Post-Submission Limbo

posted
01-Sep-14, 12:26
by _Em_
Avatar for _Em_
posted about 3 years ago
Hi all,

I know a lot have posted about this, but I'd like to hear more about how people cope with the time between submitting and viva, because it sucks, right? I submitted last week (my thesis is in the humanities), have tried to have a rest but it's quite a foreign thing now! I feel a mix of anxiety about the viva, frustration at not having concrete work to do, and deflation about the whole thing. A few friends have given great tips, i.e. thinking of ideas for new journal articles...but I'm finding it hard to be motivated at the moment. It's that horrible feeling when you know you have a tonne of work still to do...but can't quite bring yourself to do it! I also think I need a decent break, but don't know how to do this without feeling guilty about not working (a common feeling, I gather!). Would appreciate any pearls of wisdom :)

Emily
posted
01-Sep-14, 13:19
Avatar for BilboBaggins
posted about 3 years ago
There is nothing that you can usefully do to prepare for your viva until much nearer the time. You need to prepare for the viva quite late in the day, so the ideas and your revision are still fresh when the date of the viva comes.

So take a complete break. Yes really! Are there things you've been putting off doing because of your PhD? What about books - non academic - that you want to read? Or maybe a day trip to places you want to go and visit.

It's vital that you take this break because you need to be in as good a shape as possible for the viva.

I do not recommend working on journal papers at the moment if they are spun out of your PhD thesis. You are likely to get valuable feedback at your viva about publishing options, and your research in general, and it's much better if you can wait until after then before tackling more journal papers.

Good luck! My PhD was in the humanities too (history).
posted
01-Sep-14, 14:46
Avatar for Mackem_Beefy
posted about 3 years ago
Shutting down is a hard thing to do in the gap between submission and viva, but if you can take some sort of break then do so. You'll face two such downers, the first at submission the second once you finish the PhD completely.

The nature of what you can do may vary depending upon discipline. I was science and engineering, so in my case I was expected to display a knowledge of what I was expected to know for a science and engineering doctoral candidate. I thus had to revise related areas surrounding my thesis but not necessarily part of it (science, characterisation methods, knowledge of other author's work) that might be discussed during viva. I thus had a short break over Christmas, during which I was twiddling my thumbs thinking I should work as you are now, before I got going again a few days later - this knowing I had significant territory yet to cover was a big motivator to make me start working again. I thus do wonder even with humanities if there's not some background reading you could do that might support you at viva?

My viva was two and a half months after submission and I found my downer happened after viva. I passed at the time with minor corrections and I dealt with these straight away. My paperwork shows the minor corrections were accepted and the final hardbound version of my thesis was submitted exactly a week later.

I was on post-doc at my PhD Uni. and had gone for a lunchtime walk some ten days after and suddenly realised "What do I do now?". The going from frenzied working all hours to normal is quite a drop to take.

I had all this free time on my hands and wasn't sure what to do with it. Only once I got away on holiday a few months later did I truly start to take stock and mentally begin to move on.

Ian
posted
01-Sep-14, 17:28
edited about 9 seconds later
Avatar for BilboBaggins
posted about 3 years ago
Quote From Mackem_Beefy:
I thus do wonder even with humanities if there's not some background reading you could do that might support you at viva?


I don't think so, and as you know Ian I've been both a science PhD student and humanities PhD student, so know both sides well. (Emily: I had to leave the science PhD after falling ill, aged just 22, with a progressive neurological disease. I later retrained, from scratch, as a historian, picking up 3 more degrees, part-time)

With humanities and the viva the key thing is to know your key research area, and your contribution. It's not a more general test.

The only reading that could be useful is if right at the end of your PhD you discovered something relevant (aarrgghh!) newly out in the literature, in which case you should probably read it in case it comes up in the viva.

The other thing that might help is to look at publications by your examiners, especially the external. And especially anything vaguely relevant to your PhD.

But that isn't essential. And this sort of reading takes very little time. The best thing is to take a break, however hard that may be.

