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PhD metaphors November 29, 2009

Posted by Malene Charlotte Larsen in Dissertation, PhD, Procrastination.

I have three months left before I have to turn in my PhD, which of course means that all I am doing at the moment is writing and working on my dissertation. Being in this state of mind has made me think about all the different metaphors one could use to describe what this last phase of the PhD process is like.

I think for me – at least at the moment – writing a PhD thesis is like completing a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes you have only four pieces and other times 4000 pieces to fit together.

Another, and not necessarily optimistic, metaphor could be viewing the process as a train ride. Normally it goes fast, sometimes there are delays – and you just hope it doesn’t crash!

What is the PhD process like for you? Can you come up with other eloquent metaphors?


1. Mia Rendix - November 29, 2009

Being an atheist it is the irony that my metaphor must be adapted from the Bible itself 😀

During the dissertation I felt trying to work my way up the Golgatha – and when I finally, finally defended the thesis and was f-i-n-i-s-h-e-d I had an epiphany of relief and a short feeling of eternal salvation. With a rewriting of the American dramatist Eugene O’ Neill’s famous play, I’d say that my PhD proces was A Long Night’s Journey into Day.

Good luck finishing, you are sooo close!

2. Malene Charlotte Larsen - November 29, 2009

Thank you, Mia – and thanks for that nice and figurative metaphor 🙂

I don’t know just how close I am, but I’m getting closer…

3. اس ام اس عید نوروز اس ام اس عید غدیر - December 3, 2009

happy christmas

4. Roberto - December 5, 2009

I found your blog by coincidence. I perfectly now what you are experiencing. I defended my phd last september. So I wish you all the best! It’s going to be very hard, but then it feels soooooooooo good!!!

Good luck Malene!

5. Malene Charlotte Larsen - December 8, 2009

Thank you, Roberto. I can imagine what a nice feeling that must be 🙂

6. Roberto - December 28, 2009

Hi Malene!

How are you doing with your disseration? I hope you could enjoy some Christmas. Keep working hard! the end is close!
I’ll have a look at your paper.

All the best for 2010.


7. Malene Charlotte Larsen - December 31, 2009

Thanks, Roberto – and to you too.

It’s going okay with the dissertation. I sent 150 pages to my co-supervisor before Christmas and and I have been able to take some days off during the holiday. But now I am eager to finish it.

Happy New Year!

8. JKB - February 28, 2010

Well, during my dissertation (or shall I say – professor’s universal assistant) years, I went through various metaphors.

In the beginning: naive truth-seeker, believing a professor implements all ethical rules of academics.

Then total confusion, shattered self-confidence, path-seeker.

Next, publication maniac. Topic not really focused… but lots of papers and conferences…

Then… the sorcerer’s apprentice phase. EU funding proposals. Negotiations. Lots of travel with the boss. Being introduced to the miracle of the academic 7-mile-boots, where you can hop from one keynote to the next, one conference to the next commission hearing.

Following that… constant battle between PhD focus, and doing the bosses’ prestige projects.

In the end… betrayal, disruption, own decisions, and… “much you learned, young apprentice” – being appointed reviewer of the former advisor’s prestige project. Dissertation graded after 2 years of rotting on the pile.

In the end, the learned that PhD and research are all about PR, politics, prestige and power. Trust? Integrity? Well… just try it, once you can afford it on your lifelong position…

But the travel was worth it… So use the force, and network, see the world, and dare to not write a paper all night but see the miracels upon those occasions where your meeting is in a nice place (there is even a travel guide blog for academics, see http://abc4trip.eu/destinations-2/).

9. Worldviews - April 7, 2010

I’m a road cyclist as well as an anthropologist. For me, this process often feels like the alpe d’huez in the tour de france. Painful, hard, never ending but I foresee an awesome feeling when I reach the top

10. someone doing a PhD - June 7, 2010

I wish I could find a metaphor at the moment- it might make things easier! All I know is that it is literally- difficult- although knowing that I have months left as well, I feel a bit inspired, but that inspiration lasts for moments, as I imagine that letters ‘DR’ and then moments later- it’s writer’s block, deadline I have to meet, panic, exhaustion….

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