Author Topic: What does a PhD program entail?  (Read 385 times)

What does a PhD program entail?
« on: April 06, 2017, 11:13:22 PM »
How does one pick a dissertation topic?

Specifically, what is involved in PhD programs? I've heard that they pay money, you have to do some teaching, you have to write a thesis and defend it. But someone please get more specific with me.

Thanks

Offline Baruch

Re: What does a PhD program entail?
« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2017, 11:24:45 PM »
How does one pick a dissertation topic?

Specifically, what is involved in PhD programs? I've heard that they pay money, you have to do some teaching, you have to write a thesis and defend it. But someone please get more specific with me.

Thanks

You get a research scholarship, and work with a professor on research, or get a teaching scholarship, and help teach under-grads.  And work on your thesis in the meantime ;-)  You don't pick your thesis on your own, your thesis committee helps you pick it out.  Much PhD research is really boring stuff ... in mining for instance, it might be the "History of Platinum Mining in Russia" or something even more exciting.  Research happens, not because you are sitting around a fireplace in your smoking jacket, thinking great thoughts.  You have to compete for grant money from foundations and governments, be a part of a team, not a lone wolf.  Then you take upper level coursework, put together original research, and then defend it before the dissertation defense committee aka Marquis De Sade.
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Re: What does a PhD program entail?
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2017, 12:49:15 AM »
You get a research scholarship, and work with a professor on research, or get a teaching scholarship, and help teach under-grads.  And work on your thesis in the meantime ;-)  You don't pick your thesis on your own, your thesis committee helps you pick it out.  Much PhD research is really boring stuff ... in mining for instance, it might be the "History of Platinum Mining in Russia" or something even more exciting.  Research happens, not because you are sitting around a fireplace in your smoking jacket, thinking great thoughts.  You have to compete for grant money from foundations and governments, be a part of a team, not a lone wolf.  Then you take upper level coursework, put together original research, and then defend it before the dissertation defense committee aka Marquis De Sade.
Is it different in other countries besides the US?

Offline Cavebear

Re: What does a PhD program entail?
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2017, 05:54:44 AM »
How does one pick a dissertation topic?

Specifically, what is involved in PhD programs? I've heard that they pay money, you have to do some teaching, you have to write a thesis and defend it. But someone please get more specific with me.

Thanks

The basic idea is that, to get a PhD, you have to come up with something new.  New data, new way of getting data, new interpretation of data.  Something you didn't learn in class.  Its why you have to defend a PhD thesis, not just submit an essay.  And, I suppose, why it isn't called a PhD hypothesis.
Atheist born, atheist bred.  And when I die, atheist dead!  b 1950

Offline Baruch

Re: What does a PhD program entail?
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2017, 06:58:51 AM »
Is it different in other countries besides the US?

Yes.  Are you looking for Slacker U?  Do you read too much Doonesbury?

Actual good foreign universities are very competitive, comparable to the hardest schools in the US ... because they believe that the US has the best post-graduate schools (if you only look at the premier programs).  Carnegie-Mellon in the US has a top CS curricula for example.  Also Stanford and MIT.
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Offline Cavebear

Re: What does a PhD program entail?
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2017, 08:59:47 AM »
I don't really care about academic titles.  I once discussed early North American migration with a dinner guest across the table for an hour.  HE thought I had a PhD on the subject.  And he turned out to be the Chair of Anthropology at a State University.  He bothered the hostess for 2 days thinking I was joking him.

And once in an office, waiting for a meeting to start, the guy next to me mentioned explosives and we discussed them for an hour until the meeting was convened.  I wasn't there for his explosives meeting.  He was stunned and asked me to attend.  But I was there for a telecommunications presentation I was giving.

Some people just know a lot about a lot.
Atheist born, atheist bred.  And when I die, atheist dead!  b 1950

Offline Atheon

Re: What does a PhD program entail?
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2017, 09:14:22 AM »
It helps to do research in a field you have a strong interest in, and in which you already have a solid background of knowledge. That's what undergraduate and master's level studies give you.
"Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful." - Seneca

Offline Cavebear

Re: What does a PhD program entail?
« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2017, 09:42:08 AM »
It helps to do research in a field you have a strong interest in, and in which you already have a solid background of knowledge. That's what undergraduate and master's level studies give you.

