When is a PhD finished?

I haven’t written a post since I finished my PhD. That’s right, I’ve finished my PhD. I’ve finished it.

So I thought I’d write about that.

What does “finished” mean? Where does that part of the journey begin? Is it when you submit your first full draft? When your supervisors tell you they don’t need to see your thesis again before you submit? When you submit the thesis to the examiners? When you’ve had your viva? When your corrections have been approved? When you submit your final hard/electronic copies to the University? When they send you the Award Letter that means that you now have a PhD, even if you’re not graduating for months? 

I submitted my thesis in August 2014. People asked “have you finished?”. “Not quite”, I’d tell them, “it all depends on the viva”.

I passed my viva in December 2014. People asked “have you finished?”. “Not quite”, I’d tell them, “I have a small number of corrections to do”.

I submitted my corrections in January 2015. People asked “have you finished?”. “I hope so,” I’d tell them. “they have to be approved by the examiner.”

The corrections were approved the next day. 

Since then, I have submitted the final copies to the University, and received my award letter.

When people ask if I have finished, the answer is “yes!”

But having so many endings is hard. Each stage is a huge accomplishment. And perhaps one of the hardest parts of the PhD is not feeling like you’ve achieved anything until it’s finally done. But you are achieving at every step of the way, and it’s important to celebrate it. Don’t neglect your progress, don’t deflect compliments, don’t shelve it as “not yet finished”. Your PhD will not be finished until it is, and couching all your self-esteem in its completion is unwise and unfair to yourself.


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