How do I stop panicking about being overtaken and finish a PhD?
July 30, 2014 10:07 PM Subscribe
I'm in the final couple of months before submitting my dissertation, writing up frantically, and have just found out that someone I know has switched topics to my topic and actually submitted their dissertation. How do I cope with this and get on with my work? Snowflakes inside.
I started my PhD five years ago and have struggled with depression throughout the process, taking longer than many others in my field to complete. I'm now managing my depression okay and, until last week, I felt I was on track to submit on time for my latest (extended) deadline. I then found out that a guy I started the PhD programme with -- with whom I have had a few conversations about my work -- switched to the same topic as me a year ago and has submitted already. I have been very unproductive and anxious since. I have 2 questions
- What should I, practically speaking, do to address the impact of this? I've asked if I can see his dissertation so that I can cite him in my own writing and therefore not look like I'm ignoring other people's research in the area / plagiarising him. But I don't know how extensive the overlap is, yet, and am wondering if I would need to do a major reworking of my own approach etc if there is substantive overlap or if I can get away with acknowledging his work and any similarities to mine without removing the overlap. Is that enough? Would I risk failing the degree, because there is no original contribution to the field in my work, unless I do the substantive reworking? The project is in the humanities and has no empirical aspects; we are basically both commenting on the same literature, along similar lines.
- How do I manage this emotionally? I'm angry with him, unable to focus on writing because of anxiety about the potential overlap, angry with myself for falling behind, and generally very upset. I don't want to burn bridges with a future colleague and I want to get this set of feelings out of the way so that I can work properly. Any advice on how to interact with him courteously, calm myself down, and go back to being productive?
I'm also aware that the fact that he finished first may have a bearing on the possibility of publishing my own dissertation but I don't really care a lot about that because I have other research projects that I want to do next in any case. Not being able to publish from the thesis would be a bummer but I can cope with that -- my main aim is just to pass the degree.