PhD peeps- motivation and the like

Discussion in 'education & employment' started by Kuso, Aug 19, 2012.

  1. Kuso

    Kuso drinking like george best, gettin less women

    This post will probably be a wee bit all over the place (as are my thoughts and feelings on the whole thing) and i'm not even sure what I'm looking for. Mutual support I guess... Maybe some advice

    So I'm nearing the end of my second year and while the last 6 months have been filled with personal problems and too much time off because of them etc my supervisor reckons I'm in a really good position for this point in time. I'd a meeting with him a few weeks back and a decent discussion about a few things.

    He reckons I'm sorted regarding my background and introduction- says I really know my stuff and have done tons of reading. Suppose I just need to get that written. The focus of my work (three main threads) won't change between now and finishing so I suppose I should just get on with it and when I'm closer to submitting it can be edited depending on how much emphasis is placed on which strand(s) over others.

    One experiemental chapter is more or less done, at least the most of it, ie I've synth'ed the compounds, tested them, got the results and there's just a few loose ends need tied up. So I suppose that just needs written.

    I'm more or less done with my synthesis, there's a few more things need made, but that's it (for now at least) and those compounds just need run through several bio-assays and the results analysed and the stats done to give me another chapter.

    My third (and final, hopefully) experimental chapter is just getting underway- I've made the compounds, optimized the assays and just need to do the work and analyse the results etc. Those results will lead onto some further work which will round off the chapter and my thesis (hopefully).

    So it all sounds pretty positive right? Apart from I just don't know wtf I'm supposed to do next! I've tried working on one thing at a time but the nature of the work means I can't really spend 3 or 4 solid weeks on one thing without having hours of 'free' time each day, but yet I can't seem to juggle working on more than one strand of my work at the same time- I just seem to spend more time doing less work.

    On top of that, a lot of the stuff that needs tied up/ finished off requires input from other labs or academics, sending off samples for analysis etc and that all takes bucket loads of time and means working to other people's timetables.

    I started out with the grand idea of publishing 3 papers along the way but at the minute I've decided 'fuck that' and am concentrating on just getting my thesis done, the publications can come later.

    Like I've just sat and planned the next 3 weeks work (to a loose timetable), but I know I'll arrive in uni tomorrow and some piece of equipment will be broken, we'll have run out of something or other and it'll be on back order from the supplier or the person I need to see is on holiday/ whatever. I seem to spend more time planning and re-planning rather than doing.
    Anyhoo, don't really know what I expect back from this thread- think I just needed to rant! Everyone else in the lab is in the same boat really so no one talks about stuff like this and none or my mates outside of uni get it at all, so I suppose this is just me getting stuff off my chest.

    Thanks for letting me rant
  2. Lo Siento.

    Lo Siento. Second As Farce

    If your supervisor says you're where you should be, and you're organising your time and working consistently, there's not much more you can do than that really. Sounds like everything it going to plan, and I know plenty of PhD students would love to be in that situation.

    Personally, I just finished my first year (more or less). I've written an intro and one chapter, both of which I rewriting for my upgrade interview. Really feel like my work-rate has dropped off lately, so I've got to get back on it...
  3. butcher

    butcher boner at the ready

    First, it does sound that you have done the bulk of the work, and are in a good position but you are right it is the loose ends which are the fuckers to tie up, and they can result in a lot of rushing and panic in year 3 unless you do manage to prioritise and sort out a plan soon.

    Can you go and see your Supervisor and show them you timetable or draw up a possible timetable, after carefully explaining the problems? It is what they are paid for, in part anyway......

    One thing I would do is get the external tests etc done asap, other people may not be as desperate to get the results as you and these things always take an age (and you are assuming there will be no problems with their results).

    On the positive side, you are obviously a good way through your work, but even so you have the guts and brains to recognise you are going through a rough patch and have Obv decided to address it too. That is really positive.

    Papers can wait and will be easy once you have a coherent and complete set of results, and completed chapters can always be converted to papers.

    Good luck, and keep plugging, but the main thing is keep talking to people, everyone goes through tough patches......
  4. Kuso

    Kuso drinking like george best, gettin less women

    Everything hasn't really gone to plan though, stuff has just kinda fallen into place over the last 2 years and I'm now sitting with bits and pieces of various strands of research with a year to finish it ALL off. I just feel like I've a million and one tiny things to do, all of which will turn out to take 10 times longer than they should (recent example- courier misplaced sample sent off for analysis, was the last few mg's of compound I had since I used most of it trying to do the analysis myself to save money, so had to resynth the compound for what'll be two figures in my thesis :facepalm:)

    I haven't exactly been working consistently the last load of months due to aforementioned personal problems, but now they're sorted I'm ready to get back into the full swing of things. It's like I just don't know where to start and I'm anxious that I'll just hit problems at every turn. It's alright for my super to say I'm in a decent position but it's been a fair while since he's been in the lab and it isn't him that has to do the work!

    Och, think I'm just having a freak out. One of those - "13 months to finish lab work, write up and submit :eek:" kinda jobs. I suppose I just need to get on with things, when there's equipment out of action instead of moaning and going for coffee/ sitting on facebook, do something else or start writing etc. I've also my BIG list of everything that needs done to finish so I'll just steadily chip away at that and see where I am in 6 months.

    I like the freedom and it being up to me when to do what etc, but right now I'm just feeling like I need more structure
  5. Kuso

    Kuso drinking like george best, gettin less women

    Good advice re: the external tests and stuff that needs done with other academics- its almost term time again so I suppose get that outta the way ASAP.

    The thing with timetables is they all seem all well and good and ages I was submitting a monthly one to my supervisor, the problem being almost the day after they were written they needed rewritten due to equipment failure, cell lines getting infected, lack of reagents/ expertise etc. I think its that more than anything that has me feeling all over the place- I like timetables.

    Plan for now- get my intro written during 'free' time, ie while experiments are running etc and in the evenings/ weekends, same for my first experimental chapter. I think having that on paper and 'finished' will be a huge boost. Then just keep plugging away at the other stuff...
  6. Kuso

    Kuso drinking like george best, gettin less women

    not enough hours in the day/ days in the week/ weeks in the month. Hmmmm, I think I want some modafinil again :hmm:. Anyhoo, I'm off to do my washing, ironing, cleaning etc for the week so at least I've not that to worry about
  7. butcher

    butcher boner at the ready

    Don't forget to have the odd break too, a weekend away doing some walking or something healthy can make a huge difference, clearing the mind and allowing some perspective on problems.
    nino_savatte and equationgirl like this.
  8. equationgirl

    equationgirl Respect my existence or expect my resistance

    There's always some kind of hiccup in second year. For what it's worth, you do sound in a good position, and from experience starting the write-up process at the same point as you are really helped me formulate plans for the later chapters.

    Remember you're telling a story - the introduction sets the scene and the lit review helps flesh out the boundaries of the problem you're investigating. The reader (examiners) will be looking for answers to 'why this piece of research?' & 'what makes it new over the existing body of work?'. Answer those questions and your thesis will do well. Also do your referencing as you go along and if you've used third-party images from websites, papers etc make sure these are clearly indicated as such to avoid allegations of plagiarism. Also do these as you go along.

    You do have plenty of time though, so try not to worry too much, but make sure you DO start writing.

    Also, avoid using a single word file for the entire thesis. Either write it in separate chapters (one per file) or use Latex. And make at least two back-ups.

    Good luck!
    nino_savatte likes this.
  9. Kuso

    Kuso drinking like george best, gettin less women

    went to a training day on LaTex... not a hope I'll be using that! Think I'd need another three years just to learn how to work it lol
  10. Kuso

    Kuso drinking like george best, gettin less women

    Thanks btw people, think I was just having a freakout after having had time off for boomtown and just getting ready to go back to the lab tomorrow
    equationgirl likes this.
  11. equationgirl

    equationgirl Respect my existence or expect my resistance

    If you get an interface like MikTex it's pretty much like word, but doesn't crash.
  12. aqua

    aqua made of cheese and gin

    I need some phd motivation :( I have all my data and not the slightest bit of motivation to write the fucking thing :(
  13. equationgirl

    equationgirl Respect my existence or expect my resistance

    Start writing it or I will nag you until you do, missus ;)
  14. aqua

    aqua made of cheese and gin

    nag all you like, it's not got my supervisors anywhere :oops:
  15. equationgirl

    equationgirl Respect my existence or expect my resistance

    But you can't be Dr Aqua until you do, and it's soooooo cool being a Dr.

