I am a PhD student in mechanical engineering in The Netherlands, with four months left on the 4-year contract, writing my thesis. I have sufficient content to be able to submit the thesis by the end of the contract, as far as my supervisor and I are concerned. It is going to be a collection of papers that are either under review or have been published.

Although it seems the thesis can pass, I am not entirely happy with the whole as a body of work. For various reasons, I have obtained results relatively late in the process. I feel that a proper reflection and utilisation of these results would require 4 - 6 additional months, in order for me to be able to process and write it down.

Though there is funding, my university is generally not willing to extend PhD contracts. It would likely be possible, though, after submitting my thesis, to continue as a post-doc and work on publishing said results.

Up to this point, I have felt inclined to work on delivering a very good thesis, and considered working on it without pay for those additional months. Upon reflection, it seems that this is largely due to my emotional investment in the PhD project.

Is there any reason career-wise (I am still debating an industry or academia career) that it is better to work on my PhD thesis than to take the post-doc position and publish the papers after the thesis? (Obviously, financially, the post-doc option is highly preferable.)

  • 1
    Take the post doc. Finish the papers as a post doc if necessary. The thesis will be a nice bound book on your bookshelf, and that is good enough.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 21:43
  • About the only possible drawback I can think of to the postdoc option is it starts the clock on early career awards, if you were planning to apply for any of those. Otherwise it's basically a promotion. Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 3:54

2 Answers 2


You can always revise and extend your old work. Make your dissertation work as good as you can in the available time and then move on. If the problems you work on are sufficiently interesting there is always room to continue.

Whether you continue the work with your advisor or not may be a question that depends on the expectations of your field.

Most doctoral students hopefully finish with a notebook full of problems that were interesting but couldn't be completed during the graduate program. The ideas don't die just because you graduate.


Ah, somebody with the exact same situation as mine. I am done with my postdoc and publishing though. From your explanation, it seems like you will be spending about the same amount of time for both scenarios. If that is the case, I would choose to do a postdoc and write papers. For one, postdoc makes more sense financially, and you will have more time at hand to finish papers without any distracting deadlines to finish your PhD. Secondly, I personally felt much relaxed and confident at writing once I was done with my PhD. Although it is good to have a wonderful thesis, I would not spend any extra time on it. So try to do your best to improve it, but do it in a given time frame you have.

Honestly speaking, I personally feel that thesis/dissertation are just a degree requirement to document what you did, but the sad reality is nobody will read them (some might disagree). Ultimately they just become a book and represent your magnum opus (giggles) in your literature collection. If you can publish it in the form of journal articles, that should be the priority because that is what gives you the exposure outside of your university walls.

Long story short, I will take postdoc and finish writing papers instead of worrying and spending too much time on making your thesis look great.

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