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Thinking of quitting before I've even started

======= Date Modified 11 Sep 2009 09:08:15 =======

I'm nearing the end of my PhD now and I have to say I shared exactly the same feelings as you before I even started. Dealing with a long term relationship and having to cope with the distance was a strong factor in my thinking in terms of not wanting to take on a PhD.

In the end, at the time, my partner of five years decided to end our relationship whilst I was in my second year of a PhD. I was completely devastated, I failed the upgrade and was very close to booted of my PhD. I passed my upgrade in the end with a lot of hard work and perserverance. I haven't really recovered from the break up and even now, I'm still very broken up inside (partly because he is still such an important person in my life and I've yet to achieve closure from him). I totally blamed myself for the break up. I blamed myself for making the decision to do a PhD as he was (and still is sad to say) everything to me. I can be very hard on myself and I hated myself for making the decision to take on a PhD. I know in reality our relationship wasn't perfect, ie couldn't be bothered to visit me at all (he was always busy), return my texts and calls most of the time. I couldn't shift the thought that if I had only stayed at home, or stayed within the work place, things may have been very different. He ended things because he wanted to focus on himself as he felt very inadequate in terms of his own career progression. He kept comparing himself to me. He has yet to finish a degree (and I have nearly four degrees) and seemingly in comparision seem to have things all planned out for me.

I've yet to finish my PhD (not sure if I'll ever get there, let alone pass the viva) but if I could do it differently, I would have stayed at home and perhaps take on a PhD near my home address or most likely, get a job! At the moment, my PhD is has brought me more negativity than anything, but that might be because I'm struggling to stay motivated and I really dislike the writing stage. It's made me at times very unhappy, tearful and envious of people who have decided to work rather than take on a PhD. On the flip side, it has opened up many doors for me in terms of job offers (I start my new job on Monday). At the end of my PhD, the only positives I can see right now is that it has helped me with job prospects after PhD, has cleared my debts and I know I've developed in confidence etc etc. I don't know what will happen in the end, but hopefully, things will work themselves out eventually.

I don't know if any of ramblings are helpful to you?!

I would give it a go and see what happens with your PhD. A PhD is a very hard thing to do as it is and you will need supportive friends and family to take you through it. If you gave it a go, at least you could say you gave it a go and you will not have any regrets about not taking up the offer. Living off PhD funding isn't much fun either- but there are ways to gain extra cash etc to surivive on. My partner was my best friend and he and his family were like family to me which is why it was so upsetting to lose him. A PhD isn't for everybody- hence the large drop out rates, but it can have its positives (although I can't really see them now!).

Also bear in mind that PhDs usually go beyond 3 years, (mine certainly will) so it will take a lot of time out of your life.

I hope this is helpful to you! I'm sorry if my post is rather negative. There are good things about a PhD, but there are some serious drawbacks to a PhD and I think if I had the choice, I definitely would have done something else- but that's how I feel now. IF I pass and IF I get through this PhD, I might see things a little differently in a few years time.

Job offers and extension year

Hi all,

I've just been offered a full time researcher job at a top 5 ranking university. Yay! :) It is however dependent on a good reference from my supervisors and I'm just hoping they provide me with a good reference! I haven't heard from my supervisors yet about it yet (which doesnt sound good!).

I've just accepted it as I want to start thinking about getting a mortagage and buying my own place in London. I also want to return to my psychology roots so this position will be ideal! I'm also on the verge of getting back into debt again, so this job will keep me out of debt! :) which is particuarly important considering that my funding has just run out!

Now I'm starting to worry! This job is full time and I'm wondering what kind of influence it will have on my PhD! I am however, virtually finished with most of the quantitative analyses and most of my literature and methodology chapters (but probably will require some serious edits).

Just curious as to what other final year/extension year PhD students have done. What's it like juggling full time work with completing a PhD?

