I can never write it right!

Last week I met with my supervisors to discuss a draft chapter I submitted to them. I thought it was quite good. They thought the opposite. Yet again I had gone off on a tangent and rather get to the core of the discussion in the chapter, I spend too much time and space writing about all the background and things around it.This has been my problem from the beginning and I don’t seem to be able to snap out of this habit.

My supervisors say that they think I lack confidence. I don’t need to show all my ‘workings out’. Rather, I have to be a confident author who is telling a story to my audience and they basically have to be convinced by what I write. I am in charge and so need to start on the meaty bit and just go for it. At the moment I am trying to convince the reader that I am knowledgeable by showing them everything I know. However, I tend to run out of time and space for the meaty bit, so all the reader is left with is a start and pudding and no main – you get what I mean I hope!

I think I am in ‘special measures’, a ’cause for concern’ on ‘special review’ or whatever else terms are used when a student is not progressing as they are supposed to. This feels a bit of a blow. I am used to being quite in control and good at things. But in this PhD I have been …well…. crap.

So, I now have supervision meetings every two weeks and until I get back on track. My supervisors are really guiding me through how to write up my analysis.  They hope that if I have an example of one section that is done well, then I will be able to do the rest with ease.

This is what happened in my quantitative analysis write up. I needed just one paragraph that my supervisor helped me with, like a template, to show me how to describe quantitative data accurately.

After this terrible news I spent four solid hours crying in the library. I actually could see other students crying too. We were like snot brothers and sisters.

I am also so grateful that my supervisors have been understanding and nice. I was so scared they would tell me off and kick me out.

So, I shall keep calm and carry on. They key is to take it in stages. So my next task for my supervisors is to write just 1,500 on one theme in one section of the qualitative analysis. I have just 12 days to do this. Already I have felt myself veering off on a tangent, so I have to keep pulling myself back. But I think I can do it. I think this section is pretty good….. or is it? *weep*


A selfie I took in the library                                                         (from Aleksandra Waliszewska on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/walisz/)





  1. Doing a PhD is more an exercise in bloody-mindedness than anything. You have to tough it out, bludgeoning your way to the finish line. It’s rough, brutal, exhilarating, wonderful, and shit. We all get imposter syndrome, and you learn the most from the bits where you feel the most stuck/lowest. It doesn’t make those dark patches any easier to deal with at the time, of course.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Academic writing can be really tough, don’t be too hard on yourself! It’s a supervisor’s job to help you improve, and they know it’s a skill that needs to be learned through practise. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect right away. I have to second what ddubdrahcir said – the hardest bits will teach you the most if you can muster the grit to get through them.

    Liked by 1 person

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