*really* tough day and a difficult decision


Hey, I'd appreciate your opinions.....

I was given the dreaded 'resubmission' option following my viva two years ago. Several extensions later and I should be heading towards resubmission and reviva. It has been utter hell. I do not enjoy my subject, at all, and have pretty much lost the desire to have a phd.

Anyhow, I've been working my @rse off for the past two months to rework two significant chapters. It got to the point to send them off to my supervisors and I was still really disappointed with them both.

I met my supers today. It was a cards on the table meeting and really tough going. They are both good people but we all had some difficult things to discuss. The outcome was that I am left with three options:

1) Accept that I probably need to do another six months, full time, on the thesis to then re-viva with a pretty hostile external.
2) Walk away with nothing now.
3) Rework the document into an MPhil submission.

My supers have said they will absolutely support me whichever decision I make.

It was very sad discussing all this. I wept, a lot, which was quite embarrassing. I feel that I spent three years (funded) on this work and then since then two years (sort of part time) and then in the last few months, full time (having been made redundant!)

I just think I have any fight left. I am dubious as to whether the research question can be successfully answered. I don't care about the topic. I am not that bothered about having a phd. I already have a long history of successful HE level research. I am not bothered by journal articles etc, I like research out there in the real world, with real people, which is where my history is.

The only reason I can think of for trying to finish it (which would have to wrap around a full-time job as I am completely and utterly broke and need to find work) is because I started it.

On the one hand it's a relief to have this out on the table now, but heartbreaking at the same time. It's tough. Everything has changed and I'm not sure where I'm heading.

Has anyone here decided to submit for a masters instead of the phd? Has anyone walked away? Any words of wisdom.


Hey Angel. I'm only in second year (although I am already scared witless at the thought of a viva) so I can't say I've been there, but a friend of mine did get a re-submit verdict over a year ago and he recently re-submitted and passed his PhD successfully. So people do get there. If it was me, I can't imagine being able to let go of 5 or so years worth of work and having no PhD to show for it, and would probably be doggedly determined to carry on and get through it. Having said that, you must be exhausted from it all, and if you really think you have nothing to gain from carrying on then perhaps it's not worth making yourself miserable over. As you say, it's on the table and I think you have to make a decision to either go for it hell for leather and get the damn thing done and out of your life, or throw it out and move on. What is your gut instinct? If you imagine throwing it away and moving on, how does it feel? Sorry, I haven't come anywhere near to answering your question...I guess my take on it is that if you reckon you can get through it then I would do it. If you really feel you can't then life is far too short to be this unhappy, especially if there is nothing to gain in the long-term from carrying on, so find something that will make you happy. All the best with whatever you decide, keep us up to date, best, KB


I'm not really a wise person, Angelofthenorth, and I can't really imagine what you're going through. I imagine that it must be as bad as it gets though. I can try and give you my perspective and any wisdom you have though that may be of no help. I've spoken to a lot of people who, right towards the end of their PhD, have just wanted to chuck the thing in the bin and forget about it, like you. Firstly, you've spent 5 years on it, so you just can't drop everything and forget about it - unless your health seriously depends on it. You have to have something valuable to show for all your hard work and efforts. So, that leaves two options to me: the MPhil or another 6 months of toil to resubmit for the PhD.
The MPhil might be a really good route for you because of the fact that you don't feel that a PhD is going to aid your career and what you want to do with it. It's also a very significant achievement in its own right (I hope that doesn't sound patronising) and may be the best compromise for getting the most value out of what you have done so far relative to how much you want an end to your experience. Not to play devil's advocate, but all that work and effort of yours deserves, in my view, a PhD. Why are they going to give you a hostile external? Why can't they strategically select someone who will be more appreciative of your efforts? Any, sorry if I sound stupid, even if you feel worried about being able to satisfactorily answer your research questions, could you not account for the reasons why in your discussion and conclusions?
I'd go for the MPhil if you feel that your health and finances mean that it is impossible to carry on for another 6 months with the PhD.



Yeah, the external will be hostile, I had a hell of a time with her in the first viva. I can't financially manage another six months of full-time on this, we're crippled financially due to my working on it full time since being redundant and the thought of six-months-full-time broken down to part-time is just soul-destroying. Then to re-submit with a fair chance of passing, but not a guaranteed chance.

My gut feeling is that the mphil is probably the way forward. I have no fight left in me for the phd. It has taken so much time and fun out of life - it really has been hell since the viva.

I feel that the phd route is as much about the journey than the end result although, of course, we get utterly caught up by the desire for the end result. I've learned an awful lot, which I am grateful for but just don't think I can keep putting myself and my family through this process.


I'm in almost the same boat (I have never submitted yet). Just carrying on my PhD because I started it. I am sorry but I can't help, It's a very difficult choice and too personal to give any advice. Good luck! We need it.

Avatar for Eska

Yes, I agree with Tusco. I haven't responded here because I don't feel I can advise you, but I wish you the very best of luck and you ave my thoughts. And a sprout, if that helps any: (sprout)


Angelofthenorth, a couple of weeks ago you gave great support and encouragement to me on this forum. I am sorry to hear you have found yourself at this crossroads. Being on a similar boat (not submitted yet, but been struggling in a very similar way, for far too long) I understand the stress and the hopeless feeling very well. Whatever decision you make, it should be the one that you are at peace with. Giving something up takes a lot of courage, but it sounds like you want to (and can) give this a one last shot, at least to look back and know that you've done everything you could. It's great that the supervisors are on your side whatever is the decision. If they didn't see the light at the end of this, they wouldn't be supporting the first option at all. It's only six months. Maybe even less... You can do it.

