PhD: the Home Stretch!

I was discussing my PhD progress with my supervisor and friends and family recently and it hit me that I have a little over six months until my submission date.  I’m both excited and terrified about this!

On the one hand I’ll have finished the incredible piece of research and taken my first full step into academia and (hopefully) a career.  I’ll have shown I can produce the requisite theory, methodology, research and writing skills to succeed in higher education.  Also, having balanced it with a teaching regimen only highlights my ability to balance multiple projects at once.  Also, after finishing, I can start working on other research questions that have arisen as part of my PhD and just other general interests.

On the other hand, upon completion of the PhD, I’ll be in a bit of a ‘no man’s land’; waiting for my viva, maybe with a postdoc, maybe teaching, perhaps out of academia completely.  I’m currently working on my first wave of postdoc applications, though I imagine a lot of other PhD and early career researchers are as well.  So of course there will be competition for anything and everything to which I apply.

I’d like to think I’ve got a good and competitive CV, so that would give me one tick in the ‘hire me’ column.  I’ve sat on committees, run conferences, lectured and run seminars, reviewed books and edited journals.  The only thing I haven’t done that I know academic positions need is have something published in a peer-reviewed journal; and I’m actually working on that.  It won’t be out by the time I’ve finished with my PhD, mostly because it needs editing and I’m focusing on the dissertation, but I’ve got something in the works.  I’ve of course got ideas for other articles as well, I just need time to work on them.

Another reason I’m terrified is that I feel I still have so much work to do on my thesis.  I’m almost done with a draft of every chapter, but that is all they are, drafts.  I’ve heard it said that it’s better to have something on paper (or in this case, pixel) than nothing, which is true in some respect.  But even from my initial PhD proposal to now, my ideas have changed and revised, so that first chapter has significant holes.  I also need to weave the connections between all the chapters so that they are not completely stand alone thoughts.  Similarly, I have to delete the material that I have repeated in numerous chapters because, really, do my examiners need to read about the members of the Byrds and the context of their formation four times?  I’m sure there are concepts that need deeper explanations and a broader analysis; just as I’m sure there are ideas that will have to be cut completely (or, as one full-time staff member has said, ‘Save it for the book!’).

In many respects I’ve accomplished a lot already and I have six months to revise.  Then again, there’s so much to do, and I only have six months to revise!  Still, I’m confident I can finish on time then submit; only to prepare to pass my viva.  But that’s for another day; now I must get back to writing, editing and preparing for teaching.

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3 Responses to PhD: the Home Stretch!

  1. Your thesis involves The Byrds? That sounds interesting. Do you mind telling me what the thesis is about? Is it something having to do with rock music?

    • I’m writing about the interactions and exchanges of American and British culture in the 1960s, specifically through the lens of music. So I deal with issues of the Anglo-American ‘Special Relationship’, national identity and network theories. The Byrds were touted as ‘America’s answer to the Beatles’, but they tried to position their initial musical style as between Dylan and the Beatles (Lennon in particular), and they started wearing British ‘Mod’ clothes, so how American were they really? The Stones, from their second album onwards, tried to record some/most of their music in America, often using American session musicians/producers/engineers, so how ‘British’ were they? I also look at the networks of musicians/producers associated with them, because those people would play on tons of American AND British recordings — check out Billy Preston and Nicky Hopkins, for example. So that’s the sort of stuff I write about.

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