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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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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