The Last Phase of PhD Candidature – Sarah Coates

The last phase of my Ph.D. brings with it a range of emotions. I have paused to reflect on my achievements to this point but I also feel immense pressure to produce a high-quality thesis and much anxiety knowing that the hardest part is still to come.

There is a sense of accomplishment at reaching this stage. Not everyone who begins a Ph.D. makes it this far; and every person deals with their own personal challenges and difficulties throughout their candidature. I am proud that I have been able to persevere and now can see my thesis starting to take shape. It is satisfying to finally reach the point where you feel as though you are an expert in your own topic.

The majority of your time is spent writing and redrafting. Writing has never been something that came easily to me nor has it been something I enjoyed and the last six months have been tough. Contemplating writing 80,000-100,000 words is daunting but I had a very strict writing plan and essentially I have been able to stick to it. Not immediately, but over time I was able to get into good habits with my writing. When you start to read drafts and receive positive feedback you are motivated to keep going and it makes all the hard work, long hours and frustrations worthwhile. Recognising and celebrating my small achievements along the way has been really important, too, even though sometimes these seem few and far between.

I know the finish line is in sight, but there is still so much work I have to do. As you inch closer to completion your Ph.D. in many ways becomes more challenging. You are eager to finish the mammoth task you started years ago but the final stage is possibly the hardest and most tiring period. Whilst your thesis is the priority you also have to think about choosing examiners, exit seminars, publishing, getting your thesis edited and titles for chapters.

The final phase is also a time when you start to contemplate life after your Ph.D. and the inevitable question, “what is next?” For now, this question remains unanswered. What I do know is that when I do submit there will be a huge sense of relief and achievement.

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