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PhD Discussion Forum

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This Category:   PostgraduateForum.com > Part time PhD


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Support network for part time PhD


User: AOE26 - 12 January 2016 13:33

So I graduated for my MSc yesterday - which is lethal for planting ideas in my head. One of which is doing a PhD part time.

One issue I have is will it be some lonely 4-6 year slog? On the MSc I had fellow students to 'enjoy' the journey with - is there a support network for that on a PhD?

User: glowworm - 12 January 2016 17:37

First of all, congratulations for graduating! Well done!

Regarding the PhD and the support network, I think it depends on the institution. Where I did my PhD, I was the only student in my field, and I found it quite a hard and lonely process at times. I was able to find support by going to conferences and summer schools and keeping in touch with other students in my field through that. I think this was probably a 'life-saver' or at least a PhD-save for me!

If you do your PhD somewhere that has a thriving Postgrad community, I don't think it would matter if you're FT or PT. If I could go back in time and change anything, it'd be to go somewhere that has a good community. I made it through ok, but only with the help of some of my far away colleagues. They were fortunate because they had all that help and support right on their doorsteps / in their offices. I do think it'd make a big difference.

Good luck with the decision.

User: chickpea - 12 January 2016 20:06

Congrats on your graduation!

I am still doing my PhD, but have similar experiences to glowworm's - my department is very small in terms of PhD students, and the situation is compounded for me by the fact that I live some distance from the university and am 20 years older than the other students (this would probably not matter so much if I was working with them day to day, but I'm rarely on campus and there's nothing to throw me in their path socially!). With the benefit of hindsight, this is also something I would have liked to be different. If you are going for PhDs, it's worth taking into account the department and opportunities for developing a support network, as I think it would make a difference. My situation has had a knock-on effect on my confidence, and I am quite looking forward to getting back into the world of work!

User: Pjlu - 12 January 2016 21:24

Hi there, and congratulations on your graduation and MSc.

It really can depend on your university department as to how 'lonely' it is. I agree with glow worm's comment that the part time aspect doesn't need to mean you are isolated. However, 'time' can have a large influence on how much socialising and community you can manage, while fitting in all other parts of your life. One practical bit of advice I could pass on from my own experience is to try to get a permanent 'desk' or spot in once of the research candidates offices (if your institution or department has them), even if you share it with another part-timer, as this can really assist with becoming part of the place, rather than feeling like a regular visitor.

Final comment from me is that there are aspects of the PhD that require a lonely exploration into your topic, no matter where you are. By this I mean that if the PhD is the researcher's equivalence of achieving adulthood in scholarly ways, then there is an aspect of the journey, sort of like a long dark night of the soul, where you just have to persevere until you are through that bit. Sometimes, perhaps, when you read comments on this forum, the isolation and loneliness you can pick up in people's writing are aspects of that process-and this seems to happen to full timers and part timers alike. It is a tough part of the process but not all of it and you do get through it. Best of luck with your celebrations and decisions.

User: AOE26 - 15 January 2016 15:57

Thanks for the comments - all taken onboard. I feel the urge to do the PhD at the Uni I did my MSc at but it's 120miles from where I live and doing this part-time - I feel - would be tough. If I go to a Uni close to where I live or work I can nip in... there's no nipping on a 240mile round trip.

I just need to find a Uni that is useful for my chosen research area.

User: sisyphus - 19 January 2016 23:28

I am doing mine part time, at an institution that is really good but a 300 mile round trip. There isn't much support, and it is up to me to be self sufficient.

Advantages for me are I work in the field (and have done for 10 years), and where I live have a social network (wife, friends) in the area where I live.

That said, I don't do a lot of the standard PhD student things, and have little contact with the others. I've only ever been to 2 buildings from the institution I am at, and have never met 8)% of people in the department.

I'm enjoying it, and making good progress, so it shows it is possible, that said I think you are doing the right thing by going in with eyes open, and considering it carefully.

User: doctorjohn - 20 January 2016 12:28

When I started my PhD, I worked in the research office and there wasn't much of a research community, so I set up a reading group called 'Hardcore Texts', where we all read up to 20 pages of challenging material that someone was reading and discussed it on a Friday afternoon. This did a number of things. It brought people together and provided a support network for those who were struggling with difficult material. It also developed into a group fro supporting those who were presenting at conferences. The group gave them a chance to present their paper to a friendly audience and get feedback. This was really helpful in getting used to presenting to a group of people.

Following my PhD, I work for myself as a proofreader and spend a lot of time with just my laptop, so other academics and students get together for silent coexistence. This means we all congregate at a cafe and work on our own stuff, but with other people. This is also a great support network, but allows you to get work done and encourages you to work.

I hope this helps

User: Hiini - 21 January 2016 03:08

To AOE26,
my home is very far from my school too. So i study from home most time. i feel very lonely sometimes. i have been thinking about set up a phd group .we can meet regularly through skype to discuss everything. such as work, study, or life anything. to support each other. so we will not feel too lonely or feel no body care about us. if anyone think this is a good idea. maybe we can do it.

User: HazyJane - 21 January 2016 12:38

Even if you do a PhD full time and have a desk in an office full of postgrads... the PhD is always ultimately a lonely experience. Whereas with a Masters there is shared camaraderie as you work towards common deadlines, study the same materials and finish at the same time, PhDs are always a different experience.

So, do take into account social/peer support factors if/when choosing a location to do a PhD, but bear in mind that there's a lot about the process that is inherently isolating, and you will need to work at both new and existing relationships to maintain the support you will need.

You say you're contemplating doing it part time. Part time with what? If you plan to work alongside, that might offset some of the loneliness issues in other ways, by giving you an external focus and stopping you becoming too reliant on the PhD as a source of amusement.

User: TreeofLife - 21 January 2016 12:52

Quote From HazyJane:
Even if you do a PhD full time and have a desk in an office full of postgrads... the PhD is always ultimately a lonely experience. Whereas with a Masters there is shared camaraderie as you work towards common deadlines, study the same materials and finish at the same time, PhDs are always a different experience.

Hmm, not sure I agree with this. I always felt I was working towards common goals - annual reports, first conference, first poster, first talk etc. I never felt lonely during my PhD. Sure, the specifics of the work were different, but we all could share in each others disappointments when experiments didn't work and success when they did.

User: chickpea - 21 January 2016 14:05

Quote From TreeofLife:
Quote From HazyJane:
Even if you do a PhD full time and have a desk in an office full of postgrads... the PhD is always ultimately a lonely experience. Whereas with a Masters there is shared camaraderie as you work towards common deadlines, study the same materials and finish at the same time, PhDs are always a different experience.

Hmm, not sure I agree with this. I always felt I was working towards common goals - annual reports, first conference, first poster, first talk etc. I never felt lonely during my PhD. Sure, the specifics of the work were different, but we all could share in each others disappointments when experiments didn't work and success when they did.

I think there are two different types of 'lonely' at play here - the individual PhD topic is very much something you'll feel on your own with at times, and even close family members will be a bit, 'eh?' if you want to talk about it - that takes a bit of getting used to. Then there's the stuff TreeofLife describes, the more general and shared aspects of the PhD experience. In my own experience, because of the individual nature of the project, I've felt a greater need to be able to share the other aspects of doing a PhD, and haven't been able to (probably the reason why I'm online chatting about it so often!). I think that if you can avoid this second type of loneliness, it's a plus.

User: HazyJane - 21 January 2016 14:43

I agree with TreeofLife - there *are* common goals and hopefully a sense of community around those things with your fellow students. So broadly speaking, one doesn't have to feel completely isolated if one has contact with other PhD students.

But milestones rarely coincide, so most of the time the things you are working towards are not in line with other people's milestones, so those late-night/all-night sessions you end up pulling are a very solo affair. And at the end of the day, by necessity, nobody else will care about the content of your thesis as much as you yourself ought to, not even your supervisor. So I think it's worth emphasising that the PhD is far more of a solo pursuit than any taught course. That is most keenly felt during writing up I think, as it's a time when there is little opportunity for collaboration/interaction. The duration of the project, compared to Bachelor's/Master's projects also plays a part in the isolation.

The Thesis Whisperer blog has some posts that put across more eloquently what I think I'm trying to say:[url=nothumb]http://thesiswhisperer.com/2010/10/26/the-loneliness-of-the-long-distance-thesis-writer/[/url]
[url=nothumb]http://thesiswhisperer.com/2015/08/05/are-most-academics-lonely-at-work/[/url]

User: Hiini - 01 February 2016 23:22

Quote From HazyJane:
I agree with TreeofLife - there *are* common goals and hopefully a sense of community around those things with your fellow students. So broadly speaking, one doesn't have to feel completely isolated if one has contact with other PhD students.

But milestones rarely coincide, so most of the time the things you are working towards are not in line with other people's milestones, so those late-night/all-night sessions you end up pulling are a very solo affair. And at the end of the day, by necessity, nobody else will care about the content of your thesis as much as you yourself ought to, not even your supervisor. So I think it's worth emphasising that the PhD is far more of a solo pursuit than any taught course. That is most keenly felt during writing up I think, as it's a time when there is little opportunity for collaboration/interaction. The duration of the project, compared to Bachelor's/Master's projects also plays a part in the isolation.

The Thesis Whisperer blog has some posts that put across more eloquently what I think I'm trying to say:[url=nothumb]http://thesiswhisperer.com/2010/10/26/the-loneliness-of-the-long-distance-thesis-writer/[/url]
[url=nothumb]http://thesiswhisperer.com/2015/08/05/are-most-academics-lonely-at-work/[/url]


thank you so much. these links are very helpful. =)



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