The Long and Winding Road: a PhD Journey nears its end


My friends and colleagues have recently asked me some rather awkward questions, along the lines of: How is the PhD going? When do you finish your PhD? When can I read your PhD?  I'm delighted that they're so interested, and not particularly surprised: after all, I started my degree just before the pandemic - three long years have passed - and it is absolutely reasonable to wonder when I will have something to show for it! 

There are some simple answers, particularly when it comes to the "when". I have roughly eight months left to run on my PhD Funding (until the end of August next year) and a couple of months more on my "candidature", that is, the amount of time I will remain a student and can still submit my thesis. However, I need to replace the income from my PhD stipend immediately in September, and so I really don't want to submit later than the end of my funding period. Ideally. We shall see. When can you read it? That one's a little less set in stone. After I submit, there will be a period of a few weeks before I have a Viva Voce examination on the content of the thesis. Often (and this is what I'm aiming for), a researcher will pass with 'Minor Corrections', and then there is a period of time during which you are editing various bits and pieces that the examiners might wish changed. These can range from typographical errors, (mis-spellings, stray references) to elaborating upon a particular passage, or providing clarification to the reader. After that, final printed and electronic versions are submitted, and only then is it publicly available! 


That's the easy part. How is it going? Relatively well, but certainly it feels like crunch time. Mainly, I'm still battling the urge to continue researching in various different directions. With any PhD (especially in the Humanities), research threads are endless. A good thesis topic would probably fill a life-time - and yet, there must be a point at which we have to stop, cut our losses, and employ a time-honoured phrase such as, "Future research in this area may prove fruitful". At the moment, I'm working on my last piece of research for my fifth chapter, at the same time as writing up some notes from an archive trip to Scotland last month in the sixth chapter - more on that next week. And at the same time, I'm attending some fantastic online training sessions organised by my university, which focus on preparing a thesis document in Microsoft Word. If I write up using the correct format from the start, my life will be significantly easier towards the due date, so I'm getting on top of that while things are (relatively) calm.

 

So, from now until I submit my PhD, and perhaps beyond, I'll write a research-focused blog post on my progress on "The Long and Winding Road" each Wednesday. Not only will this motivate me to keep going, despite the inevitable challenges that will come my way over the next eight months, but I hope that many of you might find it interesting to discover exactly what is involved in producing a PhD, and what (though I don't know myself as yet) it will lead to in the long term. Wish me luck!