Struggling- last few months


======= Date Modified 05 40 2010 10:40:25 =======
Hey all,

Just wanted to have a little rant! Apologies for the negative post in advance!

As I've said on my other posts, I'm really struggling at the moment. It feels as if I'm going to fail at the last hurdle!

It's the first week of August and I still have quite a bit to do. I still need to complete and finalise 2 result chapters (ie meet supervisors corrections), finalise my discussion chapter and reduce and update my literature reviews. I'm aiming to have a complete draft by mid August which leaves me with very little time indeed!

On the upside, I know my supervisors have said my work is 'very advanced' for a PhD and contains more work than their respective PhDs and I know my work is completely unique within the field, but I'm really struggling with my own demons at the moment. Despite my progress over the last few months, I can't quite see the end yet. :( and I've more or less convinced myself that I will not get through my viva. I've written around 110k which needs to be cut to around 85k.

I feel like a complete fraud and I'm wondering if the university has made a massive mistake in upgrading me as PhD candidate. The fact that my supervisors feel I'll likely receive major corrections (going by the current state of my thesis) which is only accelerating my thoughts of failure and feelings that I'm a fraud! I'm reluctant to approach them because they will make me feel even worse as their very critical with hardly anything positive to say.

I'm probably just having a bit of a wobble today, but if anyone has any tips etc on how to get through the last few weeks I'll be very grateful! At the moment, I'm taking little baby steps and working towards achieving small goals, but I'm now wondering if this is a complete waste of time, especially if I fail at the last hurdle!

Maybe I should just downgrade to an MPhil and admit that I'll never be good enough to receive a PhD. My deadline is the 30th of September so I have a small window of time to improve and finalise my thesis.

Feeling terrible! :-(


Pineapple29 I'm going to give you a "virtual" slap in the face!! There is totally no need to feel like this given your supervisors previous comments about the advanced state of your work. That you have got this far and written all that is a sign of your commitment to the PhD, do not even consider downgrading to MPhil at this point!!! As you will know, even if everything went wrong at the Viva (which it won't), they may give you an MPhil anyway, so there's no point in pre-empting this. You would be shooting yourself in the foot if you don't give yourself at least a chance. I am also at the last stage of the PhD... 80k words of rubbish so far, I'm halfway through the last Chapter, and I still have to make all the corrections. I know how you feel - that it'll never be good enough, why put yourself through it, that it's a pile of pants. But confidence is the most important thing of all - you just need to be honest about its good points, and aware of its bad ones, and then you will do just fine at the Viva, trust me. So stop panicking and just hand it in. The point of a PhD is to prove you can conduct research, and the thesis just needs to indicate this, who cares if you didn't find everything you were looking for/it's not perfect. Good luck and be brave (up)

Avatar for Pjlu

No way should you downgrade to MPHil yet (not that there's anything wrong with MPHils-quite the contrary-if you ended up with one that would be something to be proud of as well). But you need to see this process out Pineapple-hang in there. Let the examiners make the decision and don't make too many assumptions from offhand comments the supervisors may have made...

Everyone feels like a fraud and a failure at these times but this is just faulty thinking-something we are all trained to do from birth upwards. (Well many of us anyway). Others at PHd of things will give more focused and relevant advice regarding how to get through...but just from the pointy end of the final days, weeks, hours, whatever of the final masters thesis edit...the process is just as crappy. So you see it through to the end and just deal with whatever comes of it from then. You are not a failure...that is just our stupid western thinking mindset.


Hi Pineapple

Not sure if you're the same Pineapple who had the difficult upgrade around the same time as me (2007). Keep going, you're nearly there. I think the last part of the PhD is the hardest (having just finished and submitted myself) - the last two months of my PhD were hellish hard work (10 hour days for the best part of the 2 months) and I had many of the same doubts you are having. I think it's normal. Knowing that you're so close to the end makes it feel impossible to get there. It's like you can see the finish line but you're stuck in glue or something. I found you have to empty your head of everything and everyone (not family and friends) in the direct line of the PhD and just make your own decisions and stop second-guessing what people might think. Just focus on the finish line, the job before you, and getting it done. I had to cut around 25K from my thesis too - and it did it a lot of good in the end. The last 6k I cut was, literally - around 10 words per page (easier than you might imagine - lots of 'I would like to suggest' cut down to 'I suggest'... LOL).

