How to Finish Your Dissertation When You Really Hate That Shit

There is a one-word answer to that question, and that word is spite. Spite is underrated because people think it is an emotion for selfish people who are just nasty for No Good Reason. In an academic context, though, spite can be very useful. Spite, Gordon Gekko might say, is good. In fact, I’m convinced that spite is the best motivator for getting to the end of the long graduate school road.

Will spite work for you?

Before I discovered spite, I went to therapy to figure out how to finish my diss without admitting myself into a mental institution. (My university offered a number of free therapy sessions to all graduate students. What does that tell you?)

Why did I need spite?

I wanted to quit graduate school, but I felt that I was too far gone to turn back. (I was wrong, of course. Quitting can be a virtue.) But I was stuck because I couldn’t remember what I was doing in grad school in the first place. In fact, I did not care to remember. I didn’t care about anything but the answer to the question, when will the misery of this experience end?

Do you wake up every morning trying to summon the energy to open that document, the one that you despise with every fiber of your being, and type more words without puking all over your computer screen? If this sounds familiar, I think you owe it to yourself to cultivate spite.

How does spite work as a motivational tool?

Spite motivates in the absence of any rational context for making progress and in the knowledge that all your effort will most likely come to nothing. Spite is a combination of self-loathing and disgust. It is an elegant contempt. Acting out of spite does not mean that one is always right or blameless, which is what makes spite different than sanctimony. For example, I take responsibility for not doing more research about academia before I enrolled in Humanities graduate school. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t abused once I arrived in academe. And it doesn’t mean I didn’t deserve better as a student and as human being. I was wronged, but I was also a fool. Coming to that awareness and putting it to use is the essence of spite.

How did I discover spite?

When I was deep in dissertation hell, I went batshit crazy for a while. My significant other, who had completed a dissertation himself years before, told me that I should finish out of spite.

That advice really jarred me out of my stupor. I realized that I should not finish my dissertation because I really cared about my research (I didn’t), because I wanted to get a job (I wouldn’t), or because I wanted to please my advisor or anyone else (no one is worth that level of misery).

Instead, I would defend my dissertation to spite everyone who had ever told me to enroll in a graduate program because I was “smart” and smart people should just drop out of society and go to school forever, apparently.

I would finish my dissertation to spite every professor I ever had, even the few who were not smug assholes.

I would complete my diss to spite my supervisors at the Colleges Where I Used to Adjunct who oozed with platitudes about how I would be a sought-after candidate on the job market once I graduated. When I defended my dissertation, they suggested, I would finally be able to stop earning the slave wages they paid me, which of course was all I deserved until then.

Most of all, I would earn the PhD to spite every single one of my dissertation committee members who held so much power over me and could dictate with impunity when I was ready to be released from their clutches.

I owe a lot to spite. I was actually mentally ill for about a year before I finally defended. (I shouldn’t say “finished” because everyone knows that a dissertation is never finished. It is simply done being a dissertation, at which point it becomes another vile creature called a “book manuscript” that inspires further bouts of mental disease.)

Stay tuned for how late-stage Humanities PhD school turned me into a raving lunatic who found refuge in spite.

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216 Responses to How to Finish Your Dissertation When You Really Hate That Shit

  1. recent Ph.D. says:

    So true. I turned to spite in the later stages, too, as the only antidote to an overwhelming and unsustainable rage that began to develop that last year and a half or so. Once I started to see how things were and what a fool I’d been — and yet how close I was to being “done” but for what? — I would wake up angry, spend the day seething in my own bitterness, and go to sleep (if I could sleep) sullen and resentful. I’d even have angry dreams. Spitefully finishing was a way of saying “fuck you” to the system and all the people who kept telling me that if I did everything right, things would work out.

    • Deborah says:

      I know EXACTLY how you feel! I hate everyone right now, even the birds singing in the trees. I love the people who say ‘ oh so you only have another year or so, surely you can manage that?’ Well pardon me whilst I just die from a stress induced heart attack! I’m certain I’m gonna get a blood clot from all the lifeless inactivity of just being sat, and sat and sat.

      • k says:

        the first laugh i’ve had in weeks. thank you

      • roseofjuly says:

        It’s because they don’t realize what “just” a year actually means. Or that the “or so” can be much longer than you’d expect.

      • Done says:

        So … After a difficult year and dreading my dissertation, I decided to give it another try after all your suggestions. Signed up for 8 weeks 1-1 with my chair to force myself. Began first three weeks intensely focused submitted for initial review and got so many go backs … Unbelievable way to motivate the beaten down souls. Not one positive note. I should have left it the way it was., 4 more weeks and I really need that spite … Or maybe another year? Aghhhhhhhh.

      • Gordon Graham says:

        To Done-
        Taking that first or rather next step was so crucial! I too handed in, yet another revision, and still no word! Takes my advisor MONTHS to get his s&^% together! I totally empathize with you your situation Done!

      • Celeste says:

        Thanks for this comment. it really made me laugh.
        One thing i hate is being angry at everyone for being so encouraging and more rage for those that as’ haven’t you finished it yet’ Grrrowl. you f’ing do it for me then.

        Currently ‘sat’ behind at work, several weeks past my deadline and only half way through my dissertation. The world seems like its against me. I know now I am not alone!!

      • Don't Call Me Here says:

        I’ve had “just a year” for three years now. I’m not alone, but I’m still pissed about it. And f&$* those people Deborah described–esp. in my field where we share academic departments with people whose final doctoral requirements are considerably less intense who give a well meaning shrug that says “So, why aren’t you done yet?”

        Shouting into the void of the internet helps. (Am I working on diss now? No, I’m writing a grant that is a project that’s not mine & then dealing with my adjunct duties.) Pfffft!

    • wow .. i thought i was the only one with these random feelings of rage. thanks for this post.

  2. JC says:

    Hmm. I wonder if I should summon up the spite/anger impulse and try to finish. Right now I just don’t care and am ready to leave it all on the table and go find a better life, and leave all of my former colleagues to wonder WTF happened to me.

    But part of me sort of relishes the possibility of emailing my absentee, noncaring advisor a fully completed first draft of the dissertation in a year or so. Just to show him that I could hack it.

    Right now, I think I don’t care about finishing because of all the people (mostly grad students) who keep telling me that I *have to* finish. My response has basically been, “fuck you, I don’t HAVE to do anything!”

    But maybe I don’t want to conform to the assumption that I really couldn’t cut it by not finishing. Maybe I do want to spite them……

    • Hi JC,

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying fuck you to the whole thing and walking away. That is a very honorable thing to do at any stage. I was just very, very close so I opted to stick it out. But that wasn’t a heroic choice. It was just what worked for me. And spite only got me so far in the end. I went on the job market for TWO YEARS! WHY DID I DO THAT? I don’t know. Spite didn’t stop me from thinking I should just “give the job market a try.” For some reason.

      • JC says:

        You know, I’ve said to my partner that I’m glad I did the job market once. Sure, to some people it makes me look flakey … “you were THAT close? Why didn’t you just finish??”

        But for me, it makes me even more sure that I don’t want it anymore. I saw what my options were, and I decided that “no thank you” was how I wanted to respond. I think in the long run I’ll trust myself more because I actually gave the market a fair shot.

        And yeah, in all seriousness, I don’t think I’ll ever finish. I think that running into former academic colleagues while I’m living my life and having fun (while they’re stressed out and worried) will be a better revenge than a completed dissertation.

    • Karen says:

      JC, I am replying to your last post–about walking away. I did too and I’m glad. I found out the job market is more about presenting oneself as having done substantial things (shamefully trumped-up CVs) more than actually having done them. Large quantities of trivial research, articles stating the obvious, and political correctness seemed to be much more important than decades of successful teaching experience, problem-solving abilities, or independent thinking. Admittedly, and obviously, this is MY experience, but sounds like I may not be alone. I watched who they hired for a new position at my PhD university and I was appalled. This is what we’re looking for? They can have it. I’m glad I walked. Academic freedom and actually caring about students have just about disappeared from higher ed. For all I know, maybe they were never there.

    • Mojo says:

      I did two years , didn’t get very far, got really frustrated, had so little guidance, got so so lost, felt embattled and alone….lost my research mojo completely.. Stopped working, let it slide, left in a tiny sad moment of me to my useless supervisor…’this isn’t working is it?’ ‘Re um no, what are you doing again?’ ,,, then once I’ve reminded him, he says ‘you’re very good at lecturing though, maybe you should do that’….. So I left.. Just left, took my coat and went… Took a job in medical sales… And couldn’t believe I hadn’t even got a masters…I had been offered every PhD in the book, I had looked down my nose at those easy taught masters… Oh how I wished I’d put the work in for one gloriously hard, taught year and at least got a masters…That was in 1997… Now I’m 42, in a job where most other people have PhDs. Or medical degrees…. If I could go back I would shake myself, get a new supervisor, find out what I’m meant to be doing and use whatever it took to finish!!!!!!! Regret central.. Keep going if you possibly can… Hell on earth as it is…. Impossible to go back once life and a career gets in the way! Good luck everyone on here… Xxxx

      • Jenna Gee says:

        Thank you for this … I want to quit so much, but I am so close and know I would regret it. I wish you could give me more details about your regret. I really just want to quit after 4.5 years in the program!

  3. crocodiliapi says:

    A great motivational post! I may read this again tonight just to see if I can write something on my dissertation. The notion of spitefully finishing my diss, which my committee would then be forced by university policy to read, warms the devious nugget of my heart. Hope you don’t mind if I share this fellow dissertators. They too need such motivational love.

  4. Anthea says:

    Mmmm, I can see that spite could be a good motivator to finishing one’s PhD dissertation but I’d have to say that in those really low points whilst trying to finish is that I had a different reason. At the time I had a bunch of so-called friends (now ex-friends) who told me that I’d never be able to finish since I wasn’t good enough (i.e. smart enough) to do a PhD. The irony was that those people who made these statements were well paid lawyers….and I think in retrospect, were basically envious of not having done a PhD since they believed those novels which describe people who do PhDs as having fun all the time. The thing was that I didn’t acknowledge this fact as being the reality of the situation until after I’d finished when I had the time to hear their shock and astonishment that I’d finished both writing the dissertation and had defended it.

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  6. Late to the party but right there with you. I finished for spite too. And that made my graduation day the single most Pyrrhic victory of my life. So it works, for sure, it’s just the usual question of, ‘at what cost?’ And I will add that, now that I’m out out out for good, living well is turning out to be the awesomest revenge ever.

  7. gaiafarm says:

    Oh I so needed this article now…..I am not sure where I am going to send my spite to at this moment. I will have to think on it.

  8. LOVE this – writing up my PhD thesis was one of the worst experiences of my life, and thinking about it in these terms might have helped…

    • Pete11 says:

      I agree, and I think the entire dissertation process at most institutions need to be revamped because at this stage, it is usually a time-consuming and worthless experience unless it results in a publication or two, or a grant. I am in my 3rd year and am not really learning anything from it other than what a run-around it is. If I was learning and growing from the experience, that would be a different story.

  9. K8 says:

    Even later to the party, but this is exactly what I needed to read today. My advisor has been ignoring me and making me feel like shit for most of the project. But now I’ll just remember: finish it because fuck him, that’s why.

