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PhD thesis writing motivation/support thread!

(263 Posts)
JumpingJellyfish Sun 30-Nov-08 23:19:57

I know there's a few of you lurking out there and thought we could have a new sparkly thread to coerce encourage us with thesis writing....

I'm in my 6th (or is it 7th) year of a part-time PhD in marine biology- and writing up (though still occassionally dabbling in data analysis which I shouldn't be!! but it's always more interesting than writing...). Hoping to submit 1st May 2009. have to really for my sanity and that of my long-suffering DH & DCs. Need to finish my first draft by end of January I reckon to give me time to make corrections etc.

But I am having long periods of self doubt and general procrastination so could do with some motivational support from anyone going through similar (Acinonyx for example?! ps. I've name-changed from madmarriedNika )

peppapighastakenovermylife Mon 01-Dec-08 10:03:50

Hey...Im still here with a name change. Im in the same position as you...writing up but keep going back to spss as it just seems more fun (grass always greener and all that).

Hoping to submit in summer - well funding runs out then and I have to find a ft job.

Should be fine - Im sure toddler and 3 month old will just sit and play nicely right?

zenandtheartofbaking Mon 01-Dec-08 15:30:23

I'm nowhere near writing up. hope a few more people koin or I'm going to get really depressed when you two finish ahead of me.
Really good to know it takes ages if you have kids.
My mum sends me into a slit-my-wrists-depression by asking me all the time when I'm going to be taking my exams!!!
I keep telling her there are no exams.

Acinonyx Mon 01-Dec-08 19:22:16

Hi there! Yes I'm still slogging away to the finish line which is hopefully March 2009 - complete draft by Jan.

I also keep getting re-embrioled in data analysis which I much prefer to actually writing. Dh reads my drafts and always comments - 'too many numbers - put in more words!' SPSS and Lisrel are my friends.

I SO SO SO badly want to submit and yet my completion seems to be on an exponential curve - so close but never actually finished. And I am, frankly, somewhat tired on my initially so exciting topic.

But worse and more stressful still is the potty-training hell I am in with my nearly 3.5 yr-old dd. BUT today - we had a breakthrough. An actual wee in the toilet (we were taking turns - I had weed in her potty) so then we both got to eat chocolate.

And I'm having my gall bladder out tomorrow. I joked that it waslike going to a health spa - a whole day lying in bed with no potty training and I'm not taking work. When does that ever happen? If only they had a minibar....

JumpingJellyfish Mon 01-Dec-08 20:42:36

Good to know there's still a few of us lurking on these boards (in my case procrastinating!).

Acinonyx- good luck with the op!! (and the potty training, it was only about 5 months ago that we did this with DS and the stress of it I recall too well!!). It's bad isn't it when you start looking forward to going into hospital to get a break from the usual commitments but I know too well how you feel! many chapters have you managed so far? I have properly written only 1(!!!) but made a start on all the others and have a very detailed plan plus 99% of data analysis, graphs etc. done. So I keep telling myself if I kick myself into gear (and if DCs stay well for a little while) I could finish by end of Jan....hmm(delusional perhaps).

Went back to work, finally, in October, 2 days a week. Have no additional childcare still as waiting list for nursery is long, only other nursery has just closed down, and no childminders with more vacancies. So working eves and 1 day at the weekend. It sucks. But glad in a way to still be getting lots of time with DCs although am dog tired so probably not in best form with them at times

I still really wish my supervisors would set me deadlines...but maybe that would be more stress....

Must try to stop playing about in Genstat, Surfer & GIS and get back to Word. Maybe I should just delete those programs from my computer?!

Keep going everyone, it will be worth it I'm sure!!

sunnylabsmum Tue 02-Dec-08 10:24:10

Hi everyone
Yes I too am in the joys of writing up, or im my case re-writing. I had a major setback when my second supervisor at his first glance at it at final draft stage said oh no it needs to go like this and its going to take 6 months. I had hoped to submit in Sep 08 so this was a major setback. I am now plodding through the rewriting and about half of it is done, but motivation appears to disappear along with the christmas fairy I think.

