Dr Alice Violett
Book witterings and PhD archive

Well, that’s the relatively fun and easy part done.

I have conquered the reading list. I have read all the relevant parts of all the books and articles I was told to read in order to succeed at this godforsaken PhD. Unfortunately, that means I have to move on to the editing and writing, which I’m emphatically NOT looking forward to. Yes, I resented giving up my time to read stuff not of my choosing, and it turns out that sitting at home reading for my PhD all day makes me feel 100% more hemmed-in and flat than before. Nonetheless, I found out some interesting things, feel a bit smarter and, y’know, BOOKS. And it was my target to finish this stage by the end of February, so yay for me.

The next stage is taking chunks of examples out of my main chapters and adding a ton of context in their place. I keep trying to persuade myself that I’ll like that, as it’ll be just like when I wrote conference papers, except back then I had passion and enthusiasm and now I’m driven by pure, grim bloody-mindedness. Whenever I think of going back through my secondary notes several times to find that context, I want to lie down, and it’s going to be hard opening up that .docx again and looking closely at my work with the feeling that it’s not good enough, when I used to be so proud of it. I want to get this part done by the end of April, and however much I gripe, I reckon I can do it.

It’s the stage after that which I’m more worried about. I can probably handle the extra quantitative research, and maybe editing the descriptive parts of the literature review won’t be so bad once I know where I mention the literature elsewhere in the thesis.

But being more critical of the existing literature when I don’t think I’m worthy to criticise people who actually passed their doctorates on the first go? Tricky.

Making a case for my contribution to knowledge because even though my examiners did say the value of my work isn’t in question, I can’t figure out its significance by myself and am worried that the great suggestions other people I’ve spoken to have come up with still won’t be enough? I don’t know how I’m going to do that, which is probably why I’m putting it off until last.

Still, I’m a third of the way there, and knowing I’m getting through the work and achieving stuff despite my cynicism about the whole exercise makes me feel good in a small way. Having intermitted last term because of the time taken up by my failed appeal, I now have until January 2018 to finish, but I want to finish waaaaay before then because 1) I hate having to pay £250 a term completion fees to literally borrow some books from the university library - and the reading stage is finished now! 2) all passion and interest I had in my PhD is dead, and 3) I’d rather use my spare time sharpening my coding skills (beyond the rather pleasing ones I’m picking up as I go along in my job) because they seem to have more tangible benefits for my future.

20 weeks on, I still feel exactly the same as I did the day after my viva - that I’m making the changes for the satisfaction of not having wasted several years, and that if I do get my doctorate, I won’t feel as jubilant as I would have felt if I’d got it first time - just a sense of completion and of having not given up.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. When I’m at work I don’t even think about my PhD, as I’m absorbed by making webpages look nice (and learning how one goes about that) and promoting library events and services and finding out about books and generally feeling a bit smug that I work for an organisation that does great things in terms of education, welfare and mental health.

I like going out to work every day (though not the 6:30am or the £168 a month for frequently late trains WHERE I STILL HAVE TO HALF FALL OUT OF THE CARRIAGE OPENING THE OUTSIDE DOOR HANDLE parts), having an excuse to buy and wear semi-smart clothes and more make-up, doing 8,500+ steps a day walking to and from the station and going to the gym in my lunch hour, taking myself out to lunch at the local independent cafés on Wednesdays, borrowing rather than buying books now I don’t have to make a special trip to do so, and getting paid the same amount every month.

It just feels like such a shame to have this thing hanging over me, but pushing through instead of quitting just seems like a more satisfying way of getting rid of the burden - if I gave up, although I’d eliminate the immediate need to work on it, I think I’d always feel bad for not trying, and my PhD would always be there, incomplete.