  10. EdDmaybe2be says:

    I’m even later to the party, and what a read. I definitely needed this, as I nod my head in acknowledgement to the rest of you that have faced/are facing the same. I’ve spent hours contemplating the crossroads: “while I’m living my life and having fun” and “living well is turning out to be the awesomest revenge ever”. And quite honestly, the verdict is still out. We’ll see what this round of edits presents. Coursework has been done for two years, and I’ve been through 80+ edits….I’ll post the outcome for sure, but in the meantime – I think I’ll contemplate that spite gig. It just may do the job!

  11. Linda says:

    this may actually get me going again after sitting with my adviser for 2 1/2 hours today ….to realize that all edits must be done in 3 weeks…while teaching full time and extra duties at work….

  12. Susan says:

    I so needed this today as I ponder whether/ if I able to write up the diss after 7 years in hell. In a recent meeting my advisor defended academia ad nauseum. I was telling him that blind review is a f***** lie after finding out a mediocre-writer peer of mine was getting a piece published because a friend of her advisor was now editor at a top journal. His response: well, it sounds like she had good mentorship. That’s part of how the game works and a good mentor tells you when to send a piece out. But still, the game is fair and if you’re good enough that’s all that really matters. If all this wasn’t bad enough, I was so stunned at his contradictions that it didn’t even strike me until the next day that if he really believed that is good mentorship, then why wasn’t he being a good mentor (i.e. trying to help me get published). Bottom line: Even if I finish the diss, I will never get a job. The game sucks. I hate the game, and I haven’t paid the refs. 😦

    • BT says:

      Dear Susan,
      My advisors are exactly like this. I’m supposed to defend my dissertation in time to get my PhD in August or maybe January, while teaching five sections of something that’s not even my discipline as an adjunct and raising two kids with my partner who has had exactly that type of “mentorship” (AKA ridiculously easy path to publication) and for whose cushy post-doc job we therefore moved across the country. My professors are uninterested in my career, and I’m currently working on a second round of revisions requested by the editor of a top journal for a dissertation chapter that I submitted there, no thanks to any of my committee members. I am hoping that my article will get published and that having a “real” article out there (I’ve already got translations) and my PhD done will change my luck on the job market, but given that I don’t have anybody “going to bat” (AKA pulling strings) for me, it doesn’t look good. I think I will catch the spiteful spirit animating others here and ride it as best I can!

      –The Thin Man

  13. Kokoda says:

    I’m lucky, I have a pretty good and understanding supervisor, but God I hate this piece of paper sitting beside me with all the editing marked down the column. I hardly feel like I can even bear to look at it again. I wanted to finish it on time, didn’t happen, got one extension and now my supervisor has suggested a longer extension which will take it through to the end of November, another month and a half of pure torture. Add in work, and continually sick kids and I feel like screaming and hitting my computer with a heavy, blunt object. Only thing keeping me going is that I will be finished my course mid-next year, I’m going to try the spite approach, too, and see how it goes. Good luck to you all.

  14. Pete11 says:

    I think dissertations are stupid!

  15. Pete11 says:

    I went back to school later in life to finish my doctorate after a successful 20 year career in research with publications and grants already under my belt (I had run out of money earlier in my career and had to work to feed my family). I’m in my 3rd year of the “dissertation” and I think my committee is unnecessarily making me jump through all of these hoops when they’ve let other students in my group pass on through with much less complicated projects. I’m starting to feel like they’re being harder on me because they expect more because they’re obsessing over every word and thought in my dissertation and it’s driving me crazy. I don’t have time to write “War and Peace”; I just want to get on with it. At this point, the ONLY reason I’m going to try to finish is because I’ve spent so much of my personal time and money on it… I don’t expect to get much out of it in terms of respect, a job, etc. I just want to be DONE. So, accept the level of stuff that the other graduate students have done and let me through!!!!!!

  16. Gordon Graham says:

    ELTTP- Even later to the party- I am!
    I agree with all that all previously have written!
    In truth- 4 years of coursework going onto 3rd year of
    dissertation writing! 80 or so edits and 5 main body revisions now
    under the belt. 15 Years teaching in New York City Schools….
    Taking no breaks for the PhD- writing and revising at night after
    my wife and kids have gone to bed….. 30 min, an hour at most
    a day or two a week!

    Spite- yup that works!

    So does- living well is the best revenge!
    Spending the next 20 years as a adjunct or like professor….
    teaching one or two courses a semester….
    Compared to what I am doing now-

    It this process was easy, their would be many more PhD’s…

    and in the end-

    If it’s worth doing (in your own head!) it’s worth doing well! (Spite or not!)

    For all who read these posts- read between the lines please!
    (Yes- I did tell you to READ some more….)

    Get’er done!

    That’s what all these comments are saying!

  17. C says:

    My supervisors have been lovely to me as well as staff in university so no spite for me… and I still hate this shit thesis! I also had a break for bit less than a year, and still not writing. I do think I will quit. This week.

  18. Done says:

    Late to the party. Like “C” I took almost a year off and just can ‘t get spite spirit. I am sick and tired. This has never happened before. My advisor is great, committee members supportive but I can’t find the energy. No pressures … Not even from me … Other suggestions?

    • Persisting... says:

      I’m struggling too (analysis, statistics, graphs, measurement instruments, writes – let alone re-writes) – I never wanted a job as a professor – so I haven’t felt the need/desire to play that game. I just want to be an excellent high school college counselor. In response to finding motivation…my 86 yr old father put his finger on his pulse last year and said, “Are you ever gonna finish that thing?” He promised to fly across the country and come to graduation, even if he was in a wheelchair by then. I want him there. And I want my life back. I’m gonna finish!!!! I leave this blog with something I re-read yesterday, “failure should be expected, persistence wins out.” Here’s to May…or August, hopefully not much later.

      • Gordon Graham says:

        If getting that PhD or EdD was easy, there would a much larger amount of “doctors” out there!
        Stay your course my friend- if in the future your students learn what you had to consider in finishing what you started, your students will appreciate more the guidance you give them!

  19. i hate my dissertation says:

    late to the party as well….lemme tell you, i have pulled every friggin’ trick outta the bag to try to finish this f@#$ing dissertation….i have virtually/figuratively/literally disconnected myself from the world and every distraction that exists: no dating, no internet, only dissertation work group dates, omg omg. going crazy. and all i can do is look at my data and i freeze. talk about feeling so freaking overwhelmed and stupid. I HATE MY DISSERTATION. i want my life back. :””’-(((((((

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  21. Crash says:

    Thanks for the reprieve ! This blog gave me comfort. You’re wording what most grad students should say but they never say it in front of others (maybe the other won’t think of ’em as scholars any more). I am a mild procrastinator who likes experimenting rather than writing and have an advisor who juices out every penny of that assistantship.. I was repeatedly asked for that “Last” bit of reassuring experiment when i should have been writing. Now, i am 2 weeks away from submitting a draft for the oral defense nod. 60-odd pages (50%) of writing remains. I can feel the anxeity on my scalp. A warm, uneasy glow. X-( I already know i’m gonna say a big F*** Y*** to this place when I get out.. Good wishes to whoever lands in this soup.

  22. Barren Wordsmith says:

    SLTTP (Spectacularly Late to the Party) Thank god for the good people here who have motivated me to dredge up enough suppressed spite from that dark, airless place in my heart to have one last stab at finishing my wretched thesis. Thank you.

    If I really do finish it this time around, hell really will freeze over … but I’ll be too busy enjoying the sunshine outside for once to notice any ice underfoot.

    • Gordon Graham says:

      At least you found this outlet like the rest of us! You are not alone and in checking in and reading through our posts you start to realize- Holy S! This process and what I am feeling about this process- IS NORMAL!

      Welcome aboard!

      And in the spirit of this chain-
      Congratulations on finding what ever works to help you cross the graduation line!

      All my best-

    • CoolMcGroove says:

      EMSLTTP (Even More), I am writing a puny but pointless undergrad diss and have already spewed molten shite all over my ‘soon-to-have -his-head-punched-in’ teacher via e-mail.
      I too was encouraged to stick it out. Is this why I am so angry – because I didn’t burn him when I had the chance? At least a Phd is free in the chokey

      • Gordon Graham says:

        Better late then never!
        I wish I had done the same with my dissertation teachers along the way!

        Thanks for your two cents!
        A truly perfect addition to what is going on here!

  23. Barren Wordsmith says:

    Thank you, Gordon, for your kind words and encouragement. My brain is putting up a terrible fight dragging my body kicking and screaming to the desk … but with so much to lose, it’s now or never. The last gasp, so to speak.

    Until I found this chain, I had not realised my hatred & loathing were normal. It is a huge relief to scream from the rooftops, “I hate this thing!”

  24. writers block says:

    Latest to the party–I am currently working on a dissertation in the humanities. I’ve been working on it for a little over six months and I’m just not as far along as I wanted to be. I have written a ton of crap in grad school and had only one incomplete that I finishes quickly. Nevertheless, I find myself with a brutal case of writer’s block. Every time I got to compose I find myself hitting dead end. I have done tons of research, but I’ve just made te situation more difficult rather than easier, I think.

    Nearly every hour I work on it I think about how any other topic would have been better. But worse I think about the endgame and how I might now want it at all. You are so right about being at least partially guilty. I’m kicking myself for not taking this all into account.

    My committee isn’t awful, but they are hands off in a pretty bad way. Worse yet, I have felt no real positive feedback form them. That might be because my work isn’t yet up to snuff, but it might also be because they aren’t interested in my topic. Now I feel that same apathy.

    I think dissertation writing is a stupid, stupid thing. You should have to do a portfolio of good papers. This never ending burden probably won’t even be read by anyone.

    Thanks for this post, I don’t feel so alone.

  25. DONE says:

    Still late – but your responses and negativity have actually inspired me. I don’t have the drive anymore but realize I am not as alone in the truly deep feelings of … moving (or not moving) forward. I don’t have spite either, however, I was told by my advisor – I don’t need to change the world … just get it done – so I am reducing the scope of my study and setting more manageable goals. I still am not as excited as I was once – but agree – it’s okay to hate this and not feel guilty anymore. Its just another task … or longer paper and I am not alone – even though I read and don’t like it – oh well – for now – thanks for the support!

    • Gordon Graham says:

      Dear DONE,

      Wake up one day just prior sunrise. Look out the window –
      its another chance you have been given.

      Tacky- yet very true.

      A chance to do what- is up to you.
      Good luck to you- to be named Dr. Done.

      • Rachel says:

        Well said. Each day is a chance to chip away at this thing. The Grand Canyon was a bunch of mountains, worn away one drop at a time. Peace and fruitful writing to us all.

  26. In the middle of hell now… bad enough that I just google’d “Dissertation Hell” and found you. Thank you.

  27. Gordon Graham says:

    I think they must have forgotten about me!
    I email them- and WAIT MONTHS for a F#$%&*@! REPLY.

    And get this……..

    I’M going for a PhD in………


    Go Figure!

  28. Done says:

    Hi Gordon. Gotta love it. Yes I am fortunate every day… I know. It’s great to have an outlet and share. I am moving forward… Again … Although I still hate this stuff I also feel forgotten to my committee. Thanks for sharing today.

  29. Barren Wordsmith says:

    Gordon and Done – I wish my committee had forgotten about me but instead they fought me for years in a bid to kill off my research study! I don’t know what’s worse – having them pay not enough attention, or having them pay too much. Either version adds to the overall horribleness.

  30. Sylvia says:

    Oh man this is the best advice I have ever read on how to finish. Simply because it made me laugh and it gave me one huge boost, just knowing other people felt this way. Everyone I know seems to think I will be loving my studies (not) or they say things like ‘how long have you been studying now? The answer is two and a half years. Oh man I wish this was over. I’m in New Zealand, BTW, for anyone who wants to reply. Thanks for making me laugh!

