PhD write up hell

(23 Posts)
tinymeteor Thu 16-Feb-17 10:23:50

I'm in my "last" 2 months of the PhD, I hope. Stressed to the eyeballs. Alternating between manic energy and total despair that this thesis will ever be finished to a decent standard. Feel like I'm having one of those dreams where you're trying to run but can't move.

Any advice on surviving the final push would be much appreciated. Or just an unmumsnetty virtual hug tbh.

OP’s posts: |
Nongoddess Thu 16-Feb-17 10:27:40

Oh, have a hug from me! It's such a difficult time. You're probably much closer than you think. Have you got any friends who can read chapters for you, so you can break it down into small deadlines and send bits off as you go along? All the usual stuff also applies - looking after yourself, eating, exercising too!

Good luck! Really try and concentrate on making it into smaller tasks so you can tick them off as you go, and reward yourself at every turn! WHat is it on (roughly)?

MuggaTea Thu 16-Feb-17 10:28:06

<unmumsnetty hug>

PhD is all about stamina.

just break it into chunks.

This week i will be doing chapter X

when you find you have been staring at the screen for the last 20 minutes - get up, have a brief walk.

you can do this!

tinymeteor Thu 16-Feb-17 10:34:29

Thank you! Feeling uncharacteristically shit today. I have a supervisor meeting later, wanted to give him a finished chapter but didn't quite get there, so it's another messy draft.

It's social sciences, qualitative. Been at this for bloody years. Juggling write up, childcare arrangements, walking the flipping dog, marriage, remnants of social life, and it's all got a bit much.

Wish I was 25 and single and could only think about writing all day and night. I sometimes think that's still the expected form for a PhD student, and a 30-something woman with obligations beyond work has no chance of living up to it.

OP’s posts: |
VirgilsStaff Thu 16-Feb-17 10:40:53

Chunk, chunk, chunk

Paragraph by paragraph.

As my supervisor said to me: "Show me your messy stuff. Better I see it than your Examiners."

MuggaTea Thu 16-Feb-17 10:41:34

Some people can just write a chapter start to finish, others dart from chapter to chapter, incrementally filling in the details and improving.

Don't panic that this chapter isn't complete. The key is you stay productive.

if you get stuck on one chapter, just take a break by looking at another chapter.

Can't write conherent paragraphs? frame the argument in bullet points.

keep moving.

Nongoddess Thu 16-Feb-17 10:41:44

Sounds like you are doing great! You're right about PhDs being geared to single young people, with the expectation that you'll just be doing that. But actually that doesn't make for the best PhDs in my experience. You really need all that life experience behind you to make the best of it, & just to pick yourself up and keep going when things are tough. You'll do it! But do share how you're feeling with your supervisor - he/she will be more than used to getting notes rather than a finished piece, I'm sure. KEEP GOING - you're almost there! brew cake

Guitargirl Thu 16-Feb-17 10:44:06

Keep going - keep going - keep going - keep going! It feels great when it's done - just keep going! Doesn't have to be perfect.

NotCitrus Thu 16-Feb-17 10:47:32

Rah! Rah! Keep doing little bits!
Also it's a thesis, not a work of literature. Just make the points and don't fret about clever wording or using the same adjectives again. The best support I got (after my supervisor pushed off abroad) was being told "yeah, you can write a thesis in 6 weeks". Took 7 and 4 days, but it was done!

coughsandsneezes Thu 16-Feb-17 10:48:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

tinymeteor Thu 16-Feb-17 11:03:35

Thanks so much everyone.

I'm going for a walk, then on to bullet-pointing a new section for the afternoon. If I look at the current chapter any longer I think I'll go nuts.


OP’s posts: |
pseudonymph Thu 16-Feb-17 11:11:23

As they say, a PhD thesis is never finished it is just abandoned.

It probably much better than you think - it's just that you can see all the cracks because you're the one writing it, and you've forgotten that the interesting stuff is interesting because you've seen it before.

It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be done.

