Working through a part time PhD

Twitter #PhDchat recap


  1. Completing a PhD is a difficult task for a full time student but some would argue even more so for a part time student. But it doesn't have to be any more difficult. I think it's important to look at and approach a part time PhD as a completely different beast. 

    The following is a recap of tips about completing a part time PhD gleaned from Twitter over the past week. The information collection process involved reading blogs, asking questions and hosting a #PhDchat

    Four main points were raised over the information collection period: 
    1. What are the advantages of conducting a part time PhD?
    2. How does or can decision making about the PhD differ between full time and part time?
    3. Motivation and tips for writing in short bursts.
    4. Loneliness as a part time PhD student and how to build a community to address this.

    Below I describe my experiences as a part time PhD student and the "tricks of the trade" as seen by both students and supervisors.

    1. What are the advantages of conducting a part time PhD?
    The main advantage I see as a part time PhD student is that I am not required to be as committed to the process as a full time student. I started part time because I needed to pay the mortgage. I presented my confirmation presentation heavily pregnant at about the 18 month mark. Maternity leave gave me an opportunity to continue working on my PhD but learning to be a mother for the first time was tough. My part time status enabled me to drop the study for much needed sleep and childhood sicknesses. I was still able to work at a full time pace for the first stages of my PhD but part time gave me flexibility.

    Here's what others had to say:
  2. Career progress and spending time with family were common themes in the #PhDchat. Feelings of guilt about not working on a dissertation were also common. Amber Davis made a good point that feeling guilty is a mind set.
  3. Maybe what John Finn had to say can help towards that change -- knowing that being part time can have true opportunities for success in the degree.
  4. Distance has scientifically been shown to have advantages. 
  5. Clarity may come making school lunches or problem solving something unrelated at work. Part time students have the distance to make good decisions.

    2. How can decision making about the PhD differ between full time and part time?

    Important decisions made about a PhD such as the research question, research approach and participant pool can be very different between a full time and part time PhD. 
  6. My part time status has allowed me to conduct a longitudinal study over two university semesters. In a full time PhD 10 months is a large chunk of time but quite small on a part time schedule. 

    I collected my responses via Facebook updates over four slices in time. This allowed me to gather data and look after my newborn baby at the same time. The four slices in time were each approximately 3 weeks long so I only had to be really on the ball, watching Facebook for short intensive periods. If I missed a day, I could scroll back through the Newsfeed and gather the updates I missed.

    Unfortunately the time I have spent trying to work out how I was going to conduct my research, complicated the process considerably. Maybe I should have heeded John Finn's advice. 
  7. Too late now!

    Additionally, some disciplines lend themselves better to a part time PhD than others.
  8. 3. Motivation and tips for writing in short bursts.
  9. I have not yet begun to write my dissertation (I start in June) and this point interests me the most. The following are a list of tips for motivation and writing. 

    Plan your approach.