No detail of my confirmation viva, nor the destruction I’ve caused to my nerves, would come close to describing the relief I feel today. I am pleased to confirm that I’m through! After a meeting of over an hour followed by an agonising twenty-minute deliberation – whilst my supervisors and I waited outside, I was given some recommendations and informed that I am now a confirmed PhD student. This sounds like zero progress, but this is huge considering I faced being kicked off the programme in October. The letter of my unsatisfactory performance was as recent as January 14th.
What does this mean now? It means with doing the recommendations of the panel (which add about three months work) I can move ahead with the research. I have received a nod from the university for the topic and how I intend to study it. I have successful defended its potential theoretical contribution and (less importantly) its practical. I can move ahead with the empirical work soon. The recommendations are sound and although they will add three months work now, they will save a some time during the analysis stage- so I’m hoping to remain on target for a completion in 2016. Anything beyond that would be financially, psychologically and probably physically no longer feasible.
Today I will just remind myself that I’ve passed, upgraded, transferred, confirmed or whatever the hell anyone wants to call it.
The date has been set (25th Feb aka tomorrow) and since I handed in my confirmation report and chapters I haven’t even read my own work since. Although I did nothing to prepare like I had imagined, I did agree to meet my supervisor before the viva. I landed in London yesterday and met him in the evening. His advice was to be prepared to answer confidently on the theoretical work within the submitted chapters, and to read up on sampling for the methodology. I’m spending the day alone promising myself I will at least re-read what I have sent. After all they would be reading it now and I risk them knowing it better than I do!
I’m on my third coffee and more than half-way. I will have dinner with my family and read the rest tomorrow. My confirmation viva is not until 2pm.
When I said I would be moving to London and focussing on nothing but the PhD, It meant I would leave my wife and kids behind (and all of what that means!), delay and risk loosing a dream-job offer I had received (for a December start) and spend more money on tickets (yes again) and a temporary move… With all of this, I was genuinely worried I would do all of it and come back with nothing. On many levels, that would be worse than not going at all and quitting.
The good news is today I am able to breathe the sigh of relief and report that what will from today be known as ‘The Surge’ has worked! There is no doubt that since I started this PhD back in 2012, I have changed the wiring of my brain from a business man to an academic researcher. There is also no doubt that from knowing very VERY little about how motivation works, I have become an expert in the area and familiar with all the major theories and thinkers in the field. I’ve also learned how to read and understand a paper without reading the acknowledgements twice and wondering what font they’re using. However all of this is (and wasn’t) enough to show progress in a PhD. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was on my way out of the programme, if I did not submit a confirmation (called transfer or upgrade in other universities) report plustwo chapters by mid January.
I had written (and very poorly) about 9,000 words on motivation describing it very generally and textbook-like. This and the learning above was all I had to show for my time on the PhD. When I started working in the first week during The Surge, I had already deleted 5,000 of those words at the very least.
Today I have completed a literature review on the topic of motivation which is a lot more critical than the first attempt back in summer 2014. Another literature review of organisational support, and another on previous studies in Kuwait as well as Kuwait’s culture. This, together with a methodology, brings my current word count to 40,000 words in four chapters. The thesis is effectively half-written if I can pass my confirmation at the end of February.
All in all this is great news – because I will not be kicked off the course and my lifeline continues until my February meeting when I hope to get the nod for the next steps… I believe I have now caught up to where I should be at this stage… and all it took was 7 weeks of 16 hour days with only four days off (did some reading and editing on those). This really hasn’t been easy – but like I said before: it was never meant to be.
I just spent five wonderful days catching up with my wife and kids, my family and my friends. I even found time to think, plan and do nothing. Cycling, meals out and zero reading and writing for almost a week. I flew back to London on the first day of the year, and today I make a start on my final two weeks of the big push that I started early November. It will not feel like I’ve achieved anything until I’ve passed the confirmation (or transfer) which will most likely be sometime in February/March. However, I will not be where I am today had I stayed in Kuwait and just hoped for things to get better with the hour here and there that I was spending on my PhD.
First meeting of the new year with my supervisor(s) is this week – hope we all come back on the same page as that’s one frustration I could really do without. Two more weeks before I submit my report. It’s half ready at present and will be complete by then if I put in all the hours God has given me in the next fortnight.