I'm now thinking of a submission date of 1 Mar so long as everything ticks along all right.

No potty training stories to share as DD is a big girl at school, but any tips of training a 6 yr old Labrador not to wee and poo on the kitchen floor every night would be gratefully received!!

Acinonyx Thu 04-Dec-08 17:22:21

Well the op was not quite as painless and relaxing as I had fantasized. If you ever have the choice - go for the health spa.

I've got the core of 7 chapters so far - but none of my chapters are very long and one is alarmingly short. I'm now going back through my literature and padding them out and deciding what kind of last chapter(s) to have. You'd think that would be clear by now but there are a couple of major options/directions I need to decide between. I never had much of a plan - it's been very analysis driven.

I must work more evenings - I keep saying that and then I don't hmm This last month has been really slow going and I need to get some momentum going. Jelly that must be hard with no childcare.

Sunny - looks like we are on the same timeline - I'm aiming for March too. No dog, but my smaller cat keeps being sick which is a pain.

Maria2007 Sat 06-Dec-08 13:01:29

Hi everyone,

I'm very happy to discover this thread... lets keep it going! I too am doing a PhD- in psychology / psychoanalysis-, & I've just had a little boy (he's 4 months now, how the time flies). I (madly, perhaps) hope to have a first draft June 2009, or at the very worst, august 2009, so that by september 2009, when my boy will be 1, I can get a part-time job in something unrelated to the PhD! We've hired a part-time babysitter, 3-4 times a week, 4 hours each time, so that I can start a bit of work (from home)... but so far the time with the babysitter is spent with me trying to get some MUCH NEEDED rest (DS not sleeping at all... don't ask!)

Anyway. Will be glad to share our experience about writing up. I really really want/need my PhD life to be over soon, & I'm determined to get some work done, even though I know it's very hard with a small baby.

JumpingJellyfish Sat 06-Dec-08 20:52:02

Welcome Maria! Yes it is very hard with a young baby but it sounds like you are very motivated which is great, and have a plan for childcare too which will give you a good start. I've had both my children during my PhD years, and with my yougest arranged a friend to mind both DCs 3 mornings a week from when DD turned 4 months so I could get back into PhD work- it was a good way to ease myself back into it but I found working from home very hard (always tempted to do housework while DCs were out!!) and have found since I started my part-time job, where I can use the office out-of-hours- my productivity has increased greatly! But now I can only really work evenings which is hard. Feel for you with the lack of sleep too, my DD has been terrible!!

Acinonyx- sorry to hear op was a bit more painful than expected. Sounds like you are doing very well with your writing. I think I have over-planned my thesis so am now begining to just freely write as find I can be more productive that way. After all I know what analysis I've done so don't really need to keep referring to the plan....!

Had a bit of a setback this week as a statistician who's been helping me (a godsend) found a flaw in one of models which needs rectifying- unfortunately other data analysis was based on this model so it'll mean re-doing quite a bit So frustrating! The worse thing is I doubt my supervisors or external examiner would actually realise there was a statistical problem with the model as they're not all that knowledgeable about stats but know I want it to be right (especially as I hope to publish the work properly). Just feel annoyed to have to spend more time on data analysis which I thought was finished. But such is the life of a PhD I guess!

Finding it hard now to think about anything but my thesis- christmas is way down the list which I fear will cause some stress nearer the time!!

Keep going everyone & good luck!

