Planning Your Final Year



‘Submission and completion represent the culmination of a period of transformation: transformation from being a novice researcher to a more experienced one and transformation in terms of the development of research skills, generic skills and the ability to advance a field of knowledge’

Fiona Denney, ‘Submission and Completion’ The Postgraduate’s Companion (Sage, 2008)

What does it mean to be ‘writing up?’

The final year of a PhD comes with its own priorities, but not all of these are focussed on the thesis itself.  From the point of view of the PhD the writing up stage represents one in which you edit, proof-read and structure the final thesis ready for submission.  In broader terms, however, these tasks must be completed alongside other projects which ensure your development as a researcher.  Other priorities could include, for example, finishing an article for publication, attending an international conference, starting the job application process and long-term Viva preparation.

Essentially this is the stage where researchers have to make several key decisions, such as:

  • When to stop researching
  • When to stop reading
  • When to stop writing
  • When to submit

These decisions are not easy to make and must be reached in consultation with your supervisor(s).   However, the final decision to submit lies with you and you alone.

Based on the average PhD final-year experience, below is a list of typical final-year targets (in no particular order) which I thought might be helpful to those in the process of planning their final year:

  • Finish research and analysis
  • Review of material already written
  • Plan final-year meeting with supervisor(s)
  • Plan and write up rest of chapters
  • Edit chapters
  • Edit introduction, abstract, conclusions
  • Agree appropriate thesis structure
  • Submit draft chapters to supervisor(s)
  • Complete corrections from supervisor(s)
  • Major review meeting with supervisor(s)
  • Proof-read the thesis
  • Make a list of appropriate revisions (if necessary)
  • Checking references (complete and incomplete)
  • Submit a full thesis draft to supervisor
  • Check bibliography
  • Check headers and formatting
  • Submit according to UoM’s procedures

It will, of course, be necessary to make more detailed targets and plans for each month during the time that you are writing up your thesis.  Having a writing-up plan is really useful to use as a basis for any discussions that you will have with your supervisor in your final year.  Your supervisor will be able to comment on whether your plan is realistic and also inform you whether he/she will be available to read drafts at the time you have specified.   Creating a Gantt Chart is also really useful where it is possible to see, at a glance, what you should be doing and when.  YouTube has an excellent video on creating Gantt Charts using Microsoft Excel – please click here:

At this stage, most PhD researchers have a firm grasp of project management principles which will help determine how to manage priorities, although it is still useful to take time to reflect on your progress so far and consider your priorities for this academic year.   There are several courses on offer in the 2009 PGR Transitions Programme which will help final-year PGRs to finish the thesis and move on, please check the Skills Training webpage and the Training Calendar for more details.

Good luck!




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