    • Barren Wordsmith says:

      Hi Sylvia – I’m in Australia & I feel your pain. I’ve got less than 10 days to go before putting nearly 10 years of work to bed. I never imagined I’d hate my thesis but I DO! I HATE IT! This thread gave me a great laugh too. It is such a comfort knowing others are in the same boat.

  31. Doug says:

    I never actually had very much trouble writing and publishing. My dissertation comm was a bunch of flower children from the 60s. They were ineffectual and stupid. The real problem was getting a job. Even if you publish a fair amount, it’s unlikely you’ll get a job. To be honest, writing the dissertation was actually kind of fun. I like writing and researching. That’s easy for me. I went to a crappy program that gave me no political pull. That was the real problem.

  32. Gordon Graham says:

    Barren- You are too funny! I’m working on 8 f-ing years myself! My thesis- oh dear God- I read it over and SPITE simply slaps me in my face! The name on this chain simply could not be better worded.

    To all who find this chain- welcome! (Yup- you are not alone in this- your academic hell!)

  33. Lady Midnight says:

    Oh you’re damn right about using spite to fire the cylinders. I began my dissertation two years ago, and was pushed into researching an entire century that I had never so much as glossed over. I have to work part time and it’s taken long and painful months to be able to speak about the field I’m in with any confidence whatsoever. I’ve just started my 3rd year and have two chapters written and the bones of my dissertation worked out, but I know my committee won’t like it because I don’t have the damn thing written in its entirety. I am so tempted to leave, but I’m going to at least try. I run the risk of them removing me from the course, but I have no intention of not finishing the damn thing and submitting it elsewhere. Committtees never want to hear the practical difficulties, they just want their PhD students to finish quickly so it reflects well on them. Individual cases don’t matter to them. They don’t want to hear it.

  34. i hate my dissertation says:

    so i’m not working for the next four months and aim to get this shit done. i’m so over this dissertation. what’s more important is finding a job so i don’t end up homeless..when i put it in that perspective, the dissertation is just one hoop to jump through to get that job, whatever it may be.

    i’m working on my lit review right now, and covering a topic that i never have written on or read about before, which means a lot of hours pouring over books, like everyone else here.

    here’s my strategies that seem to be working for me right now, for what it’s worth:
    -every day i aim to get one to two pages written.
    -as soon as self-doubt/terror/fear start to paralyze me, I stop myself dead in my tracks and MAKE myself, force myself to stop the paralyzing thoughts. i aim to achieve a a sense of neutrality/indifference/insolence, just to get through the day. ONE DAY AT A TIME.
    -i tell myself to quit second-guessing myself as i write. i allow myself to critique after a week or so, just so i can keep writing.

  35. Hannah says:

    I have to submit my dissertation in one week, I defend in one month, and I seriously cannot even summon the ounce of motivation I need to open the document, and do a final run through. I just hate it, and so instead I drink tea and watch bad TV. People say your defense is anti-climatic, I say to those people “get a life!”

  36. John Twomey says:

    Bravo, I just survived a concerted attempt by my supervisors to shove me off my PhD after nearly 3 years. The veil finally lifted as I watched them squirm when I asked for a reason why they were trying to do this…they were totally stumped for a reason. I finally saw that these people were no better than I am. I survived their coup attempt. Unlike the main contributor here, I cannot say I was always called clever nor do my supervisors shower me with even a droplet of praise. spite them….I am going to continue on and do everything I can to complete my PhD to say ‘Up Yours’ to them… (But diplomacy will make me suppress this into a fake smile on graduation day).

  37. wendy says:

    I think I have found more comfort here than I have in any thesis-advisor stress induced therapy session. Now I will embrace the spite and hope it carries me through this last little bit of torture…

  38. Maxwell says:

    I abandoned work/life and marooned myself on an island (literally — Nantucket) for a “dissertation vacation,” and FTTT! my computer died whilst commencing the very first paragraph. Sigh.

    • Gordon Graham says:

      To Maxwell-

      I did not know I had extended family!
      You too seem to be related to my family line…..
      What extension of Murphy are you? (LOL)
      I seem to be a direct blood relation myself!

  39. Nellie says:

    I just wanted to drop in and say that this blog has been helpful in thinking about graduate school options as I enter my senior year in college. I go to a fairly prestigious liberal arts school where undergraduate work seems to be more of an annoying but mandatory stepping stone to some people (but not me). It’s interesting to compare your perspective to that of my older friend, who is a non-traditional student nearing the completion of her dissertation. Although she’s incredibly passionate about the work, I can see it engulfing her life. Either way, I feel that the PhD track just isn’t right for me. I value balance and don’t want to be a student for 2/3 (or more) of my life by the time I complete a dissertation, only to struggle with finding a particular type of work.

    • Gordon Graham says:

      To Nellie-

      In short- Knowledge IS power. In reading these comments you are getting the low down from many who have dared to walk that walk. It is life altering. Yet- if your passions for specific knowledge persist, as they do here, the effort and aggravation IS worth the effort.

      Understanding, sharing the understanding.

      That’s why I think most of us here- simply keep going. Spite or not!

      It’s all about-

      Understanding & Sharing the Understanding.

    • Done says:

      Hi Nellie:

      This site is an outlet – although I (we) complain and at times feel I am drowning I would still do it again. Yes, really. The difference is in the type of lifelong learning. Research and studies do engulf your life and life catches up – if the balance is not there or the reasons you are pursing are solely monetary … than maybe you are right. No one but you can know. Most of us will keep going … spite or not. Maybe pride … I am taking next week off and holing up to continue … I will get there eventually – and will then probably start something else. I enjoy the sharing and everything I get from the search. I continue to learn – share – understand (as Gordon says) I say never again and who knows. But there are days … I hate my dissertation – the process and everyone who asks me when I am going to finish … I’ll let you know how my next submission goes. I find a type of solace with others who understand this type of pain … A couple of my PhD family/ friends walked and … I wish I was there.

      Good Luck!

      Back to this roller-coaster.

    • BlackListed says:

      Nellie, it’s also ok to JUST SAY NO.

      We are blowing off steam and trying to survive. We are here for a reason. We are, also all of us going to be pigeonholed for the rest ofmour lives. Study is not limited to school and neither is learning.

  40. Lea says:

    Also late to the party, but man this is totally what I did in hindsight. Wanted to show my advisors that I would still finish, even after getting a (non-academic) job. I did finish – in five years – and went on to a non-academic career; it’s not even in my field of study. But after trying to get the freaking dissertation done, the idea of looking at my research again to write articles made me sick to my stomach. Didn’t think I was alone, but this affirms it! Thanks for the article. 🙂

  41. Michaela says:

    I know this was posted almost two years ago, but I just wanted to say, that you are Moses coming down the mountain bearing the words of God Almighty. Thank you.

    • April says:

      LOL your comment made me laugh. This is an old post but so so relevant to people who go through it.
      The spite attitude is keeping me going. I have 4 days left until submission! Late nights for me

  42. April says:

    Hi All,

    Just a query for those that have completed or are in the middle of MSc studies.

    Do you think that you have put personal relationships and experiences on temporary hold since you dedicated your time and energy to obtaining your certificate.

    I am currently 4 days away from submitting my dissertation, which will mark and end to 5 years of studies (degree and masters all achieved whilst full time working in high pressured jobs) and i’m feeling a bit weird.

    I am excited but also feel a little bit of sadness and regret and perhaps a little fear for the next stage in life because I’ve missed out dedicating myself to being in love, family experiences and generally being a fun person. All things others who haven’t gone through the same journey have experienced and think are normal.

    Anyone have any experiences to share to distract me ( and perhaps motivate me to complete this last two chapters lol)
    Education & Reference > Higher Education (University +)

    • Gordon Graham says:

      Great Start April!
      The job market all over the country ain’t that bad right now.
      Just be willing to relocate to an area of need for your skill set and you will be all good.

  43. Gordon Graham says:


    Oh well Moses had the right intentions 🙂

    You’s think remembering 10 things would be that hard- right?!


    Those who can’t do- teach- right?!

    BULL SHIT! Those who TRY and DO! Have never tried to TEACH! ergo- COULD and can nver do!

  44. M Kndr says:

    Spite is in line with how I am feeling right at this moment! I just rec’d an e-mail from my chair rebuking why I have not answered her last 3 emails and 2 texts today (while I worked away at my full-time job). She went on to say she was ‘withdrawing as my chair’ because of my communication or lack of it. This from the same chair who has refused to meet with me the last 3 weeks because I am not submitting the next 20 pages minimum and revisions to my previous ten pages… So, my first chair left the university because it was going through a split – and my second one is on a power trip and leaves because of 5 unanswered communications today. I WILL FINISH THIS if only out of spite 🙂

    • Gordon Graham says:

      To M Kndr,
      Yup! You fit right in with the rest of us! WELCOME.

      • M Kndr says:

        Wish changing chairs was easy – there are only 2 professors left in my field at the university. One has withdrawn from my committee and the other has never taught doctoral level classes. Unfortunately, this is the only choice or I start all over again with a chair from a different department and field. Neither of these options thrills me! I will do this – in spite of all the obstacles! Our university has been going through ‘transition’ and each of us in the program are having to deal with a prima-donna! Ain’t no one got time for this!

      • Gordon Graham says:

        So bloody TRUE!

    • John Twomey says:

      I think I can top most of your Chair entries…well we call our ‘Chairs’ supervisors but the ego and personality type are the same…believe me. Ok, so during a particularly stressful and arduous period in my research and thesis writing my esteemed supervisor asked me why I was bothering to do a PhD at all, not that they felt I wasn’t capable but just that there were no jobs to come out of it in the end so why would I bother. Hmmm, yet another hidden talent of our chairs…they can predict our futures…cool!!! 😉

      • Gordon Graham says:

        Obviously- that was their PhD Dissertation! Future Hypothesis Generation! (A theoretical model!)
        Yet sadly that job market is filled (how am I able to say this?) ‘Cause all the chair positions on our committees are taken!

      • John Twomey says:

        lol…very true. But look at it this way….the higher up the tree we crawl…the closer we get to their elevated perches…the more nervous they get that maybe on day one of us might just pluck that comfy chair right out from underneath their tenured posteriors….;) So keep climbing fellow PhD monkeys…one branch at a time!!!

      • Gordon Graham says:

        Simply perfect!

    • BlackListed says:

      I’ll take your two chairs and raise you one we call Bitchface around my house.

      Famous bigname decided she didn’t like the personal life choices I was making (to marry, oh, and I may have made the fatal error of suggesting that big 10 schools were not the only kind one might aspire to hold a job in). BF then proceeded to hold up my damend Diss for 2 years. No prospectus, no nothing for 2 years, until I managed to get outside help having BF removed like an unwanted growth. One more year for a prospectus. BF is still on committee, but not driving the bus. I am at home stuck, staring at data and lost as to how to analyze it, with a first chapter due soon.

      I need to get some spite going to finish the DD, but I find it hard to give enough of a shit about what this power-hungry, crazy-assed, BF to feel spite.

  45. S says:

    Ummm…let me tell you: spite is making me finish my manuscript (not dissertation!) as I leave adjunct land and the industry forever. Although, truthfully, I’m less angry now and even toyed around with aborting this project. But I’ll stick with this latter stage…I’m almost there.

