by Elke Close |

In the past, there have been many posts using analogies to explain our PhD journey. It has been compared to many things: Game of Thrones, an intimate relationship, a video game… The list seems endless. Yet I find that I am seeing my own PhD more and more as a long board game in which I am a lonely pawn, slowly but steadily moving towards the end of the game: handing in and successfully completing my viva. As with any good board game, the player is faced with tons and tons of obstacles thrown in the way. However, there are also those rewards that make it a little easier to reach move along the board and reach the end.

So how about it? Are you ready to play the PhD game? Let’s begin! Of course, no board game could be played without picking one’s pawn. For this game there are several options: a keep cup, a red marker, a dishevelled notebook, a glass of wine or a laptop stuck onto social media. Made your choice? Good, it’s time for your first turn. You’ll need to pick up the dice and roll. You are allowed to move forward five steps. But what is this? You’ve come across some bad luck. You get stuck while writing your first chapter and due to a lack of inspiration, you start procrastinating by checking Facebook every ten minutes. I’m afraid this procrastination lasts for quite a while and you are stuck here until the next round.

Your fellow player takes their turn and after rolling double threes, they are allowed to move forward six places. After all, rolling doubles means that they were able to get an article published. Therefore,they get another turn and once again they roll doubles. While this means that they now they now have two publications to show off with, your opponent does have to move back two spaces as all of the work and effort spent on writing these articles means that they have lost some important thesis time. Luckily, it is your go again. You roll seven this time. Hurray, you are allowed to move an additional space since you successfully managed to present all of your ideas in front of several experts in your field at that important conference. They are very impressed and you manage to build up a network of contacts. Your turn ends here.

Your opponent rolls the dice. They move forward eight places but have to skip the next turn – all of their time has been taken up by tutorial work and meetings with their supervisor. You are close on their heels but are stopped yet again in your pursuit by the payment of your tuition fees, which force you to take up a part time job as your scholarship is now over (if you even had one). The game continues and there are many more things to face: a change in topic or deleting an entire chapter of the thesis. Yet as you are approaching the end of the playing board, both of you have a series of good supervisory meetings through which you manage to finish your chapters and complete a final version of your thesis – it’s neck and neck on the final stretch.

However, the goal of the PhD game is not to beat your opponent to the end of the playing board first. You only win the game by making sure you take your time to complete the journey. As with other board games, you don’t have to play – you can decide halfway through that you don’t want to play anymore. The PhD game is unlike any other game: you play with other players who will face some of the same ups and downs that you are but in the end, it is your personal journey: whether or not you reach the end is entirely up to you. But remember one thing: you are not playing alone.


Elke Close is a final year PhD student in Classics at the University of Edinburgh and is working on the influence of the Greek polis of Megalopolis on the ancient federal state known as the Achaean koinon. She is ISHA International’s Webmaster and Pubs and Publication’s Contributions Editor. You can find her on her or university pages or on twitter as @ElkeClose. She has recently also started an instagram account dedicated to the history and archaeology of Hellenistic Greece.

(c) Main picture: Jorge Charm – PhD comics: