For more information about Royal Holloway, please see this promotional video. To see a promotional video for the MA Consumption, Markets & Culture see here. To see a promotional video for the Royal Holloway School of Management, click here.

For more information about the Royal Holloway MA Marketing and MA Consumption, Culture & Marketing and the application process see here.

To get an understanding of the unique values that underly the MA Marketing and MA Consumption, Culture & Marketing programme please read these blog posts: Value of Scholarly Values, Importance of Reading and Morris Holbrook and Business Interest in Education.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Doing a PhD- you dont have to be crazy....

The PhD. Thousands of candidates sign up to earn one in the UK every year, scores of thousands more in the rest of the world. For the successful, it is often time and money well spent- an idyllic three, four or more years insulated from the cares of the world, buried in the study of one's favourite topic. A PhD can be a ticket to a coveted academic career, and increasingly they are desired in the commercial sector as well. And, most importantly, the owner of a PhD will bask eternally in the approval of their Mother, because you will probably be the only person in your street who has one.

But for a smaller number, studying for a PhD can be a traumatic and sometimes heartbreaking experience. What is the fairest way to supervise and examine the PhD degree?

Most PhD student rooms circulate a stock of (often apocryphal) horror stories about PhD candidates who were supervised by an idiot/psychopath, examined by a psychopath/idiot, had their data set stolen, or endured some other trauma on the path toward their goal. Fortunately, most have a happy ending, but some don't.

Students who like the idea of signing up for a PhD programme need to consider several important issues. Firstly, it is a very long haul. Be prepared for thousands of hours of isolated studying. Nerdy isn't the word. And be interested in your topic- the desire to get a PhD is not sufficient to motivate you. Your interest in your topic is the only thing that will carry you through. Prepare a thorough proposal. We get lots of poor quality inquiries. You need to prepare a properly referenced proposal of at least 2000 words which shows that you have a good idea of what you want to find out, how you're going to investigate it, and what is the key academic literature in the area. Carry out your own research into universities and individual academics' research interests in order to target your proposal toward groups and individuals who already have expertise in that area.

You also need to be aware that different countries have very different approaches. In the USA, for example, it is common for the first two or even three years of a PhD programme to be made up of taught courses. You will have a supervisory committee, and the whole process will normally take at least five years. In some Europen countries it can be longer. In the UK, in contrast, you will normally have just one main supervisor, perhaps with a supporting advisor, there will be very few taught courses, and you will spend a lot of time working on your own. In the USA and many European countries your work, when it is complete, will be judged a pass or a fail by a panel. They will review your work over the course of some months and ask you to make changes. When your viva day finally arrives, it will be a relatively relaxed and congenial occasion, although it will be open to public view. In the UK, in contrast, your years of work will be judged by one individual 'external examiner', assisted by an impartial internal examiner, on one day, your viva day. In the vast majority of cases, UK PhD candidates will be asked at their viva to make amendments to the thesis. When these are done to the external examiner's satisfaction, the PhD is awarded.       

In my view, the UK PhD examining process ought to be revised. I'd favour an examining panel, and an external examiner who takes a role earlier in the process. I wrote about it in the UK university lecturer's trade magazine THES and got some interesting comments, by no means all in agreement with me

One final thought- if you really thought carefully about doing some things in life, like getting married, having kids, or doing a PhD, you'd never do any of them.  


No comments:

Post a Comment