The PhD can take on something of a mythic status. Are they only for geniuses? Do you have to discover something incredible? Does the qualification make you an academic? And are higher research degrees just for people who want to be academics? Do you become a doctor? Yes, but not that kind of doctor. Do you have to study Philosophy? No not unless you want to. So, before going any further, let's explain what a PhD actually is and what defines a doctorate.
Often, there isn't any. A doctorate is a qualification that awards a doctoral degree. In order to qualify for one you need to produce advanced work that makes a significant new contribution to your chosen discipline.
Doing so earns you the title 'Doctor' - hence the name. The PhD is the most common type of doctorate and is awarded in most academic fields. Other doctorates tend to be awarded in specific subject areas or for more practical and professional projects. PhD stands for 'Doctor of Philosophy' which is an abbreviation of the latin term, Ph ilosophiae d octor. The word 'philosophy' here refers to its original Greek meaning: Despite its name, the PhD isn't actually an Ancient Greek degree.
Instead it's a much more recent development. The PhD as we know it was developed in nineteenth-century Germany, alongside the modern research university.
Higher education had traditionally focussed on mastery of an existing body of scholarship and the highest academic rank available was, appropriately enough, a Masters degree. As the focus shifted more onto the production of new knowledge and ideas, the PhD degree was brought in to recognise those who demonstrated the ncessary skills and expertise.
Unlike most Masters courses or all undergraduate programmes , a PhD is a pure research degree. In fact, the modern PhD is a diverse and varied qualification with many different components.
Whereas the second or third year of a taught degree look quite a lot like the first with more modules and coursework at a higher level a PhD moves through a series of stages. These stages vary a little between subjects and universities, but they tend to fall into the same sequence over the three years of a typical full-time PhD. PhDs in other countries The information on the page is based on the UK. Most countries follow a similar format, but there are some differences.
In the USA , for example, PhD students complete reading assignments and examinations before beginning their research. You can find out more in our guides to PhD study around the world. The beginning of a PhD is all about finding your feet as a researcher and getting a solid grounding in the current scholarship that relates to your topic. The first step in this will almost certainly be carrying out your literature review.
This will help situate your research and ensure your work is original. Your literature review will provide a logical jumping off point for the beginning of your own research and the gathering of results. This could involve designing and implementing experiments, or getting stuck into a pile of primary sources. The year may end with an MPhil upgrade.
Your second year will probably be when you do most of your core research. The process for this will vary depending on your field, but your main focus will be on gathering results from experiments, archival research, surveys or other means. As your research develops, so will the thesis or argument you base upon it.
You may even begin writing up chapters or other pieces that will eventually form part of your dissertation. The second year is also an important stage for your development as a scholar. So, this part of your PhD is a perfect time to think about presenting your work at academic conferences , gaining teaching experience or perhaps even selecting some material for publication in an academic journal.
You can read more about these kinds of activities below. Traditionally, this is the final part of your doctorate, during which your main task will be pulling together your results and honing your thesis into a dissertation. This is particularly likely if you spend part of your second year focussing on professional development. In fact, some students actually take all or part of a fourth year to finalise their dissertation.
Whether you are able to do this will depend on the terms of your enrolment — and perhaps your PhD funding. At universities on the British pattern it is not uncommon for theses at the viva stage to be subject to major revisions in which a substantial rewrite is required, sometimes followed by a new viva. Very rarely, the thesis may be awarded the lesser degree of M. Phil Master of Philosophy instead, preventing the candidate from resubmitting the thesis.
In Australia, doctoral theses are usually examined by three examiners although some, like the Australian Catholic University and the University of New South Wales , have shifted to using only two examiners; without a live defense except in extremely rare exceptions. In the case of a master's degree by research the thesis is usually examined by only two examiners. Typically one of these examiners will be from within the candidate's own department; the other s will usually be from other universities and often from overseas.
Following submission of the thesis, copies are sent by mail to examiners and then reports sent back to the institution. Similar to a master's degree by research thesis, a thesis for the research component of a master's degree by coursework is also usually examined by two examiners, one from the candidate's department and one from another university. For an Honours year, which is a fourth year in addition to the usual three-year bachelor's degree, the thesis is also examined by two examiners, though both are usually from the candidate's own department.
