At the beginning of my PhD people told me I would be lucky to get ‘usable’ data by my third year, and that most of my data would come in 4th year. I scoffed at this a bit- how could you possibly do a four year PhD and only get data in your final year?!
Now I am final year- and have only just started to get data. Yep. The line about not getting data till fourth year- its true!
Ok- for the microbiologists out there, this is probably not true for you. By fourth year you are probably going to have more data than you can wave a stick at- but this in turn (I am assured) gives its own problems….
This lack of data in your final year does cause something though… it causes the final year data panic. That moment when you look at everything you have- normally when you start to write out your thesis outline- and think “I don’t have enough.”
Most people go through this stage. Its normal- knowing this probably won’t help- but trust me it is! I have talked to many other final years who are also in the midst of a data panic.
So what can you do to calm yourself?
1.) Talk to your supervisor about your concerns. Most of the time your supervisor will have looked after many other PhDs and will know if you have enough data or not. If you don’t- they will tell you!! Remember- it is within their best interests to have a PhD student who successfully passes
2.) Write a list- what do you have? What do you need? The ‘what you need’ list will be important- these are the experiments you need to get going on. Once those results start coming in, you will begin to feel much better.
3.) Try not to compare your data with someone elses. My data for example is what my supervisor terms as the stuff that “will make for a interesting thesis”. Yes, I would prefer to have data that proved something 100%, but interesting data is still data- whether it proves something conclusively or not. That is science.
4.) Remind yourself of the time you have left. Not in the ‘aaahhh I only have 7 months left’ way. Do it in the ‘I still have 7 months left. I can get a lot done in that time’ way.
5.) Don’t directly compare where you are in terms of data collection and project write up with others– everyones projects are different, and therefore progress within that project is also different. I know some people who have already started writing up. Myself- I haven’t started, and I don’t plan on it for at least another 2 months either.
To everyone in their last year- we can do this!!