    Last year I begrudgingly accepted that my quest for a TT job in history was over (six years since graduation, three of which I spent as a VAP and three as an adjunct) but I have found that I am now EAGER to leave this industry.

    I actually get to set roots! I painted my home (which I’d deferred doing after years of “what if I get the job?”), started volunteering, joined a congregation. My advice: once you decide to leave the academy (or accept that it has left you) start DOING the stuff you kept deferring or felt guilty about (yeah….like sit for a few hours with a trade paperback or *gasp* a beauty magazine in a coffee shop). I’ve actually turned into a nice person.

  46. Ann KOBS-ABBOTT says:

    you guy are the best! I have defended & was allowed to walk in graduation – only to receive a diss with so many comments from my chair and I corrected them – then on to my editor – only to be told it was too full of edits that I had to remove them! I did so. Now I am told it’s ‘too choppy’. Now I need to rewrite! I’m so sick of the topic! All I want to do is sleep! Help!! Yes, I’m on antidepressants! Who wouldn’t be? I’ve been thru Ca, 5 I surgeries in the past year, what else, but I want the degree!!!

  47. Angie ABD says:

    Thank you for writing this. Instead of writing my dissertation, I am reading about how to be motivated to write, wasting precious time. I am getting to that point where I hate this so much, but cannot fathom not finishing after all the time, money and work invested. This is the first time I have laughed about having to do this. It is good to feel like I am not alone.

  48. Gordon Graham says:

    Just thought you all would appreciate this little tid bit-

    Now EVERY time I pass the campus that houses my committee>
    I raise my fist and a single finger! Salute by uttering a rather simple yet
    direct phrase- then keep on driving past, as I only meet with the “team”
    ONCE an f-ing year!

    Ya- Spite- it fuels my inner fire!

  49. Danielle says:

    My gosh….this is the best site ever! The only problem is that I am just a masters student so I am humbled by all of you. My problems are that I lost my mother to brain cancer during my course work, went back and not even a year later my husband died after sustaining a massive brain I jury hanging Christmas lights right before Christmas. Nightmare to say the least. I am now a single mother with two young boys and we had no life insurance and no mortgage insurance (we were both students so there was little if any disposable income). I went back to finish my thesis and now I am financially tapped out, down to my last extension, exhausted and pissed off!!!! I want this…..badly! My mom and husband would have wanted me to finish but my brain is mush and I am depressed and literally feel like I am loosing my shit! Words of encouragement?

    • Elenanor says:

      Oh my gosh Danielle – keep going. I too am a humble masters student and have posted on this page for therapeutic reasons several times now. My situation is obviously nothing near to as tragic as yours but I handed in embarrassingly 3 months late! After loosing my hair and taking time out of work from feeling suicidal from the thought of failure. I finally got it done,
      Your loved ones would have really wanted you to finish, you must think about when you get to the finish line. My graduation was last week and believe me the relief is immense, but the sweetness of knowing I reached the finish line is even more satisfying. Think of it like cerebral Olympics – KEEP GOING, you’ll get that gold medal !!!!

  50. Danielle says:

    Thank you so much Elenanor! Great words. I gave myself a mental break today and cleaned my home from top to bottom! I am going to get back at it this afternoon. My new motto is “the best thesis is a done thesis, not a good thesis”!

  51. Gordon Graham says:

    To Danielle- No words I can muster! Yet but one- LOVE
    Remember what those who have left you- left you with!
    Love is many things to many people- I think in your case now-
    LOVE is: persistence-hope-and a way to focus on other things to make the pain
    subside- if only for enough time to read and write.

    Use what this blog offers – a way to laugh when you think you can’t!

    Then- LOVE can fill the void again- and you can look into your living memories’ eyes-
    and again KNOW you have done right by them.

    You had a dream- you have a dream- find that inner reason to continue- be it SPITE
    or what ever- & GET IT DONE!

    May God be with you-

  52. Danielle says:

    What beautiful words! Thank you Gordon. Everything must be handed in by the 25th and I have literally stacks and stacks of research I have completed….it’s just a matter of putting it into words. My proposal was way too long and my first chapter is crap work and this next chapter I am on auto pilot. The spite thing is working well….this is my dahm thesis and if it kills me I am going to get the bloody thing done!

    • Gordon Graham says:

      All that now – does not really need to be said here- but seems rather appropriate-
      Allowing you one more moment to laugh-

      “May the Force be with you….”

      Take care- all my best to you and your very bright future!

  53. Jakob says:

    Like so many here I feel that my whole life has been shoved off the highway by a huge careening truck for an indefinite period of time. I have no energy or interest to open the document and make attempts to complete, although the story here and some of the comments are giving me new ways of thinking about this strange part of my life I am going through.

    Like others I have put aside virtually all aspects of my ‘life’ to complete something that most people don’t understand and don’t care about. In the end I am approaching 30 years old and I am still a student in everyone’s eyes… my career outside of study is non-existent and intimate relationships, well, what intimate relationships? I couldn’t even afford a dinner date.

    As seems so often to be the case, my adviser too is indifferent about my project. I wonder if my project or myself cross her mind once per week.

    With spite in hand, I might be able to make it. But it will seem like a shallow victory if I finish. Only then will I be starting to be an adult, only then will I get to enjoy the things that everyone I went to school with has been living and experiencing for all those years whilst I haven’t. I will look back on this phase of my life some time in the future with regret and sadness, and now perhaps with lots of spite that will be burning inside for years (decades?) to come…

    • Gordon Graham says:

      Jakob from Gordon

      Welcome! Yup- you fit right in with the rest of us!
      What you wrote- simply put- PERFECT!

      All my empathy- sympathy and complete understanding goes out to you!
      So happy you found this “outlet”!

      Kinda felt good to write what you did here- right? I think that is the point here 🙂

  54. Youngdiva2007 says:

    There are only 2 words to say: THANK YOU!!!!!!!

  55. Shabie says:

    I’m very late to the party but I’m glad I found this site…I HATE MY DISSERTATION…I’m ready to jump off a cliff writing and re-writing and being told I’m not being clear..I just think its an exercise in pure torture. My committee is worthless and my chair even more worthless. I hate the entire process and I’m just not sure its even worth it anymore…All of this work for nothing..I hate it when people say..”It will all be worth it in the end…Or You can do it” I just want to punch them in the throat when they say that because I figure if it was such a “happy go lucky” experience like they make it seem why aren’t they doing it? I can’t wait to give my committee the finger and honestly I don’t believe they should even put their name on MY project…they didn’t help one iota!

    • Gordon Graham says:

      Hey Shabie!
      From Gordon-

      Dear GOD you nailed it – you absolutely nailed it on the head! I feel EXACTLY the same way!
      My committee actually, when they do choose to reply- states sentences like- “I’d thought you’d be further along than this??” Or better- ” Have you considered how much editing the professor must be doing to take so long to get back to you?!”

      F&^%$ them all!

      This process sucks and what you wrote simply made me laugh out loud!
      Thanks so much for writing what you did here! Dear GOD why the hell did we
      start this??? Why?

      It’s like whipping myself simply because I had nothing better to do with the past 9 years of my life!
      9 years! 4 for course work alone and now working on 5 for the bloody dissertation!!
      What the hell was I thinking!!!???

      • Shabie says:

        I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels like this. I really am starting to have regrets about this entire thing. I can’t belive 9 years and all of that time. I mean that’s just a lot to go through. Please e-mail me at so we can comiserate even Misery loves company as they say and in this case..Stressed out Doctoral Candidates Working on their Dissertation love Other Stressed out Doctoral Candidates Working on their Dissertations;-)

  56. Tmp says:

    Why the heck is this process so painful? We should be all reading, critically reviewing, analyzing, and writing. Instead, we are out of energy, reading each other’s negativistic comments. I just cannot get myself to sit on that chair, open that editor, and contribute new paragraphs. Don’t get me wrong, I love everything about it, just cannot start every day because that’s like climbing Mount Everest every day. Just simply starting once is a major accomplishment. How do you climb Mount Everest every day? We need to do it bits by bits, forget the whole thing, split it into chapters, hide all other chapters, and only have the one we are working on as visible. Hide chapter number, overall progress, etc. We just need to think of that stupid little hill that needs to be climbed every day. Do everything to forget Mount Everest. Believe it or not, I’m going to sit on that chair right now, isolate a few chunks and do them immediately. Tomorrow, I will only need enough energy for another small hill. I do not want to know Mount Everest even exists, for all I want is a stack of small hills. Writing will start in seconds!

    • Done says:

      Hi Tmp:
      I’m back and like you I have been debating these last few months on how to approach that Everest you mention. I read the postings, agree and just smile. I am now getting to the point of having to go back and update references to more current stuff … like you … I actually really like my topic (again – its a love-hate relationship)_… it’s all the darn reviews, go backs and … when its about done … the review starts all over again. I feel like I don’t even want to tackle the small hills. I don’t even want to think of tomorrow when today is just so full of changes. Forget about work, life, family, and all the other stuff. Okay perhaps it’s time to regroup and give it another go … take the dust off these past few months and end the year with a good start to 2014. The funniest part is … as experts in our fields/topics … why is it it appears we can’t get past our committees? I review so many technical articles for publishing because of the technology driven industy I am in … yet it appears I can’t write full paragraphs that make sense … Ah … it does feel good to get that out. Thanks … I start with tiny hills and progress to small … yes.

  57. I AM SO FRUSTRATED WITH MY THESIS!!!! gaaahhhhh!! I’m sharing this for my classmates to survive this last 2 weeks of shit we’re going through!!! GRRRRRRRR!!

  58. JEFFREY says:

    Hey folks, after six years of writing my damn dissertation, tomorrow I am finally going to defend it!!!

  59. Gordon Graham says:

    Congratulations Jeffrey!!!

    It’s about bloody time you were paroled!

  60. Gordon Graham says:

    Hey – Blacklisted!

    Too funny! So f-ing true though….. Started my PhD trip back in 2006! 4 years course work (part time) now almost 4 years on damn dissertation! I get your pain and frustration 110%!!!
    My new salute as I pass campus is now only one finger up and two on either side down.
    Find what ever works! Just find it!

    All my best-

  61. ParalysedPixie says:

    I am a poor shitty little student who’s been doing her Masters for FOUR FUCKING YEARS! Masters! Four years! And I used to care so much and now I just want to jump off a cliff when I think about it. The worst part is, the amount of unproductive time I still spend on it. I can look at a paragraph and read and reread and write a sentence and backspace and scratch around for a reference and the whole thing is just so painful I just have no idea how to get on with it. The stress is killing me. Perfectionism/procrastination? I don’t know what. But when I open my document, even if I just tell myself: “just finish this one paragraph” (not exactly a major task), I get full blown rigor mortis paralysis. I’ve cried. I’ve stressed. I’ve got a million people asking me when it’ll be done. I’ve destroyed relationships. Destroyed my self esteem. Abused pseudoephidrine and kilotons of coffee. Stolen my little brother’s Ritalin and Concerta. I’ve set soft deadlines, hard deadlines, goals, rewards, punishments. WHAT. DO. I. DO? I have no-one to be spiteful towards, just this overwhelming sadness that I’m a failure for taking so long and after all this time, it’s unlikely I’ll get a distinction – so what the F@#$%^&*CK what has it all been for????? Help. Please. Help. Must. Finish…

  62. Gordon Graham says:


    At first blush- (a light comment if I may?)
    “Pull the strap tight! It’s go’na be one hell of a ride!” no need to complain-
    cause ya’ bought yar ticket ta’ ride…

    Ok – now for the serious comment-
    Go back to the reason you chose to start your masters. Close your eyes and
    not look at that fucking paragraph again…. breath!