Also: I always found that if I wanted to clear my head, watching 20 minutes of netflix was really effective - much more so than reading or walking. Not sure why. Anyway try it - though make sure it's nothing too gripping.

tinymeteor Thu 16-Feb-17 15:44:20

Supervisor today: "Your work is making a contribution. Don't be a perfectionist. Just keep writing."


Thanks for seeing me through this morning's spin-out, Mumsnet.

OP’s posts: |
Closetlibrarian Thu 16-Feb-17 15:46:33

Echo what your supervisor said about not being perfectionist. As a very wise person said to me when I was at a similar stage 'a good PhD is a finished PhD'. Just get it done (1000 words a day worked for me - small enough to be manageable big enough to feel like an achievement). Plenty of time to perfect and titivate it when you're redrafting it for a book/ articles.

Maxxiee Fri 17-Feb-17 20:00:28

A big hand hold from me! I am sending off me PhD to the printers on Monday to hand in on Friday. It's been hell these last couple of months. Kids today (trying to be v kind) said 'don't worry mummy, next week you can spend some time with us' 😰you will get there, and it doesn't have to be perfect- good enough is good enough

MewlingQuim Fri 17-Feb-17 20:13:08

A PhD thesis is never finished, just abandoned

Oh so true.

I re-read mine recently before a job interview and it's been long enough now that I can read it and think 'its really not too bad'. I was so disappointed with it at the time, but I just wanted it done and to move on with my life so one day just decided 'fuck it, that'll do' grin

I also recommend getting everything down as bullet points to start, then gradually working it into complete paragraphs. And don't spend lots of time stuck on one chapter, move onto something else and come back to it later. The more you get done the easier it will get, then you must have your own 'fuck it' moment, if you strive for perfection you will never finish.

flowers wine brew cake gin for you

Nongoddess Fri 17-Feb-17 23:31:14

@Maxxiee - did you hand in today? Massive congratulations if so! And hope you're doing well OP, and feeling positive about the week's achievement!

dorothymichaels Wed 22-Feb-17 11:38:13

I'm writing up too, currently slogging away at a terrible chapter draft. I'm perversely enjoying the focus, but only some of the time. Mostly it feels like a beast!
Your supervisor sounds great.
I have a google forms sheet where I keep notes on what stage I'm at with each chapter, version number etc. It gives me a sense of achievement to update it everyday. Small steps towards the goal.
I keep thinking, 'I will do this, and I can do this'. I want to be able to write Dr. on a form and think back to how I worked hard to finish with two kids and other work going on. I want to feel proud!

allegretto Mon 27-Feb-17 14:13:33

Keep at it! I was there a few months ago and I am now waiting for my minor corrections to be approved! I think I did the whole of the last few months in 25 minute "pomodoros" but I got there. Was quite stressful but so satisfying when I finished. Rereading it for the amendments I was surprised at how coherent it actually seemed despite some weird typos - I apparently can't spell my good friend's name whom I thanked in the acknowledgements!

allegretto Mon 27-Feb-17 14:14:58

And I can remember being very annoyed with dh for giving me advice when he did his as a single man, full-time student and without the three kids to look after!

mumof2kiddos Tue 28-Feb-17 17:21:52

Oh dear me...what will happen to me I fear and I have just a few months worth of only a Masters degree dissertation to do very soon! Not even able to come up with a fixed topic idea as yet sad

FridgeFungus Mon 06-Mar-17 20:56:47

Good luck, TinyMeteor. You'll get there. I am in last year of my PhD and my funding runs out at the point that DS starts secondary school, which means that I've really got to pull my finger out. For what it's worth, we had a lovely writing tutor who advised us to give ourselves time to 'lick and chew' -- that is, ruminate. Even at this late stage!

FridgeFungus Mon 06-Mar-17 20:59:20

Ps eminent professor told me that one's PhD is not the final word on anything; rather, it's a contribution to the conversation. That makes sense to me.

Join the discussion

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.

Join Mumsnet

Already have a Mumsnet account? Log in