Many people dream of taking a PhD, but what is really involved in getting these letters after your name?

What is a PhD?

The letters are an abbreviation for ‘Doctor of Philosophy’ and you might also see it written as ‘DPhil’. This type of degree emerged from Germany in the early 1800s and it is intended to be a research degree where you focus on finding the solution to a tightly defined problem.Your work must be original.

Starting your PhD

There is no guarantee that you will be awarded the PhD, so you need to be researching a topic that really fascinates you. Make sure you know what your motives are and that a PhD is the best way to achieve your ambitions. If you are dreaming of working in policy for a government body, a PhD might be impressive, but you might not need such a high level of qualification in order to achieve your goals.

If you want an academic career, having a PhD may be essential to getting a post at a college or university. The PhD trains you to excel at research. If you don’t enjoy research you need to reconsider what it is you are really after.

Choosing a Topic – the PhD thesis

You might choose the topic for your PhD, but on other occasions an institution may advertise for someone to do a particular piece of research. In the latter case, the institution may be offering you full funding, so these roles can be a sensible choice.

PhD research – Your Supervisor

If you get your PhD, it makes your supervisor and their department look good, so they should be keen to support you. They should read your work in depth and be readily available to meet to discuss any matters that come up during the course of your work. However, this isn’t always the case!  Some students’ experience of their supervisor is less than perfect:

If you don’t agree with their advice, you need to back up your arguments with strong evidence.

PhD Studies- The Exam

After handing in your thesis, you will have an oral exam (the viva voce) where you will be asked to explain your work. After this, you might be asked to make substantial corrections to your text. Get the corrections out of the way as quickly as possible.

PhD Course – Further Information

If you aren’t sure whether you want to take a PhD you need to do some soul-searching.  Some of the questions you need to consider are quite straight forward, such as: did you enjoy your dissertation writing?  Do you enjoy research?  For further advice, have a look at the following websites:

Let us know how you get on.  Post a comment below!