writing up: how fast is feasible?!


I tried to be good - tried to write up as I went along (but only did approx 15,000 words) - but now that I'm on the brink of starting the proper writing up, there's *masses* of reorganization needed. You name it, it's changing!! (title, order of chapters, case studies, etc.) How long does writing up take, when you're starting with info overload & nearly from scratch? (Is the answer 'how long is a piece of string?')

It's a social sciences phd - although I love my subject, I so want to finish soon! My supervisor's motto is 'the only good phd is a completed phd' & I feel guilty of having basically written it in my head...

Any ideas would be much appreciated... :)


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I don't really have heaps of advice but wanted to reply as in around 3 months I will be in the same situation. I had great intentions of writing as I went too but with a crazy busy fieldwork experience, working 10 hours a week for extra cash, and a bout of depression last year, combined with much procrastination and a few holidays I now only have around 15,000 written up too.

I am planning on writing a chapter a month for 6 months which would have me an (almost) complete draft then spend another 4 months or so revising and rewriting sections after feedback from supervisors.

How much time do you actually have?

I totally sympathise. I love my topic but I am very much keen to finish as soon as I can!


I am awaiting lots of disagreement, but 3 colleagues of mine who all did their PhDs in the last 10 years, and who are all now lecturers, told me that if you knew what you were doing, you could do a whole PhD in a year. The rest of the time is spend procrastinating, going down blind alleys, hiding under the duvet, writing on forums ;-) etc. So if it is really all written in your head, and you know what you are doing, and can just get on and do it, then logically it doesn't take so long. Of course, that is a huge "if" as working your way through all the mess is what the PhD process is about...


Quote From alice:

I am awaiting lots of disagreement, but 3 colleagues of mine who all did their PhDs in the last 10 years, and who are all now lecturers, told me that if you knew what you were doing, you could do a whole PhD in a year.

OK, I'll be the first to disagree! Not only do I think that's unrealistic, it also assumes that all the field work can be completed in a few months and then written up - not realistic in lots of cases. My field work has taken 18 months, timing is dependent on participants. You could maybe do a PhD in a year if you were a lecturer - someone who 'knew what they were doing" - but we're students! We're learning and are not yet experts and going down blind alleys is all part of it!


I can't see how one year could be possible. I can only talk about qualitative social science research with a very hard to reach population group because that is my field, but I find it hard to understand these colleagues suggestions. Whilst the bulk of my fieldwork only took me 5 months, I had a lead in time of almost a year building relationships in the field, and trying out the interview guide with initial participants. This was essential for my topic; however I have no knowledge of what it is like to do a PhD with easier to reach populations, using quantitative methods, or in an entirely different discipline. Maybe it is possible in some areas, but certainly not in mine!


I can feel a massive debate coming on... yes ok maybe in some fields you could technically do a PhD in a year, IF you already knew every single thing you needed to know, had all your participants/whatever lined up and had no problem churning out the written word. But if you could do all that, you wouldn't need to do a PhD in the first place!!! In hindsight (i.e. if I knew then what I know now) I could have probably done mine in 2 instead of 4, but that's the whole point, you DON'T know it all at the start!!!

ANYWAY, the original question was... how long to write up? I wrote my thesis in 8 months (like you, practically had nothing written until that point), but I was still doing data collection and analysis and had a massive amount of teaching too... So maybe you could do it in 6 if you can devote all your time to it? I also felt I had it 'written' in my head as you put it... I found myself wishing for a little magic tape recorder where I could just say it all and it would somehow appear on the pages rather than having to painstakingly write it all out myself... if that makes sense!!!

Slowmo, I think a chapter a month is very realistic... I think 4 months for revising seems a bit long though but I suppose that is down to your supervisor rather than you! Mine was not too picky thankfully, although I hope that doesn't mean he missed things that my examiners might spot!!! :$