Submission

So, it’s finally arrived, the day that seemed at first infinitely far in the future, and in the last year crashingly close every day. Yesterday, I submitted my PhD thesis.  And after completing around half-a-tree’s worth of paperwork and forms, after four long years I finally find myself at somewhat of a loose end.

To say the feeling is weird, would be an understatement.  Certainly for the past year, if not two, I’ve woken pretty much every working day with a slight feeling of incipient panic that I need to be doing SOMETHING.  Yet, there’s also been that feeling that I’m forgetting something, that by doing Task X today, Task Y is being neglected, while hidden away from sight, Task Z lurks…waiting to trip me up when it suddenly becomes Task Right Bloody Now!

I anticipated yesterday was going to be a long day, I perhaps didn’t count on how long. In at 9am to spend three hours nurse-maiding a printer to run off the required submission copies, and running afoul of my university’s not well articulated format settings.  Spotting some minor errors that upon correction necessitated junking a copy of two as they utterly threw off the page settings.  I tried not to give into feelings of panic either, as the minutes ticked by – knowing the print unit closed around 2pm, and that I also required to get a physical signature off my supervisor for the submission form.  While he’s a great guy, my supervisor can prove hard to track down physically at times, and is also very forms-phobic.  I’m with him on that!  In the second decade of the 21st Century, why the fuck I need to collect a physical signature and submit physical thesis copies is maddening.  I have to submit an electronic copy anyway, as well.  Just one of many, many niggles about the university administration I’m coming away from this experience with.

Having bound the thesis, and following a long walk and a tram ride, tracked my supervisor down in the city centre campus (I’m based at the out of town campus).  Signed form, multiple abstract copies and bound thesis in hand I strolled to Stalag Luft Graduate Office.  Or Doctoral School. Or Graduate School…or honestly whatever name they’re calling themselves this week, they’ve rebranded about four times while I’ve been studying.  They’re also hidden away, on the fourth floor of an anonymous building, with a reception point…behind a security locked door.  Really weird that last one, you have to know who you want to see and ring to be allowed in…almost like the staff don’t want to interact with us students.  As up-front-customer service paradigms go, it’s not a winne.  Odd really, as when you do meet and talk to the staff, they’re lovely.  Perhaps they’ve had one shouty student too many over the years.

The hand in moment was…beyond anticlimactic.  Over four years of my life and thousands of hours of labour, dealt with in an exchange lasting less than thirty words.  Most of them me asking about viva arrangements.  And then it was all done, bar the viva of course.

Afterwards my supervisor took me for a pint, a chat about next career plans (I’m flexible, I’m available, I’m not sure I’m staying in this country) and initial viva tips.  My personal favourite “You know all those articles that tell you how to pass a viva?  Don’t read them!”  It was, to say the least, a really useful and enjoyable chat.

And then, all the Nottingham trams stopped due a traffic incident and I was stranded 5 miles from my car.  Okay, I could have caught the bus but I had a) no idea which bus to catch and b) no idea where said bus went from and c) really hate riding busses during flu season.  So, I walked the 5 miles across town, moor, riverside and express way in the gathering gloom and fog to my car, to drive home to the next phase of my life.

What exactly that’s going to be…I just don’t know for sure.  I do hope it involves less sitting in a cold, dark and somewhat damp house for hours on end on my own!

 

The End of the Beginning

Monday

Once again in full-blooded combat with the research proposal, in order to hit my supervisors’ deadline of submitting them a revised version today.  Self imposed deadline though is noon – as I want to give them maximum time to look and it and get back to me with (hopefully) final comments for changes as quickly as possible.  I also know that if I spend too much more time without running past them I could bugger it up a bit too much – the itch that is there to tweak it, tweak it a bit more, and then tweak it again are all too common right now.

[Later] As I promised myself I had a version ready to go…just before 1pm.  Okay, so much for hitting noon, but as I got to the end I started getting the fear once again that the whole thing was rubbish.  It’s a regular feeling, and you would have thought I’d be used to dealing with this kind of self-doubt by now, but no.  As it was I decided that any more work on it would probably be to the detriment of getting it out the door to my supervisors.  That done, I spent the afternoon writing a couple of conference applications.  One of these I’ve been putting off for a while (as normal), so I tackled the new one first.  Only a few hundred words on my research and a few hundred more on why I should be allowed to attend the conference.  Seemed easy enough and I found it was actually fairly easy to write something that (mostly) made sense about my work.

Having sent that one in I turned to the second one.  I’d been struggling to cut down my research proposal into 500 words for this one, and in the end it was easier to take the best bits of the even shorter one I’d just written and flesh them out.  There’s a slight change in tone and coverage, so as to better fit the theme of the different conference but in essence they’re both me talking about my current research (or at least the embryonic version of it).  Full-blown academics reading this are probably chuckling, given that I suspect they may just rewrite the same bit of research for umpteen conferences* – so perhaps this is my first time discovering the pleasure of not having to write something from scratch!