    The sun will rise tomorrow- (could be behind some clouds- BUT IT IS THERE!)
    Trust me on at least this one…..

    You have taken time to complete this project- yes- and you have stayed the course (work)
    and (research)…. Why?

    Because of your original purpose-

    Education is personal at these levels- you can’t and truly won’t do it for others- really…

    Masters and Doctorates ARE personal.

    If it takes two- four- or DEAR GOD- dear I type- 6 years….. you will end up with a true
    personal accomplishment…… like running a marathon I guess….

    Others see the only the medal that you wear around your neck- you know of the years and months and physical and mental training that got that medal!

    Hey- if it wasn’t worth it- and you knew it….. YOU WOULD HAVE QUIT YEARS AGO!

    So if I may-


    Get it done! (ASAP…)

    Ending with some levity now-

    May the Force be with you…….
    All my best for your brighter future!

    • ParalysedPixie says:

      Thanks Gordon. I think – and I felt this last night after posting – that – I’m going to to use you fine people to carry me. I can’t tell every one around me (people with fun, money and lives) when I’m done, or still struggling, because the reaction will be – well it’s about time. But you guys…. you know…… You KNOW what it means. It IS a marathon. A barefoot marathon. Over thorns and hot coals. I can see the finish line. When I started it all looked like green grass. But I know better now, and whether I go backwards, forwards or just stand still, I’m still burning the shit out of myself. The only way out is through. Finish line, come to me baby. And I’ll have a tequila after those ten litres of water along with ice-packs for my elevated feet. Seriously, I can see the line, I can hear the tape flapping in the wind.

  63. persecuted by dissertation says:

    Is anybody still there? i stumbled upon this post today. i am doing my masters too. I read the post and comments like a thirsty person drinking water. it so much resembles what i am going through. i am living with the feeling of having made the wrong choice of topic for the dissertation since past 6 months and despite all the reading and thinking, the dissertation isn’t going anywhere. i feel really stuck. after gathering all my courage, i resumed my field work today. but the experience left me even more disheartened and discouraged. i just do not feel like going there again or meeting anybody concerned with my dissertation. everybody else’s topic looks easier and interesting than my own. i am cursing te time when i decided to go for it and wish i could change it. i am really worried that it will never even properly start, when it is to be finished within the next four months.

    • Gordon Graham says:

      Yup- There is always someone out here 🙂

      No part of this academic process should be, or seem to be, painful!
      Yet, as you have read in many of these posts, it is. All rather unfortunate!

      A word of encouragement if I may- There is a finnish line! Unless your paycheck
      depends on it- there is no real timeline to cross that line. The point remains then to simply
      get to it and get over it!

      All of us in this blog have your back and feel your pain.

      Spite might not be the complete answer, but it can act like Advil…

      Use it when needed….

      Good luck on crossing your finnish line…..

  64. Pingback: Conditionally Accepted | Advice For The Final Semester Of Grad School

  65. Abbie C. says:

    After almost going crazy myself over writing my dissertation, I decided that I had to take the opposite approach – LET GO!!! I have decided to just do the bare minimum. My committee members are going to chop it up anyways, so why put so much time and ego into it?? I decided to stop doing that because it was just too exhausting. Now I hand it in, wait for a reply, change it to suit whoever made the comment, and hand it in again. I’m not going to go out of my way anymore. I’m not going to spend oodles of my precious time and energy on this thing anymore! I’m not going to take it that seriously anymore. So when I feel myself starting to obsess and get upset, I stop and step back, take a deep breath, and do something else!!! Otherwise, this thing called a dissertation is a psychological killer!!!!

  66. Gordon Graham says:

    “Dear Abbie”- Like we haven’t heard that as a starter in a while!

    At any rate- simply stated- What you said here tonight-


  67. Theresa says:

    I have found my tribe.

  68. NR says:

    Oh My God , I am in the same situation with you. I start my master thesis, almost 3 weeks gone I haven’t finished research proposal yet. Everyday I come to school, complete nothing, I hate writing thesis. I don’t know when I can enroll deeply into writing my thesis. Everyday has the same feeling of stress, regret, hate myself. I know no one can help me, but I don’t have any motion to study further. i hate myself a lot right now.

    • Gordon Graham says:

      To NR,
      A thought if I may- Once the race has started- the competitor will do everything possible to cross the finnish line; not even after getting a twisted ankle, a pulled hamstring, or even a torn tendon will hamper the athlete / competitor in not crossing that line!

      Pulled or pushed! You must cross it!

      & Guess what?

      One day-

      You will!

  69. C-Heath says:

    Absolutely true.
    I loved reading this today. I will finish this year… Why? because it’s putting the rest of my awesome life on hold. Or rather, I am doing so, so as to actually finish it…
    But *$&* them. Yes, eat some more of my writing. Ha ha, you have to read ANoTher draft/section. I actually feel sorry for them.
    Yes, thanks for the tip. I think spite will do it.

  70. J says:

    Loved your article! I was just trying to tell myself that it is okay to step away from my dissertation after 12 hours of working on it today (and that pretty much all my days because I was only giving three months to write it …yeah three months!). Just the little boost I needed

  71. vanboy says:

    With the consumers viewpoint that is just superb. JCAHO would not list the renowned hospital but mentions the lesser knowns. So involving Consumer Report, Leap Frog, CMS Hospital Review, Wellbeing Grades, plus the Joint Commission all hospitals now appear to acquire some sort of superior rating to screen in their lobby. Consumers nonetheless don’t know which facility to trust. Confusion by means of data overload.

  72. ra says:

    It’s really comforting (and at the same time terrifying) to see that I’m not alone in situation like this. My beloved mentors pushed me into overly-ambitious theme which I had to defend too soon to realize what I’m actually getting into (and the committee wasn’t helpful with passive acceptance of the theme). I had major problems with my research (which I was fearing from the beginning, but the mentors assured me everything would be OK) and three different fields of study I had to cover (a “multidisiplinary” theme). I have currently have over 200 pages (of cr*p in my opinion) and I probably have over 30% unfinished with two weeks left till submission. An average thesis in my field has about 120-160 pages (and I know, quantity doesn’t equal quality). Most (95%) of literature is in english, and I’m struggling with most translations, since there are no relevant works in my native language.

    I’m now 99% sure I will miss the deadline which will render me jobless, but it has been a valuable life lesson and I’ve learned a lot about myself (on a very, very unpleasant way, which I do not wan’t to go through ever again). But, I will slay the Big Monster Thessia sooner or later! (or else the fact that I’ve probably shorten my life for about 20 years due to excessive stress would account for nothing)

  73. Angela Karam says:

    I think I love you!!! This made me laugh out loud and I TOTALLY needed to laugh out loud…so much better than beating myself up for wasting yet another day. I have reached a whole new echelon of procrastination that includes unnecessarily re-potting plants and playing rock band with my cat…so, yes!, finding this post was clutch! Cheers!

  74. LucidMystery says:

    Holy crap, you have no idea how badly I needed to hear that someone else went through what I am dealing with right now! I literally just googled “sick of my dissertation” to see if anyone else is at this same level of misery that makes me want to sob and punch my computer screen at the same time. If I could give you a hug or a high five, I would do it!!

  75. Gordon Graham says:

    To LucidMystery,

    Welcome aboard!
    Indeed! You most certainly are not alone!

  76. Essay Palace says:

    Impressive post. I must share it with my social networks.

  77. Hey your views are awesome. Thanks for sharing the information which I believe never heard before and will sure help me to explore some awesome new things for me.

  78. nicole4eileen says:

    Can my advisor take away my project because my husband died?

    • Gordon Graham says:

      Dear Nicole4eileen,
      No. The only stepping stone I see in your way is if your deceased husband was sitting on your committee? And in this case a new professor with different agendas could possibly redirect your efforts. But as stated above- No.

      • nicole4eileen says:

        No, that’s not the case. My husband passed away a couple of weeks ago, meanwhile the project was in a setting-up phase …. there were other students working / helping on it too…. the actual project started 2 weeks ago…. last Thursday I went to the lab to see what was going on and talk to my advisor. Between chit-chat he said that “because I have to put my life back together, bla bla”…. he gave the project to the other guy (a Master student) who was supposed to help me…. I was speechless and honestly I still cannot believe that….
        I’m thinking about talking to the Chair or the Dean about that, file a complaint or something….. It’s my 6th year and my 3rd project….. almost a year wasted on research, literature review….. he had my first chapter before Christmas and didn’t read it yet…..I thought of quitting since last year but I invested so much money, time and effort that I continued hoping something will change….

      • Gordon Graham says:

        You are correct in being speechless! Your advisor is making a huge assumption! If you wish to keep up your forward momentum you should be able to! Matter of fact there has been research done that showed some had even more focus and purpose in completing degree work after the loss of a family member- so your advisor is very wrong!

        Do go to your Chair and or Dean or both! (Hell- I’d even go to the President!)

        Fight it! You are fighting the GOOD fight!
        I wish you much success!

      • nicole4eileen says:

        Thank you for yout encouragement. I’ll see what I can do…. But my problem at this moment is that I am truly without any will to go on… I can’t see any reason to continue…. But at the same time I can’t let him “walk away” again….This is just adding insult to injury…

  79. I just read you post. I am trying to write my dissertation and I am this close to quitting. I keep telling myself that i have invested so much to just throw it all away. I am still not motivated to get it done though. Sigh! Well, i guess i better channel my inner “Spiter” :-). Thank for this post.

  80. M Kndr says:

    After taking a two semester hiatus from my dissertation, I am back wondering if its time to just give up this dream. Two semesters ago, I applied and was hired for the job I figured I would get at the end of the doctoral degree 🙂 The dilemma – do I enjoy the job I have and be ever grateful to have it while still ABD or do I finish the job I started out 3 years ago. Doctoral classes are behind me and the comps as well – the only thing left (as if it was a minor thing) is the dissertation. To continue will mean a brand new chair and committee as past members have moved on during the transition the university has been through. I am not sure anymore if I want this… My past chair – the prima donna – put such a damper on this process, I feel I wouldn’t even know where to start again… New chair, new committee and starting from the beginning again or hope to find someone who can help me rescue some of the work I had done already… It’s not “I can do This!” but “Should I STILL do this?” Is it time to give up and enjoy my life?

    • Gordon Graham says:

      M Kndr,

      I feel your pain! Unlike you though I have taken no time off- but so much time has passed. One of my committee members died! Two left the university to find better paying positions. I have had my share too of the higher then thou attitudes as well! I also have asked your questions…..

      Yet, to date- I have never quit something I started. My children too I have told them never quit something you start. If you had a good enough reason to start something that you thought was WORTH your time and effort, you started it!

      So, if it takes another year or two. GET’ER DONE!

      Everyone on this string is pulling for you!
      Don’t give the “fu&*#$S” the satisfaction of getting the best of you!

    • smitibeth says:

      2 weeks late, but considering that your comment is on a 2.5 year old post, I think it’s ok. I completely disagree with Gordon Graham – if you can’t think of any reason to finish other than “I don’t know if I should quit” then QUIT. Academia is not a fuzzy feelings and butterflies resort — is there any GOOD reason to finish if you’ve got the perfect job? If yes for you, good, if not, see the benefits of quitting post linked above.