Maria2007 Sun 07-Dec-08 09:47:25

JumpingJellyfish: Awful isn't it when you have to redo something you thought was done... especially since, if you're like me, you're already sick of rereading & rewriting & redoing the same stuff again and again AND AGAIN!! As for thinking of anything but the thesis... ah, don't I know it! That's one of the main problems with PhDs I think, it never completely gets forgotten, it's always lurking at the back of the mind! I even thought about it (with guilty feelings) when I was just a couple of months before giving birth, and not able to work, and even in the first 2 months after giving birth! The damn thing is always just there in the mind, doesn't leave you in peace!

whiteflame Sun 07-Dec-08 21:30:16

Hi everyone,

Great to see there are still some PhD writers around... I'm reaching the end of my third year now, and am finishing off practical work (science) and beginning to write up. Hoping to submit around June 2009, similar to Maria2007 & Acinonyx.

Had a terrible morning with the lab work.. I was definitely not understanding enough of the students who finished ahead of me, I thought they were all very grumpy & boring! Now I can see what enormous stress and pressure they were under.

What sort of plans does everyone have for after submission, in terms of work/postdocs etc?? I'm finding it hard to make any plans because it's always so uncertain when the finishing date is!! Anyone found a way around the uncertainty?

JumpingJellyfish Sun 07-Dec-08 21:38:12

Hi Whiteflame. I am very lucky in that I've managed to get a part-time RA position in our local uni doing research I'm interested in so I'm hoping to continue that after the PhD and see about applying for my own grants, although for the moment I really don't want to work full-time until DCs a lot older so not sure how easy it will be to get a part-time post-doc. The drawback of what I'm doing is that I now can only work on my PhD in the evenings/weekends, which sucks, and is slow going. Once I've finally submitted I will need to spend some time trying to publish from the thesis and work on my publications record, so I don't think I'll be thinking much about post-doc work until after that. One thing at a time!
Are you able to work full-time on your PhD? It is a hard slog however you do it I think!

Procrastinating again...blush

whiteflame Sun 07-Dec-08 22:02:50

Hi JumpingJellyfish, sounds like a good solution with the RA position! I think it's the huge range of places/people that I could go to for a postdoc that is overwhelming (especially when trying to write up etc!). As I wrote that it occurred to me that it's a bit of a silly complaint really, too much choice!! But I have very little idea how to narrow it down without doing weeks of research on all the places...

Yes, luckily I am able to work full time on my PhD. At the moment it's very full time actually, including most weekends. Don't seem to be getting very far - most of my experiments don't work the first few times! Can be very frustrating. It must be hard writing in the evenings/weekends, does it take you a long time to get into writing mode? Or can you just sort of slip into it quickly?

Maria2007 Mon 08-Dec-08 09:28:59

Hi Whiteflame

I'm planning to get a part time job after I finish, or at least after I submit the 1st draft. Probably something having to do with children (I'm a psychologist & want to be working with children in the future). NOt sure though if it'll be research based or more applied, depends on what job offers I have (if any!!)

whiteflame Fri 12-Dec-08 02:37:05

Hi Marai2007!

Sorry, had a hectic few days with presentations and things! Thanks for the reply... i hadn't really thought about getting a part time job instead of a full blown postdoc, while waiting for viva & graduation!

Acinonyx Fri 12-Dec-08 16:38:38

I'll need to try and stay on in my dept (or possibly one other dept) so my choices are very limited - that can be helpful in some ways though as you say Whiteflame.

I'll also need to get my own grant and there is no time to do that while writing up so I will work on that afterwards. Very unlikely that there will be any RA positions suitable but in the meantime I wil probably do some contract teaching. I'm aiming to go part-time (4 days max, preferably 3) and I'm not sure how difficult that will be to organise. I think my supervisor would be supportive if I can get a grant.

Of course the chances of getting a grant are, I think at best about 25% and I don't really have a plan B except to do some writing shock

JumpingJellyfish Mon 15-Dec-08 15:50:18

Hello all, how are we doing this week?
I am struggling with a monster of a chapter... It's already 50 pages long and only 2/3 through, really need to split it but it wouldn't work if I did.... Not sure what to do so just going to carry on writing and hope my supervisors will help with chopping out bits- or shoving them into annexes etc. I had hoped for my whole thesis to be fairly short but instead it's getting really looooong. hmm Has anyone read any of the those thses writing advice books? I'm not sure if it's worth going down that route now but as I'm working on my own a lot I worry I'm going about it the wrong way (where I'm working the other PhD students submit by a bound collection on first-author papers, whereas I need to submit a traditional style thesis).

