PhD number two - an experiment of merry madness!


So here we are....six weeks ago I decided to write a second PhD. The decision came from (1) a basic research need - I was looking for some impact data and really could not find a scooby-do; (2) I have been working in the Third Sector for a long time and started to miss academia (particularly the ability to truly explore a topic in rigorous detail); (3) I hope to undertake a shift in my career direction from my original PhD; and (4) I located an amazing Professor who I really wanted to work with.

Had a good chat to myself - weighing up whether I was completely bonkers and trying to drive myself mad (probably yes on both accounts)...and concluded that this is something I am really excited and inspired to undertake. It is also a sort of experiment with myself. I want to know how long it will take me to write another PhD - clearly I hope it will be a lot quicker than the first! (yes wishful thinking!)...the first took seven years part-time!!! I was working on a topic I struggled to feel passionate about - really I ended up there by default not first choice. I was lecturing part-time and a working in a Black Books style independent bookshop (which was awesome but took me further away from my studies)....and I procrastinated (a lot!). The conditions for this PhD are more pressured - I work full-time in the Third Sector in a post that will benefit enormously from my new research; I will be undertaking a full-time PhD; and am totally interested and committed to my research cause.

So the questions are: Will I able to write the second PhD quicker? Will my writing have improved? Will I enjoy the process? Or will I be found half eaten by cats after drinking far too much wine....a sad conclusion to my bonkers journey! Any thoughts!


First of all, good luck on your new PhD (if decided to take it), secondly, it seems that you liked to work a lot along side of your first PhD, what makes you believe that this time you would not get bored and seek a part time job here and there... and thirdly, you must know by now that the duration of a PhD is not necessarily correlated only and directly to the student's willingness to work on the subject, but also depends heavily on 1) the supervisor, 2) proper design of experiment (or data collection) 3) progress to do meaningful research and re-research and re-re-... n times ... re-research, 4) progress in getting or reaching to meaningful resuts or conclusions, 5)progress to make sense in writing and availability of your advisor to read, comment etc etc... I personally think that you will only have a partial control on the time duration of your thesis, the rest shall be considered with uncertainty... As the author of Black Swan says... the success in outcome of your decision is more impacted with what you do not know and have no control over them than what you know and have control over them.


wow! Congratulations on started your 2nd PhD!!!! I think you will enjoy the process, and yes I think your writing may have improved! Absolutely!!!!

You have already been through a phd so you are experienced in this respect.

The only thing that may get in the way is Life. So you'd have to get round doing things in your life, fitting everything in with your phd, I think that is harder than doing a phd.

Congratulations again and thank you for sharing!!!!
love satchi


Oh my goodness! Congratulations and good luck - you're a braver person than me! Although I often speak wistfully of my PhD these days and do sometimes consider alternative topics I could have done/could do in the future, I don't think I'd ever really consider doing a second doctorate as friends and family would be quick to remind me of all those times I said 'I wish I'd never done this! I hate this! aaaarrrgh!' etc. ;)

As for your questions, I think only you yourself will be able to answer them - although I expect going into a second PhD having already done one brings with it some advantages in terms of familiarity and experience. And the fact that your research will actually benefit rather than hinder your professional work is a big, big plus. All the best! :)


Having a thought of challenging yourself for PhD, I believe you can really do it. Just keep the spirit of enthusiasm be with you always. And,you will not go astray with your chosen path.

I do hope to hear from you on how long you can write another PhD. Should I say, bring home the bacon?

Seriously, finish it as soon as possible and always give your best.


Hey :)

Wow, I couldn't imagine taking on another PhD. All the best with it.

Following my PhD, I'm half way through my professional doctorate (ProfDoc) in psychology and can appreciate your questions re undertaking a second doctorate. Although my ProfDoc is in some ways, very different from a PhD, I'm finding it easier to cope with as I've seemed to have picked up vital skills from my PhD to pull me through (ie process, writing, being able to manage multiple pressures and I have some useful understanding into vivas etc), so seem to managing ok. I also have the added the bonus of completing a PhD/doctorate, which is wonderful for any dwindling motivational or confidence crises and all round boost to self efficacy. I'm therefore able to remove myself from all the anxiety shown by my fellow ProfDoc candidates who seem to be stressing over their forthcoming submissions and vivas. I know it's not going to be easy, but I definitely more calm and at peace with myself having successfully completed my PhD and seem to be able to work through these interim assessments without any difficulties. I try to contain my anxieties and PhD experiences as much as possible, but I think it definitely helps having some experience of what's ahead for doctoral study.

Also, the delays with marking and surrounding examination with my PhD revealed how unpredictable and uncontrollable doctorates can be, so I'm trying not to pressurize myself into completing by next year. Having said that I'm hoping to finish by Sept 2015 but that will depend on my ProfDoc thesis and other challenges. Fingers crossed.

Best of luck OP.


I wish you well with your endeavors. However, it's not entirely clear why doing this as a PhD is necessary. Given your existing qualifications and research experience, why not simple do this as a research collaboration with the professor you identified?