  81. advice please.... says:

    thank you for this post, so needed right now….can anyone give me advice? i have been writing for over the past year, and have been submitting data chapters to my advisor as i finish them, she give good feedback. however, i am at the home stretch, i aim to send her my final draft in four days, by july 15….my defense date is aug. 15…..i have sent her two emails since July 2, one being my final chapter. nada, nary a reply….should i interpret that to mean she hates what i did in my final chapter? i’m so confused and it’s really f’ing with my head, her lack of response to my emails. i think now she is gonna fail me. so freaking out.

  82. Bethanie says:

    Thank you! This is exactly what I needed to read tonight. I think you’ve been my inspiration to work on the damned evil D.

  83. Kate says:

    Last week’s edits took my lit review from 38 to 15 pages…15 pages! A full semester of work for a bachelor’s level research paper. SIGH. I’m simultaneously working on chapters 2 and 3 while my chair looks over whatever I send. At this point, I never want to submit anything again!

    I need to make this easier. Period.

    Thanks for this blog! I’ll be coming here whenever I need to be reminded that other people are just as crazy. 😉

  84. Pat says:

    Here is why spite won’t work for me: over time, my dissertation project has become so watered down and generic that it is now a meaningful, embarrassing piece of drivel that will not add anything to the literature. I may finish it, but it is not what I wanted to do and is an embarrassment for me. My chair, who is actually a great guy, advised me to go generic so I could finish. He thought that if I focused on a specific area, I might not get any related area. So I’m doing generic non-structured qualitative interviews and I’m not coming up with anything new. It’s going to be one of those “so what? we already knew that!” And it’s taking me a long time to complete because I am holding down an intense job at the same. So when I come home from work, I have no life because I have to spend time on this worthless dissertation. I went to a local, bottom tier school because it was the only thing I could afford, so I’m not going to have a worthwhile degree. I’m in my 8th year of this program, just plodding along, but not enjoying any of it. My committee keeps telling me to add this or that, or change this or that, and I just don’t have the time!!!! I just want it over!!!! Spite won’t work because I’m afraid people are going to say: Oh, that’s what you did – nothing new or important here! I could have done that! OR you got an XXX degree form YYY? Ha, ha… anyone could get that degree. So, where is the spite? Where is the motivation? How can I get through this when I HATE it. My husband says I’m so close… I guess that’s the only reason I might stick it out – I’m halfway through data collection; then I just need to write up the results. But I’m not proud of it and spite is not a motivator.

  85. JFR says:

    I feel exactly the same way. I can’t find anyone within a 200 mile radius who is going through the same thing. I can’t sleep because I have so much to do, I’m so tired from not sleeping that I can’t get anything done, I need to wake up early to get everything done, I have to take OTC Benadryl to sleep so I’m groggy and too tired to wake up early, so I have to have coffee to keep me awake, the coffee makes my blood sugar go haywire, I forget to eat, I forget to pee, I’m not hungry, I just want to punch things and say this fucking sucks, and it’s all just a big vicious cycle.

    I want to go for the finish it for spite thing, but how do you hold on to that as long as you need it? I am trying to finish this shit asap, which means I have 1 more month to get the last of the data compiled and 3-ish months to finish completely writing the dissertation. It’s like the ‘d’ word is dirty.

    How do you hang on to the spitefulness??

  86. CiCi says:

    No, not the only one. Depressed, angry, frustrated with feedback. This is wrong that is wrong revise revise revise. No life, puffy eyes, all-nighters and tears. Hot chest, dangerous thoughts and pure rage in my head. Two weeks left and want to quit but can’t. “This is your last year? That’s so amazing you can do it girl. Pull through!” This shit isn’t easy. A year feels like forever. My spirit is shot. This is sucking the life out of me. If I go in the mad house will I get an extension?

    • Gordon Graham says:

      Ok- I haven’t posted here in a while- but I think I got you beat!

      Going on 9 Years now since I started. 4 years course work alone. From my original committee I now only have two members! I have restarted my dissertation 2 times about to START a new G-D beginning again!

      WHY- you ask?

      My first external advisor died.
      My Second External disagreed with my premise!
      My Third External advisor currently sitting!
      My first Content reader moved away from the university.
      Her replacement could not act as my chair and wanted me to select another.
      Did so- but in doing so HE did not like my research method!
      Second reader- left the university- her replacement HATED my somewhat negative
      spin on web-based assessment at the 5th grade level- (Which I do find a true- and now
      very well researched stance to take!)

      So now I’m about to start again- doing it just to get the title: Dr.
      I don’t care anymore about the topic nor the research outcome.
      I’m numb…. SPITE – well- I’ve nothing else to go on…..

      All my best to you Cici and all the others out there trying to get a PhD.

      I tip my mortar board to you all.

      Stay your course!

  87. PJbubble says:

    What a great blog… wish I had found this about eight months ago when I was REALLY beating myself up over this after becoming ill, overworked and having to stretch my masters degree into another year just for the project. Taking one day at a time now, got my health back and determined to finish!

  88. Serina says:

    WOW – looks as though I am a few years behind in the conversation but THANK YOU SO MUCH for this post!! I am very discouraged by the ongoing revisions that are just SO subjective. I meet with my advisor tomorrow to discuss his comments of the THIRD try of chapter 1. I am so inspired and motivated by these posts that, even though I have been avoiding even opening the document since reading his comments last week, I feel empowered and encouraged to face my fear (viewing and tackling the chapter yet again). This really helps to remember and know that I am not alone. Oh yeah – and if ONE MORE PERSON asks me, ‘when will you be done?’, or ‘why aren’t you done yet?’, I take no responsibility in the any action that follows :-). Thanks again!

    • G. Pasarescu says:

      I’m in nearly the same boat — so close to turning the dissertation in to the entire committee for their review, only to be told by my chair that I need to add more substance to Chapter 1. Reading your (and others’) comments on this blog helped me to smile, feel some empathy, and realize what I needed to do next. Yeah community!

  89. craftycatnow says:

    I googled “Sick from Thesis” and found this forum! Thank you, I’m going with ‘Spite’, have even named my new document ‘Spite’. My dissertation due at end of October 2015, took week off work to get ahead. Pains in my chest and sick feeling, but thankfully realise everyone feels the same. Just get on with it is the message , who cares. I was caring far too much, feeling alone. Let me have a good xmas…from Ireland.

  90. dennis says:

    currently writing my dissertation. its good to know that so many have suffered just as i am. Spite, an interesting addition to my arsenal of fighting this dissertation

  91. Lucy says:

    So happy to have found this thread, I have just defended my MA dissertation and the process almost killed me. It is wonderful to hand the heaviest piece of c*^p you will ever produce to those overly perfectionist supervisors or and indifferent committee members that cannot wait for you to be done with the actual dissertation already. The funny thing is that I happened upon a blog from one of my committee professors. In her blogpost, on work and productivity, written ten days after my thesis defense, she mentions how “Instead of day dreaming, I grade a few papers, read more of that crap-heavy MA thesis, or choreograph my next spin class.” Well, let me tell you, she was referring to my thesis…knowing that I always read her blog…sincerely, I cried in embarassment at her snide comment, since I wrote it in two years, at 48 years old while I was raising two teenagers, and holding the fort at home, for my husband is a “successful academic” like her, who travels a lot.
    So, I wish everyone here who is struggling, to keep up the spite, and in the words of Che Guevara, “Hasta a Victoria Siempre” (Until victory, always)

  92. says:

    i’m so glad to find people who understand what i’m going through! i’m so miserable writing my Master dissertation … it’s seems like i can’t write anymore, every time i think i’m close to the finish line, something else pops up … it feels like a never ending hell. i don’t have a social life anymore. all i can think about is how much time left i have, and when i’m going to actually finish. No one seems to understand what i’m going through, all i can do is cry … i can’t even get up in the morning and i don’t even want to open my computer. every time i see my computer, i feel sick to my stomach. finding people who are going through the same thing is actually encouraging!

    • sebelino says:

      I have been working on my Master thesis almost full-time for 11 months now and I am so disgusted by it right now that I can’t think about anything except how much I hate it. I haven’t even checked my email for a month because I think reading emails from my well-intended supervisor would make me even more stressed. I am actually pretty close to finishing but that Discussion chapter is killing me. At least my institution has a hard one-year deadline so perhaps Parkinson’s law is in effect. If only there was a way for us to help each other out of this misery.

  93. Yuki à Berlin says:

    Folks, I love you. This article + discussion is the best help I ever got (in 2 years of dissertation…).

  94. Yuki à Berlin says:

    P.S.: When I realized that my advisor will let me pass anyway with whatever-300-pages-of-crap (after the appropriate amount of time and suffering) my motivation is gone and my interest in the field as well. I feel empty.

  95. I found this by searching for ‘ my phd advisor is a piece of shit.’ And your post so made my day. 🙂

  96. John Twomey says:

    Its a great source of inspiration and comfort for those out there trying to work on PhDs despite their supervisors’ best efforts to stifle and destroy that ambition. Although I have gone through multiple attacks from two supervisors, sometimes both at once…I have managed to somehow coax my thesis along and I am starting to close in on the finish line. You can never trust them nor ever drop your guard with them…don’t ever confuse them with being a friend or even just on your side. This whole PhD is truly a solo project and you need to protect and defend it through each and every step along that long, bumpy and winding road to completion. Hang in there….

  97. Trantis90 says:

    I love you. enough said. That is EXACTLY how I feel. Been awhile I had a good laugh. People who have it good are lucky, otherwise, it can be a sickening system of slavery and emotional and mental abuse. I want to get out but its too late. Put too much of “me” into it. Not walking away without nothing after all they made me go through.

  98. Thank you for your post. Love the comments also. I will try to summon spite; right now, I’m just too exhausted. This post helped, however. I have an index card that I keep at my workstation. It states, “You didn’t break me then, and you won’t break me now”. Perhaps that contains a streak of spite. Good luck to everyone here.

  99. Flowers says:

    Hey all,I’m so glad I found this post !!!

  100. Flowers says:

    I have a year till my funding runs out and I wanna hand in by then too!! This PhD has and is driving me insane I’m crippled with fear anxiety and sadness and often find myself crying at work and just have to get on with it. It sucks even more cause I never wanted to do this PhD but it was the only way out of a bad situation at home that if I had stayed I would have been forced to get married or I would have committed suicide (it really is that bad) saddest part is this PhD will be for nothing as I want nothing to do with it after I finish . I feel like I don’t even know anything either and feel like a fraud . I can’t quit either cause I really want this PhD so I can leave home and not be forced by my family to do anything ,going home is so much worse than this PhD . I am utterly miserable and I suppose I will be for the next year “or so”. I will try to use spite as motivation but it’ll be hard cause I hate everything I do . I really feel for everyone on here….much love from a fellow human living in the valley of shit xxxx

  101. SM says:

    I’m so happy to see that I’m not alone. I SPITE my supervisor, I SPITE every single person in my department asking me “how is you thesis going?”. They have no idea how hard it is to keep motivated. Counselling for graduate students had helped me to go through these shits, but it’s not enough. At the end its only you who can help yourself. Good luck to everyone here. I feel your pain.

  102. dayzd says:

    am late… tho not a party.. I am supposed to be defending diss proposal soon.. my advisor habitually ignores me, doesn’t read my stuff completely or thoroughly, or respond to emails…embarrasses me, pressures me, and then politically makes me feel like crap to cover for her inattentiveness. I think I’m drinking too much, self medicating… trying to hang in there – I would like to reach for/feel spite, but feeling more sad.. what is the point and is a Ph D really ‘worth it’?

