Positives and negatives of the Phd life

This post contains 50 negative and 50 positive things about doing a PhD. I have found that doing a PhD is like being on an emotional rollercoaster that you can’t get off until you write 100,000 words. I have had many days when I have wanted to give up when I have felt I have made the biggest mistake of my life, days when I think it will never end but I have also had amazing days with life-changing experiences, wonderful opportunities and so many smiles and moments of growth. This post is for those thinking of, currently doing or have completed a PhD. I am sure you will all relate to some of these feelings but please suggest more in the comments.

Positive experiences of a PhD Negative experiences of a PhD
1.     Graduation

2.       The title

3.       new skills

4.       teamwork

5.       New friends

6.       Writing

7.       Travelling

8.       Reading

9.       Researching something you are interested in

10.   Supportive friends/family

11.   Learning to work with difficult people

12.   Develop coping mechanisms

13.   Become stronger

14.   Experiencing new cultures

15.   Living away from home

16.   Brain food

17.   Full of amazing opportunities

18.   Teaches you to say no

19.   Prestige

20.   Teaching opportunities

21.   Leaving your comfort zones

22.   Post seminar drinks

23.   Meeting academic heroes such as Neil Brenner

24.   Independence

25.   Meeting people from all walks of life

26.   Engaging with society more effectively

27.   Disseminating your thoughts

28.   Twitter as a legitimate working tool i.e no shame in being on Twitter when you should be writing.

29.   Being cited

30.   Surviving conference Q&As

31.   Learning is hope

32.   You can work in your Pyjamas

33.   Flexibility

34.   The silly dance – you know the one!!!

35.   You become a mentor

36.   Coffee/alcohol  are accepted ways to get through the day

37.   You can write 1000 words in 30 minutes

38.   Fieldwork

39.   One day it will be over

40.   You will cross that stage in a funny hat and call yourself a doctor.

41.   It is your research

42.   You become part of a wide network of academics

43.   Writing becomes a joy

44.   You have a desk and an office

45.   Meet and work with your academic crushes

46.   Being inspired to be more active in civil society

47.   Being recognised for your work

48.   You give your family/friends something to be proud of

49.   Learn to value time off

50.   You can’t go any higher with your education.



1.       Thinking you are not smart enough

2.       Meeting your academic heroes and forgetting how to speak…..(personal experience)

3.       Thinking your research isn’t good enough

4.       Thinking your supervisors think you are  annoying

5.       Thinking you picked the wrong topic

6.       No one will fund me

7.       My peers are smarter and more efficient

8.      Thinking the examiners will think your PhD isn’t PhD worthy

9.     Thinking your research is too narrow/broad

10.   The wrong examiners will be selected

11.   The VIVA

12.   Thinking you won’t get a job afterwards

13.   Thinking you will appear stupid and unintelligent in front of your peers

14.   Thinking your selected methods won’t be good enough

15.   Emails

16.   Worrying about losing your data

17.   Analysing data

18.   Writers block

19.   Publishing

20.   Speaking at conferences

21.   Critique

22.   Thinking you will fail

23.   Being left behind by your friends

24.   Academic guilt

25.   Imposter syndrome

26.   9-5, sorry what?

27.   Monday-Friday? But what do you do on the weekends?

28.   Procrastination

29.   Loneliness

30.   Isolation

31.   Writing makes you cry

32.   University bureaucracy

33.   Paperwork.

34.   Financial instability

35.   Unsupportive friends/family

36.   Mental health

37.   Multitasking the PhD, classes, teaching and your personal life

38.   Giving up on a social life (obviously, this is a choice and not all do)

39.   Transcribing

40.   Physical health

41.   Having to get dressed and go to work when all you want to do is lie in bed and watch Netflix (this is probably experienced by people not doing PhDs too though!)

42.   Losing faith

43.   Frustration

44.   Fear of disappointing your supervisors/funders/head of department, parents, other half etc

45.   Being away from home

46.   Having to grade

47.   Track changes

48.   Double Whiskey, please

49.   Ethics committees

50.   Leaving your comfort zone


Finally, here are some URLS you may enjoy and learn from….I certainly do!






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