Quit PhD at end of 3rd year??

posted
20-Jul-11, 19:35
Avatar for snowball
posted about 8 years ago
Hi everyone,

So, here's another thread about quitting... I'm just approaching the end of my third year on my PhD, but wondering whether it would be best to leave the phd. Basically despite having stuck with it for so long, I'm not convinced that I have a good enough framework to enter into the writing up period. There have already been a number of points where I have seriously considered leaving but have always been persuaded to stay on by my supervisor. He's confident that what I have done so far is OK, but to be honest, I still have to do most of the writing in my final year and that's not something I think I can manage!! He just seems to think I should be able to put something together so quickly.

I am the first student he's supervised and I suspect he might find it difficult to let me go, always falling back on how 'he also had problems' when doing his own PhD. Because my project is in the humanities, and in political theory, it's not simply a case of writing it chapter by chapter and I've had to delve into a lot of theory, but there comes a point where you realise that you've just been reading for three years but aren't really going anywhere with it. I'm also not certain that jumping straight into the PhD after my MA was the right thing to do - I guess a lot of people must be in this boat, but I just don't feel I can manage another year of the lifestyle. When I came down to London to do my MA I was quite active in student politics which was great, though subsequently then focussed much more on my work. But since having to do this I've become more cut off from things and it's not really where I want to be right now.

Anyway, would be good to hear other people's stories of the writing-up period and outcomes of having left a PhD at this point!!
posted
20-Jul-11, 20:18
edited about 4 seconds later
by Delta
Avatar for Delta
posted about 8 years ago
This is probably not going to be helpful but honestly I'm not finding the writing up anywhere near as bad as I thought it would be. It's waiting around for feedback that really, really gets to me. That said, I'm organised and have always had a clear idea of how I would structure the thesis which I think helped a lot. Please don't quit but, if you must, take some time out, if possible, as that may give you a second wind or sense of perspective. I've never been too consumed by my PhD and actually really think this has helped a lot. However, my experience of writing up seems to be different to many others.

I hope things improve for you.
posted
20-Jul-11, 20:39
edited about 28 seconds later
by Corinne
Avatar for Corinne
posted about 8 years ago
I used to get up in the middle of the night thinking: " I am going to e-mail registry now (about quitting) or I won't find the courage in the morning!". Anyway, here I am , a year after. I submitted and waiting for the viva. Only time will tell if it was the right choice, but if I had quit I would have nullified three years of (hard)work, good or bad.

As we spend so much time focussing on reading, researching, etc, we sometimes lose view of what the original research questions of our PhD were. Or even why we started at all. I would suggest you to look back at your research proposal and then think again about how to structure your thesis.

I think that there are very few people out there that didn't experience set-backs in their PhDs. I found the writing up period the toughest. As I had a baby in the middle of the PhD, I had to work around my daughter's needs, and I ended up working at night, impossibly early in the morning, at weekends, when my husband could baby-sit...

A colleague of mine, with a similar situation, decided to quit. While I understand her reasons, now I feel that it was a pity to give up a bursary (she was funded by a research council), and her project at that stage. Probably, a few years down the line we will both think that the other one made the right choice!
 
posted
21-Jul-11, 17:06
Avatar for Methodical
posted about 8 years ago
nice honest post. I am in my writing up period too. I am finding the cut off from the world feelings the hardest I think. Plus I don't seem to enjoy talking about my research to other non academic type people as I get the same crappy questions.

the more I write up the more posts I seem to be reading about how hard the job market is too. I am trying to convince myself there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Have not thought about quiting though, I think that would only make things worse.
posted
22-Jul-11, 00:58
edited about 6 seconds later
by Gudwin
Avatar for Gudwin
posted about 8 years ago
I have found the write up the best part of my PhD, but as Delta said, its waiting for the feedback that has been so frustrating.
posted
22-Jul-11, 06:38
Avatar for timefortea
posted about 8 years ago
I don't really understand why you have to be cut off from the world while writing up. I am writing up as I go and I don't feel cut off. If you think it is not good for you to isolate yourself then don't do it! You will still be able to complete it without writing 12 hours a day. It would be such a shame to quit now.
posted
22-Jul-11, 11:19
by Tricky
Avatar for Tricky
posted about 8 years ago
During the last phase of the PhD process it is very easy to feel overwhelmed and think that you can't do it. Basically you get to the point, with deadlines looming, where you have to start writing and I found myself saying 'Where do I even start to put everything into a coherent thesis?'. For me it was actually sitting down to write the first line that was the hardest point. For ages I was procrastinating with thesis outlines, bullet points for key sections, rearranging which chapters would go where etc. but it just ended up being a way for me to feel that I was doing some work without actually have to face writing my thesis! It was a bit of a waste of time and once I was over that hurdle and just started writing I found that it all just seemed to flow and it got easier and easier to write. In my discussions ideas and conclusions seemed to go down routes that I hadn't even considered while I was coming up with my rough thesis plan. I think it is at this point where it all starts to make sense and you realise that you have actually picked up a lot more information and knowledge than you thought.

There is the risk that it will consume your life while you write it but I think that is counterproductive and unnecessary. If you end up working all your waking hours then you will burn yourself out. You have to structure your days - obviously you wont have lots of free time to go out and party etc. But you have to make sure you schedule some down time so that you don't get cabin fever and feel cut off.

Hang in there - you can do it! Good luck!
posted
24-Jul-11, 15:18
edited about 25 seconds later
Avatar for snowball
posted about 8 years ago
Thanks for all the responses everyone!! Great to read that other people have also found it difficult to move into the writing-up phase. Hardest part is just trying to shift myself from research mode into writing mode I think. But still, I have been reflecting quite hard on the past couple of years, and basically I don't think my PhD has been the most normal of experiences. Obviously everyone has a unique set of circumstances, though with me starting it so soon after my MA and only a very vague outline of what I wanted to do, as well as having done a completely different undergraduate degree, it has been particularly strenuous. I also don't think I was mature enough to take on the PhD, in the sense I only really did it because I got funding, and wish now I'd taken a few more years to decide if I had a viable topic, and what PhD work and life actually involves.

However, that said, I've gone from wanting to quit to now thinking I can take another look at what I've done and at least put some kind of plan together, at least for an MPhil. I'm not too bothered to be honest about gaining the full PhD, don't want a career in academia, still fairly young (26), and feel I want to move onto something different. Anyway, will let you all know how I get on!
posted
24-Jul-11, 17:25
edited about 28 seconds later
Avatar for Mackem_Beefy
posted about 8 years ago
Ask for a suspension of registration to give yourself the time you need to get your head straight. Three months, clear off for a bit then come back with a clear plan before you proceed.

I have to admit once I finished Masters, I was not ready to face PhD. I came back a few years later, a little older and hopefully a little wiser. I needed at least a year between. It ended up being five, more due to circumstance rather than anything else.

posted
24-Jul-11, 18:00
Avatar for FredSmith
posted about 8 years ago
Keep going. I ended up writing 40-50k words in 2-3 months which was a nightmare but it meant I got a thesis submitted. I've just had my viva and passed, although with major corrections. It's not the ideal way, but you've come so far just keep going if you can. All the best. You can do it!
posted
24-Jul-11, 18:11
by ady
Avatar for ady
posted about 8 years ago
Many congratulations Fred on passing your viva; all these passes inspirational to those of us submitting soon(up)
posted
24-Jul-11, 19:11
edited about 29 seconds later
by Delta
Avatar for Delta
posted about 8 years ago
Just shows what can be achieved in such a short space of time. Well done and congratulations Fredsmith(up)

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