Ah, the sweet sound of completion…

You are now reading the blog of someone who has completed their PhD thesis – as well as someone who has waited for examiner’s results, completed the required emendations, and had those emendations accepted!

Next stop: GRADUATION!

Because it’s not polite to ask someone how long they have taken to complete, it’s not something that gets talked about a lot.  I started mine in 2003, which means that despite many deferred and part-time enrolled semesters, I’ve essentially been a research student for just over eight years.

Yes, you’re supposed to complete within four years.  And everyone who signs up for one of these damned things thinks they’ll be able to make it…but not everyone does.  In fact, only about 40% of students really reach that goal.  There are a lot of factors that influence this: the nature of the candidate, candidature, discipline and institution all come into play.  My story was one of running out of money after a few years and not having had enough done by then to carry me through the tough times that followed.

TIP: Full time teaching is NOT conducive to timely completion of a research degree.  Well, it wasn’t for me, anyway!

So, in the end, was it worth it?

If it really was such a slog, and the research indicates that my experience is not that unique, would I do it again?

Yes.  Yes, I would.

In the end, it is really clear that writing a thesis (a PhD dissertation is generally 80,000 –  100,000 words long) is the ultimate ‘research apprenticeship’.  You learn (sometimes the hard way) to manage your time, to overcome writer’s block, to situate yourself within a field of expertise, and to write for an academic audience.  You learn to be rigorous in your chosen research methods, and you learn how to discern the quality of others’ work.  You learn to cast off doubt about using your own voice, for better or worse.

You also end up with a major piece of research that you can stand by, and put forward as your own – this becomes part of your currency in the academic world.

There were times when I thought I wouldn’t last the distance…without the support of my friends and family, I’m not sure if I would have.  There were times when I was so far in ‘the cave’ that I was sure everyone I knew had given up on me ever coming out again!  But they were very nice about that, and patient, and kind, and that made all the difference.

So, THANK YOU! Especially to people who read this blog and keep in contact with me online through Twitter and Facebook and the rest.  The process of public reflection, knowing that people would notice if I gave up, was something that always helped to keep me motivated.  That, and the idea of writing this very post to tell you all that I am FINALLY DONE.

x Kelli

  1. #1 by Mimi Maita on October 27, 2011 - 3:28 pm


  2. #2 by Darcy Moore on October 27, 2011 - 5:00 pm


    Congratulations seems not a weighty enough word to express how wonderful your achievement seems to me. I love seeing resilience and success!

    You have been a steadfast online companion during these years of study. It’s interesting how we knew each other through ETA stuff but without blogging and twitter, facebook and skype, would not have been able to share so much of our professional and personal journe…(can’t use that word).

    You know what I mean.

    I feel better off for having colleagues and friends like you! Sharing music and pop culture, literature and technology, learning and teaching, it goes on and on…

    Well done! By yourself a cool tech toy as a reward!

    • #3 by kmcg2375 on October 31, 2011 - 10:44 am

      Darcy, ‘resilience’ is the word of the decade, I think! You are spot on there.

      This online affinity space that we share is such an important part of my work and play now. I was asked last Friday how many hours over the standard work week I did on average, and I was one of few that could sincerely say that we loved our work so much that doing more of it often feels like play! And having you for my maker has been the best.

      K: ‘This Twitter thing is boring.’
      D: ‘Just give it another week…trust me.’

      Ha! Well, trust you I certainly do 🙂

      Thank you for your lovely words…during a degree where my Supervisory team changed so many times you have been one of the constants, a vital guiding light and mentor. You inspire me to think about things differently, and to push the boundaries of my learning. I’m so glad the interweb kept us connected, and can’t wait to start picking up on all the threads of thought I put aside to complete my degree.

      (A new tech toy…perhaps…or else a reward of content to put onto current tech toys 😉 Modern Warfare 3 and Game of Thrones first up, methinks!)

  3. #4 by Viviana Mattiello (@vivianmattiello) on October 27, 2011 - 6:54 pm

    Congrats Kelli! I’ve never met you but my brother and sis in law have finished Phd’s and I’ve heard how excruciatingly hard it can be. All the best for your future endevours! Enjoy!

