Quitting PhD? (with spatch reply in style of 'the wire')

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Quitting PhD? (with spatch reply in style of 'the wire')

Post by ElizabethB » Sun Oct 18, 2009 6:38 pm

Hi all-

Just having a little rant really.....

I'm finding it really very hard to keep going with my PhD at the moment. I don't think I've ever been this seroius about quitting- I know I've had moments of where I've thought I've wanted to quit, but this is so much stronger! :cry:

I've failed to meet my supervisors request in submitting 2 result chapters. I'm shamefully avoiding my supervisors at the moment which really isn't productive! and I'm really struggling to keep going.

Perhaps it's due to such a positive work environment with my new job and the chance of being promoted to a post doc position (my supervisors at my new job want me to apply for the post doc position even though I haven't finished my PhD yet). The last thing I want to do after a long day with my lovely new job is to work on a thesis that never seems to end and I never seem to get anything right with it. Everything I do with my PhD is almost always met with extreme criticism and major revisions, unlike the academics at my new job who are all so very positive about my work! (and they also supervise PhD students).

Has anyone else out there experienced anything similar in terms of finishing off a PhD? It feels like I'm dragging myself up a mountain with no hope for getting to the finishing point!

I'll probably keep going considering I've written over 90,000 words and I've put so much work into it. I don't think I've ever experienced anything like this! :( oh well, I'll keep plodding along I guess

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Post by Spatch » Sun Oct 18, 2009 9:37 pm

Has anyone else out there experienced anything similar in terms of finishing off a PhD? It feels like I'm dragging myself up a mountain with no hope for getting to the finishing point!
Doing a post doc whilst finishing a PhD is a double edged sword. The money is nice, but the conflicting agenda's are the killer.

Indulge me. Allow me tell you a story in the style of The Wire.

Confidential Informant interview 23.07.04
"Listen up homies. Once upon a time they wuz a dawg doin a 'D by the name of Pookie. The kid was dope. Then Pookie got hisself a sweet post'D while writin up. All well and good and I hit the dude up for a drink once we found out. He had a sweet, sweet deal with a NIMH fellowship with a coupla Yanks out in the Windy1 . Dat good so far and we be sayin' things like Pookie wuz gonna be getting stuff in Nature fo sho.

Problem was that his boss back in the hood wanted him to re-write stuff because he was gonna get iced on his Viva. Pookie made a coupla messy moves 2 and his boss come down hard on the dawg. Sayin stuff like he gotta busta few moves or his Viva panel were gonna put the mack on him. Same time though his new boss who was this O.G. wanted this boy to fly and write up stuff from their turf. They had some Phat research that was going nowhere but chillin and they worked Pookie like a mule to get this stuff out.

Now I ain't saying Pookie couldn't a done jack. He probably could have pulled in a few moves and got this O.G. offa his back for a coupla months while he finished his 'D. Instead he kept it hanging, trying to do nuthin but bailing on both. Kid shoulda focussed man, rollin' deep for a coupla months, gettin it done then going on. Now I don't know how long it took him to write up his 'D but the dude had to go part time in the end and wait a long time before he could make bank as a Post' D."

Notes/ Translation
1. Chicago. Northwestern Uni.
2. Weak use of justification for parametic tests. Poor grounding in his qualititative methodology.

Regardless, one thing you really need to do is keep your supervisor onside. They will be your future reference and they will make the viva as easy or difficult as possible depending on your relationship. Remember, no matter how nice your current team is, they probably wont pay you a full post doc salary for any considerable length of time without finishing your PhD (and there may be built in clauses about completion timeframes which may cause added pressure).

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Post by DrFurbs » Tue Oct 20, 2009 10:03 am

Elizabeth* wow, I know nothing about how it feels to be in your situation, I just hope you find the strength and motivation to keep plugging away at it.

What would happen if you did quit it? And may I enquire about its subject? Im considering applying for a Ph.D next year, im not all that bothered about it, and will only apply if I see something that im interested in...so it good to hear the other side of the story, like yours.

