Viva Survivor [1] Submitting

This post is the first in a blog series about my viva, and deals with the submission process. You can read about the series and my other posts on viva prep, the actual viva, and corrections, here.

In my third and final year of my PhD I was expecting to be submitting around the end of 2016, a couple of months into the fourth year. My funding didn’t run out until the end of March 2017, so I hoped this way I would have income for the time between submission, viva and corrections. “It’ll all be over by Christmas”, or so I thought!

Working at my family home over Christmas, with a tiny desk set up in my room

Bearing that in mind we had decided upon my external examiner by late October – this is the first hurdle of the submission and examination process. Professor Peter Rowley-Conwy of Durham University agreed to be my external, which was a pretty big deal for me! As well as being a very important researcher in my field, he was also my PhD supervisor’s PhD supervisor!

Inevitably things took me a lot longer than I thought. I had studied the animal bones from twelve different sites, and each of my twelve case study chapters needed to follow the same format, with their graphs and structure consistent throughout, which was more time consuming than expected. They say you shouldn’t aim for a perfect thesis; that you should aim for “good enough”. Perfectionism is a common curse in academia, and I was suffering somewhat! The long slog of editing continued into the new year, and I finally was ready to submit in March!

Editing my thesis also included drawing butchery marks onto animal bones

I printed my whole thesis off on a Saturday when no one would be in the Archaeology department. I camped on the sixth floor of the Laver building, by the printer, as almost 300 double sided pages slowly appeared – and then I had to print it all again, twice! I needed two copies for my examiner, and I printed off another one in draft mode just for me. It took hours, and was not without its dramas – a huge paper jam had us digging about desperately in the printer with a ruler!

Paper jam of epic proportions

I arranged all three copies on my desk and with some consternation left them there over the weekend to submit on Monday!

Three copies of my thesis ready for binding!

On the day of my submission I took all the copies of my thesis over to the print shop on campus to be bound. Luckily my PhD friend Sam was working that day, so I felt safe entrusting my baby to him – he knew what was at stake! My archaeology other half Matt came to witness the handing in, which I did just downstairs from the printshop at the SID desk. It was really nice having company for such a momentous occasion! It turned out that two other archaeology PhDs were submitted that day too!

I’m pretty sure that after that I went and bought nail varnish and then went for food and drinks with my friends. People often say that these final parts of a PhD are anticlimactic, but my friends made each bit feel special.

My funding ran out the following day!


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