I'm gathering that I'm going to be mega busy for the next few months with not much time for anything other than work! but I need the money coming in as well as for my own sanity- I want to do something different from my PhD!

Thinking about A-level results day

Hi all,

A- level results day is upon us again! :S Does anyone else recall back to the anxious wait of their A-level results?

Does anyone else think about their A-level days?

It's been 10 years today since I got my A-level results! As a naive little 18 year old 10 years ago, I would never in a million years think that in 10 years time I would be finishing off a PhD and would still be within the university system! Does anyone else have similar thoughts?

My parents and my secondary school had basically no faith in me whatsoever. I used to put in all of the bottom sets at school and their view of my future was within retail or at tescos. It wasn't till I was at sixth form college that I received some positive encouragement from supportive teachers who believed in me did the good A grades start appearing. I'm a strong believer of the positive self fulfilling prophecy!

I would LOVE to go back to my secondary school and challenge all of the teachers who used to consider me a complete waste of space in comparison with the clever students in the top sets. I think teachers have a lot to answer for! But they haven't stopped me from going on with postgrad education. Lets hope that I'm able to get through and pass my PhD :)

Just wanted to share really!


Bad supervision meeting

======= Date Modified 15 Aug 2009 19:45:19 =======
Thanks for your messages everyone!

I think maybe I'm not looking after myself as much as I could do and perhaps my work is starting to suffer as a result. I'm not going to come into the office tomorrow- I think I might just have a day with completely NO work- which will be strange!

My supervisor started to laugh at the way I was phrasing things- in terms of bad sentence structure and spelling errors. My other supervisor (who is far more experienced and is a professor) and myself were not laughing! I know the less experienced supervisor (although she has about 10 years experience of supervising PhD students!) is under a lot of pressure at the mo so maybe her mind was elsewhere, but I just felt myself sinking into a dark hole of feeling rather thick and stupid whilst her laughs got louder and the criticisms became more harsher as she basically went through sections which i've spent hours on which I thought were important as 'why have you included this...get rid of this'...etc etc :(

Most of it was negative, but on the flip side, they commented that I've completed the right analyses and included everything that needs to be included, it's just that the right content is and embedded in too much detail, too much sign posting, poor expression and far too much detail on the bigger project.

But I guess that's the way my supervisors work- they push their students hard in order for a pass at the end of the day! Perhaps us students just get demoralised and unmotivated as a result! :( but I'll keep going and I'll keep trying. Yes I might not like the criticism, at least I know where I stand!

I still feel rather numb and demoralised as a result though. I'm struggling enough to stay motivated as it is!!

Bad supervision meeting

Hi all,

I had a my supervison meeting a few days ago and even though I've worked really hard in submitting a few draft chapters, I've basically been told that I need to completely re write them and start again :(

Desperately trying not to take it all so personally!!

Supervison was a mixed bag- ie that I can't write, problems with setence structure etc etc,

One of my supervisors started laughing at my chapters at one point which was exactly helpful- and just started to make me feel worse!

Despite the criticism, they have given me a clear outline of what needs to be included so I guess thats positive! On the upside, they did say all of the content is there it just needs to be taken out from all of the additional wrong or inadequate stuff.

I think I'm just too close to my work and they think I have a massive wood through the trees problem! :( As anyone else been told this?

They have been so critical I don't think I'll get a good reference from them at all. It doesn't exactly help with my levels of motivation either! I've basically worked really hard for nothing!! (well probably not for nothing, but thats how it feels!).

I'm also losing my desk space to members of staff in a few weeks time and will have to move back home during my write up year.

Has anyone else had such level of criticism? Could anyone offer some advice in getting rid of the 'wood through the trees' problem? I'm really worried that I''ll receive a poor reference from them which will affect my job applications which I'm currrently writing!

Beating tiredness...

Hi all,

Are there any other final year PhD students who are shattered beyond belief?

