ups and downs


Hello everybody,

I guess everyone goes through lots of ups and downs whilst doing a PhD, I just feel that whenever everything's going really well, something really tricky is already lurking behind the corner. I had a really good last two weeks, when writing up went smoothly, but it was too good to be true once again because today I discovered a calculation mistake that ruins all my results and causes me not only to redo all calculations (that wouldn't be so bad) but to differntiate different cases and adds even more complications to my chapter. I hate it! Sorry to be complaining like this - I know it is part of the whole process but it just annoys me so bad. Instead of working on resolving the current problem, I spent the whole morning procrastinating.


Dear Marbeaux, that sounds so familiar:) I can assure you that many of Phds doing any calculations have experienced something similar....Me too, I once had to rewrite a whole chapter because of a small mistake in programming statistical analysis. That mistake turned into disaster. But need to go back to the square one is almost regular...I find myself redoing the same thing many times... So, keep up, you will be alright, eventually.


Thanks for that. Sometimes it can already help a lot to know you are not the only one going through certain things. Calculation mistakes are the worst! But better find them now than have them found during the viva!


Hi Marbeaux. You have my sympathies. My first major analysis had a serious error in it, I didn't realise until I'd presented it at a conference, got an award for it, and it wasn't until I was idley chatting to a fellow PhD friend who was asking me how I'd done my calculations that I saw a massive gaping error. I was horrified, and lost huge amounts of confidence in myself for missing the mistake. But I've since re-analysed the data, and learnt from it... and probably too anal now going overboard on checkign and double checking everything. Research is frustrating at times. But just remember that you learn more from your mistakes than your successes (perhaps not a comforting thought, but true).


Know exactly what you mean: I had to re-do 800 samples once cos of a mistake. You can really lose confidence in yourself. Now I make SOPs all of all methods I do, explaining clearly how the calculations work, so that other people can point out errors to me sooner rather than later.

I read this in the Guardian last weekend, and it made me feel better:,,2160002,00.html

Also know what you mean about ups and downs. I met a professor fairly recently who told me that his PhD was a repeating process of thinking "I'm a genius/I'm an idiot", for the whole 3 years.

At least we can admit mistakes. I know one or two postgrads who just cannot, and I wonder how they learn anything.


I see the ups and downs as the best way to learn, but also how to manage high stakes situations. It sucks while it happens, but it helps you in the long term.


I sympathise. Everything I've had to do is harder than expected. I was planning to submit June/July and it's September in my 4th year and I haven't.


One of the best/worst mistakes I heard about was a group that were researching the effects of ecstasy on the brain and found it to be highly toxic. They published an important paper and then realised that the person who was making the samples so the study would be blind had actually got ecstasy mixed up with a well known neurotoxin.