I recently joined the forum and read several topics before posting this thread.
This month I started my third year of part-time PhD (five years in total) and I constantly feel that I am not making enough progress. I feel like I'm not moving forward at all and it causes me great anxiety everyday. To fund my studies I am working in a hospital environment, although my thesis focuses on politics and sociology so the two are not connected at all. I keep trying to secure funding from other sources but seem to be getting nowhere. Working takes a lot of my time so there isn't much left for research itself, although I am dealing with it and doing as much reading and work as possible in between my regular job.
I am itching to move forward. My supervisor tells me not to rush and to take my time - he is a really great one and previously he had been right when giving me advice. I have done so much reading over the last two years and now my supervisor wants me to write literature review as this is supposed to clarify my focus on what I really want to research, and it should help me develop ideas for future empirical research. He claims that I could complete my literature review by April, then I could do some interviews, questionnaires and other stuff I could find useful, then write it before Christmas so that maybe I could finish my PhD by June next year. I know this is possible and I really want this to happen, but I keep doubting myself. I always think I don't know enough, I don't know where to start; I want to publish, but do not have results yet. I want to have a good non-academic job, but without publishing I am afraid I won't get one. I want to start writing, but I don't feel I know enough to do that. I feel very stressed all the time.
Please, any advice?
I am a part-time, self funding PhD student. I can fully understand how you feel. It sounds like imposter syndrome, which I'm pretty sure everyone feels at some point both as a researcher and in life in general.
My best advice would be to write something, anything. It doesn't have to be amazing, you can always go back and edit it but a blank page can be very intimidating.
I also know that sometimes you need a break. From work, from your studies, and sometimes from both. Maybe take a few days to not worry about study or work. I've taken some long breaks in studies, which might not work for you but I found took some of the pressure off and allowed me to move forward.
Most of all it is a marathon not a sprint so pace yourself.
Firstly, I think every PhD student feels like this at some point in their PhD so hopefully that gives you a little comfort. That doubt you're feeling is imposter syndrome but don't let it win. You got into your PhD so you are good enough and clearly your supervisor thinks so too. I believe in you :)
Focus first on the literature review as your supervisor suggested. So if I was you I would breakdown the steps you need to get the literature review done and set deadlines for each step: 1. read the papers and make summaries of them, 2. use the summaries to make paragraphs, 3. edit the paragraphs so they flow 4. proof read literature review. This is how I did mine but my PhD is a science one so it may differ. The biggest hurdle for me was starting to write, so I would set a timer for 20 minutes and get rid of all distractions and write. As you get over the fear of writing increase the length of each session.
I would schedule a meeting with your supervisor to begin to prepare the actual data collecting part , so to begin to understand how to do the interviews or questionnaires and begin to think about preparing these if you have to. If you have to prepare set yourself one night/day a week to focus just on that.
Now with the publishing I don't know for your field but I recently finished my PhD with just a review published so no original work and got a postdoc in academia, that being said I got a few good offers outside of academia too e.g. publishing. I am not sure not publishing will be too detrimental to getting a good job but again it is a different field. Perhaps tell your supervisor you want to get published and see if you can write a review (not sure if they have these in your field) whilst you collect data. When writing up your thesis it is quite easy to prepare a manuscript to publish.
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