Seriously stressed out by PhD confirmation

(5 Posts)
bathsh3ba Mon 14-Oct-19 06:46:14

I'm just into my second year of my PhD and at my university that means the confirmation report and viva. I've submitted a 5,000 word report and one chapter and my presentation and oral exam are in about 3 weeks' time.

I thought I was doing okay until 1 week before my report was due when my supervisor sprung a load of changes on me. I don't know why she didn't do it earlier but I think part of it was down to communication problems - she was speaking in academic language I haven't fully embedded yet. I don't mean in terms of language about my subject area, I'm on top of that, but that for example when she told me I needed to improve the coherence of the report, I assumed she meant the general coherence of the argument but she meant that the research questions weren't coherent with the argument.

I worked so hard for this report, especially in the last week to change so much of it. I submitted and in her accompanying report she said she had 'moderate concerns' about progress.

I now feel that (a) I am likely to fail the confirmation (I can only hope I get asked to resubmit in 6 months but I can't see how I'll pass) and (b) I can't trust her to be straight with me as she never told me she had concerns so serious that they could jeopardise my position.

I'm not sleeping well I am so worried. She's set me some things to try to change before the confirmation viva but I just feel what's the point if I'm going to fail anyway? I feel like I've wasted two years of my life on an MRes and now PhD only to be told I'm rubbish at it. Someone please help me see the wood for the trees!

OP’s posts: |
Bumpandtoddler Mon 14-Oct-19 06:58:43

I'd try not to worry, your supervisor is not the person who decides if you progress, it is your examiner, they may love it! When I wrote my transfer report (I assume this is equivalent to your report) I handed it in to my supervisor, he didn't even put a pen mark on it and told me it was shite and to start again because he wasn't even wasting his time reading it. I now have a PhD and am 2 years into a post doc smile good luck!

pinknsparkly Mon 14-Oct-19 07:10:03

The entire purpose of your confirmation report and viva is to ensure that you are on track to obtain your PhD. The university wants you to get your PhD (they have to report number of PhDs obtained so it looks bad on them if you fail). Therefore, even if they do have concerns at your viva, the outcomes will be supportive and to ensure that you DO get a PhD at the end of your studies. You've already got an MRes so have proven that you've got the skills you need to do a PhD, it sounds like it's just a case of needing to polish up the language you're using. And as BumpAndToddler points out, every single examiner has a different idea as to what they want from your thesis anyway so you may fly through your viva will all compliments! Try not to get too stressed about it and see it for what it should be - an opportunity for some support and assistance to make sure you're heading in the correct direction to successfully complete your PhD!

ruralliving19 Mon 14-Oct-19 08:56:52

Thanks both - I hope it's supportive! It doesn't help that the three people who've gone through confirmation since I started have all been asked to resubmit, doesn't fill you with confidence. My research is quite a niche area and no-one else in the department is really doing that area, so sometimes it's a bit isolating.

SarahAndQuack Mon 14-Oct-19 09:19:39

I agree with other posters that the university wants you to succeed and will be rooting for you.

With regard to trusting your supervisor - it sounds as if you're panicking a bit about this, and I'm not sure you need to. IME part of a confirmation process involves you reflecting on what's still to be done - so you might find that the examiner asks you about possible flaws, or wants you to talk through what could be changed as you continue with the work. Your supervisor might have raised questions at this point because she wants you to be thinking critically about what you're doing, rather than because she expects you to make huge changes immediately?

It also seems to me that there's not a very big difference between a report having a coherent argument, and an argument being coherent with the research questions? I don't think you could really have one without the other.

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