It is just a PhD!

2012-2013 has been a crucial year in my PhD experience. Not only have I written my thesis, but my researcher persona has emerged. Despite that, I still feel like an academic fraud and my research assertions are very tentative.

Submission date is near and I am sick of the thesis. Thinking over the argument and making the links throughout the thesis has been challenging. Putting all chapters together has revealed inconsistences and different focuses through the long texts. Repetition, verbose texts and irrelevant information has been deleted. Then, signposting has been introduced. The thesis is still too long. What can I do?  Editing and reediting has been the answer. I have reworked on my claim and supporting evidence. Then, I have focused on the little big things: tables, commas, and references. Now it looks much better and nicer to read. But what about my contribution to knowledge?

The nature of doing research is a conflicting one.  You are expected to find ‘answers”, and to make an ‘original contribution to knowledge’. However, your results are approximations to the problem, so your contribution is far from saving the world. Actually, the research done is an argument, a claim supported on evidence. It sounds really simple, but I have witnessed how hard the research became as I analysed the data and started constructing the argument. Since then it has been the valley of shit. Today the exit point seems closer and I still get scared with the question about my contribution or achievement.

It has been quite daunting to write about my contribution to knowledge. As said above, my answers are tentative and my contribution won’t save the world, nor improve EFL teacher education in Chile. However, the research done may contribute to EFL teacher education policy and future curriculum design in SLTE in Chile. The thesis is done. I know it is not a Nobel prize, but just a thesis. The thesis is a justification to be awarded an academic degree. Therefore,  I expect to continue doing research and exploring issues with more confidence and precision.

I have been quite privileged going through this experience. But I am glad that it is almost over.

About Malba Barahona

Educational researcher, language educator. PhD from Australian National University. Passionate bushwalker and mountain lover. I procrastinate reading fiction, hiking, doing yoga, riding, having a beer and more recently decolonizing my existence. I write in English and Spanish in different blogs especially with the purpose of encouraging my students to write.


  1. amy

    congrats! I am working on my thesis to and felt that I keep repeating my texts, verbosity always an issue …looks like I am not alone.

  2. Reblogged this on Nick Hopwood and commented:
    Very readable and read-worthy post from a student who commented on one of my posts.

  3. I am undertaking my MSc Dissertation in August, so Good Lu k to you!


  4. I am undertaking my MSc Dissertation in August, so Good Lu k to you!


  5. The voice of reason

    Good luck with your thesis. I think most people get to the stage where it becomes a monkey on your back and it’s good to put it to bed and move on with the rest of your life. The most important thing to realise regarding your ‘contribution to knowledge’ is that knowledge moves incrementally. As others have said, it’s a PhD, not a Nobel Prize. Most PhDs are not original in absolute terms and they will rarely be so profound that they shift paradigms.

    what I always advise students to think about is framing their research within the existing literature, so your examiners can clearly establish 1) what is known, 2) what your research adds to the existing knowledge base. good luck

  6. Eljee Javier

    Thank you for this post! I’m in the final stages of my thesis (with a few months to go) and this was a good reminder to keep my work in perspective!

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