Why I had to resubmit my PhD thesis?

At what point on the PhD journey does a PhD end?

If you have been following this blog for a little while then you will know that back in September 2018 I submitted my PhD thesis, and then three months later in December I successfully defended my thesis and passed my viva. Since then I am no longer a PhD student and started my new job in science communication, so why have I had to resubmit my PhD thesis? Didn’t I finish that whole chapter of my life?

So here is the thing – when I passed my viva I left the room as Dr Soph ….. unofficially! To be awarded my PhD officially there were still a few more steps I had to complete starting with thesis corrections.

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What are thesis corrections?

There are a few different outcomes from a viva. You can fail – possible, but unlikely at this stage. You can pass with no corrections – again possible, but very rare here in the UK at least. And then the most common outcomes – pass with either minor or major corrections.

What this basically means is that your examiner’s are happy that you are a trained researcher and to award you the qualification if you make a few changes to your thesis.

Luckily, I only got a small number of minor corrections. All I needed to do was make a few formatting changes, tweak some figures, correct some spelling errors and just clarify a few things. Really not that much, but these are the sorts of things that come under minor corrections.

As for major corrections, you won’t be surprised to hear, require a little more work. This could be anything from re-writing sections or whole chapters, to new analysis or additional experiments. While that might sound significantly more daunting, you do get more time to do these things and the level of major correction varies place to place. So, if your examiner’s say major corrections to you after reading this, don’t panic!

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Making minor corrections

As I said I had a few minor corrections to make to my thesis and three months to do them. Christmas was immediately following my viva so there was no chance that I was going to do them then – by that point I was sick of looking at this mountain of paper! Then the new year came around and I was starting my new job and moving house with a whole new routine. Before I knew it, I only had a few more weeks before my deadline, and not many available weekend days to work on it either.

Long story short – I got my corrections done and submitted on time, but my god how I wish I had done it sooner! My advice to anyone who has thesis corrections to make is to just do them as soon as possible. Yes, I know you’re sick of it! Yes, I know you’re tired! But trust me it is harder a few weeks later to build up the enthusiasm to open that document again and try and jog your memory about exactly what you need to change. Especially when your examiner’s notes say “amend Figure X as discussed in viva”.

During my viva, I had two examiners; an internal from my university, and an external who wasn’t. When I resubmitted my thesis after making my corrections, it goes back to my internal examiner for checking. Once they are happy with the edits, my PhD thesis is then complete! Another piece of advice I was given – even if you don’t agree with the changes the examiners are asking you to make, just make the edits. Your examiners are the ones that have to approve your corrected thesis, so if you haven’t done what they asked you to, they are not going to approve your thesis and this whole ordeal will just be prolonged.

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So, are you a doctor now?

The question on everybody’s lips! Unofficially – yes! Officially – still no!

So while I resubmitted my PhD thesis back in March and this week got the letter from the Graduate School confirming that all my changes had been accepted, there are still more hoops I have to jump through. I have to submit a hard copy of my corrected thesis and an electronic copy on CD – yes a CD! – before another deadline so I can attend a graduation ceremony. Plus – I know I will have to get a hard bound copy of my thesis printed, so not sure where that comes in. Now I have sad this out loud, maybe the hard copy I need to re-resubmit is a hard bound one. I need to check that out!

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Anyway, the point of writing this blog post was to give you a PhD update. Probably not something you were expecting from me, right? But the take home message is that PhDs don’t just end when you submit your thesis, or even when you pass your viva. There are many more steps afterwards that you need to fulfil in order to be become an official Dr! Many steps that I simply did not realise would be required when I was applying for my PhD all those years ago, or even starting my PhD really. So, I wanted to write this post to give an honest account of my whole PhD journey – I will be filling in bits in due course – but I want current and future PhD students to know as much information about the process as they possibly can.

So, yes – I have passed my viva and I have had to resubmit my thesis, and I’m going to have to do that again! And even then I still technically won’t be a Dr! Just something to prepare yourself for if you’re doing a PhD!

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What was your experience with thesis corrections? Is the process different in your country? I would love to learn more about your experiences and the differences, so please share below and help current and future PhD students from across the globe navigate their PhD journey!

I asked this question on Twitter recently, but would love to know your thoughts too. When in the PhD process do you become Dr? Let me know in the comments.

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14 thoughts on “Why I had to resubmit my PhD thesis?

  1. D: the part about the CD is kinda ridiculous. Most laptops don’t even have CD drives anymore! So exciting though! 😀

    I really hope I won’t have to do additional experiments on mine after I submit it :/

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    1. The CD part is the bit I don’t quite know how I’m going to do :/ they will probably want an electronic copy in addition as well which is slightly ridiculous, but as I said in my post – if they ask for it, just do it to stop it dragging out longer. I highly doubt you will need extra experiments. Any good supervisor won’t let you submit until you have all you need. And even then, you are the expert and you can defend what you have done. Plus your examiners should understand the whole time and money issue that come with research. What stage are you at?

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    1. Oh really? So, you submit your thesis and your examiner’s read and suggest correction first? Then you defend the corrected thesis? Could it be that you have to correct things again afterwards depending on what comes up in your defence? Thank you – I’m nearly done with this all.

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      1. Yes, it’s exactly like that 😊 Except no further corrections at all after defence. At the time of defence, the thesis is already a published book with it’s own ISBN number. It’s printed into at least 50 copies, of which 6 are placed in national archives and 2-3 are placed in the uni library.

        So, the defence is “just” a show, not an exam per se, as you’ve sort of passed already. With that said, it’s possible to fail at the defence, but that is so rare it almost never happens. The defence is public, which is also partly why the thesis should be available to the general public before the defence, so that anyone can criticise and scrutinise my work.

        On defence day, I first have to give a trial lecture of exactly 45 min on a topic revealed to me 14 days before, which is within my field, but not my exact topic. If I pass, I can use up to 45 min to present my thesis. Then the 2 opponents take turns in questioning my work and discussing my opinions on the subject. And surviving this, I got my title 😎

        Which I think is good, because I would hate editing my thesis once more after it all 🙈 Glad you’re almost done and almost free!

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        1. wow! parts of this terrify me and there are parts I wish my journey was like instead. 50 copies? Where do the rest go? And you have to present for 45 minutes before you even get a chance to present your own work? What topic was your PhD on and what topic did you have to present first?

          Thank you – I guess if you corrected before, then doing it again would just be silly. One round of corrections is plenty in my opinion. Thank you for sharing your experience here 🙂

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