There Is No ‘Correct’ End
The situation: You have just completed your degree. Your thesis has been submitted, it has been marked, you have just had your final meeting with your supervisor to talk over your thesis and say your goodbyes. Now what? There are lots of different possible outcomes at this point, and it really depends on the relationship you have with your supervisor, and both of your goals. Ending things here does not reflect badly on anyone, but it certainly is not the only option.
This post comes from the fact that in Australia, where I live, students are submitting theses now. I have had some people ask the question “what happens now”, and so I thought it may be a question others have lingering on their minds as well. This is from my personal experience, but please leave comments with other experiences you have seen or had.
The Conference Presentation
It is quite common that even after your thesis has been completed that you and your supervisor might agree to present the work at a conference. Typically, this would involve you continuing your regular supervision meetings while you prepare an abstract to submit to the conference. If accepted, you would work with your supervisor to create the oral or poster presentation. After the conference, that may be the end of things, you might go on to publish the work with your supervisor, or you may go on to work on other projects with your supervisor.
In some cases, your work may be deemed publishable. If so, and if you choose to accept the challenge, you may very well continue working with your supervisor after your degree to work toward publishing. This is a process that can take months, so be prepared for the long haul. Publishing is a fantastic opportunity, but students sometimes struggle (myself included) to follow through with publishing thesis work due to their changing situation. Be it further study or work. It is unrealistic to expect a student to put their life on hold for a paper, but more often than not it is possible to achieve a balance between work/study and publishing if careful time management is used. If you want to be the first author on the paper, you need to do the majority of the work. Otherwise, your supervisor may ask to be first author if they have had to convert your thesis into a publication for you.
The Other Project
In some cases your relationship with your supervisor will expand beyond your degree and your thesis topic. You may become one of your supervisor’s natural collaborators (people they immediately turn to for collaboration on certain topics). This is a great way to expand your research portfolio, to network with your supervisor’s other collaborators, and to be part of projects designed and conducted by other people.
The Final Goodbye
In some cases, the thesis will be the end, or perhaps the paper or conference will be the end. Sometimes things come to a natural end, and that is fine. It is worth taking a moment to reflect on the experience you have had, the lessons learnt, and the skills gained, before moving onto your next big thing. In many cases, these are only temporary goodbyes. Goodbye in the sense of “we are no longer working closely together on a project” but where you may still keep in touch from time to time.