how to get a phd

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How to Get a PhD

A PhD, short for Doctor of Philosophy, may help you secure a position as a college or university pro
11. Choose a major professor and committee
You want an advisor familiar with your area of research who can direct you when needed and have resources and connections you can draw on. Tenured professors have access to more grant money, equipment, and connections, while nontenured professors are more personally available for assistance and advice.
Choose people who you can work with, and who share a common research interest, as well as people you get along with personally. Personal differences often pop up during these kinds of working relationships, making it important to avoid them in the beginning.
Your proposed academic advisor/research supervisor should ideally be named in your statement of purpose, with the reasons you want to work with that person. Those reasons should show that you know something about that persons background and why he or she would make an effective advisor.
12. Submit a plan of study
For most fields, a plan of study is submitted to the graduate school and the degree program within the first year of your studies. The plan with be submitted to the Department Chair, who will either accept it as is or suggest revisions. Obtain the Plan of Study form from the graduate school office, if one is provided.
13. The names and signatures of your committee members
The names and signatures of your committee members, the program director, and the student. Youll also need your student ID number and other personal information.
14. A brief statement of your academic and research goals
This will typically be a supercondensed version of your research question or thesis statement, probably no more than 50100 words.
15. A list of the required courses
A list of the required courses youll take over the next two years, listing course number, title, department, and instructor, as well as the semester you intend to take the course. Most programs require around 12 hours of required coursework for an advanced degree.
16. A list of the elective courses you ll take
A list of the elective courses youll take, with corresponding course numbers, titles, departments, and instructors, as well as the semester you intend to take the course. Most programs require somewhere between 20 and 30 elective hours for an advanced degree.
17. Dissertation hours
When youve passed your preliminary examinations, your coursework will change to independent research and dissertation work, but youll still be registered for a course with a course number and a particular number of credit hours, with your major professor or thesis chair as the instructor. This information will also need to be included on the plan of study form.
18. Complete the requisite coursework
Most programs require somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 hours of departmental coursework, while others require more or less, depending on the field. As with most advanced degrees, youll likely need to pass all your courses with at least a B, or better.
In graduate school, the course load is usually somewhat less than the undergraduate degree, because of the intensity of the coursework and other research or teaching responsibilities. A full load is usually considered 6 or 9 hours, though youll be doing 20 or more hours of teaching or research in a given week.
For a PhD student, a typical coursework semester might involve three courses: a required core class and two elective courses. Typically, elective courses will still be in the department the student is studying, if not the particular program. For example, a comparative lit PhD studying Medieval literature may take a 20th century poetry course in the English department as an elective, though probably not a biology class.
19. Complete your written examination
Typically, this will occur sometime at the end of your second year of course work, and will be prepared by your committee. The content of the written examination will depend not only on your field of study, but on your particular research interests and academic needs. Think of it as a test particularly tailored to you.
The written examination, sometimes called the prelim, will typically be submitted to the department chair by your major professor, then administered to you toward the end of your second year of classes. When you pass the exam, youll be considered PostPrelim and may begin the process of completing your dissertation.
20. Begin performing research and collecting data
The goal of the PhD is to complete independent research. Its your first chance to be an academic pioneer, exploring an untapped field, researching new layers of a particular topic, and putting your stamp on the conversation happening in your field. Its also a great opportunity to get deep into a topic that excites and interests you. Choose a research topic that gives you genuine pleasure, and choose something that youre willing to spend several years exploring.
Start with a research question. A research question is what youll hope to answer over the course of your dissertation research. It needs to be narrow, but with broadreaching implications. A starting research question might be something like, How are women represented during the silver age of American comic book publishing? or What are the implications of spontaneous genetic mutation during breeding in drosophila, and what effect might this have on cancer research?


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