Tips for moving forward. See if you can summarise each chapter on 1 A4 page - this really worked for me - and even helped me 'project forward' on a summary for the final two chapters I hadn't written yet. I succeeded with the summaries - but needed 2 pages for the Methods/Research Design chapter. These summaries were especially good for convincing me I'd achieved a lot and for helping me to sort out what really mattered, so I could delete some stuff. Another tip (and this dates back to my schooldays) - if in doubt, leave it out - I found some parts I kept sticking on that were interesting but not integral to my thesis... and many times when I read over them, I'd get this kind of mental block with them - when deleting for the final time, it was much easier to get rid of them (my hobby horses).

Given what you have left to do... another tip is 'eat that frog' - i.e. do the thing you least want to do first. Break the day in two... do the hard thing in the morning and easier things in the afternoon. So, you could work on the results stuff in the morning... then spend a couple of hours later in the day doing easier stuff (to rest the brain) like cutting the lit review down/updating it.

Don't think about failing, trust yourself. You can do this. Good luck. :-) (up)


======= Date Modified 05 Aug 2010 11:54:18 =======
Pineapple, CHarls, Pjlu and Bakuvia

I am glad to see that I am not alone. Pineapple....I understand your dilemma, and feel similar sentiments most of the time - I too have written way to much, and at this last stage the motivation is dragging, and I know that I am really only a few weeks away from the end. Just keep remembering your achievements! Celebrate how far you have come!

Bakuvia - great tip for cutting out words - thanks I will try that too.

To you all -remember that there is a great community here on the forum, and we all have many of the same worries and concerns, we really don't mind if you feel the need to vent, share, moan etc ....get it all out, we understand.



Hi Pineapple, I see you have a few helpful and insightful comments below, so perhaps you won't mind a short little note from me. I'm yet to begin PhD (finishing MA and beginning PhD in Sept) but what you mentioned her about feeling "like a fraud" struck a nerve with me because it's something I can relate to very much. Twice throughout my MA I have gained the highest mark ever awarded (the second time beating my own record). Instead of feeling entirely elated about this fact, I felt, as you say, as if someone, somewhere, had made a mistake and sooner or later they would see. Not that I didn't work bloody hard, or put in much time and effort, just that I didn't feel exactly "good enough" for this to be true.

A tutor of mine, very well respected in his field, published up to his eye balls (numerous books as well as articles and edited collections) once said to me he was still waiting for everyone to find out that he is a "fake" (or something alone those lines). He said that feeling never goes away. Hearing it from him made me feel better because I know he is in no way fraudulant, but is, in fact, very clever. It appears to be a self-consciousness that, although it makes us good academics, being self-aware and throughtful, can sometimes feel crippling and overly self-critical. I just wanted to say, this feeling is normal for other people too. Please, put it in that box of 'one more thing you need to manage' and keep it there.

Best of luck.


Great post Helena

How honest of your supervisor to admit that...perhaps it is the sign of a good academic!



The last few months are hard. The only way I got through was to knuckle down and worry about small immediate tasks, not the bigger picture, or the viva afterwards. I took it just one step at a time.

And re the MPhil thing, well if you give up and submit for an MPhil you'll have to do an awful lot of reducing to get it to fit the word limit, so would have work to do still. You should give the PhD a go. If you don't you will regret it in the future. And your supervisors could be very wrong. Mine thought the examiners would be very unhappy with my conclusions and would want major rewrites. Not a jot :)


Good morning everyone

I just wanted to thank those of you who responded to my message and I agree, I probably needed a slap yesterday!

I'm feeling a little better today about my thesis. Yesterday, I developed a spreadsheet that reflects the amount of days and weeks I have left until submission date which is helping me see that this will all be over soon! Given the amount of work I've put in so far, I think I'm closer to finishing than I realised.

At my last supervision, my supervisors were in agreement that my PhD 'is worthy of a PhD rather than anything else' (their words) although at the moment, its bordering on major corrections. Putting major corrections to one side, I'm at least pleased that they think my thesis is worthy of a doctorate (and their very experienced external and internal PhD examiners and tend to be brutally honest with me!).

Thanks for the feedback re summary sheets for each chapter- I think that's a really good idea! (and hopefully will help with my wood through the trees problem!)

I'm going to continue working towards smaller goals rather than looking at the big picture and final outcome. I'm also going to try and avoid some people in my life who have very low opinions of me and what I'm capable of.

Given that this PhD will be my fifth degree (BSc, MSc, MSc, PostCert, PhD), I think I have earned the right to feel confident in myself and that I can get through this! I just wish I could believe in myself a bit more. As I'm turning 30 next year, it will be nice to know that I've stretched my academic brain in my 20s so hopefully I can enjoy the benefits of my work to take me through my thirties..... I just need to try and be confident in order for me to pass!

Thanks for everyone's responses- much appreciated!!!