60,000 Words and a Whole Lot of Nothing

in #phd4 months ago


Decisions we make impact our lives. We are our choices, good ones and bad ones.

I forced myself to make one promise after I finished my Master's degree: DO NOT under any circumstance do a PhD. You will not make it.

And after three years, and 60 000 words, here I am on the last leg of writing my PhD. Here I am, spending days on end writing about a topic that few even want to consider, hence the PhD. And I am 60,000 words in already. And it feels like I have said a whole lot of nothing in almost a novel's length.


60,000 words.

300,000 characters.

170 A4 pages.

1 single argument.

Countless hours of back-breaking work.

And what is it worth? In its final form, few people will read it. The final product will be 90,000 words, it will be about 300 pages long. Who will read this beast of a document? No one really. There is a funny joke that only 5 people will read your PhD: (i) your examiner, (ii) your supervisor, (iii) you, (iv) your proofreader, and (v) your dog. No one really cares about reading PhDs. It is more a mark of honour, a symbol. Every doctor and professor will have finished a PhD. But the important part is publishing from your PhD, then people will actually read it.

And this produces the question: what is it worth really? If only a symbol, a status, a title, why do it? If people would rather read an article of 20 odd pages, why spend so many hours writing a 300-page document, and sit through countless meetings in which your work gets scrutinised to the smallest detail, why do it?

I am not really sure and at this stage, I think writing a PhD is a type of intellectual masochism.


In the end, you need to be happy with your own choices. We are but a bunch of choices at the end of the day. I made the choice to pursue a PhD. So I need to be happy with the relatively few hours I get a day to not think about the work. I need to be happy with the state of my life because of the countless hours I spend writing this lengthy document.

Yet I feel like it is such a waste. I could spend time writing articles, which would have a much larger impact. I could be writing a novel or practising my Philosophical Counselling, which I am only deepening the theoretical stance I already have in it. But no, I am writing, only writing, 30,000 words away from the finish line. And what a race it has already been.

This post is merely the last thoughts that I could muster after a lengthy day of discussions with my supervisors. It is my own work. The photographs are my own as well, taken with my iPhone.


😅 Jho, go away.

I don't want to admit that I agree with you. But I do. I WANTED to do the PhD... And now 🤣. It's a lot of research for only 5 people to read it, and I don't even have a dog so 4.

My only up side it that I published from the PhD while doing the PhD. This made it more rewarding. But at the end of two years, I have a lot of structuring and editing to do.

And we do all this for? The Dr infront of the name? I had a discussion with my boss a while back. He concluded that we do the PhD to deepen out thoughts, to showcase lateral thinking, to make connections within our mind, to teach ourselves to see the world in a different light. For him it has nothing to do with the topic, the actual research or the field of research. It's a journey on which we open up our own understanding of the world around us and ourselves. In the end research is basically us seeing something and wondering WHY? or HOW?, and then we jump to figure it out. The PhD journey helps shape the brain to pick up on the why and how and force us to look at things differently.

Is it worth it? I don't know yet 😅🤣. But you'll make it to the end, and I believe the 5 people who will read it will be proud 😎.

Same here. I have two pending papers at the moment. Both got that beautiful remark "publish with minor changes" and I hope to see them soon. But I am also working on countless seminars and more papers so hopefully it will be worth the effort.

And that is the sad thing right, we do it for the sake of doing it almost? The end product is not why we do it, we do it for all the reasons you listed, basically then to change the way we think about things.

But luckily, I have to say, I got it lucky, or I got handed a PhD student's dream: an unexplored region in the field with almost nothing published in it. I think there is one article published on the topic and one in pre-print. And then my two articles if or when they get published. On the one hand, a new field is scary because you have nothing to fall back onto, but on the other hand, it is so nice to produce something without real restrictions because nothing has been said and done in the field.

In the end, we do it for ourselves I would argue. We do it because we love the field and want to see it grow. Or something cheesy like that.

I'm excited for you about the articles! And yes, you got the dream 🤣. You are opening up a new field for other researchers.

Good luck, soon you'll look back on this journey and be thankful for it.


That’s what I’m hoping yes!! So much potential in the field, but few even know of its existence. Sad but true. So if all plans out, I am basically just opening the door, not necessarily being the leader.

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