Writing up + thinking further ahead... what should you be doing?


Hello all,

I'm writing up and submitting in the spring. I wondered whether others at the same stage were thinking ahead, to try to ensure something positive happens after completion. However, I know completing a PhD isn't automatically a magic ticket to an exciting new working life - I've seen people unemployed and very depressed afterwards, or go off travelling to purge their minds of the whole thing until they can think clearly again.

I'm intending to stay in academia, and have realised I should probably start thinking about the next academic year. I've been noticing internal funding calls recently, as well as calls for papers at conferences next autumn I *should* go to, though the idea isn't very tempting at the moment. Hibernating with my thesis for months is obviously helping to get it done and I really don't want to divert myself from that, but it's not helping to increase my chances of interesting future work. Otherwise, the worst case scenario for 2009/10 is that things are exactly the same as now, apart from I'll hopefully be Dr so and so, with a lot more spare time on my hands.

I wondered what other people in this situation are doing? Are you actively looking at funding for other projects, job applications etc? Or will that wait until you've at least submitted? What is the experience of post-docs - are there things you wish you'd done differently, or did everything work out fine, and if it did, do you have any suggestions about what one should be doing at this stage? Any advice would be very welcome!


I am in the same situation and I am taking the 'hibernating with my thesis' approach. I am postponing papers and funding applications until it's submitted which will mean probably a year out before a postdoc. I'm hoping to do some teaching during that time. I am very antsy about papers - that's one thing I might try to do some of earlier, but overall I just want to submit. I was hoping for Xmas but realistically I think March.

I will be looking at conferences for next year but you don't always want to present new work for the first time at a conference if you would prefer it to get into a journal rather than conference proceedings. That's one reason why I haven't pushed that. Funding is heavily influenced by papers, so after submission, papers are the priority. I'm trying to frame my chapters so that they are basically papers and hopefully that will enable me to get one or two papers submitted over the next few months.

My daughter starts school next year so it actually might work well if I'm not working full time at least during her first term - and my husband can support us financially. If you are very keen to be working full-time a year from now then you really need to be applying from now. Or be prepared to take anything you can get for a year while you apply for the next year.


I was going to leave writing papers for publication until afterwards as well, also hopefully have a rest and get some teaching, preferably in different unis for a bit more experience. I've been starting to worry about it recently, as I dropped out of all my teaching this year to get the thing finished and being 'invisible' for a year seems a bit dodgy in the current economic climate, as it's very competitive in my area. I've never been the world's best 'networker' either. Someone told me it takes about a year to get some decent publications in the pipeline and sort yourself out after completion, so maybe it's best to stay in my current p/t job and see how it goes.


I also feel very invisible this year and I also worry that this won't help be get a job. In the end though, I just have to get this blasted thing finished (which means working at home in my cave) and I don't have time to float around the dept.


Am also just buried under, writing up and chasing missing data. Don't even want to worry myself about what will happen when I finish as this just consume my energies. To be honest am not really sure, currently don't have a blue print though i have some idea of where i would like to see myself. I have inklings for think tanks, I have been teaching during this PhD and am not sure i would still what to do it when i finish. Will see, first things first, this MOUNTAIN has to move!


Thanks Smilodon and Tsipat, I'm glad it's not just me! As long as this thing gets done and I don't lose the plot in the process, I think I'll be grateful for that at the moment.


I've about a year and a half to go, but I'm already getting grant proposals together and trying to gather data for my "so far imaginary) postdoc career. If you're in the scientific area, I have found time and again when writing grants that we ger good feedback, but told that we really needed to add data and preliminary research/publications: ideas alone aren't enough. So if I can fit those in whilst finishing my PhD, I will.

A member of staff here told me this week that he thinks universities are not doing enough to provide postdocs: they offer very little support beyond PhD. All the money for postdocs comes from business links or research councils. And I tell you I am trying to run away from business links! Done nothing but commercial work since July; going a bit stir-crazy!


I'm planning to submit November/December and I did try to do some job applications but even those (and papers etc) have to be pushed aside...

One question about conferences for next Autumn - who/how will you fund yourself for that? Presumably you can't apply for University funds if you've submitted/viva-ed/graduated...I've seen a few, but couldn't afford to do it by myself...


