Submitted: now what?

Submitting my thesis was not the relief I thought it would be.

After receiving feedback and comments from two of my PhD supervisors on my draft thesis, I worked for a few more weeks on updating and editing the manuscript. Until finally, on the 28 June 2013, I walked into the Faculty secretariat and handed over eight pristine printed and bound copies of my thesis – several years’ work condensed into a box. And it was a seriously underwhelming experience.

The secretariat of the Faculty was almost apologetic at the lack of pomp and ceremony. “Ok, that’s it, thanks”, I was told. And that was it indeed. No taking it back now. The waves of relief I expected, the rush of joy: none of that hit me.

Since then I’ve found myself with plenty of work to do to keep me busy, but not quite so busy as in the last months of the thesis finalisation (I am not working weekends, hurray!). All the items on my to-do list that had been dropping in priority were suddenly again near the top. I found myself carrying out research again, finding out new things, preparing papers for conferences, developing ideas for publications. It’s actually quite nice and exciting. But I have a niggle in the back of my mind. I feel like all of this is just me killing time until the Big Days. Those Big Days are the two defences I have to do.

My internal defence is scheduled for the 26 August. In Belgium, the PhD defence system involves two steps. The first step is an “internal” or “private” defence with the members of the PhD jury. In my case, I have seven professors on my jury. If the majority of these professors agree that my PhD is sufficiently good then I can go on to defend my PhD publicly. The world and its mother can attend the public defence if they so wish – and the public is invited to pose questions also!

The jury can make one of three decisions:

–> the PhD fails – that’s the end of the road;

–> the PhD needs some (usually considerable) corrections: the researcher needs to make the corrections, resubmit and go through the internal defence again;

–> the PhD is good enough to pass and can go to public defence.

Needless to say I am crossing fingers for option number three. But it’s still a strange time now. I am waiting for the procedure to continue, but everything is out of my control. After several years working on one project, it’s an odd feeling to think about it being judged (probably harshly) by people I hardly know.

T-minus circa six weeks and counting to Big Day number one.

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Filed under Academia and research, Getting through the PhD, Thesis advice

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