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PhD Candidate at Griffith University, mummy, wife, teacher, social media enthusiast, avid reader

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Labouring through a PhD examination

So hands up how many of you wrote a birth plan? How many stuck to your plan successfully? How many compromised goal after goal as your labour dragged on, passed the 12 hour mark and proceeded into the multi-day labour. Hands up how many didn't care in the end and just wanted that thing out of you?

Welcome to my examination process.

I submitted my PhD on the 14th of April 2014. My degree was awarded 9th April 2015. I took just shy of 12 months.

My plan was to submit, have a 3-4 month turn around and graduate with a brand spanking, shiny new doctorate that I could love and cherish and be proud of (even if it ends up doing nothing).

Nothing ever seems to go to plan.

While I won't go into details about why the length of time, just let me say this: my experience is not uncommon.

The first sign things were not necessarily going to go smoothly was on the day I submitted. Excited and full of energy, I bounced into the staff room at uni and told everyone. I was surprised that congratulations was not forthcoming. I was a little annoyed that I was asked to clarify submitted or awarded. I suppose I could have asked questions but I was too caught up in my planning of great things in my future to wonder any further. I was in pre-labour.

Then active labour hit and goodness gracious me. Nothing prepares you for it. The excruciating wait as the clock ticks past 4 months, 5 months, 6 months, the disbelief, the raging, the negotiations, the justifications, the reality. The no end in sight. The corrections!!!!! I just want this thing out of me. Give me an epidural.

Why did no one tell me??? Why did I have to experience it for myself before I understood?

But eventually I was in transition and I knew that despite the intensity and the time frame compacted by an overseas trip, the end was nigh. I took the corrections one at a time and eventually it was all over (and I believe the final product was much better).

The thing is, I'm not ashamed of having a difficult examination. I know now from talking to senior academics, fellow transitional PhD candidates, @thesiswhisperer blog posts, and those weird comments in the staff room the day I started the examination process, that my experience in not isolated. A plan not going to plan (just like in the maternity ward) is normal. And if having two human children plus the reactions of friends and colleagues to my PhD award is any type of evidence, it is the healthy end product that is most important...not how you get it there.

And now I sit here with a shiny new degree that I spend far too much time thinking about. I weirdly write my new name down on paper. Will I be Dr Naomi Barnes or Naomi Barnes, PhD? I've changed my Twitter name and damn those that think its a wank. I get a thrill any time someone introduces me by my new title. I'm bummed passports no longer require a salutation.

These are the precious, joyful early days of a newborn PhD. Please, for one minute, I just want to enjoy it before being told that there are no jobs. I know negotiating the post-PhD is hard. I've just spent 6 years comparing doing a doctorate to pregnancy. I know enough tenured academics to understand the competitive, pressurised and time consuming reality. Everything is hard. But if you want it. Go get it. Hurdles are helpers.


  1. Hi Naomi, Just stumbled across your blog(s) - enjoyed the Barad one and this post. I got my PhD over a decade ago and every now and then when I see my name on my office door I go "OMG, it actually really did eventually get done"! Well done and thanks for your honest, open posts! Cheers, JoF

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