How much time are you all taking off over christmas? I'm trying to use days when DH is off work to work on the thesis so think we'll be taking the bare minimum off together, which is quite depressing. But short term pain, long term gain and all that...?! It's still going to be a push to get the first draft done by the end of January but need to keep trying anyhow, would be very sad to miss the May submission and have this drag on even longer.

Applying for grants scares me! I am really not sure of how likely it'll be to get anything part-time in my subject but will just have to see I guess.

Keep going all!

Acinonyx Mon 15-Dec-08 20:01:51

Jelly fish - I have the opposite problem in that my chapters are very short. The whole thing is very mathsy which tends to be short - but still I really need to pad it out with more words. I think maybe 3-4 of my shorter chapters should be one chapter - then at least one of them would be a good length.

I'm not entirely satisfied with the overall organisation either.

I read a couple of thesis guides ages ago - not sure where I've put them. They're OK but but very little that you don't already know.

Not sure what to do about Xmas. Dh is off for 2 weeks and so is our CM shock It's very full on looking after dd as she really does not play on her own at all - and then there's the potty-saga ongoing. Not much of a holiday break for him if I work in fact I think he would plain refuse. N

It's a finny time for a big holiday for us though. We have no famiy and everyone else disappears - and it's hard to get out and do stuff in this kind of weather.

smellyeli Mon 15-Dec-08 20:12:54

Please, please can I join? Although I'm only writing up a DM thesis, not a proper PhD. I can't talk about it to anyone else as it depresses me so much and has been going on for so long. It's like a bloody albatross around my neck Maria 2007 I so agree - it's there all the time!

I did the actual research (2 years full-time - a blardy nightmare, lots of stressful field work, funding problems etc.) 5 years ago. I was supposed to write up during that time, but ended up spending far too much time on the fieldwork.

Then I thought I'd write up when I went back to clinical work, but I got sent to a hospital 65 miles away. Then I got pregnant with DS. Wrote a bit after that, then stalled. Back to work (part-time, but still lots of nights and weekends) for 2 years, then SUBMITTED! 2 weeks before DD was born. Had the viva when she was 7 weeks old (don't remember anything about it) and have major corrections to do by May. Now back at work full time and trying to do the corrections. DS is 4, DD is 8 months. Every time I have a day off and send them to nursery so that I can do some work I feel so guilty - tell me I should just get on with it!

I'm very close to chucking it in all together......

JumpingJellyfish Tue 16-Dec-08 11:32:39

Ah smelly- you are in good company here smile. You are so close, really, at least you have submitted- but I can only imagine it must be pretty gutting to still have to do major corrections, especially with juggling what a very full-time, full on job with two young DCs too. I do feel for you so much, I have gone through periods this last 6 months of being so very close to giving up. I wonder for a start if it's worth this pain and effort, as I'm not sure when/if I'll ever get a full-time job in academia doing research I want to do, and at the moment my part-time job doesn't demand a PhD (just a masters) and if I do get a PhD it won't make a jot of difference to my pay etc etc.

But....I would always regret giving up. We are all so close it would be incredibly sad to have nothing at the end to show for all the sweat and tears that have already gone into this. And a PhD or DM is worth a lot, academically it instantly commands greater respect. And I do believe anyone who's managed to complete one while raising a young family shows one hell of a lot of dedication to their subject. Most of my friends who did full-time PhDs who weren't parents say how they couldn't imagine managing to cope with it and looking after children (I worry that I don't cope so well really, and I do worry a lot about the impact my PhD is having on my kids and DH- let alone the housework etc etc!). I know I will feel incredibly proud when I finally finish- and fortunately my DH (who did his PhD full-time and finished 10 years ago!) is very supportive (hmmm, coercive?!) and I honestly think he'd not let me give up now.

