Writing up your PhD …

Contributing to Knowledge
How to write up the PhD.

After five long years of working on my PhD I am now near the end of the road, I have reached the write up stage. It has been a long road with a series of ups and downs and highs and lows. The key word for me throughout this process has been “resilience” and “grit”. Thats not to say that I have not enjoyed it, on the contrary I have loved doing my PhD, but you need to have steel if you ever want to finish. Doing a PhD is not easy, there were times over the last five years when the last thing I wanted to do was work on my PhD after a long days teaching and marking. However I am now at the writeup process and so close to finishing that all of a sudden I feel I have hit a brick wall!!

So what is this brick wall which now lays in my path? It is made up of my own insecurities about myself and about my research. Let me explain, at the start, my PhD was a very personal process, the collection and the analysis of the research data was something which I enjoyed, which I did for myself. Now as I approach the end I feel like a hobbit trying to approach Mount Doom not knowing what lays ahead of me and too far along on my quest to turn back, there is panic:

  • Does my PhD have any value?
  • Have I contributed to knowledge?
  • Will anybody like it?

These are questions that all serious researchers ask themselves during the end days of their writeup process, and these questions have put doubt in me about myself and my work, to the extent that I am now struggling to finish and articulate my work in a cohesive manner.There are strategies that you can use to get past this stage, the times higher suggests that a good doctoral student will be writing up their work as they go along, two advantages here, firstly you can structure your work and you have a better chance of finishing it on time. Finish being the operative word so your always looking ahead and not looking back. The guardian argues that a student should not try to achieve perfectionism, a PhD does not have to be a masterpiece, maybe this is where my insecurities stem from?

So a researcher could argue that the focus needs to be on aiming for a competent PhD that has enough qualities to pass the Viva quite well. I think its erroneous to aim for the lowest common denominator, there needs to be a balance between quality and structure. Dont do “just enough” aim for the stars and you might reach the moon as my dad used to say.

In this write up process I need to draw on my reserves of resilience and keep the end goal in my mind, keep focused, keep moving and keep developing my work. Focus on quality and take clear regular breaks, play football, mingle and play badminton, this will help in keeping the mind fresh.

If you have any specific strategies that can help me to get through the write up process please do share.





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