It is coming around to the half way mark of the PhD academic year, which means for some final year PhD students, it is only 6 months to go until the end of their degree.
Now this can be a scary thought for some, or a relief for others, but it is seen by many as potentially the most stressful part of the 3 or 4 years of a PhD. You have to complete a thesis (basically writing a book), potentially write a paper or two, all whilst trying to figure out what you want to do once you have finished. And for those who know what job they want, it is just a case of finding someone who will pay you to do said job!
It can be a very trying time but hopefully we can all get through it with some hints and tips:
1) Do not panic.
6 months may seem like a very short time, but you will be surprised how much you can fit in.
It may seem silly saying this now but planning your last 6 months can be just as important as planning the rest of your PhD. Think about writing down what you want to complete each month and when you want to start writing your thesis. Giving yourself mini-deadlines will make the time seem much less intimidating.
3) Talk to your supervisor.
Meet with your supervisor as much as you can; their support now is more important than ever. Speak to them about your plan for the next few months and let them know when you want to be submitting your thesis so they are aware of your expectations, in particular when it comes to proof reading your thesis and arranging your viva. They are busy people so letting them know in advance when they may be needed will be helpful.
4) Check what you actually have to do.
A thesis is a big old chunk of writing, 3 or 4 years in the making. But before you start writing, check what specifications your faculty or department has. You don’t want to format 100’s of pages before finding out your margins are incorrect or you haven’t used the right font. Sorting this out at the beginning will make your life much easier later on. There should be information on department webpages regarding this and if you are confused by anything, ask now, not the day you are supposed to be submitting!
5) Make the most of what the University has to offer.
There are loads of resources out there to help you, especially as you enter the last stages of your PhD. There are writing workshops, writing retreats, Viva Survivor courses, the list goes on. These are all free and are run by people who know what they are talking about so make the most of them.
6) Take a break.
As is well-known, there are huge issues with the mental health of PhD students, and approaching the end of your PhD can be particularly stressful. So, don’t forget to take a break every now and again so you don’t burn out. In the long run, not taking a break every once in a while can be detrimental, as it can easily lead to burn out. Go for a walk in the Peaks, go to the cinema, or simply just sit on your sofa not doing anything, as long as you take a bit of time for yourself.
7) It will be OK.
As stressful as all of this may seem, you will finish your PhD, you will be a Doctor and you will be OK.
So, all that’s left to be said is good luck! Try and enjoy the end of your PhD and being a student (especially those student discounts). All the stress and long days will be worth it when you can call yourself a Doctor!