    • Serina says:

      I don’t have spite. It takes too much energy away from my ability to focus on the task at hand. I do often have anger however. I am often angry that the process is so subjective and I am often angry that moving forward usually hinges on the opinions of one or a few people. I also become quite sad and hopeless at times. Sometimes it seems like it will go on forever and other times I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is definitely and emotional rollercoaster.
      I defended my proposal last month and trying to get through the IRB process at this point so that I can start to collect data. It is cutting it close, but if all goes well, I truly hope to have defended the dissertation by the next academic year (2017-2018), but even that’s not something I can effectively count on. My goal is to just keep on keeping on. I don’t quit and I don’t give up. I’ve always said that the only way I would *not* complete my program is because of death or because they kicked me out. I will not crack under pressure (in a way that is visible to them anyway…LOL!). Never let them see you sweat!!

  103. dayzd says:

    nice post Serina
    so am thinking maybe anger is better than reaching for spite and is more motivational… the disdain for the hypocrisy of higher ed! …I used to have imposter syndrome however now I recognize many professors are the imposters! Thieves, megalomaniacs, passive aggressors, ignorers, holier than everyone else and damn it you owe me cause I let you into the club, so start paying. God help us that we become part of that system. No thank you.
    Feeling I have to “fight”, t is better than feeling a victim – despite actually being victimized… be my ‘mini me’, or else!
    …its ALL a game, its all BS anyway.. and I would not do it again – the process is not worth the financial, emotional, health, or family costs. Do not sell your soul.

    • Gordon Graham says:

      Ok, it’s been three (3) YEARS since my last POST on this- outlet- of SPITE.
      I’m still going! 121 edits, 4 complete revisions, count- them- gone through 8 sitting committee members- ONE actually died!


      I don’t even recognize my abstract or any following chapter any more! I’ve left my original research question in the past! 4 Years ago to be precise.

      I won’t f-ing quit though! PhD will come at the end of my name damn it on my GRAVE STONE!

      Going on year 11!

      • Miss Moxie says:

        Good for you, Gordon! You can do it!
        I can definitely relate. Sometimes I review my manuscript and think, “Who wrote that part?” I don’t even recognize parts of it.

        I think all PhDs should also carry the credentials of WNQ. Would.Not.Quit.

        Hang in there.

      • dayzd says:

        sorry your committee member died, I hope they were saved.. but that is so fn ironic.
        And, don’t f-ing quit! Take it back, keep taking it back… whatever it takes, finish the damn dissertation.

    • Miss Moxie says:

      Yes. I’m on meds to keep me awake, and meds to put me to sleep. If my family had a choice, they’d disown me. At this point, I have no choice, so must continue.

      • dayzd says:

        it doesn’t matter how to you do it, how you continue, what works for you…whatever it takes finish IS the choice, yes you must continue – do not let them win. Miss Moxie… whatever it takes!

  104. dayzd says:

    Ok, I get it! WHATEVER IT TAKES, DO IT. I just realized for me – it will be – it is the disdain for the hypocrisy of academia – some have referred to as spite or anger… WHATEVER YOU HAVE TO TAPP INTO, DO IT. You must take it from them, or they win. .. if you quit, they win. YOU CAN NOT QUIT, find out what it is for you… reach deep, when you are disillusioned.. keep working on your research – it will matter, you know more about your topic than your advisor or committee..AND THAT IS THE PROBLEM, haha. Reframe and reprise. You have no choice as Miss Moxie said, you must finish and you will get through. Pain is temporary – finish as quick as you can… the best dissertation is the done dissertation.. so true – same your research passions for after you are done.
    Good luck everyone… this blog has helped me so much… really we are all in the same boat! LET’s DO THIS, damn it!

  105. Roger says:

    This has been so cathartic to read. I defended my Master’s just yesterday after six years…going at night, working, the whole nine yards. Changed advisors twice. Bless you all who are taking or have taken the PhD track – hats off to you.

    And yes, spite was a huge factor. (It might be why I’m reading this now.) For all of the family members who asked in voices full of disdain, “Well, why would you even want to pursue college?”…or the folks I was super-jealous of for living high on the hog having never had to go this route…for seeing fellow students’ work that was just torn to shreds for ego reasons…or for the (admittedly, just) one lone holdout on the committee who insisted on shitting on my baby right to the end.

    No one’s going to take my degree and no one’s going to take my belief that spite can, in the right situations, be awesome. So happy. Because of spite. And for all of you.

  106. PedalRon says:

    A little late to this party, but I like this, so here goes.

    I’m stuck inside my office on yet another weekend, trying to re-edit a chapter I’ve already edited numerous times. My wife and young son are at home sick, I should be there with them. Instead, I’m editing a chapter. I’ve been in graduate school for longer than I will even allow myself to recall. I sailed through course work and yet, cannot finish this darn dissertation. Part of it is my fault, and I’ve hit some major departmental hurdles. Additionally, while I think my project and evidence need to be put out there (a totally overlooked piece of the puzzle that is actually VERY relevant today), I have a full-time job and finishing my Ph.D. will not affect my career or income in the near future. (I’m not planning on going into academia, I like my job, work probably half the time a professor does, and make more than the vast majority of academics). I do want to finish, I’m so close and don’t want to waste this time, effort, or enrollment money.

    That said, one of my co-chairs rejects all my chapters and just last week told me I need to prove that I’m an academic and can do this work. I wanted to scream. Um…about 40 Ph.D. professors at three different universities have voted on this with their grading/feedback of my work. Why are you the lone gatekeeper to say I’m not an academic?

    It really makes me angry but, I also have a GREAT target for my spite.

    Thanks for this writing. The good news: come May I should be done and gone forever, just a 35 hour work week and I’ll NEVER have to re-edit another dissertation chapter. That should be motivation enough.

    • Miss Moxie says:


      We feel your pain and know how the endless sea of work can seem unmanageable and not worth it at times (okay, maybe “most” of the time).

      Like you, I have some doubters also (it’s hard to understand why people blatantly take pleasure in insulting us at times), but some great supporters. Continue to listen to your supporters. I was ready to throw in the towel last week until I realized I never listened to people that tried to put up barriers in the past, so why should I start listening to them now? (I certainly don’t mind if someone disagrees with me, but some of these people seem to delight in being snarky and condescending to students.)

      I’m going back into academia when this process is over because I love to teach, but realized that the state-wide salary reporting of current Assistant Professors make half of what I currently do in full-time practice. I’m not exaggerating. It’s quite a sting, and primarily why I haven’t pushed to get done sooner.

      Hang in there. You can do it. They didn’t break you then, and they won’t break you now.

      • PedalRon says:

        Thank you very, very much for your feedback and support. It’s so tough, as I vacillate between being really motivated and confident, then feeling like I have no idea how to make the changes my co-chairs want. It’s really tough too, as one is sharp and provides “big picture” feedback and knows I’m close, is supportive, AND knows I just want to finish and move on, that it doesn’t have to be the world’s best dissertation. The other one nitpicks at grammar and has a view of how all dissertations should be and mine doesn’t fit it. She also cannot grasp I just want to move on, don’t need this to get a job. In speaking with another professor last week, I’m not the first student she’s done this with AND she’s driven away a few other advisees. Additionally, the professor pretty much said she’s not intellectually curious and is bored/overwhelmed by work outside her narrow field, so shuts down and just hammers you on grammar.

        This is also VERY difficult as I’m a very motivated and strong person and this is honestly the first thing in my life I’ve ever struggled to complete and struggled to be optimistic about. So, all of this is so foreign to me. One minute I feel close and know I can do it, the next I’m scratching my head wondering what to do next. I guess I just need to dig deep and be ultra-optimistic and head strong. The fact is that I have the entire thing drafted, cited, written, so I really can’t even allow myself to consider not finishing or giving up.

        I too LOVE teaching, just happy with my current job and also don’t miss the other bureaucratic stuff of the academic world. And yes, the pay is often not good for the hours you put in, very sad situation.

      • Blairmo says:

        I love that many many things in our world may change… but this truth… written in 2011 holds so true to so many right now in 2017… and I wish I’d known this in 1997 when I tearfully and angrily walked out of my lab with my unfinished chapters and never went back… boy, do I wish I had. So .. keep going, do it with all the spite you can muster. Please keep going for all of us whose unclaimed PhDs lie three quarters finished in the dust at the side of the road, hit once too many times by the idiot shnerp of a Prof who picks and picks until there is despair in the air.
        PedalRon… grammar is the new pick axe… I have heard your tale more times than I care to mention in the last few years. Advice? Make friends with a grammar pedant, (lurk around the grad school humanities dept coffee doc!) who will genuinely LOVE going through your thesis correcting conjunctions and all the other things we ignored at school! (Probably for the price of a supply of coffee and an acknowledgment!)
        All the best mate.

      • Dr. Moxie says:

        I finished in honor of you, Blairmo. Your post touched me so deeply. I dragged myself across the finish line with the help of family, friends, Cheese-its, medications, and remembered your post from 1/23/17. We did it. ❤

  107. PedalRon says:

    Thanks, Blairmo! I really appreciate your positive energy. I am not going to walk away unfinished, I just can’t, especially because of how long I’ve been at it and how close I really am. I’m really down to the re-editing and re-organizing phase. I realized last night that when I feel overwhelmed or overly negative, I just need to get up and walk my dogs or go for a quick bike ride. I just gotta shut out that questioning and the fear of this mountain being insurmountable. I feel 1000x better today.

    To be honest, I have had a Grammar Cop comb it over…plus a friend with an MFA in English & Writing. This one co-chair just doesn’t have/can’t be bother to make constructive comments, so they harp on the small things. The fact that another faculty member, one I know and respect and have worked with, told me flat out that she has a bad habit of this AND has driven away other students really gives me peace of mind. It’s not just me! This is her bad habit.

    I’m just going to keep on pushing through. I’ve been given a hard deadline of 3/31. I can handle 10 weeks of this, especially if I’ll be done forever! I’m putting as much as I can on hold, cutting out anything unnecessary, and just going full tilt for these next few weeks.

    I appreciate your kindness and positive energy!!

  108. sad_african says:

    i was laughing so much at this entire thread. so much of it is me right now as i struggle to complete the last leg of my masters degree. i hate my topic, i hate my supervisors and im scared that i don’t know how to be an adult once this is done as i went straight from undergrad into this hell.
    this has made me feel better though. what got me working is sheer panic. everyone around me was putting their best foot forward and there i was sitting like a lump being depressed for a year. im not even close to finishing, but bit by bit im letting go of my perfectionist self in favour of throwing this horrid text right in my department’s face so they can free me from these torturous bonds… at least until my defense.
    to anyone reading this, no matter what stage you are on in your postgrad hellride, just know that there is an end. quitting isnt failure if you truly feel that youve given it everything youve got. that’s the only way you can walk away with no regrets. good luck.
    ps i love the fact that this is still relevant after 6 years. i got here by googling “im dying my thesis is killing me” XD

  109. PrisonDoc says:

    Three months from this saturday is my deadline to turn in my dissertation after eight years of doctoral study, three children, a wedding, and one extension granted by my grad school. I am so over it I spend time thinking of leaving the field and trying out something completely different. But I WON’T QUIT and I’ve put my advisors on notice that they can’t drag their feet. I’m so close, spite and imagining being hooded are about the only things getting me through. I don’t feel persistent, I feel spiteful and focused on putting it in the rear view.

