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To even think about a PhD?

35 replies

QuestionableMouse · 25/03/2021 19:10

Having a minor crisis of confidence right now and could really use some advice.

Background: I graduated summer 2020 with a first and I'm currently a third of the way through a MA with an average grade of 75% (predicted final grade is a Distinction) Both in English and Creative Writing.

I've been thinking about a PhD since I started my MA but not seriously, if that make sense?

Had some spare time today to look into it a bit more and now I'm wondering if I'm mad for thinking about it. I'm a published author currently, I'm bloody good at research but I'm not the most academically gifted person in the world and the thought of writing a massive thesis is scaring me a bit! (most seem to want ~creative writing project and ~20k thesis linked to your creative writing project)

I'm the first one in my family to get a degree, let alone anything past that and most of my friends did more practical qualifications so I don't really have anyone to talk to in real life and I'm having a bit of a wobble.

OP posts:

Am I being unreasonable?


You have one vote. All votes are anonymous.

RickiTarr · 25/03/2021 19:12

English Literature? Creative writing? Practice based?

Sounds like you’d be a good fit for Creative writing?

What are the points against? Finance? Time?


RickiTarr · 25/03/2021 19:13

Sorry question marks need and spread there. Grin


StrongerOrWeaker · 25/03/2021 19:13

What do you want a PhD for?
To work in academia? That's super competitive nowadays. I wouldn't build my hopes up if I were you. Lots of talented and deserving people struggle to secure permanent research posts.
To better yourself? Why not, if you can afford to.


RickiTarr · 25/03/2021 19:13

Bred and spread Grin


Stationfork · 25/03/2021 19:14

It depends on the reasons WHY you want to do a PhD?


DelurkingAJ · 25/03/2021 19:15

How will you fund it? If you can get funding then go for it 100%.

I have a science PhD that is now completely irrelevant to my job but it was funded and I’m so very glad I did it rather than regretting not having done so. I might feel differently if I was paying off debt from it.


QuestionableMouse · 25/03/2021 19:16

I don't need it for anything professionally. I guess I'm trying to prove to myself that I can do it?

It would be Creative Writing, most likely at Newcastle University or via distance learning (or Sunderland Uni, if the project was approved)

OP posts:

Mumoftwoinprimary · 25/03/2021 19:17

Why would you be doing it?

To improve your writing? (Is doing a Ph.d the best way to do this?)
To improve job prospects? (I’m a mathematician so have no idea if it would help or not in your field.)
Because you will enjoy it? (Would you?)


Usernamqwerty · 25/03/2021 19:17

A few things to think about OP.

Do you enjoy academic writing? A PhD is a huge undertaking and abandoning it part-way through never looks good. Why not wait until you see how hard you find the thesis part of your MA?

What are your long-term career plans? Do you want to do the PhD to pursue a career in academia or for more personal interest? Do you know what your research topic could be and potential supervisors?

There's also the expense. PhDs are not cheap. You can do it part-time and get a part-time job but it would be a lot of work and part-time would take up to six years.

Don't want to put you off, just do consider your options.


QuestionableMouse · 25/03/2021 19:18

Points against - finance, I'm working class and it's not something we do (lack of confidence 😣) and I guess I'm worried I might stuff it up? I don't feel clever enough?

OP posts:

AlwaysColdHands · 25/03/2021 19:18

It’s not all about being academically able - it’s about really hard intellectual graft and many many hours of work, at the cost of many other parts of your life
But if you have a real passion to do it and it’s possible for you - go for it


Usernamqwerty · 25/03/2021 19:19

I'm also aiming to do a PhD at some point in my field (will hopefully qualify as a healthcare professional in 2 years) 🤞


DazedandConcerned · 25/03/2021 19:19

Go for it! But be well aware that all the funding deadlines for AHRC grants have now passed.

Have you looked at any projects with funding already attached?


Usernamqwerty · 25/03/2021 19:20

You might be able to get some funding (student finance). As mentioned in other posts, some can be funded but they are usually science / health / social care related.


Usernamqwerty · 25/03/2021 19:21

Would also recommend a chat with your Uni careers service


QuestionableMouse · 25/03/2021 19:24

Current MA doesn't end until this September and honestly I was expecting to start it in 22.

I haven't really looked into anything seriously because it always felt like a pipe dream?

OP posts:

Milkshake7489 · 25/03/2021 19:24

I think you are suffering a crisis of confidence OP. Based on your grades, you are academic... even if you don't feel like it.

So, all you need to consider is whether you want to do a PHD.

Selfishly, I hope you do! Especially since PHD students often run seminars etc. I was the first person in my family to attend university and I can't tell you how much it would have helped me if just one of my lecturers or tutors had shared that background with me Smile.


RickiTarr · 25/03/2021 19:25


Points against - finance, I'm working class and it's not something we do (lack of confidence 😣) and I guess I'm worried I might stuff it up? I don't feel clever enough?

