Category Archives: PhD life

My PhD thesis is now online!

I don’t have much to say with this post, except that I have received word that my thesis has been placed in the Northumbria Research Link. Here’s the link to it. I’d love to know what you think, and if you’re interested in collaborating on future research, please do get in touch.

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My job is done.

Yesterday I removed the yellow highlighting from my thesis corrections, filled out the university’s submission form for an electronic thesis, and sent the pair of documents to the Graduate School. With this I have discharged all of my responsibilities to the university regarding my PhD. The Graduate School will send me my parchment (which I will promptly have framed) and will post my thesis at the Northumbria Research Link. They didn’t say how long it will take them to post it, but my parchment will arrive about three months from now and I have about three months to change my subscriptions to a different email address and save any emails I want to keep, before they close my uni email account.

I’m going to miss eduroam the most. (Maybe I can get myself affiliated with another university to conduct further research.)

P.S. I’ve discovered that not all of my PhD-related research work appears on the Northumbria Research Link, so I’m going to look into how to get the rest of it posted.

Finally, you can call me Dr Buie!

Today I received the email from the Graduate School informing me that Northumbria University has awarded me the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. It’s been a very long journey to reach this point (and I’ll have more to say on that later), but I made it, and I’m delighted. When my thesis has been placed in the Northumbria Research library, I’ll post a link to it. Meanwhile, I’m celebrating.

Thesis corrections submitted!

It took me a wee bit longer than I had expected, but last week I finally finished and submitted the corrections to my thesis. They went to the nominated examiner this week, and I hope to be on the agenda for next month’s Research Degrees Committee meeting. I had to restrain myself from adding stuff beyond what was required for the corrections, but I finally decided it would do no good to muddy the waters and risk having my corrections rejected because the addition was seen as a problem. I can always add it into something I write later on.

It feels like an anticlimax.

And now I have to decide what to do with myself on my non-work days.

Official word on my Viva

Today I received the official word from the Northumbria Graduate School on my viva results:

I write to advise you that following your research degree examination, the University’s Research Degrees Committee has approved the outcome of your research degree examination as follows:

Award the degree, subject to corrections being carried out to the satisfaction of a nominated  examiner

A copy of the Examiners’ joint report and recommendation form is attached – section 6 lists the exact requirements which you are now required to meet.

The deadline by which you should submit your corrections/resubmission to The Graduate School is 24/02/2018 at the latest.

Once all of the corrections have been made, please submit to The Graduate School an electronic copy (formatted as a single pdf) of your corrected thesis/portfolio.

It is good practice, and will assist the examiner who reviews the corrections, if you can indicate where in the thesis you have made the corrections; e.g., by providing a separate list showing on which pages of your thesis/portfolio the corrections have been made, or by making the corrections using a different colour of font from that in the main body of your thesis (or portfolio).

This letter came about two weeks before I expected. I still think the bureaucratic process will prevent me from getting the degree before late October, but at least now I can start working on the changes. Two of them will take just a few minutes each; the other two will require some thought. But yee-haa, the end is in sight!

(The only downside is that I will lose access to Eduroam after I lose my Northumbria email account.)

The culmination of almost five years’ work

It’s been almost five years in the making. I landed in the UK on 18 October 2012 to begin working on my PhD, and on 2 August 2017 (yesterday, as I write this) I passed my viva voce examination, the defense of my thesis.

My examiners (one from Northumbria and one from another UK university) were friendly and positive. They had lots of questions, some of which sought clarification on what I had done or what I meant by something I had written and others wanted my thoughts on related but tangential subjects. Evidently my thesis offered much food for thought. I’m very glad of this.

I ended up being given four modifications to make, mostly having the purpose of clarification. In each case they said that our conversation enabled them to understand, but they were concerned that it wouldn’t be clear to someone reading it without having the opportunity to ask me about it. Fair enough, I say.

Three months ago I wrote that there were five possible outcomes of the viva, but things have changed and now Northumbria defines only four. No longer do the examiners decide whether changes are major or minor; they just write them up and the Research Degrees Committee makes that call, also assigning a deadline for completing them. I’m certain mine will be defined as minor, especially because the examiners said they should take me only a couple of days to do.

One of the examiners said to me afterward that he’s read a lot of PhD theses where he kept wishing the writer would just get on with it, but he really enjoyed mine. I loved that.

From what I understand, I’m not supposed to use the title of Dr. until I’ve made the corrections and have received word that they’ve been approved. So don’t call me Dr. Buie quite yet! Soon, however, soon…


I plan to write a bit of reflection on my PhD process and how I got to where I am, but that will take more time than I have today.