I've been working really hard over the last few weeks into writing up my result chapters-ie working 15/16 hours a day (including weekends)- although I think I've made some progress (my supervisors will probably disagree!) I'm totally shattered and really just want to curl up and sleep!

I know this has been discussed before but has anyone got any tips to combat chronic tiredness!

In working these long hours I haven't exactly looked after my health lately (ie coke, sweets, chocolate bars to keep me awake) so I'm probably guessing that has something to do with it!

Extension year

======= Date Modified 12 Aug 2009 12:20:10 =======

Quote From cakegirl:

Hi Pineapple,

I think this sounds like your department aren't looking after their students properly. If they are committed to supporting and completing PhDs then they should support you for the duration. I understand space and resources are limited, but it is not unusual for PhD students to need the writing up year (hence why it exists); and this is a time when peer and sv support can be most important. I don't like the "only a student" perspective; PhD students are a vital part of most reserach teams and shouldn't be treated as second rate to official staff. Oooo, I could get quite worked up on your behalf!

In my team people writing up keep their own desks until after viva. We don't seem to have a lot of new staff and it's quite a small team so maybe the demand is just a lot lower. PhDs who have gone on for several years of writing up after the original 3 years tend to lose their "own" desk, but as far as I know still have access to all necessary library/electronic resources.

I hope this doesn't impact your work too much, good luck


Many thanks for your message.

Throughout my almost three years whilst staying in this department, I've always felt like I'm an outsider. I'm the only official student here at the department. Other staff members are doing PhDs, but I'm the only official student here.

I've always had one particualr member of staff who used to constantly say things like 'your only a student' and when she talks about me to other staff (in my ear shot) she used to say things like 'she's only a student'. It is this member of staff who is returning from maternity leave and is probably going to take my desk space.

As a result, I've been made to feel that I don't deserve to have this office space and that I should have to defend my reasons for wanting desk space! They've already moved me three times since I've been here! Something doesn't feel right here anyway- so thanks for confirming my general feelings about it all. I bumped into a senior member of staff earlier on today who basically made it clear that there's a strong likelihood that I'll be evicted to allow for other members of staff, she said they've had several discussions about it. Which basically makes me feel very unsure about whats going on and I'm feeling a little unsure about it all. I don't think I need more things to worry about or think about when I'm so close to finishing off the more demanding analyses stuff.

My PhD is completely unique within my field and basically poses a challenge to all of the projects as currently undertaken within this department- so I think it's important in that regard. But, I've been made to feel by some members of staff that as I'm *only* working on a PhD, it is not as important as other projects! Just because it is a PhD project, doesn't mean that it is less important than other projects here surely?

In any case, I'm at a really critical stage and the thought of being uprooted from everything, supportive friends within the department, lack of access to my work computer and programmes that I'm relying on for my analysis is not exactly helping matters! :(

Extension year

Hi all,

Just a quick question, for people in their write up year/extension year- were you still provided with desk space, access to university sources?

I'm probably going to lose my desk space (as new staff are starting and I don't exactly have priority of a desk as it's made clear to me that I'm only a student). I just curious to see what peoples situations are like in terms of extension year or write up year.

It's a shame as I've got rather used to having this office and unit as a base but I've been made to feel that I don't deserve to have a desk if I'm in a write up year.

I probably could work from home during write up year. I probably don't actually need a desk here, but I'm probably going to be asked to leave to allow for new members of staff to set themslelves up.

What are peoples thoughts?

What makes a PhD fail?

======= Date Modified 04 Aug 2009 21:10:07 =======
======= Date Modified 04 Aug 2009 21:07:16 =======
If you can, try and get a hold of these references.

Mullins, G. & Kiley, M. (2002). It’s a PhD, not a Nobel Prize’: how experienced examiners assess research theses. Studies in higher education, 27, 4, 369-386

Murray, R. (2006). How to write a thesis. Open University Press

Murray, R. (2003). How to survive a viva. Open University press.

