The yes whens and no buts of finishing your PhD

Before starting a PhD myself, I remember attending a lot of drinks to celebrate various and often baffling milestones of colleagues’ candidature: being accepted and/or getting a scholarship; confirmation (which always sounded Catholic to me); thesis submission; examination; and finally, graduation. I didn’t really think too much about it – I was happy enough to go along to the drinks.But then I started my own PhD journey. I was part time for the first two years followed by a pregnant pause, so initial questioning was more “What exactly are you researching again?”

Data collection.

“Have you finished your PhD yet?” No, but…

The question of finality was being asked with more urgency and frequency when it was obvious that delivering a thesis and delivering twins would be a photo finish. An affirmative with appropriate caveat was provided to all and doubtfully accepted by most.

I’d likened the last stages to a story my husband told me about a pack march he did in the Army at Canungra: the dreaded Stand Eleven. A stand is a false summit or false peak. So while you’re climbing you see what you think is the top of the mountain, only to get there and realise there’s more to go. And Stand Eleven had a cruel, secret catch.

Merging the chapters into a final document, the first hard copy draft, making the changes from supervisors, getting the professional proofread, that final check of page breaks.

“Haven’t you finished your PhD?” No, but…

To me doing all of these things meant the point of return has been passed. The fat lady hasn’t sung, but she’s in her costume and walking to centre stage.


“Have you…?” Yes, when

Examination. Minor revisions required.

“So, how’s the PhD going? Have you finished yet?” Yes, when…

Submit revisions.

“Are you finished yet?” No, but… Oh have I?

Examination panel tick.

“Have you finished your PhD?” Yes, when… I graduate.

Funny hat and gown time, the peak of the mountain.

“Have you finished your Phd?” Yes!


So what was that twist with Stand Eleven? There were 12 false summits…

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Danya Hodgetts

Dr Danya Hodgetts is a Sport Management consultant, educator and researcher with more than 25 years experience in the sport industry. Danya specialises in developing and implementing innovative education, training and professional development programs for national and state sporting bodies, TAFE and University.

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