Honours and Master's theses sometimes require an oral defense before they are accepted. In Germany, a thesis is usually examined with an oral examination. This applies to almost all Diplom , Magister , master's and doctoral degrees as well as to most bachelor's degrees. However, a process that allows for revisions of the thesis is usually only implemented for doctoral degrees. There are several different kinds of oral examinations used in practice. The Disputation , also called Verteidigung "defense" , is usually public at least to members of the university and is focused on the topic of the thesis.
In contrast, the Rigorosum is not held in public and also encompasses fields in addition to the topic of the thesis. The Rigorosum is only common for doctoral degrees.
Another term for an oral examination is Kolloquium , which generally refers to a usually public scientific discussion and is often used synonymously with Verteidigung. In each case, what exactly is expected differs between universities and between faculties. Some universities also demand a combination of several of these forms. Like the British model, the PHD or MPhil student is required to submit their theses or dissertation for examination by two or three examiners.
The first examiner is from the university concerned, the second examiner is from another local university and the third examiner is from a suitable foreign university usually from Commonwealth countries.
The choice of examiners must be approved by the university senate. In some public universities, a PhD or MPhil candidate may also have to show a number publications in peer reviewed academic journals as part of the requirement.
An oral viva is conducted after the examiners have submitted their reports to the university. The oral viva session is attended by the Oral Viva chairman, a rapporteur with a PhD qualification, the first examiner, the second examiner and sometimes the third examiner. Branch campuses of British, Australian and Middle East universities in Malaysia use the respective models of the home campuses to examine their PhD or MPhil candidates.
In the Philippines, a thesis is followed by an oral defense. In most universities, this applies to all bachelor, master, and doctorate degrees. However, the oral defense is held in once per semester usually in the middle or by the end with a presentation of revisions so-called "plenary presentation" at the end of each semester. The oral defense is typically not held in public for bachelor and master oral defenses, however a colloquium is held for doctorate degrees.
Typical duration for the total exam is 1 hour 30 minutes for the MSc and 3 hours for the PhD. In North America, the thesis defense or oral defense is the final examination for doctoral candidates, and sometimes for master's candidates.
The examining committee normally consists of the thesis committee, usually a given number of professors mainly from the student's university plus his or her primary supervisor, an external examiner someone not otherwise connected to the university , and a chair person.
Each committee member will have been given a completed copy of the dissertation prior to the defense, and will come prepared to ask questions about the thesis itself and the subject matter. In many schools, master's thesis defenses are restricted to the examinee and the examiners, but doctoral defenses are open to the public.
The typical format will see the candidate giving a short 20—minute presentation of his or her research, followed by one to two hours of questions. A student in Ukraine or Russia has to complete a thesis and then defend it in front of their department. Sometimes the defense meeting is made up of the learning institute's professionals and sometimes the students peers are allowed to view or join in.
After the presentation and defense of the thesis, the final conclusion of the department should be that none of them have reservations on the content and quality of the thesis. A conclusion on the thesis has to be approved by the rector of the educational institute. The Diploma de estudios avanzados DEA can last two years and candidates must complete coursework and demonstrate their ability to research the specific topics they have studied. After completing this part of the PhD, students begin a dissertation on a set topic.
The dissertation must reach a minimum length depending on the subject and it is valued more highly if it contains field research. Once candidates have finished their written dissertations, they must present them before a committee.
Following this presentation, the examiners will ask questions. In Hong Kong, Ireland and the United Kingdom, the thesis defense is called a viva voce Latin for "by live voice" examination viva for short. A typical viva lasts for approximately 3 hours, though there is no formal time limit. Usually, one examiner is an academic from the candidate's own university department but not one of the candidate's supervisors and the other is an external examiner from a different university.
Increasingly, the examination may involve a third academic, the 'chair'; this person, from the candidate's institution, acts as an impartial observer with oversight of the examination process to ensure that the examination is fair. The 'chair' does not ask academic questions of the candidate. In the United Kingdom, there are only two or at most three examiners, and in many universities the examination is held in private. The candidate's primary supervisor is not permitted to ask or answer questions during the viva, and their presence is not necessary.
However, some universities permit members of the faculty or the university to attend. At the University of Oxford, for instance, any member of the University may attend a DPhil viva the University's regulations require that details of the examination and its time and place be published formally in advance provided he or she attends in full academic dress.