Unless you're undertaking a major major shift in area, I would have thought the same end could be achieved by maybe taking a course or two and submitting a project grant somewhere?


Congrats on starting a second doctorate. Well, in theory it will be faster than the first one, as long as you stay committed. But could we ever predict where things will take us? I don't think so. But how long the PhD will take you to finish is unpredictable. It depends on life circumstances, whether you work or not, how you contribute to the finances of your family (if you have one) and how much you have researched the topic before starting this 2nd PhD. If I ever decide to do a second PhD, I will probably sit down and write a good 40.000 words on the topic, then approach a supervisor with this document, and start the PhD. This way I guarantee myself that I am not starting from zero but I have done half the job already.


Firstly I'm partly with HazyJane. Unless you're going for a radically different field second time, I'm not sure why a second PhD is necessary, rather than retraining and e.g. an RA post.

But that aside! I wish you the best of luck. And I do have some experience of this. I only have one completed PhD (history, part-time), but before that I had to leave a science PhD (computer science, full-time) after developing a progressive neurological illness.

I hadn't got too far into the writing of my science PhD, but I learned a lot from that first experience that I think made the second time go better. For example the second time I didn't do the recommended spend a whole year doing your literature survey, which I think is a complete waste of time. Rather I did that in 3 months, part-time, and then got on with research.

I also knew the processes better the second time, even though it was a different university this time. Basically I was a much more efficient PhD student, and took more control of my PhD.

On the downside, writing did not go smoothly time #2. In my case I was switching to a radically different subject area, albeit one I had retrained in, picking up two more degrees first. But I struggled to find my writing voice, and at one point had to restart the writing completely. With hindsight it's just as well I saved time earlier, because I needed it later! But I did complete within the six years allowed me as a part-time student, even though for much of that time I was managing on no more than 5 hours total a week as my illness worsened. I didn't need to ask for extensions, and passed my viva easily.

So there are swings and roundabouts. You might find things don't go so smoothly in unexpected ways. But I think you will find it easier second time in other ways.

And again, good luck!


Wow! that was a response!! thank you so much everyone. All excellent points raised - and since I am literally at the starting line - in fact submitting the proposal next week - I thought I would answer some of your points/questions raised!

A little bit more background to the madness!

Firstly, I am taking a substantial shift in research direction. My first PhD was in humanitarian-rellief (looking at the operational aspects of emergency relief in the Third Sector). I then moved over to work in the Third Sector - but now needing to be based in the UK and not where the next disaster takes me - I had to re-look at my career to make it compatible with home life. So following my interest in the Third Sector - I moved over into global education within the Third Sector - specifically looking at the impact of global learning on poorer socio-economic communities. So really apart from sharing the Third Sector stage - I have moved direction from logistics/stats towards education.

Lots of interesting points have been raised with regard to switching over via post-docotal research - but the truth is I want to be credible in my writing, and feel so strongly that this new research is of fundamental importance - that I need to be accountable for making sure it is based on sound theory and reasoning. I will be collecting my primary data through my job - so they sit really well together in that respect. I also adore my supervisor - a real inspiration. He doesn't treat me really like a PhD student - in that I am not required to jump through modules of research methodology! rather he is an awesome sounding board for ideas, debates and also encourages me to be proactive on the global stage.

But when we strip everything away - past the career - past the research need - past the supervisor....if I'm really honest I just love learning. I don't mind the hard work...or the madness!


Just my honest or maybe my a bit biased opinion: you may not want glorify your yet to be decided action by thinking about it as "madness"... I might be wrong (but certainly not jealous of your decision) but I feel you enjoy referring to your decision as "The Madness"... It is what it is, the outcome will tell you if it was a/the madness or a rational decision or overall too much ado for nothing in your life ...Sometimes we admire ourself for taking unusual steps or fall in love with swimming against the flow so much that we might lose our rationality and feel our life would not be completed if we would not do this or that thing... I would prioritize my life differently... for me there is more to life than just getting diplomas after another diplomas (which I have done in my life so far stopped in one PhD and two postdocs).. I do not regret what I have done but now when I am getting towards the finish line of my academic "studentship" and soon I need to join to work force (or teaching force), I think I could have done more with the best years of my life than what I have done so far... late 20s to end of 30s are the best years of your life to know about yourself, your friends and family, your other talents, the world around you and so on than just simply being spent in desperation and departmental policies for finishing another PhD (again this is just my opinion about my own life and may not apply to yours)... after all a PhD was supposed to be an indicator of one's ability to do research on uncharted territories and ability to reach to measurable and repeatable scholarly conclusions and not just a level of education one can have and the more you have the better and smarter you are... but again best of luck.


Its pretty amazing how something positive can be turned inside - and made to be something negative. Perhaps this reflects my hope and optimism in life. I really couldn't give a monkey's about the actual qualification in terms of status as your post implies. I care about the work I produce and how I will be able to utilise the impact data through my current job. It's funny really - because I saw the postgraduate community as being a 'community' - a place to support, encourage and debate - not to judge others by ones own standards.