Not liking the subject anymore is a great bonus. When you don't care that much, it's even easier to see this as a piece of research work that needs to be done (that's how I am trying to do). Look at what's missing, see how you can turn your data into something to cover that, do more experiments if necessary but be very ruthless about time. I don't know your subject, but you are the master of your thesis. It might not say anything to fulfill one certain thing yet, but I'm sure you can make that happen.

Again, it's only six months. You've done most of the work. Now you need to turn it into a piece of academic writing that does the job, even if it means to compromise. Don't worry about where you're heading (there's no time for that); it will come to you very soon. Just keep on writing.

best wishes to you (up)


Dear Angelofthenorth, my heart went out to you when I read about your problem. I would echo walminskipeasucker's remark about it being about "as bad as it gets". For what it's worth, some thoughts on the matter. I don't know whether your thesis is in the physical sciences or the social sciences / humanities because I can only comment on the latter. Presumably, after your viva you were given a fairly specific list of corrections. My understanding is that if those points are addressed, then they have to pass you because they had their chance to mention anything else at the original viva. The fine point here is just how well do you need to address them? I think 404's remark about simply turning in a piece of work which "does the job" is spot on here, i.e. you address them as well as you can even though you may feel you have done so inadequately. When I resubmitted my thesis (I had fairly substantial corrections) I was advised by my supervisor to submit it with a covering letter to the examiners saying that I had addressed points 1, 2, 3, etc. even though I was conscious that I had not made a very good job of some of them. As for the issue of answering the research question, I would not be overly concerned about this. Not EVERY PhD is able to do so, and that is some kind of answer in itself. The key point about this strategy is that it offers a slightly different angle on the dilemma facing you - either give up, submit for an MPhil or try for the PhD. If (and I stress 'if') you aim for the latter, but they still decide to fail you, then I would expect them to aware you an MPhil anyway (which they invariably do as a consolation prize). I personally would not bother to submit for an MPhil, I'd at least have a go at the PhD because it's just possible you might squeak it...


Thanks for your words everyone.

The situation is a difficult one - I need to do at least another six months full-time on the thesis, then re-viva, then get the thesis back (if it were to pass).

I can't do six months full-time, our household is on its knees financially because I have pursued this. We are maxxed out on every credit card and are at the end of our overdrafts. We are unable to pay our bills now and am relying on family hand-outs to keep us from bankruptcy. I must go back to work asap, this means that realistically I am looking at at least a year of part-time thesis work..... the maximum extension I can get now is three months....

The other issue is that since my catastrophic viva I have suffered from real panic and anxiety and my work has not moved forward. I am working my butt off but the work is going around in circles, not advancing. My confidence in this work has been shattered and I cannot regain my earlier confidence.

This work has made me deeply miserable and anxious for the past two years. I am not the person I was and everyone who loves me is deeply concerned. I have lost family support now as they find it imcomprehensible why I should continue on this route. Particularly as I have no love for the subject and do not have any burning desire to own a phd..... I am only continuing because I started.

With all this in mind I have made the decision to withdraw and submit an MPhil. I'll still have to do some work to get a 100k document down to a 40k document, which is going to be tought.

The sense of relief is incredible, I slept soundly last night (for the first time in months) and have arranged to see some friends over the weekend (again for the first time in months).

Avatar for Eska

Hey, Angel, congratulations on making your decision, and for getting a good night's sleep, keep coming back if you need us for motivation for the MPhil or whatever. I hope life gets better now, I am sure it will; enjoy your weekend X :-)


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Hey Angel, sounds like a good call to me. The fact that you actually got a good night's sleep after making the decision makes it sound like you have made the right one- best of luck with it and well done for making the decision! Best, KB


Sorry to hear you had to make such a tough decision, but it does indeed sound as though it's the right one. When I left a full-time science PhD 13 years ago, after falling long-term ill, it was the hardest decision I ever had to make, but once made I immediately knew it was the right one, and it was though a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Sounds like your decision is the same.

Also make sure you have a bit of a rest - you've been through a really tough time - before tackling the changes for MPhil submission.


Angel, I'm so sorry you've had to go through this. But well done on making a courageous decision, from how you're feeling now it sounds as if it was the right one. Look after yourself and enjoy the extra freedom this has given you, I'm really glad you have that weight off your shoulders at last.


Well done on making such a brave decision, I hope that everything works out well for you. It sounds like you've taken control of the situation, and I'm sure that everything will get much better! Good luck, mx


Hello, Angelofthenorth, I think the way you've described things, you've made the best decision. You've worked extremely hard, but when it comes to your family finances, the people you love and your own health you just can't put it at serious risk. As you said, the PhD is not integral to your long term career goals and you will leave with an MPhil, so it won't be like you have nothing significant to show. On top of this, there is nothing to stop you from pursuing another PhD in the future if you ever felt it appropriate, since you have both the experience and ability. I wish you luck with everything.(up):-)