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Writing up your PhD – Struggles of a 4th year

Writing up your PhD – Struggles of a 4th year

Every PhD student practically dreams of and simultaneously dreads writing up their PhD.

Speak to any 4th year student (and for those who think 4th year is an extension, it is not; it is very much a part of your timeline, and rightfully so!), you will receive a classic nod in response to “Hey! How’s it going?”. I was one of the privileged few to have completed my data collection before the start of my 4th year (or writing up year, as it is colloquially called). Hence, there is an obvious expectation to feel more at ease because the end is nigh!

And, yes that is true, there is a light at the end of the tunnel! However, one cannot ignore that the process of writing up your PhD is an excruciatingly long one. On the bright side, I would say it does give you the “feels” of authoring a book, with your million notes, and a gazillion post-its and (metaphorically) tearing your hair apart. But the proverb ‘It’s a marathon, not a sprint’ definitely makes sense in this year more than ever. Another positive is that you are finally in control of your own timeline and you actually start believing these delusions that everything will happen according to plan. Unfortunately ‘delusions of a PhD student trying to finish up their thesis’ has not been officially categorised in the DSM-5 as a mental health disorder just yet…

But talking about my writing journey, a couple of chapters in (sort of), it feels achievable yet not so much. It definitely is a ritualistic one! Write… delete… write again… scream internally… and… delete again… rinse… repeat! Hence, I would say the save button (Ctrl + S) will become your best friend!

DON’T and I repeat… DON’T FORGET TO SAVE YOUR DRAFTS! No amount of pulling your hair apart or chewing your nails would be able to undo that!

While writing up is the most daunting part of your PhD, it is definitely the most rewarding one. All the years of conceptualising, hustling, collecting data, analysing comes to life, when you see your thesis unfold in front of you. That being said, it could get monotonous and drab as well, especially on days you suffer from writer’s block. Please note: I am simply using the phrase writer’s block as a self aggrandising expression.

Anyway, talking about writer’s block, it is best to just give in to the days where your academically creative juices are not flowing. It is absolutely natural to have days like these where you are not able to focus or the words are not pouring themselves on the page. For days like these, I usually rely on hobbies outside of work, seek out support from peers, or write blogs like these! #ShoutoutToResearchBow!

Your mind needs to be free of all anxieties and worries and considering you’re nearing the end of your PhD, the trouble of job hunting starts and then everything spirals into a ball of mess and emotions. Naturally, writing takes a hit!

Secondly, (didn’t realise there would be a secondly here) don’t underestimate the process of thinking while writing your PhD. You know the classic iceberg image you see in motivational videos and HR presentations, the actual writing is just the tip of the iceberg and thinking is everything under that. I am still trying to wrap my brain around that so I will probably let you know once I have overcome those anxieties.

That being said, I do enjoy writing my PhD, more than data collection for sure, and I hope you do too.



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