Finally, I’ve submitted my thesis

This will be short, as it’s after midnight, but under the circumstances I thought I’d better post a quick update.

Thesis and poster images for submitting

I went to Newcastle to submit my thesis in person on Friday. (I did manage to move to Cambridge in February.) Everything went well, I had a good weekend there, and I’m glad that’s finally behind me.

Here’s what’s next:

  • The Graduate School will keep one copy of the thesis and send the other two to the examiners who have been appointed. One of those (the “internal examiner”) is at Northumbria but has not been involved in helping or overseeing my progress. The other (the “external”) is at another UK university.
  • In maybe 2-3 weeks, I’ll receive a notification of the possible dates for my viva voce exam — dates roughly 2-3 months from now that all the other parties have indicated they can make — and I’ll be asked to choose one. This exam should be similar to what in the US is called a “defense”.
  • We’ll meet for a couple of hours. They’ll ask me questions. I’ll answer as best I can. I’ll leave the room. They’ll decide on the outcome. I’ll come back into the room. They’ll tell me the outcome.
  • There are five possible outcomes:
    1. Pass with no corrections.
    2. Pass with corrections required, which I have to complete within six months. My supervisors can sign off on this; the examiners don’t need to review them.
    3. Revise and resubmit (also known as “major corrections”) within a year. This will involve another viva.
    4. Award of a lower degree. (In the case of my research programme it would be a Master of Philosophy.)
    5. Fail.
  • I follow up with whatever is required.

I would say that #1 is highly unlikely and that #4 and #5 are not going to happen. I think #2 is more likely than #3, but I wouldn’t rule out either one and I don’t want to second-guess anyone or contaminate the process. So I won’t say anything else about this except the viva date when I have it, until I know the outcome.

More information is here: https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/static/5007/graduateschool/submittingforexam.pdf

I’ll write a long post soon, about various things.

Surprised…

…that I haven’t dreamed about my PhD before now.

A couple of nights ago I dreamed that I had my viva and they gave me a result of “Second, with distinction”. That doesn’t make any sense, because as far as I know only a bachelor’s degree gets a first, second, etc., and “with distinction” doesn’t apply to a second-class degree anyhow. But that was my dream. It meant, I think, that I’m anxious about how well I’m going to do.

It doesn’t help that I’m having problems with my main laptop. I’m not going to rehash the story here, but Apple still haven’t come up with a diagnosis/solution that make the problem go away. It’s seriously getting in the way of my productivity, and I’m really glad I never got around to selling my old one. It doesn’t have the memory, speed, or storage of the newer one, and it weighs a lot more, but it suffices as an interim solution.

It’s been quite a week

It’s been quite a week.

First, the best news: I got word that Sigma UK‘s application for a visa sponsor licence has been approved. That’s a big step in the process of my getting a work visa, and I’m delighted! Now they have to issue me a Certificate of Sponsorship, and then I can apply for my visa. Not sure exactly how long all that will take, but I’m confident I’ll have a work visa before my student visa expires in mid-February.

Next, the mixed news. I had my mock viva this week and got really helpful feedback. Both supervisors said it was extremely well written (it’s always nice to receive praise, but I confess I place greater value on feedback that’s actually news to me); the panel said the contributions to knowledge are sufficient for a PhD but I need to convey them more fully. My primary supervisor and I met afterward, and he had a brilliant idea for how I can fill in that gap. The reason this news is mixed is that I won’t be able to make all the changes in time for a mid-December submission of my thesis. I’m going to make as much progress as I can in the next three weeks, and at the end of the month we’re going to regroup and see where we stand. But this feedback and my supervisor’s idea filled in a space that had been worrying me for a while. Clarity is good.

Finally, the horrible news. I’m sure you know what that is. I won’t say much about the US presidential election here because I’ve said a lot on Facebook and this blog is about other things — so I’ll just write this one paragraph. I’m horrified and disgusted. I know that a lot of people voted for Trump because they felt themselves to be in more and more dire straits economically and wanted a change, and some trusted his promise to go “pro-life”; but his election has unleashed a backlash (or a “whitelash”, as some call it) of bullying and violence against people of color and LBGTQ people, and I refuse to let Trump voters pretend they didn’t know that that would happen. I hope we can stem it.

I also want to say that I’m glad I was already making moves to stay in the UK. I’ve heard a lot of Americans say they want to leave the US, and I like to think that if I hadn’t already been planning to stay here I wouldn’t have done so purely because of the election.

They say that…

They say that writin’ up is hard to do,
Now I know, I know that it’s true.
Do say that this is the end.
Instead of writin’ up I wish that
I could lighten up again…

(with apologies to Neil Sedaka)