Academic common room
Would you advise me to quit?
StColumbofNavron · 30/07/2021 16:31
I know this is a space for academics, but I just don’t think Student Parents is going to have the right expertise.
I am about to enter the last 18 months of my funded PhD (in humanities). I’ve reached a point where I am torn about perhaps going part time or quitting and wondering if I really want this anymore. I’m not making an emotional decision as I’ve spent the last week trying to weigh it all up.
- I started this PhD as I was experiencing a significant bereavement that continues to have impact
- my caring responsibilities increased (I have 3 teenish DC but in light of the bereavement my need to care for my parents increased and could not be controlled)
- unsupportive partner for all of my academic journey. As a result my financial outgoings continued as before in spite of my income reducing by c. £30k.
- led to spending the first 6 months unsuccessfully juggling a part time job
- then Covid. I got very sick in the first wave and was totally out of action for about 8 weeks.
- now I have Covid again and so does one DC
I’ve been very lucky and received support and an extension but
- data collection still to be done in its entirety and needs face to face contact
- archives have been shut and then open in a way that isn’t conducive to my work (it’s not something that just pops up in catalogues and therefore not digitised) it requires old school hours of sifting through stuff
- working towards an upgrade all this year. Draft reviewed more than once by supervisor and messaging largely on track but with work still to be done - until last supervision. I’ve now been told to scrap it and write a new chapter.
- lit review will need to be significantly revised too.
I have the summer to write a new chapter, rethink structure and hope to pass upgrade in Autumn at some point. We’ve come up with a new approach which I am happy with.
I just don’t know if I want it bad enough to do this. It feels very much like I need to now do a whole PhD in 18 months. I’m not panicked, and I’ve gone through the emotions but I just don’t know if it is worth it.
Post PhD I was hoping to try for academia but I do (and always have) have other ideas which are probably more likely. I’ve not been able to and now I am behind I am unlikely to teach, publish, intern or even present again as my supervisor is adamant I just work on the thesis.
I just don’t know if it is better to call it a day but I feel like I will be letting down so many people including myself, plus I have the funding that someone else could have had.
I could quit and get embark on my back up plan and be in a new career within 18 months.
I would be sad to stop but I also think there might be some relief.
BuffaloHigh · 30/07/2021 18:47
It sounds like you’ve had an awful time. Even without that I think everyone wants to quit at some point.
I had a bad first year of my PhD. Failed my first upgrade. Came so close to giving up and would have done if my parents hadn’t persuaded me to keep going. And then it suddenly clicked and I finished on time (before other people who’d had a much better beginning). I’d agree you should focus on your thesis for now and then do all the other stuff once you’re more secure in it - a good PhD is a finished PhD!
Of course for some people doing something else is best for them- but with the situation you’ve had it doesn’t sound like it’s you, it just sounds incredibly hard.
StColumbofNavron · 30/07/2021 18:57
Thanks. I do feel like I can do it, and when I asked my supervisor directly whether giving up was an option he said that wasn’t on the table (from their perspective obv don’t think he was speculating about my own views). I just really feel I’m at a point where I can’t have one more unexpected thing happen or another person around me have a crisis. I suppose part time is an option if it comes to it, but I want to be able to move on with the next stage whatever that may be before I am 45 (I’ll be 40 shortly) so I don’t want to spend year doing this.
StColumbofNavron · 30/07/2021 19:12
Perhaps that is an option. I hadn’t considered that as my funder and University have already extended for 6 months so I am wondering if that would be asking too much.
GrandmasCat · 30/07/2021 19:25
It seems to me that you have too much in your plate at this time so perhaps a leave of absence may help you to get though all the difficulties you are facing while avoiding to make the big decision to abandon your studies while you are under such stress.
I would ask for leave of absence, that would also give you some time to consider, with a cold head, whether continuing working on the PHD is feasible or what you want.
If at the end you decide you don’t want to come back, nothing is lost. You would just be keeping your options open.
Your kids may change a lot this year as well, my son went from hanging around with me pretty much all the time to wanting to spend as much time with other kids (online or in real life) as soon as secondary school started. It will be easier, you will have more time and space. But at this time I think you need to take a step back from the PHD, deal with the issues and then decide what to do.
MedSchoolRat · 30/07/2021 20:55
A lot of PhDs, the first 12-24 m end up feeling pointless and like the achieved nothing. An unproductive 12m is not reason to give up. You can get a PhD in 18m.
Chat with your supervisors & the Uni about how your resilience is battered would make sense, that taking a break is the only way you can recharge your batteries.
Phphion · 30/07/2021 22:10
Is this 18 months the period until the end of your funding or the total maximum time to the final deadline?
Fluckle · 30/07/2021 22:18
I agree with the comments above. I've just handed in, but I definitely hit a wall at 18 months upgrade point and I didn’t have to deal with all the stuff you have. You've had an awful time bless you.
I think a suspension, six months minimum, 12 if you can, give yourself some breathing space and then you can properly think about what you want to do. Your supervisor taking you off teaching etc work to concentrate on thesis is a good thing, don't see it as a negative for an academic career, but if it's still proving impossible to concentrate (understandably), then take the break you need. Don't make a decision you may regret when you're at the end of your tether.
StColumbofNavron · 31/07/2021 11:45
@Phphion it’s until the end of the funding but also the actual submission deadline. I imagine I could apply for write up afterwards.
A break in studies is a good idea but I am worried about their reaction, given they’ve already extended my deadline and funding overall.
GrandmasCat · 31/07/2021 14:38
If you don’t ask you don’t get. They may say no, but then you have the same options you have right now, drop off or solidity on.
If they say yes, you have 6/12 months to catch up with yourself and then you can decide whether to continue or leave it.
DrGilbertson · 31/07/2021 17:44
Also don't underestimate the amount of unproductive time in what academics do. During my PhD (not very prestigious and 20 years ago, but even so) I spend the first year not doing very much and then 6 months at the start of year 3 not writing anything and just pratting around really. It then kind of clicked and I still got it all submitted in under 3 years.
That's not to say that you shouldn't delay, just that it is entirely possible to get the work done from where it sounds like you are now.
StColumbofNavron · 31/07/2021 18:36
Thanks all. This is all very reassuring and helpful.
StColumbofNavron · 08/08/2021 18:41
Tbh it was really the restrictions on the archives that have made it difficult, 2-3 hr appointments and restricted number of files. It is the sort of research that requires just sifting through lots of material to get to small nuggets.
I've started working on the chapter now so I will see how we get on at the next meeting then can take a more balanced decision.
StColumbofNavron · 22/10/2021 14:45
Just seen this @Copperas. Far, far better. I’ve submitted the new chapter and it needs a bit more work but is likely to be fine for upgrade once finished. This whole thing has really made me lose my love of academia/study/structured research.
My supervisors have taken an active role in pushing my upgrade into next year which is a double edged sword. It’s fine, but means exactly one year for all the rest of the research, writing etc. I’m quietly optimistic at the moment.
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