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Post by ElizabethB » Tue Oct 20, 2009 4:04 pm


Thanks for the responses :)

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Post by psych_lad » Thu Oct 22, 2009 1:54 pm

Can't offer much advice but sort of know how you feel....I am trying to do my Msc dissertation at the moment alongside full time work and another PG course- I just want to go home and be able to watch TV without feeling guilty!

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Post by h2eau » Thu Oct 22, 2009 7:55 pm

Hi Elizabeth

I've been in a similar predicament before and its really tough when your motivation and confidence hit rock bottom and lead you to consider quitting.

I've found from talking to other people that this huge dip in motivation is common amongst PhD students in their final year, especially during the last stretch when you're so near yet so far. The pressures of doing a PhD are immense and the very high dropout rate (I've seen the figure 50% banded about, although not sure how accurate this is) speaks for itself. I think its a combination of the fatigue of working towards a goal for a long time and almost kind of defending yourself against the possibility of failure after putting in all that effort and investing so much in something where there's no gauranteed outcome. I think that quitting functions as avoidance of the feared possibility of failure and consideration of quitting gives a sense of there being options and allows re-establishment of a sense of control. I liken it to being in a tug of war and then thinking about / deciding to let go of the rope.

The style of your supervisors and the messages and level of support they give you has a huge impact too. You've come this far and have clearly invested a lot of time and effort in this and it'd be a real shame not to follow it through. In any situation where we really want a certain outcome there is almost always a risk of the alternative playing out. I think its useful to try and reflect on how our responses may reinforce unhelpful beliefs and prevent opportunities for disconfirmation of our worst fears, although this is not an easy thing to do when its your own beliefs and behaviours.

I almost quit my MPhil in the last few weeks before my thesis was due in. It was a really tough time as I was still working during the day as an AP with a long commute and was in between house moves and then suffered a bereavement. I had to just work through the night and was exhausted and was so tempted to just jack it all in. I was lucky enough to have got a place on the clinical doctorate starting a week later, which made it all the more tempting to just quit.

I am so pleased I persevered, even though it seemed like there was no light at the end of the tunnel. I got to a point where I just decided I was going to finish it somehow, whatever it took, due to the time, effort and money I had invested in it already. This shifted my perspective to focusing on how I was going to do it, not if I was capable of doing it. It was the most amazing feeling to hand it in and even better to graduate.

I hope that you come to a decision you are happy with and wish you all the best whatever you decide :)

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Post by miriam » Thu Oct 22, 2009 10:06 pm

I think its a stage a lot of people go through with a thesis, but if you've put so much work in it would surely be better to find the energy for one last surge to the finishing line. But I'd also share some of your feelings with your supervisors, as they can be encouraged to provide some more positive feedback too, and help you reach the end point...

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Post by Ruthie » Mon Oct 26, 2009 5:59 pm

I think no-one can imagine the sheer determination you have to muster to jump the final hurdles at the end of a PhD unless they have been there.

It doesn't sound like your supervisors are as helpful as they might be, and I agree with Miriam, sharing some of your feelings may be helpful and now is not the time to give up. Your new supervisors clearly feel you are capable of working at post-doc level so you have got those skills and knowledge from your PhD work so far. That should be recognised - you deserve the qualification after all the work you have put in!

It is good that your new job is going so well - but I know from painful experience how tough it is to have a great day job and then a PhD to write in the evenings and weekends.

There's nothing for it but to set yourself small achieveable goals each evening and let it take shape.

My supervisor (thankfully) wasn't overly critical so I was very fortunate in that respect and his advice to me at the end was that there will (almost) always be corrections to be made and what you want is a good enough thesis. Just get the words churned out, make the changes your supervisors feel are essential but don't get over perfectionistic.

Maybe also put it on the line with your supervisors that you simply don't have the time to split hairs on the non-essentials and your priority is to submit a decent thesis (not a perfect one - as that doesn't exist) as soon as possible.


PS. Also save all the old versions of your documents - you can bet all you own and then some on your supervisor asking you to change it...change it back again...no change it....change it back again :roll:

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