Working towards a research degree is a lengthy journey, with high points and low points along the way. During the years of studying for a doctorate, students learn not only about their subject, higher education and the process of research, but also about themselves.
Everyone experiences the process of researching and writing a PhD differently and has different experiences of the different stages. Some students enjoy the wide horizons and sense of possibility at the beginning of a PhD, whereas others find the uncertainties of the beginning the most difficult part. While many struggle with the latter stages of writing up, for others there is a sense that all the years’ work is falling into place.
Doing a PhD can be satisfying, enjoyable and exhilarating, but it is not always a comfortable experience. Many students experience some degree of stress and anxiety while undertaking a PhD: it is a major research project and the responsibility for designing, managing and conducting it ultimately lies with you. There will be times when the work seems chaotic and it is hard to imagine it becoming a well-structured piece of research. Dealing with the many uncertainties of research can be challenging.
Many PhD students experience what has been called ‘imposter syndrome’ – feeling that you are less knowledgeable and capable than someone in your position ought to be.
Feelings of anxiety are self-doubt are very common in learners at all levels and nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t suffer in silence: talk about them to your family, friends and supervisor. It can also be helpful to have a network of fellow research students who know what you are going through and can help you with their perspective. However, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by these emotions for an extended length of time, you may benefit from additional support via Learning Support and Development and/or the Counselling service.