Finishing your PhD can be quite a daunting process. Completion and dissertation anxiety are extremely common and will often make this period feel a lot scarier than it actually is. However, knowing what to expect is a great way to prepare and keep calm. Finishing should be very exciting as you finally get to reap the rewards of all your hard work.
We’ve laid out the key information you need to know about finishing a PhD so you can get organised early and enjoy the process.
In the UK, a standard full-time PhD takes between three and four years to complete. If you are a funded student, then your funding body will outline an expected hand-in period. This will usually be six to twelve months after the completion of your third year. If you are on track to finish your PhD late you will be charged continuation fees.
If you are self-funded then you will start paying continuation fees when you begin your fourth year.
Continuation fees usually cover a set period of three to four months. If it’s likely more time will be needed, the continuation period can be extended at an extra cost. Payment will often be calculated based on your new submission date. If, however, you submit early then some universities will offer a refund for any over-payments.
The average length of a PhD is 75,000 words or 300 pages, depending on the institution.When you start writing will depend on many variables. It’s often advised to start as early as possible so there’s time for a sufficient editing period. Additionally, writing can help you identify gaps in your research. Commonly, people will begin the write up process in their final year though some will start drafting chapters earlier.
When you are ready to hand in, there are a few things that you’ll need in order to move on to the viva.
Some institutions will also ask for an Appointment of Examiners form, though this is usually completed by your supervisor. Additionally, you may also be asked to provide an abstract of your dissertation. Make sure to check with your institution and department about their hand-in process.
The viva, an oral examination of your work, will take place within three months of your dissertation being dispatched to the examiners. At least one of the examiners will be external and they will be decided upon by your supervisor.
The process can take anywhere between one to four hours. During the meeting you’ll be asked to discuss various elements of your research and dissertation. You will also be provided with feedback before receiving the final report.
As well as receiving direct feedback during the viva, your examiners will produce a report that outlines any corrections. It’s common for students to be given some form of corrections and so you should expect the PhD process to continue at least a few months after the viva. Any recommended revisions should be discussed with your supervisor so you can create a detailed action plan for the final completion.
If you receive a pass, then you’ll have no corrections and will go on to receive your doctoral qualification.
Most students are likely to be given corrections before receiving a pass. These can span from spelling mistakes to major revisions.
If the thesis requires major revisions that cannot be completed in a six-month period, then a resubmission may be advised. An extension of 12 months will be given, and you may or may not be asked to undergo another viva.
If your research appears to be too narrow for a doctorate, then you could be downgraded to an MPhil or MSc. Usually your research will still be recognised as good quality, just not fitting for the PhD qualification.
Receiving a fail is not very common and will only be awarded in instances of plagiarism or if the examiners determine the project to be incompletable.
Remember, the PhD process does not end after the viva as it is likely you will have corrections to complete. You’ll need to take this into account when applying for jobs as you could have up to a 12-month resubmission period.
However, once you are awarded a pass status then you’ll have officially finished. Many graduates like to celebrate by treating themselves to a well-deserved holiday or a gift.
Last updated 16/12/2020