Have you got a viva date yet Emily? I would not recommend preparing for your viva more than 2-3 weeks ahead. But you could start thinking about how you will prepare when the time comes. My viva preparation tips have become known here as the "Bilbo 5" questions! In case it might help you I'll post them here:

My viva preparation involved reading a viva preparation book (Tinkler and Jackson) to demystify the process, rereading and summarising my thesis to familiarise myself with it and spot typos (I took a list into the viva on the day and handed it out - all examiners/convenor were very grateful), and thinking about and memorising my answers to 5 key questions: originality of my thesis, contribution to knowledge, methodology, weaknesses/gaps/mistakes, and what would I do differently if starting again.
posted
01-Sep-14, 18:22
Avatar for DocInsanity
posted about 3 years ago
It seems to be a common feeling post-submission. I've been feeling very much the same way, and after talking to people have decided to just take a little mental break. Nothing wrong with that, it'll make me all the more productive when I get stuck in again.
posted
01-Sep-14, 23:33
edited about 8 seconds later
Avatar for Barramack
posted about 3 years ago
I had a few weeks off where I did nothing (PhD related), and just enjoyed not having to work on it in the evenings and on weekends (I was part time). Since then I've been drafting a couple of journal papers from my thesis. It's been 2 months since I've submitted, so I'm feeling a bit more aprehensive about the examination result. Thankfully I'm busy with a full time job and family, so I don't have much free time to dwell on it.
posted
03-Sep-14, 11:33
edited about 11 seconds later
Avatar for haventgotaclue
posted about 3 years ago
First of all congrats on submitting - that is a massive accomplishment in itself and should be celebrated.

I think you should take a month long break from anything PhD related. I did this and found it really beneficial. Not only do you mentally and physically recuperate from the submission process, but it also allows you to see your thesis with fresh eyes (like the examiners will).

As soon as the month break is up, I personally started re-reading my thesis. I listed all the typographical errors I had made and constructed a table of corrections. I then began reading a viva preparation book, in my case Rowena Murray's book. I then prepared a PowerPoint summarising the following areas (1) motivation for research, (2) gaps in the literature, (3) methodology and justification of approach, (4) key findings, (5) weaknesses and further research. This helped me focus and meant that I was prepared for the incredibly general question that I faced at the beginning of my viva "can you tell us what you have been doing for the past three years?"

I then started working through all the common viva questions listed in Rowena Murray's book and preparing detailed answers. I re-read some key articles also, including my externals work. Two weeks before the viva I printed out the questions (45 in total) and asked anyone I knew who had spare time to ask them to me for an hour straight. Without a doubt this last bit of prep was absolutely invaluable when the viva came around as I had mastered being concise and confident.

Honestly just take a break now, relax and gather your strength - BUT get back to it after a month and prepare for the viva. That way you can walk in confident and enjoy the process! Good luck :D
posted
06-Sep-14, 12:13
edited a moment later
by KC1982
Avatar for KC1982
posted about 3 years ago
Thanks for the advice guys. I'm the very same , submitted a few days ago. Thesis was very rushed at the end so now am freaking out about things I know we're written poorly or too vaguely. Is this normal too?!!
posted
06-Sep-14, 14:10
edited about 21 seconds later
Avatar for BilboBaggins
posted about 3 years ago
Quote From KC1982:
Thanks for the advice guys. I'm the very same , submitted a few days ago. Thesis was very rushed at the end so now am freaking out about things I know we're written poorly or too vaguely. Is this normal too?!!


It's normal. Try to relax and not stress too much about it!
posted
06-Sep-14, 23:53
edited about 3 seconds later
Avatar for Mackem_Beefy
posted about 3 years ago
Quote From BilboBaggins:
Quote From Mackem_Beefy:
I thus do wonder even with humanities if there's not some background reading you could do that might support you at viva?


I don't think so, and as you know Ian I've been both a science PhD student and humanities PhD student, so know both sides well. (Emily: I had to leave the science PhD after falling ill, aged just 22, with a progressive neurological disease. I later retrained, from scratch, as a historian, picking up 3 more degrees, part-time)

With humanities and the viva the key thing is to know your key research area, and your contribution. It's not a more general test.

The only reading that could be useful is if right at the end of your PhD you discovered something relevant (aarrgghh!) newly out in the literature, in which case you should probably read it in case it comes up in the viva.

The other thing that might help is to look at publications by your examiners, especially the external. And especially anything vaguely relevant to your PhD.

But that isn't essential. And this sort of reading takes very little time. The best thing is to take a break, however hard that may be.


I wish it were the same for me Bilbo as not having to worry about periphery or related areas would have made the viva preparation a far more straight forward process!!! :-)

That said, when viva came my external was only interested in the thesis. However, both my predecessors had been asked more peripheral questions, thus my supervisor's and immediate predecessor's caution weren't so misplaced.

As with you, I did make a note of my external examiner's background and publications and that did help.

Ian

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