No two PhDs are the same.
Depending on which way you look at it, that can be both terrifying and exciting.
It’s terrifying, because there’s so much room for manoeuvre that the chances of you making a mistake and going down a dead end is great.
But it’s also exciting, because it gives you the freedom to work creatively and without limits. Whilst there are of course many similarities across PhDs (and particularly within disciplines), and whilst there is, on some level, a ‘way that things are done’, there is also a level flexibility that you may not have fully appreciated. You can, to a certain extent and within limits, do what you want. You certainly don’t have to produce a cookie-cutter thesis; you have freedom to leave your mark on your thesis.
The fact that no two PhDs are the same should be seen as an incredible opportunity. Don’t settle for average or boring, instead use the freedom you’ve been handed to work creatively and produce something that is expressive of who you are and how you work. Work within the limits set by your department or discipline, sure, but also use the space that exists at the edge of these limits to be creative.
Beyond this, the fact that no two PhDs are alike has a serious implication that I implore you to listen two: you cannot compare your progress to that of others. Your PhD is your PhD, and it will be finished when it’s finished.
The fact that your peer or colleague has finished before you means nothing. The fact they’re analysing their data and you’re still collecting it also means nothing. You wouldn’t compare apples and pears, so don’t compare two PhDs.
As you complete your PhD, the only person you should compare yourself to is you. So long as you’re making progress and you’re growing and learning, that’s what really counts.
Good luck and have a great week.
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