Trafford, V. (2003). Questions in doctoral vivas: views from the inside. Quality assurance in education, 11, 2, 114-122

These papers and books provide some really good advice on what makes a passable PhD and characteristics which are common for a failed PhD.

Questions in an unsuccessful doctoral viva (Trafford, 2003, p.121)

1. What was the purpose of this study?
2. What do you mean by influence (title stated influence of X on Y)
1. Why do people want to achieve? (Achievement was a central construct in the research
2. What reading influenced your thinking and guided your research
1. Was your research inductive or deductive and why
2. What was your conceptual framework?
3. What was your research question (title suggested one, the choice of literature another, and the abstract another)
1. How and why did you come to select this research design
2. What was your methodology? (The candidate answered incorrectly by describing the research method)
3. Please distinguish between methods and methodology
4. Why did you use both quantitative and qualitative approaches
5. How did you analyse the interview data (there was no reference to any such analysis in the thesis.
6. Explain in detail (missing from the thesis) how the research instruments were developed and used.
7. Where did the questions in the questionnaire come from? Did you make them up?
8. What are the differences between a simulation and real life?
9. You only measured what you could measure, not the full story of what was occurring. What are the consequences of this?

Questions within a successful viva (Trafford, 2003, p.121)

1. What led you to choose this topic? What excited you about it
1. How did you know that it had not been studied previously, was it because of the academic or professional literature?
2. Did your knowledge of the area allow you to anticipate your results or where you totally detached for the enquiry
3. What led you to choose your models of organisational culture?
4. What other models of culture did you consider
1. How did you decide on the variables to be included in your conceptual framework
2. Were you theory testing or developing theory in your research
3. Why did you include the achievement variable in your research design.

I hope this helps!

I'm TERRIFIED about what the future holds regarding my Viva! I'm working to get a first draft of the whole thesis done by end of September (when my registration finishes) and the whole process of having to defend my thesis is already making me feel quite ill!! But I'm rather comforted to know that there is no way my supervisors will let me go through the viva unless they felt my work wasn't good enough or if I wasn't ready (so I guess that's a good thing!).

PhD and feelings of inadequacy

======= Date Modified 02 Aug 2009 10:35:14 =======
Wow, thanks for your messages everyone! It's such a comfort to read that I'm not alone with my feelings!

Within my department, I know they only offer the scholarships for people with 1st class honours- and I know that all of the PhD students in my department have 1st class first degrees. I on the other hand was lucky enough to win my studentship/scholarship, basically as I had 2 MSc degrees and from my clinical and research experience which has overshadowed my undergraduate degree. I guess, I feel in comparison with them, at times, I feel that I don't deserve to be in this position, but then again, I've worked very hard to get where I want to be and I continue to remain focused and as dedicated to my PhD as I can be.

Considering the problems I had with my upgrade reports, now, my supervisors seem to be very happy with my progress (as well as non supervisors within my department) so I'm using that as evidence to suggest that I do deserve to be in this position- that is so close to completing my PhD. Although I have my off days of low productivity, I seem to have this desire within me to keep my supervisors happy and to meet their demands in between supervison.

If anything, perhaps my underperformance at undergraduate level has become a source of motivation to keep going. I know that in completing this PhD, I know that I will have obtained a very reputable qualification which will, I hope show to myself and to others that I'm worthy of so much more than what people see me as. So completing this PhD will not only (hopefully) overcome my own confidence issues and demons it will also help with career stuff as well.

In the meantime, I'm just trying to meet small deadlines I've made to myself in order to meet my supervisors demands and requests. I know that I'm far more confident on every level then when I started nearly three years ago. It's just a question of gritting my teeth, pushing though and getting things done and keeping my focus.

I'm also in total agreement in trying to make myself think that I CAN DO IT!! and overcome some of the negative thoughts (ie I'm no good, I'm a crap PhD student, I don't deserve this, I'm too thick, I'm not clever enough etc etc) regardless of the odds and the difficulties that I seem to keep facing! . Perhaps this my way of practicing a bit of cognitive restructuring and challenging my negative thoughts with help from some of the cognitive behavioural techniques!

