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Any PhD Students Fancy A Mutual Support Thread?

(188 Posts)
GentlyGentlyOhDear Mon 19-Nov-12 12:25:57

Is anyone else currently doing a PhD? I've just had my first baby and am trying to get back into the swing of things academically. Is there anyone else out there in a similar situation?

I'm currently on mat leave from my PhD until the new year, but I've been doing two days a week since baby was 4 months old as I desperately need to get finished! My registration ends in June next year, then I have 2 years to write-up (part-time), but I'm aiming to get finished within a year and a half.

Really should be working now...

TheWanderingUterus Wed 21-May-14 11:26:13

I don't have much direct experience (I had both DC before I started my PhD) but didn't want you to go unanswered.

My DH is a professor and I have heard from him how difficult it is for women to get back on track in his subject after maternity leave. They are often left with a higher teaching/admin load and less research time, because they are out of the loop on research projects and not up to date on new developments. He is in a competitive science though, so don't know how representative that would be.

What about having another before you finish your PhD? Might focus your mind on getting large parts of it done before maternity leave etc.

With your academic career will you be able to move about a bit for postdoctoral positions, I know that's now expected? It's easier with little ones as you don't have to worry about school places and friendship groups etc.

Hopefully someone with more experience will come along and give a bit more helpful advice. grin

SeatOfMyPants Sun 18-May-14 20:41:59

I'm sorry - I'm posting this without knowing anyone or introducing myself. I feel really at sea and I guess I feel that other PhDs might be able to understand.

We had DS nearly 2 years ago. I was in the middle of a phd, took a year out for mat leave (paid thankfully) and I'm now coming to the end.

I always knew I wanted a career in academia- it may or may not come off, depending on whether my phd works out the way I want it to and whether I'm lucky.

We'd talked about having another a while back and in my head it's always been: 1. Finish phd 2. Get job with mat leave 3, get pregnant when I'm settled!

But I'm 36 this year. There might well be a year or two between completing and getting a full time contract - that's being optimistic - delusional really. And I've just realised that we could well be looking at TTc when I'm 39 or after.

I'm healthy, fit - didn't take me any time at all to fall pregnant when I was 34 - and I don't worry about the idea of being on the slightly older side of motherhood. I'm just worried that we will miss the boat for a career I don't even know I will achieve. Having said that I don't want to jeopardise my career prospects by going back to babydom and not giving myself a good shot. There are also financial considerations. We need another income to live a life we want.

I don't know what I want. I'm feel like I'm flailing around, my phd doesn't feel like it's coming together. I've got 7 months left and I haven't got one complete chapter - I have got 40000-50000 words, but it's a mess and way over the word limit on what should be 2 chapters and a bit of an intro.

I feel really down about not having the family I want and never getting the career I want. I feel like a useless waste of space.
I guess I just want to know -
Anyone felt this and come out the other end?

dotty2 Fri 09-May-14 09:18:30

I guess I'm just being glass half empty about it. And I think the thing about finishing is that it's a slightly piecemeal process, with lots of mini milestones. And it's also not collective - not like all your friends doing finals at the same time. But I've done my corrections now, so just need to pay to bind the thing, and I'm properly done. Time to think about the publications!

Miffytastic Wed 07-May-14 11:09:06

Hee hee! I suppose you do feel like you should be grilled and challenged, and mentally prepare for that.
Sounds like you've done a very good piece of work Dotty

Yes I suppose I may well miss some of this PhD life.... tis hard to believe now!

dotty2 Wed 07-May-14 10:16:21

Thanks both. Well, the viva was just odd because it was so short - around 45-50 minutes. I guess that was because they didn't have any major worries, but I still felt that they could have asked a few more challenging questions - for quite a lot of the time they were just making suggestions for things I could also consider if I wanted to turn the study into a book, but all the time saying 'but we understand that Phds are finite in scope'. So I was just nodding, saying 'that's a valid point' and writing the idea down - so it was hardly a defence. I'm probably being very silly and self-indulgent, but it just left me feeling a bit flat - it would have felt like more of an achievement if I felt I'd been through the mill. I suppose I'd been giving myself a much more challenging viva in my head before hand - but of course it's good, really, and I should be celebrating the ease of it all.

What next? Well, I am finishing my corrections right now (just typos, really) and then am going to put it to one side for a few weeks, and then start working out what and where to publish - I'm thinking of a series of papers. There's basically one prominent journal in my field which both practitioners and academics read, and I want to get the right paper in that. There's the possibility of an Honorary Fellowship in my old department, which I would like - don't want a full time academic job, I think I want to keep freelancing, but it would be nice to have a toehold in the academic world, and the odd bit of lecturing etc if anything comes up.

