Ph.D: lack of structure the main difficulty

Doing a Ph.D is quite  demanding. You are supposed to carry out your own research and reach certain results within a professional environment. Alfredo Gutiérrez, Ph.D student  in Physics and Astronomy department in the nano materials research group, talked on the differences between a Ph.D and Master degree and explained why the relationship with the supervisor is essential.

Ph.D. graduation

Although Ph.D students don’t have to reach strict deadlines to submit essays, their stress levels  are  high. They have to tolerate not knowing where they are going, not knowing if their experiment will be successful or not.

‘I ‘d say that stress levels are lower in a Ph.D because you are not supposed to give exams or submit essays and presentations’, Alfredo pointed out though, ‘however you have to put more effort for experiments, review of journeys and organization of data; all of that requires a lot of time’, he continued.

The basic difference between a Ph.D and the other degrees is that there is no structure involved in the first one so you don’t know whether or not the work you carry out will be turned down.

As  Steve Delaney, from the Counselling Service, pointed out: ‘Once there is lack of structure, stress levels can be very high and Ph.D students get more anxious’.

There is also a  heavy dependence on the relationship with the supervisor. If the relationship is  good then everything is fine, but if it is not then the Ph.D students’ levels of stress are higher because they feel that they have to carry out a huge amount of work.

As Alfredo pointed out, ‘The supervisor is not only the person who shares experience and gives ideas to have your research completed but also motivates you and gives psychological support’.

The University of Sheffield Counselling Service runs a two-hour workshop  for this particular purpose. ‘On Hating Your PhD’ workshop run by Kate Tindley is designed  exclusively for Ph.D students and offers the opportunity to meet and discuss experiences with other Ph.D students. It also help students to recognise any negative feelings that they may have that could  affect their ability to progress.

‘Doing a Ph.D is a very stressful endeavour and we are trying to find more ways in which we could support Ph.D students’, said Steve.


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