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Thursday, August 27, 2015

10 steps to PhD failure by Kevin D. Haggerty and Aaron Doyle

Kevin D. Haggerty, professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Alberta and Aaron Doyle, associate professor in the department of sociology and anthropology at Carleton University offer tips on making postgraduate study even tougher (which students could also use to avoid pitfalls if they prefer).

Given the stakes involved, one peculiar aspect of graduate school is the number of students who seem indifferent to its pitfalls. Year after year many run headlong, like lemmings, off the same cliffs as their predecessors. Yet a good share of these people ignore or are even hostile towards the advice that might help them avoid screwing up.

Having repeatedly witnessed this process, we have concluded that a small group of students actually want to screw up. We do not know why. Maybe they are masochists or fear success. Whatever the reason, our heart goes out to them. Indeed, we hope to help them – by setting down a course of action that will ensure that they blunder through graduate school in a spectacularly disastrous fashion.

1. Stay at the same university

Photo: Times Higher Education
It can be tempting to obtain all three of your degrees (undergraduate, master’s and PhD) at the same university: you have already established personal and professional friendships there, you know the routines of the university, you have a solid working relationship with the academics, and you even have lined up a potential PhD supervisor who will incorporate you into an existing research project. However, if you actually want to succeed, doing so is probably a mistake.

Friends and colleagues often tell students to obtain their degrees at different universities, but seldom explain why. One reason is that departments have different strengths. Going to a different university or country exposes you to different perspectives. If you complete both your undergraduate and your master’s at one location, some say that you have probably got everything you can from the kind of scholarship and research practised in that department. (Whether this is true is a different matter.)

Going somewhere else for your PhD shows that you have expanded your intellectual horizons. In contrast, others will view the fact that you did all your degrees at the same place as an indication that you lack scholarly breadth and independence, and that you were not wise or committed enough to follow this standard advice about studying elsewhere.

Source: Times Higher Education