Going into the Final Year of my PhD – Planning and Writing my Thesis

As of this month July 2018, the 13th to be exact, I will officially be in the final year of my PhD. I had a meeting last week with my supervisor to set some dates to work towards and we settled upon May 2019 when we fill in all the forms to say i intend to submit my thesis soon and have it submitted in June. Meaning the end of August/beginning of September 2019 should be when I have my viva… which is terrifying!

Using Hugh Kearns completion planner, I set up when I want to have each chapter completed by (so I know if I am on track) and I used the huge poster printer in the library, printed it off and stuck it above my computers in my home office! I would recommend doing this because you can see it every single day and understand if you are on track.

I recently went to a workshop called “planning your final year” run by Dr Nathan Ryder and he really helped me to understand and break down my final year into small manageable tasks.

It seems impossible knowing you have to write 80,000 words (or whatever your word limit may be) and setting yourself a task of “write chapter one” is so huge and so complex that it is better to set yourself smaller goals such as “write notes on a paper” or “write 1,000 words for chapter one”. If you want to write a chapter a month, think about how many words that might be and break it down into how many words you have to write a week, if you want even smaller goals how many would that be a day?

When I first started looking into writing, I had no idea what a thesis was supposed to be like. What really helped me was looking at a successful PhD from a past student! Luckily, there was someone who helped me start in my PhD who was about two years ahead of me so I looked at her thesis – how many chapters were there, what were the chapters, what did the chapters contain, how did she lay them out? This helps you to get started on your own thesis and get an idea of how many chapters yours is going to contain!

My next thoughts for the final year, and a sort of impending doom, is trying to get a job to line up with the end of my PhD. I’ve already started to look at post-docs (as my plan is to do RA or post-doc work and then go into lecturing) and seeing how long between the adverts going up and the start date.

My last payment from my PhD is July 2019. So I have been advised to start looking around Christmas 2018, and applying around April. It’s going to be a stressful time for me as I live alone so I can’t afford to have a gap (I have bills to pay!) but I have been assured there are always options to make sure there is no gap.

Although the thought of my viva is scaring me, I know that once I have finished writing this thesis, once all the data and the methodology has come together, it will feel a bit better.

Good luck to anyone else out there who is doing a PhD and to anyone about to go into their final year too, we can do this!

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