By Laura Harrison |

In the Pubs and Pubs committee post for September we gave advice on what to expect from the first year of the PhD. In response we got a Twitter request asking for the same for the final year. As a PhD survivor I thought I could provide some idea of what the final year was like for me – one of the hardest but most rewarding years of my life. Everyone’s final year is different, but whether this is your 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 10th year of the PhD hopefully the following advice will help you prep for the year ahead.

Just write

I hate writing. It is my least favourite part of the entire research process and I will find pretty much any excuse to put it off, particularly if that involves more primary research. However, my biggest piece of advice for the final year is to try to write up what you have as early as makes sense to you. It will help you understand a lot of things about your project, including whether you need to do more primary research (you probably don’t), if there are any structural issues, which parts feel a bit weak, and, in my case, what the whole thing is actually about.

Take time off

Do not work seven days a week. I promise that taking even an afternoon off will increase your productivity overall. Plus keeping up your hobbies and ensuring you are seeing friends and loved ones will be really important in the final stretch when things feel a bit miserable for lots of people (but not everyone, see below). I did not follow this advice enough and as soon as I submitted I really struggled as I felt like my whole identity was around the thesis, which was now finished.

Expect the unexpected

Finishing a thesis involves a lot of moving parts coming together and inevitably there are going to be some issues and things that slow you down. You’ll also start relying on other people more and their schedules, so it is probably going to take you longer to get feedback then you’d like (it takes a long time to read 100,000 words so don’t be too hard on your supervisors). Also be prepared for random last-minute problems. I had an issue with my footnotes that took days to deal with and was only fixed by essentially hacking Word and fixing some code. There was also a massive snowstorm on the day I was supposed to submit and the university closed. I know several people who broke the printers at the print shop. Everyone has these issues and it will work out in the end but prep yourself that you are probably not going to be fully in control of the final timing of submission.

The day I was supposed to submit my thesis…

It is okay to not be miserable

I found the end of the PhD to be incredibly difficult, but I know this is not the case for everyone. I’ve seen lots of people on Twitter and in different groups asking if it is okay that they are enjoying the end bit. Of course it is okay, it is amazing if this doesn’t have to be the worst time of your life for you. Don’t let other people tell you how you should feel. Equally well, however, if it does end up being the worst period of your life and you gain two stone because food is the only good thing you have then I promise you are not alone.

Savour the submission

The end of the PhD is weird because there isn’t a clear moment when it is over – there is submission, the viva, submitting the final copy, getting the letter from the university, and graduation. It is easy to feel like you should hold off on celebrating until the ‘end’, but I never felt more accomplished during all of these steps as I did when I submitted. So enjoy the moment!

Laura Harrison is the founder of Pubs and Publications and finished her PhD at the University of Edinburgh in 2018. She can be found on Twitter

Image 1: Laura Harrison
Image 2: Edinburgh Live