As I’ve mentioned to a few people recently, the end of a PhD is a bit like the end of The Return of the King. Do you remember? I don’t think it was as obvious in the book, but in the film, there seemed to be about ten endings, one after another. Just when you were ready for the credits to roll, another scene would open to show the ending that happened after the first ending.
With a PhD, you finish your thesis, then you have your viva, then you do your viva corrections and hand in the final version of your thesis (after having considered the previous version to be the final one), then you get confirmation from the graduate school, then you graduate. All of these are endings, of a sort. At some point along the way, it’s supposed to sink in that you’re a Doctor now.
So last week I finished the last of my minor thesis corrections. I think I probably spent about 3 days working on them and about 20 days procrastinating. I sent the new and improved version of my thesis to my Internal Examiner and he replied to say thanks. He now has to check that I’ve actually done what I was asked to do, then he’ll tell the graduate school, who will contact me to request a fancy printed and bound edition. I’ll hand that in, then I’ll get my confirmation letter. So that’ll be nice.
I think it’s important to celebrate every ending. It can be hard work, and if you don’t celebrate your achievements you’ll lose any interest in achieving anything. That said, while handing in the thesis (the first time) and passing the viva both felt amazing, handing in the final version was a bit of an anti-climax. Not that I didn’t feel pleased to get it off my desk, but I didn’t feel the need to go out and party either.
If you do a PhD people will tell you that there’s no such thing as a perfect thesis, but that there is such a thing as a finished thesis and you should aim for that. That rings pretty true and I suspect it also applies to all large projects. Now that I’ve written, been examined on, and improved mine, it’s my turn to remind all of our writing-up students of the same thing.
My next steps as an academic are:
- Apply for a promotion now that I’m a Doctor
- Write a seminar I’ve been invited to give at the University of Sussex next month
- Write up a couple of papers from the unpublished results that are currently only in my thesis and try to get them published
- Do my actual research
I think the next few months will be fun.
Edit: By coincidence, at almost the exact time that this post went live, I got an email from the graduate school to confirm that the final version of my thesis had been accepted. So now I need to go get hard bound copies made. How exciting!