I’m close enough to the finish line of the mighty PhD to know I’m nearly done, but still have a fair way to go.
There’s no secret in the fact that writing a PhD thesis is possibly the hardest thing anyone will have to do…mentally.
I’m sure I know there are plenty of physical activities that far outweigh the effort of a thesis, but I’ve not done any of them. For me, this thesis is my Everest, my Tour de France, my Olympics. I have to show I’m the best at what I do by writing about it. 67,255 words to be exact.
I have completed my first FULL DRAFT. My conclusions have been drawn, all my references have been
double checked TRIPLE checked, and my appendices have been inserted. I have a week to ignore my manuscript before I give it the last once over and it send to the powers that be (my supervisors). I’m bricking it.
The last feedback I received ended on the words “I’m disappointed in you”. There were, to be fair,
some quite a lot of tense errors, highlighted with comments such as “You’ve already DONE this” (I wrote ‘Then xxx will be administered’) and “???!” (after this phrase had appeared for the third time). But disappointment? I’ve scoured the manuscript more times that I care to admit looking for errors, amending my phrasing and correcting spelling but I know there will still be some when I submit, waiting to be spotted and annotated with “Careless mistake” or “you shouldn’t be making these mistakes”. But I can’t help it! PhD’s are not allowed proofreaders, as the work has to be you’re own, but its impossible to perfectly proofread your own work. For one, I’m dyslexic. Second, I’ve written the damn thing, I know what I WANT to say, so I sometimes read that instead of what is on the page. #firstworldproblems right?
It’s very hard not to take negative feedback really personally. Though I feel I have developed a much thicker skin over the course of my PhD, its really hard to maintain that when your thesis is being criticized. A document that you have slaved over, lost sleep over and cried over. I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but I have shed more than my fair share of tears over word style sets and EndNote (I know I know, there are better alternatives to both, more fool me). When you have spent 2 days poring over it and have decided you’re happy with it, for someone to say “It’s not there yet” is a massive proverbial kick in the cojones.
That said, I know to expect this, so I can prepare. And when I get over myself I can crack on and make an even better second pass at it. I found an excellent quote in ‘A research students guide to success’ which describes the writing process very well:
“A dissertation is never finished, it is just abandoned at the least damaging point”
– Race 1999 : 121