And of course you will get to the end, in the end - and will probably miss it when it's done (hard though that is to believe right now!).

Miffytastic Tue 06-May-14 16:33:51

Wow! well done Dr Dotty! You have done it!!!!

Do tell us more about the viva if you have time. So what next?

Things same-same for me. The external worries aren't SO bad but the time pressures still there and trying to remind myself that I will get to the end eventually... but finding it hard to believe!

TheWanderingUterus Thu 01-May-14 23:16:42

Congratulations Dotty2! Well done.

dotty2 Thu 01-May-14 10:09:43

Hello everyone - just popping in to boast/update - my viva was this week and although it was a slightly odd and unsatisfactory experience, I am done! A few typos to correct, and one missing reference, which I should be able to do in a morning, and I am DrDotty. Thanks everyone for all the support and encouragement. No one finds PhDs easy, and combining them with work and parenting is obviously a particular challenge, but I'm pleased I did it.

(And hope things are a little better for you miffy?)

Miffytastic Thu 27-Mar-14 16:04:03

Just popping on this thread for a bit of inspiration and I think I've found it with you Dotty - hurray for submitting! Have you got a viva date yet?

I've had a real struggle lately in the last 6 months or so. My funding ran out at the end of last academic year, but I had some funds to keep me going til my part-time job started last month. However, rather than the winter months being "now is the time to finish" the time was consumed with anxiety, doubt and lots of family health worries going on. I was in a right pickle in January I have to say. So I suspended my phd retrospectively to buy myself more time....
Now I've got the juggle of working 28 hours a week and getting written up. I still find it hard to believe I will ever get there :/ Unfortunately the work isn't a permanent contract so like you BigWellie I've also got the job/money worries looming as I'm the breadwinner in our house.

dotty2 Mon 03-Mar-14 16:02:26

I do have a massive to do list, made up both of small domestic stuff that I've been neglecting (like mopping the kitchen floor and fishing too small clothes out of the DDs' drawers) and then big scary stuff like trying to get my career back on track. Preliminary plan is continuing with freelance consultancy and seeing if I can expand this sufficiently to make a viable career, without the phd to fill the majority of my time, but I can't quite think about it properly just yet. I don't think I want a proper academic job, but would quite like some part-time teaching as part of the mix.

Oh dear, bigwellylittlewelly that all sounds tough. It's very hard to think about uprooting the family, and academic jobs are likely to demand it. And very little is harder than not getting sleep - especially if you have to think creatively the next day.

On the writing front, FWIW, I also built directly on two or three other PhDs, and about 6 months ago, I was in a total panic about one of them - her writing seemed so mature and authoritative, and it made my study feel very flimsy. I don't think that now - I think her aims were slightly different to mine and we have different strengths. I also think - genuinely - that building on a strong, related study can make yours seem more weighty/necessary - that you're contributing in a field that other people care about as well as you. And in the end I didn't say all that much about them. Obviously it depends on the field, but in mine, it's enough to add a footnote or two ('for an account of x, see Smith's 2010 study...) and a sentence or two like 'Smith has convincingly argued that...' Would that work for you?

dotty congratulations!

OK. SO I have been back since the 1st January. Both children at in nursery 3 days a week and I get 10-12 hours if I am extremely lucky over a weekend. I have a horrible horrible feeling I simply cannot do this. I have 5 months of funding left. I have to do once more piece of research. I have a thesis outline. I have been accepted at several conferences this spring for which I need to write abstracts and presentations.

I am desperately worried about a job at the end of it, DH is losing his job after Easter and although it will mean he is home more if he gets the job he has applied for he will be away M-F so I'll be solo parenting. The baby doesn't sleep.

My biggest issue is however the damn writing. My PhD follows on from two others and when I have read them I find myself wondering how the hell I will effectively write my spin on their work as well as they wrote in the first place (we have similar contexts), I have also lost faith in the research I've done and its value - and now see how I could have made the study so much better. And all around me people are being offered postdocs despite being partway through writing their PhDs, when I ask I get offered small amounts of work (possibly) but nothing concrete. I think I need to build bridges with other research areas and consider uprooting the family when I complete.

Eugh. Sorry. I've been sat here five hours and haven't managed any productive writing just a lot of messing about with basic statistics.

TheWanderingUterus Thu 27-Feb-14 12:21:06

I know what you mean about constantly finding little errors and things to fiddle with. I'm just in the first year of my phd but I am finding it hard reading back any pieces of work that I have done, my eye is always drawn to even the tiniest mistake.

