Year Four of the PhD Journey
Hugo (Hao) Du
4 minute read
Be persistent. Success is not far away.
I am trying not to get too sentimental when talking about the last year of my PhD journey. The emotion is mixed with all kinds of feelings, honest and powerful.
If we compare the whole research journey to the process of cultivating, after three years of hard-working, the fourth year is the season of harvesting. However, before the joy of success, you must perfectly complete the most significant step we call writing up.
As the name implies, the writing up stage is the process of integrating all your research. In short, it means completing your thesis.
From the introduction to the appendix, you need to polish and perfect each chapter. You must spend the time creating a fantastic piece of writing as it crystallises your hard work.
Writing up requires more concentration and more perseverance. It may be frustrating at some points, and you may feel lost, but remember, you still have your supportive supervisors by your side. They may not have regular meetings with you like before, but they are still available for support. Please keep communicating with your supervisors for guidance. A good idea is to send them your work chapter by chapter, which they can read and comment on in a short period.
You may question why it this process takes a whole year since you need to just ‘glue’ all chapters together and submit the entire thesis? Actually, things are way more complicated than you thought.
Firstly, there are still at least two more chapters that need to be further developed: the chapters of discussion and conclusion. After analysing your empirical data, the results must be further expanded by an in-depth discussion connected to the previous studies.
No matter what kind of research methodology you have applied in your work, the discussion chapter should be established with the existing literature and your own understanding.
Believe it or not, it is the most frequent chapter that your examiners will pick questions from during your viva. Do not be too stressed, do your best to understand your research findings and combine them with your own thoughts, be as creative as you can be within the parameters of a doctoral thesis.
The structure of the conclusion chapter is relatively formalised, to be honest. You need to include a detailed summary of your study, the limitation of this current research, and the recommendations for future studies.
Recalling the research questions proposed at the beginning, by using the findings to answer the questions, is one of the most common ways to conclude your research. Speaking of the limitations and recommendations, they are unique in each study. There are no strict requirements about these sections, but always stick with your research and be as precise as you can.
Your thesis is still not completely finished yet – the bibliography and appendix need to be inserted as well. Whatever reference software is used in your research, be careful about the accuracy of the bibliography list and make sure each of the files in the appendix is clearly mentioned in your text.
Do not forget to include the title page, table of contents, figures, abbreviations etc. Check your PhD handbook and follow the requirements exactly to prepare everything in your thesis.
I cannot speak for everyone, but most of my colleagues and I left one specific section until last – the acknowledgement. Gosh, I do not want to tell you how emotional I was while writing this section, and I am sure you will be the same. You probably have lots of people to acknowledge.
Once you have your full thesis ready, it’s time for the final step. Do not miss the deadline, take a deep breath, stay calm and click ‘submit’!
Last of all, what I want to tell you is do not forget to thank yourself. Through unremitting efforts and research, you have fulfilled the promise you made at the beginning of doing a PhD.
May all of your efforts yield a positive outcome.