Do you remember how the close of The Return of the King has more ending sequences than you can shake a stick at? Frodo and Sam are reunited with their friends; then Aragorn is crowned; then the Hobbits go home and Sam gets married; then a bunch o’ peeps go to the Grey Havens; and on it goes.
Well, finishing a PhD (or an EngD) seems a bit like that. After years of research, you finally run out of time / money / patience, or your supervisor kicks you hard enough, or a job offer comes along, or for some other reason you finally have to write up.
Okay. You write up. This generally seems to take about half a year, although (ahem) if time presses it would appear that it’s possible to lock oneself away for two months, do nothing but write, and emerge with a thesis and a mild amount of trauma to boot
You finish writing. It’s taken months of time and a lot of hard work. Hooray! The end!
Nah. Finishing writing was the first ending event, but by no means the last. Now, you have to print, bind and submit copies of the thesis to your grad school. This shouldn’t take more than a day, but of course you can’t trust printers not to betray you. It’s administrative and pretty mindless, but once it’s done, then hooray! Another ending.
But, of course, not The End end. Now, you have to wait — generally for a period of months — for your viva. In the UK, PhDs are examined with a viva (from the Latin for ‘live’): a couple of examiners grill you in person about your contributions, originality, chosen methods, etc. Their job is to verify the work is a) your own and b) up to scratch. In contrast to the approach taken on the Continent, where a ‘reading committee’ evaluates the thesis and gives feedback upon it before the defense (a formal affair that I believe constitutes graduation, too), this is the first time you, the student, get feedback from the examiners. So yeah, it’s pretty intimidating.
The viva generally seems to take around two to four hours, though that varies. Assuming you pass it, then hooray! That’s surely an ending, right?
Well, yeah: it’s an ending. The odds are, though, that you have some amount of corrections to make to your thesis. The slog continues!
Once the corrections are done, you get to reiterate through the process of getting the thesis printed and bound (this time with fancier covers, as it’s the final version), but you still haven’t actually graduated yet…
I believe graduation is the final ending of a PhD, but I can understand why one might wonder if there were more hidden obstacles left after that…