Research life

How to spot a late-stage PhD student

You have graphs. You have answers. The only thing left is to figure out what the hell you think about them. And then to write it all down.

one does not simply, finish a phd

Yep, I’ve reached that stage of PhD research. The stage when you suddenly realise your analyses are mostly completed. You have graphs. You have answers. The only thing left is to figure out what the hell you think about them. And then to write it all down.

As a late-stage PhD researcher, you may exhibit some or all of the following behaviours.

You’ve stopped going to lab meetings. You no longer attend interesting seminars. You forgo group BBQs and faculty morning teas, except to quickly swoop through and pilfer some free food.

You start skipping committee meeting and workshops. At first you respond to invitations with thoughtful apologies. But eventually the list of unread or ignored emails looms large.

Your dependence on performance enhancing substances increases; caffeine, sugar and alcohol, all in your favourite forms (I like redbull, chocolate and wine).

You might even find yourself annoyed when you are forced to attend weddings, birthdays and other social distractions that other (normal) people look forward to.

I could say, ‘Maybe it’s just me…’ But I know I’m not alone. I know you’re out there. Single-mindedly dedicated to finishing your thesis, while at the same time desperately trawling the internet for anything, ANYTHING, to distract you. Perhaps you’ve stared at a word on the screen for so long that you’re sure it’s misspelled. Perhaps that word is your name.

Then again, maybe not. You might be a well-organised and well-adjusted individual. You might work solidly until 5pm then go home, not giving your thesis a second thought until you return at 9am the next morning. I might like to hide thumbtacks in your chair.

Try not to feel guilty about the borderline-antisocial behaviour that comes with late-stage thesis writing. It will pass. You’ll be a doctor soon! It’s right there. Tantalisingly and tortuously close.

In the mean time, take care of yourself and embrace your membership to this club of recluses. You can recognise other members by their complete ignorance of current movies or music and the inability to talk about anything other than their thesis.

Fear not my friends, for this is the stage of finishing! Finally your story comes together. All you have to do, is re-arrange that argument for the 100th time – then delete it entirely.

Further reading
Evidently, for some of us this is also the stage where we can no longer bear the self-imposed embargo on writing anything other than the thesis, and we rebel with a cheeky blog post. I recommend the following:00688-funny-cartoons-writer
A letter to my thesis – Samantha Prendergast (One of my favourite reads)
Dear Thesis Whisperer, I’ve got Stockholm Syndrome – Ben from Literature Review HQ (via the Thesis Whisperer)
The nowhere-everywhere place – Maia Sauren (via the Thesis Whisperer)

When are you really finished with a PhD?– Lauren Gawne (via the Thesis Whisperer)

2 comments on “How to spot a late-stage PhD student

  1. Pingback: How to spot a late-stage PhD student | Kylie Soanes's Research

  2. Awesome. So well put. It’s a brutal time where you question everything in life and the afterlife.


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