Indeed.  And that was the difference between the Anthropology Chair guy and me.  He had breadth.  I had a little knowledge in a limited area I was interested in.  Same with the explosives guy. 
Atheist born, atheist bred.  And when I die, atheist dead!  b 1950

Re: What does a PhD program entail?
« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2017, 02:43:41 AM »
Also Stanford and MIT.
Forget Stanford and MIT. They wouldn't touch me with a 10-meter cattle prod. :D

But seriously, I've put a lot of thought into this. I'm still considering the school. It might be that I can't get accepted to any PhD programs. It might be that my academic past is just too shaky and that I've pretty much ruined any chances of being judged a good choice for selection by a reputable school. Right now its very possible I'll be looking at a C in my current calculus class. This is mainly because of unfortunate events this semester interfering with my studies. I could always retake it, but that doesn't really help as the retake looks just as bad as the C on the transcript.

Every day I wake up thinking that I'm wasting my time. But like religious thinking often does, I keep ignoring reason and fact, and just keep clinging to the wishful notion that I can accomplish this goal. It's just not in me I don't think.

Offline Baruch

Re: What does a PhD program entail?
« Reply #9 on: April 09, 2017, 07:55:01 AM »
Well I am not a fan of the ... make goal, devise objectives which when accomplished get you to the goal, now go accomplish objective 1 then repeat.  That is how you build a building or some other big project.  What I see is that you are unhappy in your current situation, whether you are in school or not.  What are you doing to increase your EQ, not your IQ?  I see your EQ as the bigger problem, just saying.  You are like a guy who wants to become Pope (no point in aiming low).  His friend asks him later, how things are going.  The guy says ... no progress so far.  The friend replies ... it might help if you are Catholic ;-)

And yes, Calculus is hard, I flunked 2nd semester (was in honors class) and nearly dropped out of college.  Generally speaking, the textbooks and teachers are ... very poor.  And a famous college might not have better.  Our textbook at the time, was one originally devised at MIT.  In the honors class we got extra reading material and extra homework, huge mistake!  Found out later, MIT had dropped their own textbook, because their students considered it ... too hard.

Well I stuck it out, finished my BS with some bad grades, got a C+ average, even in my major.  Because the math of grading over multiple courses, is merciless.  And you don't even have to use Calculus to calculate that, just arithmetic!  Fortunately, even in my post-school electrical engineering, didn't ever have to use Calculus.  The most useful math class was Probability Theory.  And I have lots of other things I would still rather do than Calculus, on my own time.  The reason for retaking Calculus, isn't to get a better grade (you seem to see things backward) but if you need to be competent at it, for later courses.  Later as an undergrad, I took ODE and PDE ... and did well in ODE ... I could understand that.  PDE not so much.  Computer Science primarily requires Discrete Math subjects like matrices and graph theory.  But if you do need to continue in Calculus, you might try ...

https://www.khanacademy.org/math/calculus-home

Some of the pedagogy, and learning resources, are much better now.  And I can view the actual MIT courses on-line, not just be stuck with their crappy textbook of 1975.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2017, 08:19:45 AM by Baruch »
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Re: What does a PhD program entail?
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2017, 12:11:31 AM »
Baruch, I appreciate it buddy. You're a really nice guy, and good to talk to.

If I'm being honest, I'm feeling very defeated and overwhelmed at this point in my life. My situation right now is very complicated, but every single day for the past few years of my life has seemed like absolutely everything is working against me. I can't seem to catch a break anywhere. It has totally crushed my spirit and made me feel as though I'll never get out of this rut I'm in. I'm not even talking about my PhD dreams right now, I'm just talking about trying to get to a point where I can handle what is being thrown at me and not feel overwhelmed.

Right now it feels like too much. I can't meet everyone's demands. I just accepted a job that was offered to me searching property title for an abstracting company. My other job (valeting for a hotel) is holding my feet to the fire wanting me to keep up my normal shifts, and I've got school on top of it all. I cannot find enough time to meet it all. I've nearly had a mental breakdown today because it was too much. I'm transitioning from an old job to a new one, and school is hurting because of it. I just can't make it all happen. I'm not superman.

I'm laying here in bed right now on my computer looking at an online calculus assignment that is due here in 53 minutes. I've hit a point wherein I can't solve the rest of the problems. I've got 68% of it done, but I'll probably not get all of it done. On top of this I'm playing catch-up on assignments from earlier in the year that I couldn't complete which I asked my instructor to reopen for me (which he did, and has done several times). The semester is nearing its end, and I have nearly a semester's worth of assignments to make up in my computer science class as well. My GPA will be ruined this semester, and a suicidal depression is about to consume me. I can feel it right now. Hell, I'm already experiencing it. I just can't stand it anymore.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2017, 12:14:07 AM by MyelinSheath »

Offline Baruch

Re: What does a PhD program entail?
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2017, 06:41:01 AM »
Baruch, I appreciate it buddy. You're a really nice guy, and good to talk to.

