The secret life of a PhD student

I’ve recently come across the story in a paper on PhD completion rates and realised that it is very much the description of my own PhD experience)))

You’re sitting at your desk ready to start writing; it’s 9.30 a.m. You think, “I’ll just check my emails for 10 minutes and then I’ll get started on my literature review.” You open up your email and find there’s one from your supervisor asking if your draft is ready. You quickly send it to the trash and check the next one. It’s from an honours student in your department saying they can’t find a particular reference and since it’s your field do you know where to find it. You think, “It’ll only take a few minutes, I’ll just do a quick check.” So you log onto to the library electronic journals. Eventually, with a sense of great satisfaction, it’s found and emailed off to the grateful honours student.

It’s 10.15 a.m. “Well,” you think, “I may as well just get the rest of these emails cleared”; glassware not cleaned in lab yesterday – send back saying it wasn’t me; astronomical society bash tonight – send back saying sorry, can’t come; interesting reference from co-supervisor – send back saying thanks, and go look up reference – feel very satisfied when found, printed, stapled and put in pile with 40 other articles. It is now 11.00 a.m. “Well, it’s been a busy morning, surely it’s time for a cup of coffee.” You meet a few friends in the coffee room and chat about the latest techniques for grafting boils to blue tongued sleepy lizards. It’s 11.30 a.m. As it’s only an hour until lunch you think there’s not much point in trying to start the lit review now, so you organise some references and put them into Endnote. It’s 12.30 p.m. and, with a sigh of relief, you head off for lunch.

At 1.30 p.m. you come back and now feel a little tired, so think ‘I’ll just do something a bit easy until I feel more motivated.’ It’s 2.30 p.m. and another PhD student knocks on the door and asks for help with calibrating her super-sensitive bio-liquid. You are really good at this so you help and, after all, she’s helped you with Endnote in the past. After this you rush back into your office. It’s 4.30 p.m. You’re late, so you shut down your computer, grab your bag and rush out. Your supervisor walks past and asks you how your day was. You say, “Great – very busy, did a lot”, but you have to rush now because you’re late for a meeting of the Faculty Higher Degrees Completion Committee and you are its representative!


About elenaphd

I am a PhD fellow at Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland. In my research project I am looking at employability of social science doctoral researchers.
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5 Responses to The secret life of a PhD student

  1. Vladimir Kiselev says:

    Time management, Elena, time management!

  2. Bill says:

    I read that statement and realised in was the way I was. I now do some work on my PhD then I check my emails later!

  3. elenaphd says:

    Yes, emails take all my life. I am addicted to checking emails, Fbook n Twitter. Always worried that there might be something urgent there 🙂

  4. James says:

    haha I totally agree with you! Just read this as I was starting my day too, maybe I’ll get back to work now 🙂

  5. essie says:

    so freaking true. i hate myself more everyday because of my “double life”. i can laugh at this post and nod in agreement, while at the same time thinking, “i am so f#cked and i can’t change”.

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