    You know you want to.
  16. aqua

    aqua made of cheese and gin

    my dad, brother, SIL and step dad are all Dr's, it's not that exciting :p
  17. equationgirl

    equationgirl Respect my existence or expect my resistance

    It is you know ;)

    Basically if you want any kind of career in academia, you have to write it up.
  18. mrs quoad

    mrs quoad Well-Known Member

    Oh, god, it's not exciting. I can't think of anything less exciting. Or more horrendous, awful, protracted, drawn out, pointless and painful.

    Yeah. I'm now nearing the end of writing the bugger for the third effing time.

    That's where my enthusiasm went :D
  19. aqua

    aqua made of cheese and gin

    LOL I don't though :D I'm doing this because I wanted a personal challenge, not because of my career :oops: in fact, the chances are it'll never be useful to me ever :D
  20. aqua

    aqua made of cheese and gin

    :hmm: I am in danger of joining you in this :oops:
  21. equationgirl

    equationgirl Respect my existence or expect my resistance

    So now the challenge is writing it up.

    I appreciate you have other things on your mind at the moment, but writing up for a few hours a week could be a refuge from that.

    Saved my sanity when my then partner had an affair, left me for her and I lost a whole bunch of mutual friends.
    mrs quoad likes this.
  22. aqua

    aqua made of cheese and gin

    bloody hell eq!

    I know I just need to write it but it's got now so that I don't know where to start :( I've been trying to start approaching the literature review as if it's 3/4 big essays just to break it down a bit, it kinda works, then I get bored again :(
  23. mrs quoad

    mrs quoad Well-Known Member

    Yeah, tbh the massiveness of it all was a huge hurdle for me. I've only felt like I had a very reasonable chance of completion over the last month or so. And that was because I've slowly ground through putting together lots of fragments. Completing several FPSers & RPGs & buying 2 computers and an iPad "to make working more interesting" along the way.

    Trial by gruelling flammable misery, ay!
    equationgirl likes this.
  24. equationgirl

    equationgirl Respect my existence or expect my resistance

    Can you write 2-3 pages as an introduction, like a setting-the-scene piece? I found it more helpful to start there than with the lit review. You need to set the scene for the audience, lead them into the reading.

    I found urban about a year later, it honestly saved my life and made me normal. I got a lot of help and support through everything including writing up.

    Mrs q got my copy of Philips and Pug - How to get a PhD, so check a copy out of library if you don't have one already. It's really good.

    As for him, well he married her. That was tough, but I survived. Rather her than me :)
  25. aqua

    aqua made of cheese and gin

    I bought a kindle to help with reading :oops:

    it's just all too much atm :( I can't even begin to work out where to start
  26. equationgirl

    equationgirl Respect my existence or expect my resistance

    Both of you - progress can be in lots of small steps added together or fewer bigger bits. It's all still progress.
  27. aqua

    aqua made of cheese and gin

    I have that book, and rowena murrays one too, neither write it for me though ;)
    Kuso and equationgirl like this.
  28. equationgirl

    equationgirl Respect my existence or expect my resistance

    See above - start with laying out the scene for a reader.

    Why this area?
    What's been done up until now?
    What gaps does this leave?
  29. equationgirl

    equationgirl Respect my existence or expect my resistance

    Until Microsoft bring out 'Microsoft PhD' nothing will!
  30. mrs quoad

    mrs quoad Well-Known Member

    Yes! And im nearly done.

    Still, I can spend the best part of a morning performing "motivation rituals" before I get cracking. Gotta have the coffee. Need sparkling water. Just check Ubran. Then - if I was single - id work til 3am. Which used to be fine. But nowadays, I *have* to watch tv for 2hrs (Artichoke's rule, no work allowed), and artichoke (v reasonably) gets tetchy if I have more than one or two late nighters a week.

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