I just failed my 2nd Qualifying Exam in my PhD program. It was supposed to be a 60,000 word paper but it was an incomplete work.
I am in my 4th year at my PhD and my research is in field of humanities. My major is Geography. It is an integrated course, as in I joined as soon as I got my Bachelor's. I am doing my research on a multidisciplinary and very practically useful subject based on sacred forests and urban landscapes (I won't go into details). But, I was going through some intense emotional time for 6 months (June to December 2020-a critical period) due to personal tragedies in my family. Also low funding is also a problem. I am an international student. And pandemic is just making it worse.
Now, I feel absolutely devastated.I am not going to get a chance again at re-exam, and that is fine too. I can understand why they wouldn't want to invest in such a bad student. I do work very slowly, but sincerely and did learn and correct accordingly as my advisor said for this 60,000 word hell. Though I could not do field surveys and data collection due to strict travel sanctions, I tried backing up my research with more literature. The problem here is my research is focused on a more practical part of urban forestry, and it is so niche that there is a severe lack of academic work on my topic, if you don't count ancient scriptures (which is hardly academic).
I realise my mistakes and I am willing to do everything to correct them. I just need some more time. But being told I am not suitable to be a PhD student just based on the incomplete paper (it was just 40 pages long) hurt me more than being told how my research was absolutely useless. I am aware that my research IS useless at current stage, but I had all the future work set up in proper parts so it becomes relevant. I was not sure if I can give reasons about tragedies and poor health because last time I tried that they had said 'so what? even pregnant ladies do phd" and that was that. And that is fine too. But being told I am useless as PhD student was like taking a direct hit on what defined me. It was sort of an existential crisis. The shame and incredible sense of loss is palpable and making me clam up instead of working to get out of it.
I know it is not the end of the world and I am sorry for long sob story. I want to know how to proceed? Is it possible to get into a PhD after failing quals? Or do they dismiss you if you have failed quals? Should I immediately apply to a PhD or gain some work experience before?