A submission of the thesis is the last formal requirement for most students after the defense. By the final deadline , the student must submit a complete copy of the thesis to the appropriate body within the accepting institution, along with the appropriate forms, bearing the signatures of the primary supervisor, the examiners, and, in some cases, the head of the student's department.
Other required forms may include library authorizations giving the university library permission to make the thesis available as part of its collection and copyright permissions in the event that the student has incorporated copyrighted materials in the thesis.
Many large scientific publishing houses e. Failure to submit the thesis by the deadline may result in graduation and granting of the degree being delayed.
Once all the paperwork is in order, copies of the thesis may be made available in one or more university libraries. Specialist abstracting services exist to publicize the content of these beyond the institutions in which they are produced. Many institutions now insist on submission of digitized as well as printed copies of theses; the digitized versions of successful theses are often made available online.
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When, at ancient universities, the lector had completed his lecture, there would traditionally follow a disputation, during which students could take up certain points and argue them. The position that one took during a disputation was the thesis, while the dissertation was the line of reasoning with which one buttressed it. The following is one commonly-used structure:.
Here, you should clearly state the thesis and its importance. This is also where you give definitions of terms and other concepts used elsewhere. There is no need to write 80 pages of background on your topic here.
Instead, you can cover almost everything by saying: The progress of science is that we learn and use the work of others with appropriate credit. Assume you have a technically literate readership familiar with or able to find common references.
Do not reference popular literature or WWW sites if you can help it this is a matter of style more than anything else -- you want to reference articles in refereed conferences and journals, if possible, or in other theses. Also in the introduction, you want to survey any related work that attempted something similar to your own, or that has a significant supporting role in your research.
This should refer only to published references. You cite the work in the references, not the researchers themselves. Every factual statement you make must have a specific citation tied to it in this chapter, or else it must be common knowledge don't rely on this too much.
Your results are to be of lasting value. Thus, the model you develop and write about and indeed, that you defend should be one that has lasting value. It should be generic in nature, and should capture all the details necessary to overlay the model on likely environments. You should discuss the problems, parameters, requirements, necessary and sufficient conditions, and other factors here. Consider that 20 years ago ca the common platform was a Vax computer running VMS or a PDP running Unix version 6, yet well-crafted theses of the time are still valuable today.
Will your dissertation be valuable 20 years from now ca , or have you referred to technologies that will be of only historical interest? This model is tough to construct, but is really the heart of the scientific part of your work. This is the lasting part of the contribution, and this is what someone might cite 50 years from now when we are all using MS Linux XXXXP on computers embedded in our wrists with subspace network links!
There are basically three proof techniques that I have seen used in a computing dissertation, depending on the thesis topic. The first is analytic, where one takes the model or formulae and shows, using formal manipulations, that the model is sound and complete.
A second proof method is stochastic, using some form of statistical methods and measurements to show that something is true in the anticipated cases. Using the third method, you need to show that your thesis is true by building something according to your model and showing that it behaves as you claim it will.
Your dissertation is part of the requirements for a PhD. The research, theory, experimentation, et al. also contribute. One does not attempt to capture everything in one's dissertation. The dissertation is a technical work used to document and set forth proof of one's thesis.
Seeking a PhD is different in that your dissertation must contribute something completely new and undiscovered to your field. In other words, you have to contribute original knowledge to the subject. So the main difference between a thesis and a dissertation is the depth of knowledge you must attain in order to write the paper.
What is a PhD thesis? And what is a PhD viva? A PhD thesis will be produced in close cooperation with an academic supervisor, usually one with expertise in that particular field of study. This dissertation is the backbone of a PhD, and is the candidate's opportunity to communicate their research to others in their field (and a wider audience). May 09, · The only thing that guarantees PhD thesis acceptance, is that your dissertation committee judges that you have become an expert in a topic and can meaningfully create new knowledge on that topic. T.
How I wrote a PhD thesis in 3 months August 13, February 28, by James Hayton Before reading this post please note: it took three and a half years of full-time research to gather the data for my PhD thesis; the three months refers only to the writing, which I did quickly at the end. A PhD is a postgraduate doctoral degree, awarded to students who complete an original thesis offering a significant new contribution to knowledge in their subject. PhD qualifications are available in all subjects and are normally the highest level of academic degree a person can achieve.