Im going to submit in a few weeks and Id advise to crack on and get things sorted well before then if you want to stay in academia - try and publish, definitely do conference presentations before publishing, to get ideas and help firm up the publication on which it (will be) based, network, schmooze....thats the way i got straight into a lectureship. If i hadnt done all this during my thesis, i would never have got the job!


One question guys. So when do you really get going on the post-ohd plans/preps? in which yr of the phd? Also, how involved is your supervisor in this? Especially for very young PhDs who might not necessarily have learnt the ropes/practices too well by the time they start the phd? Who do you reveal all your cards to and who is that first root of contact?


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Quote From Smilodon:

I am postponing papers and funding applications until it's submitted which will mean probably a year out before a postdoc. .

This is a good approach, Smilodon. Get the PhD out the way.

I have wasted a huge amount of time applying for jobs and preping for interviews while attempting to finish my PhD. Ultimately, recruiters prefer candidates with a PhD in their back pocket, and not in the process of writing-up, so you are always in an up hill battle.

I spent a month on one job application for a great job in Oxford, then went through the whole recruitment process (wrote a paper/did scary presentation), got short-listed but then knocked back, and then later down the line discovered no one was recruited for the post. This wouldn't have bothered me if I had finished my PhD, but because I am in the midst of writing up it seriously leeched my time.

I suppose the third year or writing up year is a good time to start looking a job opportunities, but in my opinion, it's best not to commit oneself to lots of interviews/presentations for jobs until the PhD submitted.


Quote From thecoastman:

One question about conferences for next Autumn - who/how will you fund yourself for that? Presumably you can't apply for University funds if you've submitted/viva-ed/graduated...I've seen a few, but couldn't afford to do it by myself...

Good point, I've been thinking about it too - I don't think that year's going to be a very easy time without the obvious funding safety net of the student budget. In my college, I've also been employed as a regular member of academic teaching staff since I've been doing my PhD (as an associate lecturer). Theoretically, we can apply for internal funding for various things, but it usually depends on how many hours per year we teach and on how good/useful our research is deemed to be by the college. I've no idea how this compares to the status of GTAs in other universities, are they considered 'real' staff and what are the possibilities post-doc for regular teaching, with the internal funding that might go with it?

For me, for that particular conference and being freshly out of the PhD, I think any funding would be negotiable and have to be linked to a definite publication, plus an implicit judgement by the budget holders on how useful my research is likely to be to that department over the next few years - very results driven, as I've got no established research profile to fall back on. It's quite an important conference for me, as it's one of the main ones for my subject. I'll mention it to my supervisors nearer the abstract deadline and see what they say, then decide if it's worth paying for it myself or not, it's a UK one so even just going for one day would probably be ok.

I think the outcome of the RAE is likely to affect people like us finishing soon - presumably after the post-mortem, new research strategies will kick into action and universities will decide where to allocate funding, at least in the short term. Maybe we'll be in the right place for attracting interest as a potential 'early career researcher', depending on subject. All a bit uncertain at the moment, but hopefully things will work out....


Hi Rubyw,
Found this thread in the midst of a bout of procrastination...
I think you're right to just concentrate on finishing the thesis.  If you already have a part-time teaching post, that's half the battle! Just keep doing that and writing papers/applications when you finish. Definitely do conferences, even if you have to pay yourself I'd say.
As you know I'm at a similar stage to you.  A few months ago I applied to a post-doc-like position to start next Spring since it was a relatively straightforward application, but of course there's no guarantee I'll get it and I don't have anything else lined up. In fact there's another application deadline at the end of the month, but I just didn't want to take the time out of thesis writing to apply.  I'll probably regret that...
On the other hand, I'm not even certain that I want to go into academia, so not applying for the other position was partly leaving things to fate and avoiding big life decisions!


Thanks Tokyorabbit, I think you're right. I'm just focussing on finishing the thing right now, everything else can wait!


Hi All,

I too am at this stage, I am around a month or so into my third year. I know on these boards people often seek confirmation of what they are doing, so this may be a little controversial...

The best advice I have had from experienced people, is papers papers papers. A PhD thesis will not secure you a job, everyone applying will be about to get, or already have one. It is the extras that will really help you out, the conference presentations, the second/third author papers, firsts authors too if you can get them... Also from my own experience networking is so important. I hated it too initially, but after meeting someone at a conference who told me about a friend of his who I met up with at another conference, we are now writing a grant app together, and working on some papers. I think for a PhD to work, if you want to stay in academia, you have to throw yourself at everything you can.

My two cents