Ticking Time Bomb: Eighteen Months to Go

After a year in industry, blog editor Ellie is back to her PhD and has eighteen months until funding runs out and the thesis needs to be handed in. In this week blog, she shares all her thoughts.

By Ellie King

I’ve received the email from Student Records telling me I need to re-enrol. My official restart date is 9th November. As it edges closer, thoughts are whirring through my head about how going back to research will be.

Stage One: Panic

I was walking somewhere the other day when a lot of things dawned on me. My hand in date is March 2024, and I suddenly realised how close that is. Yep, really really close. And an awful lot to do. I thought about all the chapters I needed to write, what data I still needed to collect, what analysis to do, an internship to fit in, papers to publish. My timetable was filling up in my head and before I knew it there was only six months to write a thesis. I panicked.

A girl in Edwardian costume stood outside beside a table and chair.
I’ve done a lot of data collection in the first two years of my PhD. Now the thought of writing it all up scares me. Image credit: Ellie King

“My timetable was filling up in my head and before I knew it there was only six months to write a thesis. I panicked.”

Stage Two: Fear

Then fear set in. What if I couldn’t complete it. What if writing the thesis wasn’t going to be how I imagined. I always said that writing was a strong point and that thesis would be easy and perhaps even enjoyable to write. But what if it wasn’t? what if I couldn’t fit everything in, that I wasn’t good enough? The fear of what would happen after I handed in, after my funding ran out. What if I couldn’t get a job? What if I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. What if the viva didn’t go as well as I had hoped? The fear is something we all experience at some point in the PhD. What matters is how you handle it and moved forward.

Two large dinosaur skeletons in a museum building with high ceilings and a glass roof.
I’ve loved working with the museum (and some extinct colleagues). Image credit: Ellie King.

Stage Three: Determination

I had a real panic about a year into my PhD. I had no idea what I was doing and I wanted to quit. One of my supervisors sat me down and asked me to explain my research in the simplest terms. I spoke it through, line by line. All of a sudden, the fear went and I could see a clearer path ahead with my research. So now, returning to study, my panic and fear will hopefully) reduce when I set out that clear path. Task one on day one is therefore setting out everything I’ve done so far, and everything I’ve still got to do. Setting out what is already written in draft form, what areas I should focus on, and what kind of timeframe I’m working on.

A girl in graduation robes and yellow shoes.
I’m determined to make a success of my last 18 months. Image credit: Ellie King.

Really, it’s a fear of the unknown that I’m scared of. The panic is only because I’m not used to doing research. I’ve been off for a year, it may take a while to get back into the swing of things. But taking a moment to lay everything out, work out exactly where I am, will give me that clearer path I need. And I’ll understand that eighteen months to go really is enough time.

The PhD Life blog explores experiences at all different stages of the research journey. If you’ve just started your PhD, read Emily’s blog on Anticipating What’s to Come, or if you’re towards the end of your journey, why not check out Lucia’s series On the Thesis Path.

Where are you in your PhD journey? How are you feeling about it? Let us know by leaving a comment below, tweeting us @researchex or messaging us on Instagram @warwicklibrary, or by emailing us at libraryblogs@warwick.ac.uk

Cover image: Ellie King.

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