Wednesday, 13 February 2008


The PhD has been giving me some trouble recently. In fact, it's been a problem since before Christmas, when I was scheduled to speak at a conference in Canterbury. Partly the problems have been down to lack of interest, medieval ecclesiastical history is not my favourite area by a long way; partly it's been due to worries over my ability to complete, worries that may be unfounded anyway; partly it's been due to worries over funding. A couple of weeks ago, I was really ready to give up.

There's a stubborn part of me though that refuses to do so. I have committed so much to this already in terms of time, money and effort that not finishing seems unconscionable, even if I'm unlikely to be able to move into acedemia afterwards (suffice it to say that Canterbury did not go well) Add to that what employers would surely think if I bailed out now, and non-completion isn't an option.

What I will say to anyone reading this is that, if you're considering a PhD, make very sure your subject is something YOU want to commit years of your life to. It's very easy to go along with something that suits a supervisor's research interests, particularly since they're trying to help by suggesting areas they can supervise and which don't have work in them. The trouble is, it's easy for your own interests to get left behind. If we divide medieval history roughly into social, military and ecclesiastical history, then that is probably the order of my interest in them.

In that, I've obviously made mistakes. Hopefully someone else out there can learn from them.


April Boland said...

I'm sorry to hear that you are having difficult with your program. I plan on a graduate degree (though I do not yet know if it will be a Ph.D.) but I fear that I will get tired of whatever subject I choose, regardless of how much I love it. After a while it is just overkill, no?

stu said...

There's always a point where it's just too much of one thing, but by picking something interesting, you can hopefully put that off as long as possible. I know with my MA, by the end of it I didn't want to see another example of medieval vision literature, but for most of it, it was enjoyable. From that point, the 'I'm going to finish this if it kills me' feeling doesn't have to carry you so far.