What if I hadn’t done enough? What if I needed more results? What if my examiners didn’t see what I saw in my work?
After years of work and months of writing up, as my page count crept towards 200, I started to think that maybe I needed more. A good friend showed me his thesis and it was like a tombstone. I worried until he showed me that the second half of his thesis was appendices of data. Then I worried when he told me that a colleague down the hall had passed her viva with a thesis that was less than sixty pages.
Oh no. What if my writing style is just really waffly and overlong? What if, like my italicised questions, they just go on and on and on and on…
My doubts faded. Of course, it dawned on me, that every thesis is different, naturally. It’s hard to quantify “significant” in the face of the variety of research that people do. There may be broad expectations in your discipline, in terms of style and structure and so on, and it’s worth learning as much as you can about those.
How do you know though? How do you know – or maybe a better word is believe – when you’ve done enough work? When you have enough results? How do you believe?
You have to look at it all. You have to get a sense both from others and yourself that the work you have done matters. You have to reflect on the fact that your thesis may be big or small, have five chapters or nine, and it is just different from everyone elses…
…and like everyone else who has come before, the reason you are here and you are going to pass your viva is because you can’t just be lucky. You can’t just show up and get the right answers or right ideas blindly. You have to be good. You have to do good work. And you have to have done that for a long time.
You have to have enough to be submitting.
You have to have enough to be preparing for the viva.
And that’s what can give you enough confidence that your work matters, you are good, and you will pass.
Enough is enough.