Ah, the sweet sound of completion…
You are now reading the blog of someone who has completed their PhD thesis – as well as someone who has waited for examiner’s results, completed the required emendations, and had those emendations accepted!
Next stop: GRADUATION!
Because it’s not polite to ask someone how long they have taken to complete, it’s not something that gets talked about a lot. I started mine in 2003, which means that despite many deferred and part-time enrolled semesters, I’ve essentially been a research student for just over eight years.
Yes, you’re supposed to complete within four years. And everyone who signs up for one of these damned things thinks they’ll be able to make it…but not everyone does. In fact, only about 40% of students really reach that goal. There are a lot of factors that influence this: the nature of the candidate, candidature, discipline and institution all come into play. My story was one of running out of money after a few years and not having had enough done by then to carry me through the tough times that followed.
TIP: Full time teaching is NOT conducive to timely completion of a research degree. Well, it wasn’t for me, anyway!
So, in the end, was it worth it?
If it really was such a slog, and the research indicates that my experience is not that unique, would I do it again?
Yes. Yes, I would.
In the end, it is really clear that writing a thesis (a PhD dissertation is generally 80,000 - 100,000 words long) is the ultimate ‘research apprenticeship’. You learn (sometimes the hard way) to manage your time, to overcome writer’s block, to situate yourself within a field of expertise, and to write for an academic audience. You learn to be rigorous in your chosen research methods, and you learn how to discern the quality of others’ work. You learn to cast off doubt about using your own voice, for better or worse.
You also end up with a major piece of research that you can stand by, and put forward as your own – this becomes part of your currency in the academic world.
There were times when I thought I wouldn’t last the distance…without the support of my friends and family, I’m not sure if I would have. There were times when I was so far in ‘the cave’ that I was sure everyone I knew had given up on me ever coming out again! But they were very nice about that, and patient, and kind, and that made all the difference.
So, THANK YOU! Especially to people who read this blog and keep in contact with me online through Twitter and Facebook and the rest. The process of public reflection, knowing that people would notice if I gave up, was something that always helped to keep me motivated. That, and the idea of writing this very post to tell you all that I am FINALLY DONE.