I am not looking forward to all the nitpicking and formatting at the end of this whole process at all!

What happens next for you dotty? Do you get to have a breather for a bit or have you got a massive to do list?

dotty2 Thu 27-Feb-14 09:58:43

Thank you, wandering. It's done. I found it hard to know when to stop though - every time I reread it I found another minor typo or made another minor tweak and now I can't help thinking about the mistakes that must still be in it, or the bits that could be expressed better. It was easier when I did Finals and they said 'stop writing now' and that was that!

And actually, doing the table of contents automatically turned out to be a breeze, even without a properly outlined document - I just defined all my titles/subtitles as 2 different styles at the last minute and Word sorted it all no problem. Phew. (You probably all know that, but I thought it was much more complicated than it was)

TheWanderingUterus Wed 26-Feb-14 10:55:29

Long time lurker (although I think I have posted on here once or twice under an older username) coming out of the cupboard to congratulate you dotty.

Well done, that such a major milestone reached!

dotty2 Tue 25-Feb-14 12:57:49

Hi everyone - aiming to submit tomorrow! (Or at least to get it to the printers/binders for submission on Friday). One small piece of advice I wish I'd heeded - learn how to do document outlines in word so you don't have to go through constructing your table of contents manually (voice of bitter experience).

dru77 I think it's fairly common to have the direction of your research change, and certainly in my experience very common to start a PhD feeling lost!
I didn't feel like I had a real grasp on my research until the end of my first year (possibly aggrivated by the full on research training we received in our first year, which while very useful, did tend to distract us somewhat from the business of actually designing and carrying out some research!)
I would say the main thing is if you feel happy with your supervisor? If you've got professional/academic trust and respect for them and are happy to follow the direction they suggest, then all to the good. If it leaves you feeling uneasy, I would say think hard.
If you're self-funded then you're not tied to a particular supervisor or University (other than geographic limitations I suppose - though I happily live in London and study in the midlands - then again I am still childless, which makes it easier) so what about 'shopping around' a bit?
I was chasing funding, so overall ended up talking to four different supervisors at different universities before successfully securing funding - each was so different, some I would have loved to work with and some left me feeling a little... inhibited.

dotty2 Fri 31-Jan-14 11:02:36

Well, I don't speak from personal experience because mine pretty much followed my original proposal. But lots of people's do change, yes. Feel like I can't give specific examples without outing myself (small field) - but either similar question applied in different setting, or different question within the same broad field of interest - can think of examples of both of those.

dru77 Thu 30-Jan-14 15:13:41

I have just been offered a place on a PhD (self-funded). During my interview the supervisor basically rubbished my proposal but with valid points that I totally accept. However, given that I obviously need to rethink my proposal I am left feeling a bit confused about what I would actually be researching. Is it normal to start a PhD feeling so lost? I was expecting that bit to happen after a few months of lit review!

dotty2 Thu 30-Jan-14 09:40:25

Some chapters fine bar typos, some need major rethinking and some need minor tweaking. So not too scarily daunting overall.

Of course you won't fail, because your supervisor would tell you if it was seriously inadequate, surely. Do you mean you submit your thesis in a month, or the extra paper?

Procrastreation Tue 28-Jan-14 20:31:10

But submitting thesis to supervisor is good. Psychologically healthy. Milestone.

( what did he say ?)

Procrastreation Tue 28-Jan-14 20:30:04

But - holy fuck - I submit in a month!

My mum has been entertaining me with stories of students,who have spectacularly failed their PhDs!

(Hope,I,don't fail!)

Procrastreation Tue 28-Jan-14 20:28:30

One more paper is basically meant to be a chapter of my thesis - and the idea is that publishing it adds weight to the results.

Procrastreation Tue 28-Jan-14 20:27:35

Sorry - not ignoring you - namechanged for privacy - but changing names is rather a killer for long running threads like this one (I think I appear under at least three monikers on this thread!)

Anyway - namechanged back to chat!

dotty2 Sun 26-Jan-14 06:54:14

Procrastreation (great name, btw) - but will the 'one more paper' find its way into your final thesis? I find it so much easier when I've got material to draw on, even if it ends up in a very different form in the final thing.

Have sent my thesis to my supervisor. Now just need to wait and worry. But actually have busy week with some paid work (I freelance too), so I can put it out of my mind and focus on that.

Procrastreation Wed 22-Jan-14 15:48:28

Horray! Deffo progress!

My supervisor has decided we need to submit one more paper - so writing up is on ice.... Can see this causing pain!

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