When I was chosen to take over Wiley Exchanges for a week, the theme that sprang to mind was “The PhD Path Less Traveled”. With the help of the contributors I’ve chosen, I wanted to uncover the common challenges PhDs face along the often circuitous journey toward their degrees, and how some cope, while others choose a different path.
About me: I started my PhD in Australia, in February 2012. For the past year however, I have been working full-time at a research institute in Paris. My PhD has been in a perpetual state of ‘almost finished’ for about 18 months. The time between those two dates has included some of the most difficult moments, both personal and professional, of my life. But the PhD has been a constant: at times a passion and a motivator, at times a millstone around my neck. Usually a mixture of both.
I always assumed I would complete the PhD in three years. After all, I had a reasonably well-defined topic, a supportive university, and a relatively settled personal life. My topic remains the same and my university still seems generally supportive, yet massive changes in my personal life have repeatedly called into question the place of the PhD in my life and in my future plans.
I don’t think my naiveté about the process is unusual. I doubt that my radical change in circumstances is unusual either. Yet despite this, and despite high attrition rates, the PhD continues to be, at least in our shared imagination, a rigid, 3-4 year, in-out process. Next week I want to share some stories, have some discussion, and show that the PhD process is, in reality, an altogether different beast.
On Monday we will hear about the high expectations Jenna Townsend had for the PhD process, the initial challenges it threw at her, and how she learned to cope.
On Tuesday we’ll hear from two researchers who have been investigating the effects of good supervision on attrition
Wednesday brings a conversation with one of my closest friends about a PhD process that nightmares are made of.
On Thursday I'll explore the different models of the PhD and on Friday we’ll round off the week talking about life after the PhD, with another of my favorite academic twitter superstars, Jennifer Polk.
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