Just living that moment where you look at the examiner’s report and it suggests organising the material in a way you rejected at your supervisor’s suggestion 18months ago.
Edited to clarify – the way my examiner suggested was the way my thesis had been structured *mumble mumble* years ago but was eventually fully re-assembled to fit some suggestions from supervisors.Chronological vs. thematic? A matter of taste?
I am not facing the impending interview with the zen-like calm I would like.
I am, it would be fair to say, lurching between being as sensible as I can in order to maintain accept the possible outcomes and to stop rampant speculation about what happens next and moments of abject terror characterised by mind-numbing panic attacks that don’t even seem to involve thoughts about the viva at all.
I am not prepared. I haven’t finished re-reading the beast. I don’t feel up-to-date on new scholarship and I haven’t even decided what to wear (yes its ridiculously small but weirdly important to my self-esteem – I swear knee-high boots got me through Uni interviews at 17).
Ah well. What could possibly go wrong?
Its not like I’ve spent the last ten years of academic life building up to these moments or anything. Its not like I have no concept of how to face failure gracefully or what to do with success. right?hahaha….
I can almost see the end.. and yet its not quite there.
I could scream.
I think I have the number of footnotes I need to sort don to single figures… I think I am at the stage of very seriously sorting my internal page refs… I think I could consider having this bound next week…
But I am waiting on refs from small independent libraries for obscure archival holdings, I trust my own ability to footnote and cross reference like I trust a salmon to swim across the sahara and I don’t know if I have the guts to let it go.
As my thesis suffers in its death throes I am drawn back to thinking about its conception, gestation and birth.
I don’t remember the moment the idea of my topic came to me. Somewhere near the very beginning of my Masters dissertation I knew that an MA would never do the ideas justice. I don’t remember choosing the topic of that dissertation or even writing it (what can I say I was working a 40+ hr week and not really rocking the sanity).
But I knew.. I knew it was a PhD and I knew I was the only person to write it.
What I didn’t know was whether I could get a PhD, whether I was good enough. I got a 2.i in my BA, failed to get funding for my MA (hence the full-time job). I didn’t apply for a PhD until after I got the results of my masters, I only applied to one university and I didn’t applying for funding.
It was take the hard route or don’t do it all. In the absence of guidance from my previous department, I knew of no funding opportunities except AHRC or my proposed university. I didn’t have the confidence (or in my mind the grades) for the AHRC and most funding support appeared to be tied to departmental teaching, something I had no experience of and knew I couldn’t commit to because I wanted to stay living with W.
It was surprisingly easy.
I sent an email with a general overview of my research proposal to my potential supervisors; one of whom offered me a few suggestions. I filled in the application form and three months later I was accepted. No grilling, no debate.
I went down met my primary supervisor ran a chapter plan passed him and then fell of the face of the world for a few years..
Methodology classes were attended, Research was done and writing begun, I even jumped through the annual monitoring review hoops and passed my upgrade requirements but I mostly I pootled into the world of my own devising. I haven’t even really changed my research topic – though it is of course more tightly defined and didn’t extend to some of the areas I had originally wanted to explore.
Now, post-interruption and with 2 different supervisors to those I started with, 5 years later the beast is nearly complete and I look back and wonder whether I was lucky that the initial process was so straightforward or whether I would have been more ambitious if I had fought for it. Mostly this has been quite an expensive way of reading a lot of books and journals in order to write my own. Though I am aware that my tone and style has tightened through the years and that my supervisors have pushed me to become better at summarising and putting myself forward I have no clear notion of ways that I am a better scholar or researcher…
Only time will tell what the legacy is.
You can download that book you’ve been meaning to read/re-read and check it says what you remembered/thought/hoped almost instantly thanks to e-readers.
You cannot however use them to check your page references.
It takes me nearly 3 hours to get from my house to my university library and a little over 3 to get back
(yes – the train always takes an extra half an hour on the return journey, isn’t that fun)So 4 hours of quality source-checking makes for a bloody long day. On the plus side I can work on my thesis uninterrupted on the train as well as in the library – no internet, no conversation, nowhere to go; on the down side I feel wiped out, anxious and lonely through the whole experience.
Today I added accents to my passages of Diodorus, checking all of the text against Teubner for transcription errors – time consuming and boring but essential if you want to be taken seriously by classicists.
I also found page refs for a handful of the books missing such things in Chapter 1, returned some books and picked up a couple more. I began chapter two again and fiddled with yet more footnotes
But mostly I wonder whether today was productive or not…
“A thesis for the degree of PhD shall not normally exceed 100,000 words..”
Apparently my current draft is 97,000… I am exceedingly worried. Since I haven’t finished all of the tidying up and writing I am clearly going to have to start cutting sections before long.The trouble is not that I don’t have ideas about where things could be cut but more how to do it without destroying the narrative flow.
I am however glad that the total is exclusive of footnotes and bibliography..cos there are 16,000+ words worth of footnotes and nearly 10,000 in my biblio.
Having trouble with the idea of ‘good enough’ at the moment. Perfectionist streak is pretty wide and its nagging me. How do you let go?
So.. success comes in many shapes and sizes.
Yesterday, I didn’t give blood, or send my DSA form off. I didn’t stay up all night beforehand and I didn’t finish the chapter. Instead, today I gave up my opportunity to go to the Games again in favour of writing.
I am sad and I am disappointed in myself for not being better at what I do and for not finishing what needs to be done in the time-period I had allocated.
And yet, I am also proud. Proud because unusually for me I both recognised a limitation in myself and then worked out a way round it. I made a choice to prioritise something for me rather than something that I feel I should do – and simultaneously considered what I want and need both long and short term. I did also send the chapter to my supervisor today and aim to send a big chunk of text to both my supervisors in approx 1 weeks time.
The editing and tidying of my thesis is a slow, time-consuming and stressful process. I can’t do it with interruptions, I can’t do without support and most of all I can’t do it without ruthless dedication
In other and related news: The DSA process is terrifying and stressful and I feel like a complete failure because of the inability to fill in forms – this is not a supportive disability scenario and not conducive to good mental health. OTC Sleeping pills are glorious – but perhaps real (anti-depressant style) medication might be more sensible. Sitting at my computer everyday is causing me all sorts of shoulder pain and I creak every time I move also I would still really like to get a weeks worth of sleep. /whinge
Absolutely need Chapters 3 & 4 to my supervisors by this weekend. I still have a serious reconsideration of my presentation of chapter 2 to do and need to finish the methodology section. Its not impossible per se, I need the confidence to axe sections and really emphasise my directions like I know what I’m doing.
The trouble is mainly that I don’t trust myself academically (or otherwise), that I still feel I don’t deserve a PhD and that I have a shit load of life to get on with. Therefore I am miserable, terrified and fighting my own head.
The last few nights have been filled with that odd sort of dozing where you are constantly aware of lying in bed and waiting for the alarm to ring whilst simultaneously having nightmares . I can’t lie in bed without thinking of the overall outline of the thesis and its progress. In short I am buggered.
So tonight I have resolved – I will stay up until I am satisfied I have reached a finishing point and so can sleep. And if tomorrow daytime is a haze sobeit. As long as I: walk and feed the dog, put on more laundry, fill in my DSA form, give blood, email my supervisors and go to work – I win. In theory, I will be home from work by 1.30am ..what could go wrong? TBH its important to me to get shit done before the weekend – I bought tickets for more paralympics on Sat as a b’day present and I just want not to spend all weekend miserable because I have too much to do.
urgh. the trouble is i am sooo tired all i want to do is curl up in a ball and cry myself to sleep. this is my righteous kick up the backside.