PhD going nowhere


Hi everyone,

I'm in the second year as a postgrad, but first year of my proper PhD, as it's a 1+3 PhD, so my Phd is about 4 months old. I've only been able to work on it properly for about two months due to a vital part of the work not being available until the start of December. Since then, however, I've been working really hard and getting nowhere. My experiments just don't seem to work, and I have no idea why. There are so many variables that could come into it that I don't know where to look first. Time feels like it's flying, and I feel like my incompetence is beginning to show. I'm worried that this will go on for months and months, and that I'll end up failing my PhD because I'll have nothing to show for it. I won a prize for my masters work last year, but now I feel like I can't do anything right. The work is rather different to what others in my lab are doing, which means I can't easily ask anyone for advice. There aren't even many papers on the techniques I'm using, and those which DO exist all do their work in completely different ways.

I'm concerned that already over 10% of my PhD has passed and I have absolutely zero to show for it. Because of the way the 1+3 thing works, I only get three years max on my proper PhD - no extension into the fourth year allowed - and so I'm already feeling a lot of pressure to get things to work, and so I feel sick about coming to work, sick when I'm here, and really frightened about the prospect of coming out of it at the end with no degree.

Has anyone else felt this?



Hi 4matt, I'm also on a 1 + 3, and also started my PhD 4 months ago. I fluctuate daily between feeling like I'm on track, to feeling like I am unbelievably behind with everything.

As my PhD is in social sciences I don't have experiments etc, but I can imagine you are definitely not the first person to have experiments going wrong/waiting round to get going etc. Have a scroll back through the posts- it always comes up every now and again about people worrying about experiments going wrong etc. All I'm saying is that you will get going, and you have got plenty of time in 3 years to allow yourself a few things to go off track.

Also, I think we have discussed this before- I am on an ESRC funded 1 + 3 and although my funding runs in September 2013, I officially have until September 2014 for completion, just checked on my registration sheet again! Obviously this last year would not be funded, and I really don't want to still be doing the PhD then, but it may be worth looking into.


Hi Matt,

I'm about 4 months into my PhD as well. I was having the exact same feelings. It also wasn't helping hearing a lot of my friends talking about how much progress they had been making. I had a similar problem to you: I had to write a code to model a certain situation. I was given a code but told that it needed upgrading. I've spent nearly 2 months trying to upgrade it only to find it is either worse or the same. So I've got to the point now where I just feel like I've wasted the last two months.

But, my supervisor told me to put it to the side and move onto the next topic. He pointed out that I may not had solved the problem I set out to do, but by trying it I learned much more than simply reading about it. And, after looking back there are a lot of things I know now that could only have come through this experience. So my advice is, don't look too much into results, but look to see what you have learned in trying to do your experiment. Hope this helps!