If I'm being honest, I'm feeling very defeated and overwhelmed at this point in my life. My situation right now is very complicated, but every single day for the past few years of my life has seemed like absolutely everything is working against me. I can't seem to catch a break anywhere. It has totally crushed my spirit and made me feel as though I'll never get out of this rut I'm in. I'm not even talking about my PhD dreams right now, I'm just talking about trying to get to a point where I can handle what is being thrown at me and not feel overwhelmed.

Right now it feels like too much. I can't meet everyone's demands. I just accepted a job that was offered to me searching property title for an abstracting company. My other job (valeting for a hotel) is holding my feet to the fire wanting me to keep up my normal shifts, and I've got school on top of it all. I cannot find enough time to meet it all. I've nearly had a mental breakdown today because it was too much. I'm transitioning from an old job to a new one, and school is hurting because of it. I just can't make it all happen. I'm not superman.

I'm laying here in bed right now on my computer looking at an online calculus assignment that is due here in 53 minutes. I've hit a point wherein I can't solve the rest of the problems. I've got 68% of it done, but I'll probably not get all of it done. On top of this I'm playing catch-up on assignments from earlier in the year that I couldn't complete which I asked my instructor to reopen for me (which he did, and has done several times). The semester is nearing its end, and I have nearly a semester's worth of assignments to make up in my computer science class as well. My GPA will be ruined this semester, and a suicidal depression is about to consume me. I can feel it right now. Hell, I'm already experiencing it. I just can't stand it anymore.

I know how you feel.  I have a mother in nursing home, a mentally ill ex, a handicapped daughter who is nearly homeless, my employer/customer wants me to retire before I am eligible for Social Security.  After I put my mother in nursing home, and had a necessary talk with an attorney .. I had a nervous breakdown back in October.  But it only lasted a couple days.  Gird up thy loins, take thy stuff in a sack, pick up thy walking stick and hit the road to the future.  But you have to realize ... you aren't in control.  Life is more like being in a small boat in the ocean, you have a big fish on the line ... and you can keep the hook and that fish and let him pull you wherever, or cut bait.

So go ahead and have a controlled nervous breakdown.  Have a night cap before bed (if you don't already drink).  Get lots of sleep (especially if your sleep is of low quality).  See, you need to realize, that a good night's sleep is your opportunity to restart yourself.  So make a priority list, and work the top priority one at a time (or several if you can multitask).  Let the future take care of itself ... you just take care of you, here and now.

PS - doing school while working?  Don't take a full load of classes, only take the minimum.  At the best of times ... in my Masters ... I only took two classes while working full time.  Is this new job in addition to the old one?  You can't do two jobs, though I know that income may make it seem necessary.  Cut expenses instead.  Stop doing anything not immediately necessary (Hah ... I am a great ADHD myself).
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Re: What does a PhD program entail?
« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2017, 01:02:36 AM »
This past week has been almost unbelievable. One bad break after the other. Way too much to explain, but rest assured it's been a nightmare.

I technically still have both jobs, but the other was put on pause until I settled into my new schedule. I'm not going to keep this job. It's too stressful. I can't do this and school. The training is 2+ hrs drive from where I live at some lady's house. The lady is a veteran in this company and she's a terrible teacher. She's very unpleasant and cold to say the least. I can't learn from her. I'm going to back out of this job.

Offline Cavebear

Re: What does a PhD program entail?
« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2017, 04:47:32 AM »
This past week has been almost unbelievable. One bad break after the other. Way too much to explain, but rest assured it's been a nightmare.

I technically still have both jobs, but the other was put on pause until I settled into my new schedule. I'm not going to keep this job. It's too stressful. I can't do this and school. The training is 2+ hrs drive from where I live at some lady's house. The lady is a veteran in this company and she's a terrible teacher. She's very unpleasant and cold to say the least. I can't learn from her. I'm going to back out of this job.

 When situations get bad, the smart back out...
Atheist born, atheist bred.  And when I die, atheist dead!  b 1950

Offline Baruch

Re: What does a PhD program entail?
« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2017, 06:52:10 PM »
This past week has been almost unbelievable. One bad break after the other. Way too much to explain, but rest assured it's been a nightmare.

I technically still have both jobs, but the other was put on pause until I settled into my new schedule. I'm not going to keep this job. It's too stressful. I can't do this and school. The training is 2+ hrs drive from where I live at some lady's house. The lady is a veteran in this company and she's a terrible teacher. She's very unpleasant and cold to say the least. I can't learn from her. I'm going to back out of this job.

Sad! - Donald Trump

I get to resume teaching next Monday ... getting people motivated is very hard, unless you are a German dominatrix.
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