Celebrate all the little things
A doctor is a strange beast. It’s a huge amount of work, over a long period of time, and this completion is something to celebrate. The question is when to celebrate; When you submit, when you go through your viva, when corrections are received, when you graduate, when all the works are published? Celebrating one like this can feel like an anti-climax because they are not the end point, or rather detached and distant from the piece. One option is not to really celebrate much, but it’s just not acceptable! Therefore, the only logical option is to celebrate each of these, and all the small achievements along the way. Here are some of the milestones I have celebrated so far in my PhD, and I hope they give you an idea of how much to celebrate we all need to do in this PhD journey. This is not an exhaustive list, and it will of course vary from person to person, but some will be universal.
Starting the doctorate – Reaching the point of starting a doctorate is an achievement in itself. Depending on your route, you may have had to go through an intensive funding application or interview process. Regardless of your route, you had to be accepted by the institution and supervisors.
Submitting an application for study permits – In the UK, if you are doing any research within the NHS you need HRA approval. Anyone who has experience with this will tell you that it’s a bit of a nightmare. Therefore, getting to the point where you have submitted the application is definitely a reason to celebrate.
Receiving research approvals / starting to recruit participants – Getting HRA approvals (along with everything else you need) is a sign that I ran the glove and came out on the other side winning. It deserves a celebration in itself, but also evokes two more milestones – recruiting participants and collecting data. These are two more reasons to celebrate, lovely things.
Milestones Recruitment and Data Collection – I have incorporated these here, but depending on the design of your studies, you may hold some celebrations here. For me, achieving my recruitment goals was one, and then because the data collection was lengthy, the end of the data collection was different. Also, you may have a number of studies each of which will require celebration.
Transfer / Transfer Confirmation – The name and exact process for this will vary between institutions, but at some point (usually at the end of first year) your progress will be checked. Going through this is a great achievement and can be a wonderful boost to self-confidence.
Paper submissions (and repeat submissions) – Many people can now include articles in their thesis, meaning advertising during a doctorate is much more common. This process is difficult but well worth it and submitting a job is definitely worthy of celebration. So far I have submitted two papers, one of which has been rejected so I have submitted it elsewhere. So I had 3 paper submission celebrations. Obviously I will have a bigger celebration when each of them is published. Remember that everyone has rejected documents and that it is not a failure, however, any submission is a success!
I hope there are many more things to celebrate during my last year, including more article submissions, papers received and published, compiling a draft of a final thesis, submitting a thesis, etc. I am sure I will celebrate every achievement and achievement, big and small, along this doctoral track, because without every step I will not be able to complete the journey.