I've received several one-year extensions on my graduation deadline, granted by the PhD progress committee. I've used them all up and am running into the hard deadlines set by the university. I completed my courses and oral exam already, it's just the dissertation and user studies I have left.

Please don't write me off as lazy. The PhD progress committee, my thesis committee, and my adviser all agree me my work is extremely ambitious, and everyone is satisfied I am making good progress towards it. I encountered some setbacks, the most major being my adviser making the tough call that much of my previous work couldn't be used because its age. I work 80+ hour work weeks like any other PhD student and have been forgoing writing papers in the interest of time.

Bottom line, I'm doing everything I possibly can to hurry, but there's not enough time left. Giving up is not an option I'm willing to take, and the technology to clone myself doesn't exist (yet).

What are my options?

  • 22
    Redefine your project goals to one that is realistic to your timeframe? This could be a subset or intermediary milestone of your original project, and then you could continue your research as a postdoc.
    – Steve Heim
    May 28, 2015 at 23:37
  • 13
    If you're working 80+ hours you're working far too much. "Extremely ambitious" sounds right. May 29, 2015 at 2:26
  • 17
    "I work 80+ hour work weeks like any other PhD student" – citation needed. Sounds like your department has a serious problem if that's the normal / expected ethic.
    – Moriarty
    May 29, 2015 at 6:36
  • 6
    Stop working 80+ hour weeks. Working that long for continuous period of time will have radically degraded your productivity and ability to think clearly. Take some time off, then work sensible hours and give yourself the time and space to consider a sensible solution. May 29, 2015 at 12:50
  • 3
    Why all the close votes? This is a very common question that is applicable to, unfortunately, far too many graduate students.
    – eykanal
    May 29, 2015 at 20:02

3 Answers 3


From the details of your situation it sounds as though your thesis committee and your advisor are all well-acquainted with your situation. They will not want you to fail your PhD candidature and will be working to make sure you have all the opportunities available to complete.

You mention that your support networks are satisfied that you are making good progress. You feel that you don't have enough time to complete.

Perhaps you ought to discuss with your progress committee, advisor, whoever, what would be a satisfactory conclusion to your work. Make sure that everyone has the same end goals in mind.

If everyone agrees on what would be the satisfactory conclusion to your work, and everyone agrees that you don't have enough time to complete, and if you have everyone on your side ready to attest to your progress, then you should ask for an exceptional extension of time. This would be backed up by letters from your various sources of support. I suspect that this request could only come from your Dean (or equivalent).

  • 9
    Alternatively, you may be able to narrow the scope, with the agreement of advisor and committee. That's how I finally finished mine. I also scraped out a few extra weeks by turning in the final report by the deadline, but making the changes required by the committee after the deadline. Be sure your advisor supports this before you try it.
    – Bob Brown
    May 28, 2015 at 23:33

This type of question can only be answered by your advisor and thesis committee. They know what caused your delay, and they can likely advise you as to what should be your only—not your top, your only—priority at this point. Once you graduate, all your other projects can resume, but at this point you have one task, and that is to graduate. Only the gatekeepers to graduation (your thesis committee) can really tell you how to do that.


The typical solution to this problem is, with the permission of your advisor and committee, to reduce the scope of your thesis. I have known of people who successfully defended a thesis after 7 or 8 years even though exactly the same thesis would have been considered far too slight to be acceptable for the same person after 4-5 years. Committees and supervisors are generally sympathetic to this situation and look for a way out.

In particular, though you say much of my previous work couldn't be used because its age, you should probably revisit that thought. If you did the work, and it was meaningful at the time, it is potentially something you could include in your thesis. The vast majority of theses are today obsolete, but that doesn't mean the degrees should be revoked.

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    I agree with the ageing part. Writing a thesis in general takes four years. Therefore, what you have investigated in the first year could be outdated in the fourth year already. This can never be a reason not to obtain your PhD. May 30, 2015 at 14:05

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