PhD and knowing when to stop


In every PhD there is probably a point where not much more can be drawn from data or their comparison with existing theories. How do you know when to stop? How is it possible not to go crazy between submission and defense, if you suddenly find all these new papers which would have added to your own research? What are your experiences? Is there something like a checklist which can help to make the decision to pack it up nicely and say goodbye to the writing up process?


Well the submission deadline made me stop.

Allied to that I just couldn't be bothered anymore. After a while enough is enough. My defense is in May.


I'm finding this really tough too! Everytime I look at my analysis and discussion chapters I can think of weaknesses in my arguments and want to change things. It is hard for us to know when 'good enough is good enough'. Maybe not a very reliable strategy but I'm working on gut instinct and my supervisor telling me when it's ok.


I REALLY want to submit by Xmas so that will define the scope to a large extent. I expect there will be analyses I will extend/come back to later - if I can stand it! My aim is to do enough but not everything possible - there just isn't time. How to judge that though will be tough and I don't think my supervisor is sure about that either.


am using strength of argument as an indicator of when to stop. since my thesis is theoretical, once i figured out the argument, half the work was done. now am in the process of writing it in a convincing manner / not a perfect manner. i used to be a perfectionist and in many ways i still am, but this PhD has helped me to learn that its ok for everything not to be perfect.

meanwhile - my personal deadlines also play a role in determining what is good enough, as i'd like to submit by the end of the year, preferably Sepf or before Christmas. i think there comes a point when you have to decide to finish.

one of my colleagues, now in his fourth year has not yet submitted and is still looking for the perfect thesis. to me, hardly anyone will ever read my thesis after examination, i can perfect it later in publications - whilst am teaching and being paid for it - and only concentrating on those bits that really interest me.


It really is about stopping when you think it will pass. I know it sounds terrible to submit something you've worked so hard on when you're not 100% happy, but I've seen too many (very very good) people not complete because they were perfectionists.


i agree.


I agree too. The only problem is how to know when you'll pass. Gut instinct, supervisor's views? My sole objective is to pass (hopefully with minor corrections) but how do you know when what you have will do the job?


I'm having a similar problem with my research, what I'm doing is fairly new in my field. I've got data analysis and simulations and have already gone further that I originally planned, but I keep thinking if I were to get this information or change this slightly, it would be so much better.

But I think you have to have a look at what you've done and as long as you've got enough I don't think everything has to be perfect. At some point you have to decide enough is enough.