How quickly can you complete a PhD research project?

How quickly can you complete a PhD research project?

I was fortunate enough to gain a PhD studentship that provides funding for three years, although I have four years in which to complete it. 

Right from the start my supervisor said that I should aim to complete all the work within three years.

If you are a full-time PhD researcher like me that is doo-able, although it requires intense focus. I have just about reached the end of my first year and have about six weeks left to make some revisions before the start of year two, during which I will carry out all my research.

A dear friend of mine is eighteen months into his PhD project – and he has more or less finished! He has finished writing his thesis which has already been scrutinized by his first supervisor and revised accordingly and the second supervisor is presently assessing the work.

Needless to say I was both gobsmacked and impressed when he told me where he was at. He had already finished doing his interviews before the end of the first year and had more or less written up his thesis in note form.

So he has spent the last six months or so in virtual solitude and isolation working on his thesis. He admitted taking himself off the radar and abandoning social networking sites like Facebook and concentrating one hundred per cent on his research. Some friends have fallen by the wayside too – he says the journey has changed him.

I admire his commitment, but as eager as I am to complete my PhD thesis in record time, I cannot foresee completing it quite so rapidly – although I am confident I can  complete it within three years, as my supervisor suggested.

For one thing, I cannot detach myself from social networking sites, not because I am obsessed with them, but because they are an important part of my PhD research project on African Caribbean bloggers in the UK.

I also have other commitments and activities on the go, like running a journalism training and publishing company – and in addition to researching bloggers I am a prolific blogger myself. But all of these activities inform my research so I think it would be detrimental to stop them.

Admittedly there are greater pressures when you are officially a full-time PhD researcher, but in the real world you have several projects on the go at once. But the pressure is worth it when all your other activities are linked in some way to your research project, as mine are. It means that your research is more enriched because it is intrinsically reflective.

Most universities’ research regulations stipulate that a full-time PhD researcher can submit a thesis after 24 months. Given my teaching responsibilities and other projects and activities, completing my PhD thesis within the next academic year would be quite ambitious, but not practical or realistic.

So I’ll continue to juggle like a circus performer to keep a healthy balance between my PhD thesis and my other personal and professional activities, and stay on track to finish in 2013.

Follow Dr Gabriel on Academia.edu

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