The last straw?


My sup says he doesn't want to see me again until I have a chapter to show him. (I've just started my writing-up year and it's not that I haven't written anything before, I have lots of stuff down but it needs organising and filling out so that it makes a thesis rather than a collection of papers.)
My meeting is supposed to be tomorrow.
I have worked every available hour, every day since the last meeting and I still don't have a chapter. I'm not even close. Really - I have a bit here and a bit there but nothing coherent.
I feel so depressed because I've tried so hard and I know I can do it I just can't face yet another meeting where I have to apologise for failing. What else could I have done? I really think I tried my best. I don't want to cancel either because that will be even worse. :-( What do I do?

Avatar for sneaks

Sounds like your in a very similar situation to me.

I'd go along to the meeting, show what you've got and ask for tips on how to change/improve. Its much easier to change work IMO, before its 'finished', becuase it becomes increasingly difficult to tamper with any of it, if it all looks like its 'done' if you get what I mean?

They gave you the deadline to get you working - you have worked, just not finished. The key now is not to give up and put it to oneside but push through with it and get it done in the next few weeks, with any changes your sup thinks is necessary.

Its also likely that the bits you have completed are good quality, which is better than having it ALL finished but badly.


i think your issue is structure. i once had this problem. before you start writing you need to have a coherent argument / objective. that is what you are doing or saying in that chapter. then work out how to say it (structure. mind mapping really helps here). then say it!

i agree. go to the meeting and acknowledge that you are struggling somewhere and ask your supervisor what you can do to improve. show them that you want to learn and to improve. they should come to your side and help.


It possible for structure to evolve in the process of writing, i.e. as a result of writing. This is where you don't know exactly where your story is leading, but you start on the journey, do the writing, and see what you come up with. If you do this you need to do a major re-editing/drafting afterwards i.e. your first draft is just a very first draft, and will need restructuring big style. But it can be done. That's what I did throughout my humanities thesis. I could rarely predict in advance what my structure would be, and preferred to write and see what emerged.

Go and see your supervisor. Explain where you have got to and ask for help about how to tackle structuring what you already have. You will not need to start the writing from scratch, so have already made good progress.


Hello Florence

I just wanted to drop a line of encouragement. I hope things work out for you in regards to your writing and hopefully your supervisor will be more understanding. Good luck(up)


Thanks for the replies. I emailed my sup outlining what I had done and he has postponed the meeting till next week, saying he wants to meet on the basis of something more substantial than what I have at the moment.
I feel absolutely crap today. Too depressed to face the work or anything. Feel like I've wasted three years as it turns out I can't do this - I'm just hopeless at it.

Avatar for sneaks

ok, breathe, its fine. Go back to the basic bullet point list of sections you need to have written and aim to do one of them by the end of the day. You can do this, otherwise you wouldn't be here.

My mum has a greate phrase for when I'm feeling like this... "bigger fools than me have done this" i.e. other people have managed to do this who are half as intelligent than I am, so I MUST be able to do it :-)


if its any encouragement Florence... i restarted my phd after 3 years and managed to read again and write a whole new phd in around 1yr 9 months. i wasn't always disciplined in this time. so it's all about attitude. you don't have to restart like in my case, so you could do this in a year.. just stay positive and really go for it. give your all into it and be POSITIVE about feedback. instead of seeing how crap you are and how crap the work is, just think am gonna make the most of this second chance and see it as a challenge rather than an indication of your ability. the initial chapters took me the longest because i was not confident, but after you have two chapters, you will be fine.


Sneaks - i like that. :-)


I think perhaps it might be a good idea to take a little bit of time out from writing and get your plan for the thesis sorted out. You need a framework for the whole thing, and a breakdown for each chapter. Start with the whole thing, you will know what you want to say, what methods you used, and what your results are if you have completed a survey, so get some paper, either a big bit for everything or one sheet per chapter, and write these down, this is your basic but pliable structure. In my case I have seven chapters at the moment. You know how many words you have available, so divide the words between the chapters, you now know how many words you have for each one, this may look like a lot, but it isn't! You have some writing already, so either print it out and attach it to the relevant chapter heading, or put it in a separate file, or  you may want to just put the title on the appropriate chapter list. Organise what you have so far, then look for the gaps, and/or use mind mapping or something similar to work out exactly what else you need for each chapter. Some might be easier to start with than others, your methodology for example, as you know what you did and why you did it. Start with an introduction that tells the reader what you are going to tell them in the chapter, tell them, then summarise what you have told them, in my case I have also put in a couple of mini summaries as I have gone along. Use the last bit of one chapter to lead onto the next. It took me ages to get the provisional chapter headings worked out, and I used several books, Clough and Nutbrown and Hart especially to help me sort out where I was going - which turns out to be somewhere different to the direction I was expecting.

You can do this, just don't panic, be logical in your approach to the framework and even if you don't get a chapter written in a suitably polished state, you will get one that will provide a basis for discussion with your supervisor. Good Luck