3rd yeard PhD and I feel hopeless

posted
24-Aug-18, 14:12
edited about 4 seconds later
by dphil
Avatar for dphil
posted about 1 year ago
Hi all, this is my first message here.

I' m going through an uneasy situation and it seems here that other PhD candidates are facing the same problems. But my case might be a little bit different.

I study contemporary history at a faculty where only one professor specializes in my field: my supervisor. Having completed an MA in the same faculty and field, I switched from domestic politics to foreign policy and Cold War. I had to do much reading and seek for classes in other Universities in my city. I got two scholarships as a visiting research student in two of the world's top universities, one in London and the other in New York.

In the meantime I have presented in two conferences and have these papers published. I am a co-author of a chapter as well, that is published in a collective volume from Routledge.

All these would seem encouraging if I had done any progress with my PhD dissertation. Only recently I managed to write my first ten pages. Our faculty is characterized by strong politicization which divides the postgrad students and prevents them from emerging as a productive academic community.

So I have ended up working mostly at home, that makes me lose motivation and end up with obsessive thoughts that my research is worthless comparing to the international research standards. This has led me to seek for new bibliograpy and talk to distinguished researchers from abroad. Despite the progress, I am facing the writer's block and each time I think of writing, I end up thinking that I am not ready for that yet.

My supervisor seems to be a little bit upset by the fact that in my third year I have not finished a chapter and I feel like he's losing faith on me. Program is meant to last from 3 to 5 years.

Anybody sharing the same thoughts? Thank you in advance for your time!
posted
29-Aug-18, 11:47
edited about 18 seconds later
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 1 year ago
Ok, seems your main issue is overcoming writers block. There are many techniques for overcoming this. Have you tried some of them? Like telling yourself you're going to write for 5 minutes without editing? Or saying you're going to write rubbish but it's ok because you're going to delete it after (and then don't)? Or just making some bullet points? Or pomodoros where you work for 20 mins then take a 10 minute break?

I've tried all of these things and they all work for me (although sometimes it's like pulling teeth). My general daily technique though is clearing all the little things I have to do, until there's nothing else to do, but start work. Even then sometimes I can't face it, so I start by formatting things. Once I've got a nicely formatted title/headings or table or something, then I'm motivated to start writing something. For the last 2-3 months, my work procrastination has been terrible. I think it's because my deadlines seem so far away. It's starting to pick up now finally (probably because I have 3000 words to write by Monday and I haven't written one word yet!).
posted
29-Aug-18, 11:59
by dphil
Avatar for dphil
posted about 1 year ago
Quote From TreeofLife:
Ok, seems your main issue is overcoming writers block. There are many techniques for overcoming this. Have you tried some of them? Like telling yourself you're going to write for 5 minutes without editing? Or saying you're going to write rubbish but it's ok because you're going to delete it after (and then don't)? Or just making some bullet points? Or pomodoros where you work for 20 mins then take a 10 minute break?

I've tried all of these things and they all work for me (although sometimes it's like pulling teeth). My general daily technique though is clearing all the little things I have to do, until there's nothing else to do, but start work. Even then sometimes I can't face it, so I start by formatting things. Once I've got a nicely formatted title/headings or table or something, then I'm motivated to start writing something. For the last 2-3 months, my work procrastination has been terrible. I think it's because my deadlines seem so far away. It's starting to pick up now finally (probably because I have 3000 words to write by Monday and I haven't written one word yet!).



Thanks so much for your reply, which I really appreciate!

I am definitely facing the writer's block. I wrote 10 pages in two days, full of confidence and excitement. But after that I was obsessed with the thought "I know little about my thesis. I need to do more reading. I need to do more research". So I was blocked. Now I'm gonna try to follow your instructions, I am confident that they are gonna work, or at least help :)
posted
29-Aug-18, 12:18
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 1 year ago
Sounds good, best of luck with it!
posted
29-Aug-18, 20:43
edited about 2 minutes later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 1 year ago
Keep us posted!

Something I do (and it probably sounds terrible and unproductive but it works for me) is have a very familiar film on in the background... familiar so that I don't need to actually watch it with full concentration... That way, I seem to be able to work when feeling very little motivation to do so. Then I break through the sound barrier so to speak, and get into it (which is great - no need for watching movies then!). My theory is that having something on like that (with quite low volume but just loud enough to hear) whilst working is enough to distract my brain from negative thoughts like "this is rubbish"... and yet it isn't too much that I can't concentrate at all.

Another thing for you to try!

Ps. It doesn't work for me if it's a movie I love and want to watch with full attention... needs to be something middle of the road.
posted
29-Aug-18, 22:41
edited about 14 seconds later
by dphil
Avatar for dphil
posted about 1 year ago
Quote From Tudor_Queen:
Keep us posted!

Something I do (and it probably sounds terrible and unproductive but it works for me) is have a very familiar film on in the background... familiar so that I don't need to actually watch it with full concentration... That way, I seem to be able to work when feeling very little motivation to do so. Then I break through the sound barrier so to speak, and get into it (which is great - no need for watching movies then!). My theory is that having something on like that (with quite low volume but just loud enough to hear) whilst working is enough to distract my brain from negative thoughts like "this is rubbish"... and yet it isn't too much that I can't concentrate at all.

Another thing for you to try!

Ps. It doesn't work for me if it's a movie I love and want to watch with full attention... needs to be something middle of the road.


This sounds great advice! Actually, it would be good to play a historical movie in the background, on the topic of my thesis! Thanks so much!
posted
30-Aug-18, 01:35
edited about 57 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 1 year ago
What worked for me was designing my thesis into chapters to get the overall "plot". I then subdivided each chapter into a series of headings, subheadings etc until each chunk required no more than 3 to 6 pages and was a self contained unit. I did all of this without writing a single word. Each chunk of a few pages was easier to manage and writing was easy. An additional benefit of doing this was that I kept the plot intact and everything flowed seamlessly. My further drafts were then fairly easy as well. This is a trick I learned as a software engineer. You dont write a line of code until you have broken everything down into manageable pieces. I have seen countless people broken by the experience of writing and thinking as you write. The job becomes overwhelming and the result is an absolute mess.
posted
30-Aug-18, 14:48
edited about 16 seconds later
by dphil
Avatar for dphil
posted about 1 year ago
Quote From pm133:
My further drafts were then fairly easy as well. This is a trick I learned as a software engineer. You dont write a line of code until you have broken everything down into manageable pieces.


That's what I tried to do and seems to work. It's how I wrote my first 10 pages ever and so I keep trying to do the same. Useful advice and thanks for that!
posted
30-Aug-18, 19:09
edited about 27 seconds later
by PhDhere
Avatar for PhDhere
posted about 1 year ago
Quote From pm133:
What worked for me was designing my thesis into chapters to get the overall "plot". I then subdivided each chapter into a series of headings, subheadings etc until each chunk required no more than 3 to 6 pages and was a self contained unit. I did all of this without writing a single word. Each chunk of a few pages was easier to manage and writing was easy. An additional benefit of doing this was that I kept the plot intact and everything flowed seamlessly. My further drafts were then fairly easy as well. This is a trick I learned as a software engineer. You dont write a line of code until you have broken everything down into manageable pieces. I have seen countless people broken by the experience of writing and thinking as you write. The job becomes overwhelming and the result is an absolute mess.

This is the best advice in my opinion. thanks pm133

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