Nevertheless, reading peoples thoughts and experiences of the whole PhD process has definitely helped with the process!

Hopefully, we will get there in the end!

Finally almost really done - post viva land

Just wanted to say many congratulations!!!

thank you for your kind words of wisdom over the years! It must be such a relief!! Happy celebrations :)

Hopefully I'll be able to join you with celebrating end of PhD- IF I ever get there!

PhD and feelings of inadequacy

Hi all,

Sorry to put a downer with this forum (given the recent posts on positivity)!

But does anyone have any tips in overcoming feelings of inadequacy? My official time ends in September and although I think I'm making progress, I can't help but feel inadequate! in comparison with other PhD students academic record! :( I found out today that all of the other PhD students here have first class degrees (which I don't have- I have a crap undergrad degree mark but 2 MSc degrees) and it's making me feel really inadequate and that I don't deserve my place here.

I'm probably just having another bad day, but today I just feel that I really shouldn't be doing this and this might be another case of imposter syndrome kicking in!

I think I'm going to take a break from it all and try to focus on what I've accomplished and to focus on why I DO deserve to be here!

Has anyone else experienced anything similar?!

Sorry to sound so depressive! :$

Good things about doing a PhD

Quote From Smilodon:

I'm with you omega - my viva's tomorrow :p

Best of luck Smilodon! xxx

Good things about doing a PhD

======= Date Modified 28 Jul 2009 09:40:00 =======
Ok, when I'm having a good day the following are things I like about my PhD

- Finally putting some of my skills that I learnt as part of my 2 master degrees to use, particuarly SPSS and qualitative training etc etc.
- As my PhD kinds of flows across various disciplines, I enjoy bringing in theories across different areas and pulling all the arguments together
- Finding out from other people and other departments that my work is really important and new. I enjoy studying and exploring something that is completely new to the field.
- If I'm having a good positive day, then I feel proud that I've come this far. I've had a really rough time as a child (victim of abuse and in and out of foster care) so I feel that I've achieved something despite the odds.
- I like the fact that I'm gaining 3 years relevant experience that will help me with my future career and hopefully win me a place on the clinical psychology doctorate after this PhD.
- Although my funding has run out now, I liked the big fat pay check I used to get from the ESRC. I liked the security of having definite funding for three years- pretty important in terms of paying back my career development loan!
- I like the fact that (sometimes) my opinion on things is valued by academics. I like to receive praise and encouragement from leading academics within the field- always good confidence boosters!
- I like the fact that after my PhD, I stand a good chance in terms of securing a well paid job within research (which I might consider specialising in.)
- Although I tend to keep to a rigid routine, 8am- 4pm day, I like that I can take time off whenever I want to and work wherever I want to (although my supervisor prefers me to be in the office all the time!).
- I like being a co-author on papers!
- I like being involved in such an important project which may have an impact on govermetnal level stuff.
- I liked the opportunity to teach undergrads and develop experience along the way and sharing my knowledge with others.
- I enjoy (sometimes!) a challenge!
- I've enjoyed seeing how I've progressed from a nervous student into someone who has more confidence and that I can now confidently argue my corner with professors!
- I've seen an improvement in my academic abilities- a major pull factor for me! :)

Guess I can name quite a few strengths/merits of PhD life!

So hows it going?


I wish I was able to have a first draft of the whole thesis by August! :(

I'm still working on my analysis and my result chapters. Hoping to get all of my quantitative chapters done by the end of July and qualitative chapter end of August.

Which leaves September onwards to reduce my whopping 90,000 words literature reviews and methodology chapter and to write my discussion chapters!

I've applied for a 6 months extension from September. Perhaps by end of September- I'll have a first draft?!

I hope to submit everything by December! well lets see how it goes :S