Komrade KluckI also noticed that increasingly I’m starting work at 9, and working through to 6pm without too much of a problem.  I used to hate working past 5pm in my office job, but then there were other issues there; not least of which everyone else** leaving at 5pm and perceptions of being a brown-nose/workaholic if you stayed later.  Working from home as I do most of the time, I really relish the chance to just keep slogging on until the clock reaches 6pm.  Some days I don’t make it as Mrs Llama comes home and rather wreaks my concentration.  However, given that we’re likely to be spending more time apart due to her new job that probably means I’ll have more time to work and fewer distractions.  I’d love to say I’m looking forward to that, but I confess I’m going to seriously miss the company; given how few people I ever see during the day.  Today the only “people” I’ve spoken to have been the chickens, and they weren’t very interested in knowledge commodification and Marxist thought at all.  Bloody bourgeois birds…

*Feel free to call me a liar in the comments section!
**Who counted

Tuesday

Busy, busy, busy, busy.  Kicked off the day finishing off my conference paper proposal and getting that submitted, which took a goodly chunk of the morning   Then logged on to my email to discover not only had my supervisors read my research proposal; they’d given me comments and a deadline of 1pm today for revisions.  Cue a frantic couple of hours doing as much work as I could on it.  Having just passed 1pm and submitted it to them, I’m now pending what I hope will be their final email comments before our meeting on Thursday to trim any final issues and hopefully submit it shortly afterwards.  After weeks (months) of careful preparation and thought, it suddenly all feels a bit frantic.  But at the same time, quite exhilarating.

Best edit comment – to remove the word “revelations” from my potential outputs as being a bit OTT.  Heh.

[Later] And indeed just a few comments there have been.   So with luck a few final edits, not to mention a proofread, I am now close to being done with phase one of the PhD.  Of course once I’ve submitted this I’ve the 90 minute oral defence of the proposal to go through with my internal examiner, and then a committee review.  But all the same it suddenly feels like the culmination of the first 6 months (almost) of work.

I also got confirmation of my place on a workshop next week on project managing your PhD.  Having been a project manager for real, I thought it would be a useful spot of refresher training.  As part of the prep I have to be prepared to discuss what my PhD is in “50 words” (not quite my screenwriters norm of 25 words or less).  I was wondering if they might let me dance it instead…

Wednesday

Finally feedback received, and it is literally down to just a couple of phrases here and there.  So I ended up totally procrastinating and not doing anything constructive all morning (whoops!).  Didn’t mean to waste the day, but I guess it’s good to kick back and relax once in a while.  Afternoon was spent in classes on making an academic poster (AKA colouring and drawing) and a session on reflexivity and relativism.  I should have been more into the latter than I was, but I found it a bit heavy going.  Interesting, and I’ll be reading a bit around the edges of it, but not totally engaging.  The poster session on the other hand, once it got past the arty-farty history of the poster and typefonts (yawn) was quite good.  Came up with a half dozen sketches for a poster, one of which the tutor seemed quite taken with.  So think I’ll be using that one, thank you.

Thursday

Forms, Forms and FormsMade the final edits, then went in to Uni to format them into Word and then print them out.  Yes, in this paperless age where all my coursework and PhD thesis itself will be electronic only, all the forms I have to use to mark my progress have to be physically signed.  Multiple times, as I discovered after trying to hand them in.  Visiting the Graduate School Offices for the first time was a bit like visiting The Central Bureaucracy in Futurama.  The first person I met there couldn’t have been less helpful with a “I can’t accept it, it needs more signatures” as her only mantra.  As it turned out my supervisors also needed to tick some boxes too, but that wasn’t highlighted until I came back a second time, after hunting both my supervisors down once again in their offices.

Thankfully the duty officer had changed to someone with a PMA and a can-do attitude (which to be honest, has been my normal experience of the GS!) and she took it on her to badger my supervisors over the phone to sort out the last details.  What is laughable is that this is just the 6 monthly monitoring form.  My big, serious, research proposal went in without a comment.  Bit of an anticlimax there.

The question of course is, now what? I’ve kinda been given Easter to think about what to do, though my supervisors and I talked through some ideas I’d had.  I think post the break I’ll be looking to talk to some folks in universities about open access (academics, repository people) and perhaps in the publishing side of things too, just to get a lie of the land.  If anyone reading this is interested in finding out more, drop me a comment.  Although I will be rattling my networks of contacts as well; as I’m sure there are a fair few folks out there who’d like to talk to me…I hope!

Friday

This sums up my day.