MA study is a real struggle... should it be this hard??


Hi all - I have a question for those of you who have completed a Masters - how hard did you have to work to get it, as in how many hours did you have to put in? I'm doing a literature MA and at the moment I am working flat out every day for a minimum of 8 hours, basically putting in full-time work hours, and yet it doesn't seem to be enough - the work is progressing so slowly! I just don't seem to be able to get enough done each day, my deadlines are creeping up and I've barely had chance to look at my dissertation, which is supposed to be drafted up by the end of the third semester, yet I feel if I work any more hours I'll go mad. Is this normal? Any advice or moral support would be welcomed!


Hi - I am also doing a literature MA. I'm about half way through. I'm not very productive so if I were to put in 8 hours work -I'd have got about 4 done. So, I am constantly at my desk. What with all the reading, there are genuinely not enough hours in the day for me to procrastinate, and get nearly everything done. I haven't started my dissertation - have formulated a rubbish proposal which I fully intend to change. It's due at the end of August. I have 2 important essays due in the next fortnight - and my knowledge does not seem to be extensive enough to inform either of them just yet.
On the plus side - - I don't know about you, but I am still enjoying it and getting something positive out of it. If you are too, then i'd say don't worry. It is meant to be challenging. The biggest thing for me about this though - is how time consuming it is. Reading takes ages, and it's the crux of it. so don't worry -- you aren't the only one. Good luck with it and I'm sure that it will all come together.

PS. What's your research field?


I completed my MA last year and to be honest I wasn't putting in full working days each day, although it was definitely like that when I was in the write up of my dissertation and in the few weeks before each deadline. On the other hand, things are different for different people and in different institutions. There were definitely people who were working longer hours and different patterns from me on the course, yet I still got a distinction so must have done something right! I was once told that my MA would be the hardest year of my life and yes, it was hard work but not all that bad Are you actually using all of the 8 hours or would fewer hours but more intensive focus work better? I would recommend talking to the director of grad studies or your dissertation supervisor about your concerns. You may find that this is normal for your institution and I certainly doubt that your clear commitment and conscientious attitude that you are doing something wrong. However, I think that there is probably a way out of this and you need to address it in your department. Good luck.


Wow, it is so good to hear that other people are struggling/have struggled with this besides me! Taramarie - I know exactly what you mean about working for 8 hours and only getting 4 hours worth of work done. I find it so difficult, not only because my attention just wanders constantly which means that I read really slowly, but also I have a tendency always to fall asleep when I'm reading! Because of this I don't really feel like I can take a break, because the amount of times I nod off means so much time wasted - I know this probably isn't a very productive way to work, I've been trying jumping up and down every time I feel like I'm falling asleep - I find it so hard to concentrate though.

My dissertation is due at the end of August too - it's this I'm most stressed about, because I haven't had time to work on it because of the other essays, and trying to make progress in time for each fortnightly meeting with my supervisor is very difficult. My research field is basically English literature/critical theory - all my modules are very theory-based, postmodernism, deconstruction, psychoanalysis, feminist theory and so forth. That's okay though, I like theory :)

I guess I am still getting something out of the course, although I wouldn't exactly call it 'enjoyment' lol! Megara, whoever told you the MA would be the hardest year of your life was right, this is definitely the hardest thing I have *ever* done. I feel like if I can only achieve this one thing, I can do anything else in the whole world! I realllly want to pass...

Some days though (like today) I am just soooo sick of it. I know other students aren't putting in as many hours, but are probably getting more done and it's so frustrating. I do feel like I need to do the hours though, my institution is pretty hardcore...

Good luck, Taramarie, with your MA too - maybe we can egg each other on when the going gets tough! :)


======= Date Modified 26 Mar 2009 03:54:46 =======
Ouch, sounds tough and I sympathize with you but it's true that most people do tend to struggle while doing a Master's. I completed my MSc last year and it was really challenging and difficult. For one thing, we had deadlines almost every week for our coursework in addition to concentrating on our dissertation which we were expected to start working on three months into the Master's. It was a real struggle for me as my dissertation supervisor wasn't making it easier for me either! I guess he was one of the most challenging person I had to work with! I think that it was good though that I had to start working on my dissertation so early because it saved me a lot of trouble and panic later on into the MSc and when I had finished with all the coursework and had only the dissertation to work on, it was quite easygoing from then on. Although, I almost backed out of my Master's due to it being so stressful and difficult, but I am very thankful I didn't.

Perhaps, if you try to take a short break (a few hours) from all the work, and then come back to it and prioritize the most important things that need to be done each week, it might help. I found that making a diary and keeping note of all the deadlines I had to meet (although I knew them by heart ;-) ) really helped. When you are working on a task, try to give your undivided attention to it although it's natural to worry about the other deadlines that are looming up. As for the dissertation, setting deadlines for each section is a really good idea. My supervisor always set a deadline for me and although he was a bit flexible because it was just between me and him, it was really helpful because once you see each section of your dissertation being produced duly each month, it really demonstrates that you are progressing to your goal and gives you a clearer focus.

I don't know if these tips will be helpful to you but I found that they worked very well for me. Good luck with your MA and know that when you have completed it, you will experience such a sensation of euphoria that it will be well worth all that trouble!:-)


Hi Fricklesnarp,
No it shouldnt be that hard, but yes it is that hard! I did an MSc in a year and frankly it was the hardest I have ever worked, and the shortest I have ever slept. I, like you, worked all day eveyday and sometimes had to work through the night to get assignements, lab work and seminar reading completed. Masters are reaaally hard. In other countries masters are stretched over two years, and from my experience, the British masters is no less work just less time. But the nice thing is that you can see the light at the end of the tunnel - if you continue to PhD its just as stressful but at least you have time to breathe!