Completing Your Doctorate – Online Workshop May 2020

Desk with laptop

Completing Your Doctorate – Online Workshop May 2020

By John Leach, Theology PhD, St John’s College.

A famous psychologist – I don’t know which one, I’m doing theology! – apparently said that the greatest fear which we all have is that we’ll be found out to be complete frauds. Nowhere is this more true than for a 68 year old vicar struggling to do a PhD while working full-time, trying to do something he’s been wanting to do for 35 years but didn’t, because he always believed he wasn’t clever enough. What finally pushed me over the edge was a friend saying that doctoral research isn’t about intelligence: it’s about stamina. So having struggled erratically through five years until being furloughed and thus able to work on it full-time, it was with some trepidation that I signed up for this Zoom seminar. I’m so glad I did!

Simon Rees’ welcome was enthusiastic, the atmosphere friendly and accepting, and the input incredibly helpful. The spread of different academic departments was enlightening, even if I wasn’t quite sure what anyone else was talking about, but I took comfort from the fact that others probably didn’t know what I was talking about either. The medium of Zoom was helpful, and I learnt some new tricks from the seminar, even though that wasn’t the point. But I came away holding my head up as a member of a community of postgrad students, where each of us had wisdom to share and issues to face (often the same as mine).

As a theorist learner I was looking forward to specific and relevant input, and there was plenty of that. We covered such subjects as how to get on with our supervisors, how to draft and write our work, what to do when we get stuck, how to submit, and so much more. But it was also the interaction, both by voice and through the Chat interface, which was helpful at a different level. Different people, from the UK, Europe and the States, all facing the same kinds of issues, all with their own tips and tricks, in an atmosphere where no question was too stupid, no comment without value: this was a really good place to spend 90 minutes.

Quite apart from the answers to specific questions, the highlights for me were the bits which I actually was doing right, the progress I had made, the encouragement to keep going now that the end was in sight. Of course I may yet turn out to be a complete fraud, but I left with head held high. I have a right to be here! I’m going, to borrow a phrase, to ‘get thesis done’.