of time. Besides, I really think the method won't work.

Avatar for Pjlu

Sometimes when you (one) is really caught up in a very stressful situation and the brain is on overload, you need to have a short break before making a decision. I appreciate that you have only so much time before you complete (9 months-3 to go + a further 6 with extension) and given where you are, you don't want to be 'wasting' time but can you afford to take about 5-10 days off, so that you can clear your mind and let it work out what might be the best plan? This isn't an answer to your problem, but if you do have a little bit of breathing space, you might come up with a more practical answer or at least work out the next step more easily. Just saying this because your last post seemed to suggest that you were genuinely so caught up in the whole process, that it was beginning to be difficult to prioritise or make any decisions at all. Good luck and best wishes btw.


Thanks Pjlu.

I find that it is very difficult to calm myself down, especially as I live alone. I become more nervous in the evening before going to sleep. When I am at home I keep on thinking what should I do next, what should I do next and then begin to cry hysterically.  Actually, I only have 5 months more to complete the work and write thesis as the other 4 months are for viva, correction and final examination- according to the rule in here. I'm leaving the city today, heading to mountainous area for few days. Hope I can clear my head and will be able to think clearly when I come home.


Hi Lost final year,

I see why its difficult to trust your supervisor. Taking a break for a bit would be a good idea. It might help to clear your head. Just an idea for you to ponder is whether or not showing null findings is enough for your PhD. For example, you may have found that your methodology does not answer your research question. Is that a 'contribution to knowledge' in itself?

My supervisors told me that when I was doing my PhD, a null result was still enough for me to complete my PhD. Their reasoning was that I had collected enough data so I could show that a relationship did not exist. Your PhD might change from answering your research question, to showing that a methodology is not appropriate for certain types of research questions. This is of great interest if there is other research which has been published using this methodology.

Anyway, take a break and then chat with your supervisor in a few days time.



Did you get any closure lost final year?


Hi Potatoes...

Thanks for asking.
After coming back from the holiday, my mind is much clearer than before. I went to meet few people and I decided to fight and stick with my PhD until the end. I am dropping the method A & B, currently trying on method C. I still get so anxious occasionally and the quitting feeling comes often, but I've made up my mind not to give up unless if I really fail after the thesis submission or viva.

The people that I met were:
1. A lecturer in my department- He told me that PhD is a real world research. Facing dead end/ not working methods is common in research. Sometimes it is difficult to abandon previous method and try a new one, but sometimes it is better to do so. He told me to give one last try on my previous method and if it is not working, try the new one. He also told me about his own experience when he was a student, he couldn't solve a problem for 3 months and he was also so worried- like me, so he said he understand my feeling. One night, the he dreamt of solution and implemented it on the next morning and it worked! He might had been lucky to have that dream but it wouldn't come without that 3 months of hard work. From his story I concluded that, my previous works are actually not useless although they seemed to be so, what I am facing is normal- perhaps I am not as stupid as I thought and I still have some hope to be successful in academic because looking at him now- a professor, has his own lab and produce several PhD graduates, I never thought he also had almost similar experience when he was a student. It was great that I met him, I never had this kind of conversation with my supervisor.
2. Another lecturer in my department- The lecturer was the most senior lecturer in my department. Seniority is taken seriously (senior lecturer is highly respected by everyone) in my university. He offered to talk to my supervisor to discuss about how to help me to graduate since I did not get much support from my supervisor, but I told him I'll try to work with my supervisor for these few months- try to meet him more frequently and involve him more in my research, but if he still ignore me, then only I'll ask this senior lecturer to talk to him.
3. My counselor- She helps me a lot in reducing my stress. I'm meeting her every week since and I am able to tell all my worries without being afraid to be judged or say anything wrong. I guess I actually need more support that I think. 

I am now half done with deriving the mathematical equations using method C. I choose method C because it is much simpler than method A and B, but I believe it can be modified a little to solve my problem. I've change my problem statement a bit and add some assumptions to make it work. I am hoping to test all these on the computer starting from next week. At least this is one step further compared to when I was using method A which was a dead end. I don't know whether will I be successful or have enough time to finish but I am trying to keep my stress low so that I won't be paralyze again. Each day when I wake up I tell myself to 'just try to do what I can do for the day' instead of saying 'I should achieve this and that by the end of today' as before- it had made me not wanting to get up even more. I also try to enjoy my free/ rest time by not thinking about studies at all, otherwise I will be tired even before I really sit down to study. It is better not to waste my energy. I am also getting the book 'The How of Happiness' which was recommended by my counselor. Hopefully it will help a little in going through this difficult period. My counsellor also told me to just imagine that I will be successful although I don't know that might be possible. I hope things will be ok in the end although for sure there will be occasional rough patches ahead. Or I might post another rant thread in this forum LOL.

Hopefully everything will be fine.


Really glad to hear you are sticking with it, lost final year! Sometimes a break and a pep talk from someone who has faced the same problem is all you need. Best of luck with your new method. You will get there. (up)

Avatar for Pjlu

======= Date Modified 12 Feb 2012 10:15:49 =======
It's really great to read that you have turned a corner-even if you still have some challenges and processes to work through, you seem to be much more optimistic and able to focus on what you need to do. I'm with Lughna, you will get there...you will(gift)


Hej, stick to it! I have not read all posts in this topic but it seems I would try to talk to other people which I believe you have done?

I have a question, you mentioned a final examination? Where are you studying? I will start my PhD in the UK later this year and as I understood it, after the first introductory year one needs to write some sort of application (viva?) and then you do research for three years after which you write up. I have heard that often in the UK people stay on after defending to write a/some paper(s) without getting paid. Can anyone tell me if this is true and how people can afford do live without income for a few months?

Good luck finalising, please stay confident! Science is tricky and me and my colleagues like to tell eachother all the easy stuff has been done already, so only the tricky things left ;). Remember why you started the PhD: the hunger for new knowledge, becoming a specialist on your favourite topic, the excitement of great results, reading, writing, conferences, and quite some freedom in some cases as to how you organise your work-day. You can make it! You have gotten this far! If you don't get the supervision/support you need, try to get it somewhere else. You'll manage!


Hi Lost,

Sounds like you got some good advice from people in your department. Listen to them, as they are the people who have succeeded in your field. You are always welcome to rant on this forum! That’s what it is here for and you might find it cheaper than a therapist. LOL