Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Pugh - How to get a PhD

Derek Pugh spent the afternoon with us, advising us on how to get our PhDs.

Degrees - what they have been, what they used to mean:
  • Bachelor - indicated you'd had a general education
  • Master - gave you a licence to practise. The world expects you to know how this specialism works. It was originally a masters in theory and allowed you to practise as a priest
  • Doctor's degree - a licence to teach in a university. i.e. you know your field and you are capable of adding to it.
So to get a PhD you have something to say that your fellow professionals want to listen to.

We discussed what this meant, and so also what examiners look for in a PhD. (see Derek Pugh's web site for suggestions on aims, knowledge, skills and values). Then we went on to discuss what to write and when to write - don't think about it - it's no good saying, "it's all in my head", just write it, then refine it. He gave writing us a task there and then, to write for twenty minutes on the aim of our research. And despite poor handwriting and cramped fingers, we all diligently wrote. What he hadn't told us, was that we would then swap our writing with a colleague and critique it, giving critical feedback that would help us make progress. It was a useful exercise that made you feel you could write.

There's a web site called The One-Minute Writer, that gives a prompt every day, and a timer for sixty seconds. Derek's exercise was a bit like that, but academic and twenty times as long.

Try it.

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