Bollocks to “we’re working class” as a reason against. You have the talent. You want to do it for personal fulfilment. Our foremothers and forefathers battled to improve things for their descendants and give us opportunities like this.

Look at Pat Barker or Hilary Mantel. Being WC hasn’t held them back.

Finance might be okay with the postgrad loan, part time study or both.

Ask one of your MA tutors what they think, if you’re wobbling.

Don’t just dismiss it as “not for the likes of us”.

DazedandConcerned · 25/03/2021 19:26

@QuestionableMouse drop me a PM. My DH starts a PhD in Creative Writing in September. Happy to answer any detailed questions if you have them.


BriarsHollow · 25/03/2021 19:27


Points against - finance, I'm working class and it's not something we do (lack of confidence 😣) and I guess I'm worried I might stuff it up? I don't feel clever enough?

Look into funded creative writing doctorates. Winchester offer them.

Calvinlookingforhobbes · 25/03/2021 19:32

How far into your MA dissertation are you? How have you found it? What benefit would a PHD be? Can you fund it?


ForeverAintEnough12 · 25/03/2021 19:32

I have a PhD in a different field. I breezed through school, uni and an MA with 1st class honours from both. The PhD was a different level and honestly gruelling. Things that made the PhD difficult and also different were that it’s not exam based so the whole study/focus is different, it’s very isolating as you are essentially working on your own. You have to be incredibly self motivated and have good time management as there is no structure so you have to set your own. I found this difficult. What probably got me through my PhD was meeting my now DH who worked near me so he would make sure I left for uni when he left for work.

Also a PhD is very specific so I would only consider it if you have a specific area you are very interested in and happy to spend years delving into. You would also need to consider finances - I was lucky I won a prestigious scholarship to fund my PhD but even this was only an annual salary of 20k which I found was ok to live on but difficult with high rents in my city and also as my friends of similar age were all starting to earn good wages post uni. I didn’t get to do a lot of travel or holidays that other did. I know friends who did a history PhD who only got funding of 5k per year.

I also did a PhD as I wanted to lecture but actually teaching courses and seeing all the red tape and the low salary lecturers were on plus the pressure of having to look for funding through research or inviting guest speakers didn’t appeal to me. I was also told I would need to do a post doc after my doctorate to get a decent lecturing post and more poverty and isolation didn’t appeal either.

I now have a good government job that required a PhD so it wasn’t a waste but I don’t think I would’ve done it if I could go back and choose again.

So overall

  • what do you want to do your PhD in and why
  • Are you passionate about your chosen topic?
  • do you have good self motivation, time management and ability to set your own daily structure
  • are you happy to work largely alone and will sometimes depending on supervisor with v little guidance?
  • what funding can you get for PhD and how will this affect your lifestyle in general compared to getting a job after the MA?
  • what career are you interested in and why?
  • if academia is a post doc required for a lecturing job, have you experience of lecturing and if not can you get some teaching experience alongside your MA?

Basically you need to really clearly think through who you are as a person, why you want to do a PhD - I went into it blindly as I’m intelligent and did really well in school uni and ma as I said - I don’t think this is enough of a reason to pursue one.

SarahAndQuack · 25/03/2021 19:34

If you can fund it, and you're doing it for the challenge not for a career, I say go for it! You sound plenty intelligent, but it makes me really angry how some people are made to feel academia isn't 'for them' or they're not good enough. There are hundreds of mediocre white men who never question that they're good enough.

Btw, a friend of mine lectures creative writing at Newcastle and she is awesome.


JohnnyMcGrathSaysFuckOff · 25/03/2021 19:42

Hi OP I work in English and creative writing inc supervising CW PhDs.

As for admissions: at my institution we'd require a portfolio as well as academic grades. If you have published fiction or poetry or CNF already, you probably have enough for this now.

Funding: AHRC deadlines gone for this year as PP said but some places offer their own funding, often partial. My own institution offers a doctoral professionalisation scheme where you get hired as a part-time teaching assistant and in that way, part-fund your PhD. Many self-fund, though.

Post-doctoral employability: a PhD can help in certain non-academic careers as a quality marker but mostly "useful" if you want to go into academia. This is very competitive but not un-doable. With CW, research-only posts are quite rare and you'd be well-advised to construct your thesis and/or associated teaching to get experience in several areas of literary teaching and associated academic activity. Eg a recent PhD of mine wrote quite environmental poetry for his thesis, but very smartly garnered teaching experience in contemporary lit classes (critical) amd a related discipline plus some experience as an RA. He now has a temp position in our institution's impact office as he looks to develop his academic career. Also bear in mind, many but not all CW lecturing posts are fractional as so many writers choose to preserve writing time and are often on 0.5 or 0.3 contracts.

Hth Smile


JohnnyMcGrathSaysFuckOff · 25/03/2021 19:44

*niche environmental poetry!!

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