  4. #5 by Kate Jenian (@katejenian) on October 27, 2011 - 7:21 pm

    Can we call you Doctor now, or do we have to wait until our graduation??

  5. #6 by Kate Jenian (@katejenian) on October 27, 2011 - 7:21 pm

    *your graduation!

  6. #7 by Rebecca Wolkenstein on October 28, 2011 - 9:22 am

    Well done you! I don’t think taking a long time is such a bad idea. I think all the external influences keep you grounded and help you, as a student, to make good judgements. My sis-in-law is doing hers now and she has gone into the zone. She ain’t coming out until that baby is done. And let me tell you she is inhabiting that world. She used the word ‘agency’ in a sentence at yum cha the other day. She is lost to that PhD!

    Good on you for finishing and having a life at the same time!

  7. #8 by TroyMartin on October 30, 2011 - 7:05 am

    Excellent work Doctor!

    • #9 by kmcg2375 on October 31, 2011 - 11:02 am

      (I think the academic pyramid scheme food chain system of regeneration dictates that I am now supposed to scout for likely lads and ladettes to supervise as my own research students down the track…do keep that in mind 😉

  8. #10 by Imelda Judge on October 30, 2011 - 8:10 pm

    Hi Kelli,
    Congratulations dear!!! You have finally done it!! I can’t believe it has actually been that long since you started. It is now all over. Great work. Hopefully I will get to have a full read of it someday!

    • #11 by kmcg2375 on October 31, 2011 - 10:56 am

      Imelda, can you believe it??

      I should have said – I’m happy to email anyone a digital copy, if they’re keen to see the finished copy. But I’m also getting some paper copies bound, and hope to have one to send to you and A.

      I also should have said: working full time at school definitely held up the completion of my thesis…but I wouldn’t trade that time for the world x Without other passionate and caring teachers around me, I might well have lost my way (in so many respects). Thank you for ‘being there’, and for all the chats and hugs and debates and late-nights-working-back-until-the-cleaners-kicked-us-out.

      That which Voldemort does not value, he takes no trouble to understand. Of house-elves and children’s tales, of love, loyalty, and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing. Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he has never grasped. (HP7)

      • #12 by Jill Ireland on December 19, 2011 - 12:44 pm

        Hi Kelli,
        I am a PhD student working on how literary theories are interpreted and experience by HSC English teachers. I found your thesis introduction very interesting, and would be so grateful if I could have a digital copy by email. I am studying through Macquarie under Dr Kerry-Ann O’ Sullivan and Dr Sue Duschesne, who recommended I ask you, as our attempts to access a copy through Uni of Wollongong (for whom I tutor) reached a dead end. Thanks, Jill Ireland

        My email

  9. #13 by kmcg2375 on October 31, 2011 - 11:06 am

    Thanks everyone for the well wishes XD I can’t wait to have my first summer break since 2003!

  10. #14 by allonsdanser on November 1, 2011 - 2:26 pm

    Congratulations! I’m on that Phd road now. I understand what being in the cave means. I know how much my family and friends have sacrificed along with me. Now and then I dart out like a little lizard and pretend to be participating in “real life” when really, I’m thinking about the next articles I need to read, the synthesis that is coming due and those interviews that need to be transcribed and coded. I love it and can’t even imagine life with these pressures. But you do a pretty good job of describing the relief and the currency that I’ll walk away with when I’m done. I’m shooting for Spring 2013! At any rate, as I’ve told my husband, family and children, “I’m doing this!!”

  11. #15 by Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD on November 1, 2011 - 5:42 pm

    Congratulations, Kelli! (Dr McGraw)

    I quit my PhD once, and had 3 major set-backs throughout (rewriting full dissertation was one, major topic change was two) but as you said above, if I had to do it all over again, I would. It was definitely worth it and I’m glad I did (and I do have) a PhD.

    Well done.

  12. #16 by Imelda Judge on November 6, 2011 - 2:23 pm

    Lol! Yes Voldemort is dead! I seriously don’t know how you sustained it all with all the marking and expectation at our school, plus all the debates and debate finals! Miss the companionship! The cleaners still click me out…except while I am HSC marking! Then they watch me race out to the carpark and cheer ‘cos I they get to leave earlier!

  1. Guest Post: ‘I Have A Dream that the HSC Will End’ « Kelli McGraw

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