It is incredibly hard going, but in the grander scheme of things it really isn't for that big a period of your life, or the life of your family. I hope when my children are older I'll be able to show them my thesis and they'll be proud of me too. At the moment DS tells me that he can't wait to see my "big book about prawns"!- bless him grin (At the same time telling me he doesn't want me to go to work etc etc...sad)

Acinonyx- I think my DH also needs a bit of a break from being "landed" with the DCs while I try to work on the thesis- he does now though appreciate what it's like looking after them on your own all day! grin So I think we will end up taking a bit more time off together over christmas. We are quite lucky that DH's parents live just over an hour away so hoping they might want to help look after the children for a couple of days so I can get some work done, although my paid work is a bit hectic at the moment so might have to use any extra time for that unfortunately. It's so darn hard juggling everything, I really worry it's all about to blow up in my face sometimes (like running out to get milk at 6.30am with hungry kids as didn't have enough in for breakfast- this is happening too often! blush)

Good luck really will be worth it in the end! <repeat to self 100 times>

smellyeli Thu 18-Dec-08 13:04:55

Thankyou jumpingjellyfish! I've been on nights, so haven't posted for a bit, but I've got a free afternoon today so I'm going to knuckle down. I know I would regret giving up, if I ever get the bloody thing I'm going to take my DC's up onto the stage at graduation and make the robed man kiss their snotty cheeks!

DH is very supportive too - he did a DM 4 years ago but managed to get it all written up before he went back to hospital work. Not quite sure how he did this - maybe had something to do with not being pregnant/breastfeeding. He's also able to focus on one thing at a time whereas I'm always trying to do everything at once. I did the kids stockings before I went to work last night, and thought I was being really organised by packing the presents into the stockings until DH pointed out that traditionally, children like to hang their stockings up empty......

grin at going out to get milk - thank god for 24hour Tesco is all I can say.

I will finish, I will finish, I will finish..... <backs out of room towards thesis repeating this mantra>

Acinonyx Fri 19-Dec-08 17:15:50

You can't stop now Smelly, it's not allowed. I have felt like diong just that - many times. But we're on the downhill slope now.

The multitasking is surreal though. Wednesday I was trying to get some of my discussion down for yesterdays meeting - but broke off to chase the pick-up arrangements for dd's ballet slippers.

So then finally get to my meeting with supervisor in Thursday. He had forgottem of course and only read the Intro and asked me to email the rest. Then I scoured the city for a brontosaurus. I knew I should have bought it when I saw it last time - of course there has been a run on dinsaurs. They had a T-rex but dd doesn't really like the really scary ones. One lady even checked the warehouse for me and thought they might have a brachiosaurus - which I said would do but alas - it was not there. I might try again on Tuesday before the Sainsubury's run.

And I though I'd downtools for Xmas but the plan is a complete draft with current revisions by end - Jan. I need another 20000 words. Dh is going to be thrilled.

Maria2007 Tue 23-Dec-08 07:32:12

Hi girls,

Have not had the time to read all your posts properly, because am away for holiday until the 5th of January. Just wanted to say happy holidays, happy chrimstmas or whatever it is you're celebrating, & a happy new year! And make sure you get some rest...

(Also wrote this to keep this thread going smile)

Hugs to everyone,

JumpingJellyfish Tue 23-Dec-08 14:52:00

Just popping on to wish you all a very happy Christmas grin

Hope you all get a bit of a break...I'm in work at the moment but mind is not on it at all! Thinking about where I can find some obscure battery I need for one of DS's new toys... Hope you found a brontosaurus Acinonyx and survived the inevitable bedlam of Sainsbury's! smile

Acinonyx Wed 24-Dec-08 08:29:15

Hapy Xmas everyone!

Sainsbury's yesterday was CRAZY! I didn't think we'd be able to park. Then we had a puncture and dh had to drive out so we could swap cars as I had dd with me hmm

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