  110. PedalRon says:

    Just to reply, I’m in a similar situation. I’ve been in graduate school even longer, I have a 9 month old, married now for 4 years, have a M-F full-time job, and have had a few extensions. I’ve been put on notice that I need a full draft by the end of March. (I have 4/5 chapters written, with 3 of them read by my co-chairs). I’m very close as well, all my research done and a lot of the writing as well.

    Keep it up! I feel your pain and frustrations. I go back and forth from being confident I can do it, to feeling that it’s overwhelming. I HATE having to work early mornings and late evenings, after working a full day. It’s tough to concentrate. Plus, I’m away from my family most weekends, which is horrible. AND working on my dissertation negatively affects my success at my job, which I really enjoy and which has no relation to my degree. And, my degree is only hindering my job and graduating won’t have any real impact, other than giving me more free time/rest.

    At this point I’m just doing it because I’m so close, I’ve come this far, and I really want to prove my doubters wrong, ALWAYS have that Ph.D. in my back pocket, and to make my wife, son, and families proud.

    Keep on going! I know how hard it is with one child, so three blows my mind. For me, a firm deadline is going to help me push through. If I’ve put up with this stress and guilt for years, two months is a cake walk. You can do it!!

  111. Daniel C says:

    The struggle is so real. Finishing a dissertation and going through the the whole process isn`t so easy and fun as people depict and think of it. The only thing that keeps me going is ,as you clearly mentined, the “in spite” factor. Because now, after so much time, I can`t even imagine any other reason.

    • MM says:

      Yes. Before I started, I had a conversation with a drug rep acquaintance and the subject of unfinished dissertations came up. He had not been through any part of the process, so he mentioned, “Why would someone get that far and just QUIT?” I wish I knew a definitive answer to that question, but I understand and I would never think that way after knowing what the process is like now.

      Plodding forward!

  112. Lilly says:

    Thank you! This is a great and useful post. Same goes for the comments.

    In my candidature (Australia) I have been bullied, ignored, and ‘supported’ by totally negligent (yet predictably condescending) committee members and HR. I was in the process of making formal complaints and getting big-shot lawyers in case the university were about to ‘terminate’ my enrollment. They didn’t, but I am going to push ahead with formal complaints to the uni, ombudsman AND with lawyers. Students should not have to put up with all this crap. Universities need a wake-up call that they DO actually have responsibilities in supporting students if they are receiving money from students and governments to do just that, and are going to stamp the Doctorates with their name!

    I really am finishing my doctorate DESPITE the university.
    And I will do so out of spite 🙂

    Here’s to another rage-filled day of scholarship 🙂

    • Calu says:

      After all these years this post still resonates ! and it is for a good reason! I will keep going, keep moving, I will finish this..maybe out of spite or maybe just because I am so tired that I want to think that there is a life after all this shit…I started this with lots of hope, dreams and even love…after 6 years this is my worst nightmare and I just want to wake up!
      5 months! and it will be over

  113. Miss Moxie says:

    Hi. How’s everyone doing these days? I hope you all are doing well. Does anyone have tips for losing any sort of adrenaline response mid-way through the dissertation? All of my things are late most of the time and I’m just crawling along. Difficulty focusing on the chart review is also a problem. I don’t feel depressed, just so hard to concentrate. My doctor is not nuts about adding stimulants, and I’d like to get through this process without adding a fourth medication to my regimen (crazy, I know). Coffee and non-stop carbs aren’t cutting it anymore. Any advice is welcome. I have no one else to talk to about this. Thank you!

    • Blairmo says:

      Easier said than done..l but less coffee, more fruit (and I know the amount of bananas or strawberries you’d have to eat for mood stimulation would leave you on the loo for most of your study time…but…!) go to bed dead on the same time and get up dead on the same time… and try to have at least one 20 minute walk somewhere where there aren’t many people so you can rant at the horrid protagonists in your corner of academia! That will all help you focus on one thing at a time. Don’t sit looking at one part thinking of ‘that other thing’… do one thing at a time and do it well and you will get through this. You are already super human and should be recruited by special forces for your sheer will under torture to get this far. Good luck!!!!

      • Miss Moxie says:

        Blairmo, thank you so much. I did more physical activity today than I normally do, and am now more calm; I feel like I can settle into a little more work now. Your kind words helped more than you can know! I’ll give it a try.

  114. janalo says:

    Oh my I am there, three years worked through darkness to light, and back done most of it and now just thinking of it makes me vomit. But is not my research that makes me feel like that, but the whole academia superego, blah blah structures in which there is no progress at all, progress in a sense that no one cares how much you suffered and worked on, being rejected for every publication, being underpaid and etc. Just the whole academia makes me vomit. Thank you for the post, even though I still don’t quite understand this “spite” thing. 🙂

    • Miss Moxie says:

      Agree to all of the above. The reward for a pie eating contest is winning a hundred more pies. 🙂

      I am devoid of emotion, so have no “spite” in me. I crawl ahead for people like Blairmo who commented above: “Please keep going… for those who have unfinished PhDs”… and also for all of the people that post here, and understand.

  115. Smitha Sanjeev says:

    I feel the same way right now. I am unable to read a single paper , or a write a single word in my own without wanting to fall right asleep. Every fibre in my body just wants to go out in the sun and relax , but whats the point. Why this miserable life. On one hand, I just want to finish it and get it over with so I can move on with my life, and one the other I know I still have 2 months and I am “smart” enough to finish it in a week. So why is that week not now? What do I do? Somebody help me find some motivation.

  116. everydayaoi says:

    Now this post is the only thing that can somehow soothe me. Let’s hope this spite policy will work for me.

  117. Sneha says:

    Thank you for this.

  118. Jtowmey says:

    To all those struggling out there just know you are not alone….believe me…you are not alone. There are so many times over the many, many years a PhD can take when you will be tested, mentally and physically. You will want to quit repeatedly. You will question the sanity and stupidity of having inflicted this situation on yourself. You will get treated badly. You will think no one is as bad as you are at this whole ‘academic shit.’ But, beyond all reason….keep going. Let spite, loathing, love or stubbornness drive you on.

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  120. Jeff says:

    thank god i found this post and read these replies. i’ve reached my breaking point with my dissertation. i’m a year past my deadline, and my adviser wants it done now. as i’m writing, it’s 1:42 am and I’m totally tweaked out on caffeine. i love/hate my project so bad it hurts. i honestly feel like I’m going insane over here. AAAHHHH!!!! okay, sorry, just had to get that out. thank you all for sharing this.

  121. Calu says:

    After all these years this post still resonates ! and it is for a good reason! I will keep going, keep moving, I will finish this..maybe out of spite or maybe just because I am so tired that I want to think that there is a life after all this shit…I started this with lots of hope, dreams and even love…after 6 years this is my worst nightmare and I just want to wake up!

  122. PedalRon says:

    I have a full-time job, a wife, and a 23-month old son. Job is completely unrelated to my dissertation/degree. I try to work evenings, but have no motivation after already being at a computer 8-9 hours. Weekends I’d rather spend with my family. I’m so close, but still feels far some days. Full draft, advisor has offered to just take what I have and help me get it publishable. Totally on board with me finishing as fast as possible and it NOT having to be great because I am NOT going into the academic world.

    But, I’m so close. And the research is also relevant and important. I BADLY want to finish up since I hate giving up on things and I don’t want to disappoint family/friends who’ve been so supportive over the years. But whenever I sit down to work on it, it feels overwhelming and I find something else to do for a few hours. UGH. I’ve always been so committed and hard working. This entire dissertation process has made me so unfocussed and lazy and procrastination prone. I NEED to finish it for a variety of reasons and I’m going to make this happen finally this spring!

    Best of luck to everyone else. Actually, not luck. Just grind it out and finish it up so you can move on with your life!!

  123. Crawler says:

    Hi, everybody,

    I SO relate to the pain and suffering shared on this blog. Thanks for telling!

    I am in my sixth year, now drained in every way (trying to keep sane and live on nothing), and still working on this fuxxing phd. I think I will manage to finnish by the end of June. Please, let this be true!

    Really.. I am desperate to get out of this hell and on with my real life. The process of this phd.. og my gad, what a mistake! Just.. everything from my arrogant and superegoistic supervisor (I once thought he was human), the lack of motivation, my depressed colleagues, the system that fails us slaves, the underpaid job, the hopeless situation (quitting and facing the failure for the rest of my life of just keep going on and on and on).. In sum: the everything about this situation.. It must end. Please, soon!

    It helps knowing that others experience the same. I feel you, guys.

  124. n says:

    Ha Ha! Thanks I think I needed this today. I’m so far behind because of not having access to the materials I needed to do my experiment and I’m having to ask for an extension. To my mind, that’s just prolonging the agony. I’m done with academia, I’m done with being graded, I’m done with learning about things to someone elses schedule and limiting my learning to one subject only. Noone else is really going to read it. My only regret is that I spent years jumping through hoops instead of not giving a shit about my results and using my access to the resources in the library to learn about everything that took my fancy. Deadlines, gradings, etc are just a bloody distraction from what you really are there to do – learn.

    • Dr. Moxie says:

      Finished one month ago. I did it for all of you. You can too! Do it!
      (When I wanted to quit, I devoted all of my energy in honor of Blairmo’s 1/23/2017 post).

      You can do it. Trust me.

  125. Crawler says:

    Congrats to you, Dr. Moxie! Well fought!

    I have finally finished myself. Still can’t believe it, it’s such an enormous relief. This site was a great inspiration. Thanks a lot to the author and to all of you brave people.

    Best of luck to you all!

    • Coming in late to say thank you, Dr. Crawler! We did it! A year later, things are starting to feel normal again. Good luck to you! To all of the people still fighting, keep up the good work. When you wake up in the morning, ask yourself if you still have energy to keep going. If you do, keep fighting.

  126. softorObect says:

    Практика показывает, что переход на ОС Виндовс 10 на нетбуке (ноутбуке) в сущности может быть продиктован несколькими поводами. А это видал?
    как вариант, этот перевод на OS Windows “десятку” бывает если был приобретен абсолютно новый ПК либо нетбук (ноутбук).

  127. Drync says:

    Всем привет на одном из сайтов нашел дестелятор теперь думаю преобрести папе, только вот не знаю про эту фирму ничего, как вы считаете стоит взять
    самогонный аппарат добрый жар триумф 20

  128. #uristonline says:

    Доброго утра
    Нашла статтейку как заработать и открыть бизнес, тс 🙂 только для мамочек
    неплохой вариант обучают работе и бизнесу
    почитайте может поменяете чего в жизни

  129. Aaronfesse says:

    вх для кс 1.6 – приватный чит для кс 1.6, купить чит для кс

  130. Meh says:

    Miserables love company. I just defended four and a half-year of work which I am not proud of because my experiments were operated on many assumptions which I wasn’t able to verify. Some results were reported, but meh, I myself am not sure about them. The process involved a lot of depression, confusion, and frustration, and I totally hate it. I can’t tell if I passed the exam because I deserve it, or that the committee felt sorry for me. I defended, but unsure about my skills and critical thinking; lots of question marks about the worthiness of the whole process. I was told by one of my committees to be grateful for being able to do research; Lord, I tried to be, but it’s weird, the process wasn’t satisfying at all! I do admire people who had the gut to quit, if circumstances allowed, I would have done the same.

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