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talljasperman's avatar

What does it feel like to have a Ph.D?

Asked by talljasperman (21820points) October 17th, 2010

Is it a good feeling or does one feel disconnected from the other fields of study? ... do the feelings change according to the disciplines studied? Do you know anyone who has a Ph.D. ? What are they like?

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6 Answers

Frankie's avatar

I work in an academic department at my university, so I am in daily contact with approximately 50+ professors who have Ph.Ds, and about 200 graduate students working toward their Ph.Ds. Generally they’re just like everyone else…some are funny, kind, very down to earth and not seemingly the “academic” type until they start talking about their field(s) of interest. Others act like they are god’s gift to mankind, have not bothered to learn my name after 5 years of my working there (despite the fact that I do tasks for them regularly) and are snooty, stuck up, arrogant jerks. A LOT of the grad students are socially awkward. I’m not sure if it has anything to do with the amount of time they spend away from the general public because they are researching and writing, because only a very small handful of the full professors seem socially awkward, while a seemingly disproportionately large number of the grad students are.

I don’t necessarily think they feel less connected to other fields of study…most of them have more than one interest and are able to combine those interests into their research, classes, and writings.

As far as how it feels to have a Ph.D, I think most of them feel very proud (as they should) and I always get a lift when a grad student walks into the department with the biggest smile on his or her face because they just defended and it went well.

AstroChuck's avatar

I don’t know yet. I’ll have to let you know. My wife is still working on her master’s degree.

Rarebear's avatar

I know lots of people with phds They’re just folks like anybody else.

YARNLADY's avatar

Probably about the same as the day after your 21st birthday, kind of a let down because it’s only part of a long, long journey we call life.

Harold's avatar

I’ll tell you in about 3 years. It’s hard work doing it, although interesting. I imagine it will be a great sense of relief when it’s done.

wundayatta's avatar

Academia is a bit different that most other areas of society. People really appreciate intelligence and knowledge. They like to talk about the details of an issue, because that’s what they study. They tend to be much more liberal than most of the rest of society. They also are more likely to be into art and have other “extracurricular” pursuits of what might seem to some to be kind of snooty.

Academics tend to think they know best (and of course, they do), but they try not to let that attitude get out to others. Unfortunately, it does, and then other folks think that academics look down on them. Indeed, many academics do, but there are plenty who are “of the people,” too.

Earning a PhD teaches you how to do a serious research project. It teaches you how to figure something out and test it to see if it is true or not. Rather, if there is evidence to support the idea, or not.

After that, their work is like many other people’s. Believe it or not, they have to be entrepreneurial. They have to compete for grants and then manage a research team and give reports back to the funder to prove they’ve been working.

At home, they’re like most other people except their tastes might be considered more highbrow. They tend to like gourmet food. They have art from around the world decorating their homes. They have wall after wall of books. They go to the museum and listen to public radio.

But they have problems with their kids. They have to fix their cars. They need to worry about how to pay for college for their kids. They have to pay back mortgages. They have favorite sports teams. They are couch potatoes when they aren’t hiking through the Adirondacks.

Really, a PhD only means they know how to research. They know how to find evidence for something. You don’t have to earn a PhD to know how to research. But it helps. There’s a formula for research, and they all learn it, although some seem to take longer than others to get over their awe of what they are doing.

Research requires that you learn as much as you can about whatever you are interested in. That includes a lot of background reading. This process is called a lit review. It is reading, reading, reading. You need to know a lot about most aspects of your field.

Then you have to come up with a research question. This is difficult for many. They don’t know how to think about coming up with a question. In most cases they do have a question, they just haven’t recognized it.

Then you have to develop hypotheses about what you expect your research to find (based on all the reading you’ve done and any other experience you may have).

Now comes the fun stuff. Data collection and data analysis. Oh there are so many issues involved in this, I could talk to you for hours. It all stems from the research question, but a lot of people forget that. There are different methods for research, and each method has it’s own kind of data collection and data analysis tools. Whether it’s observing people in a village in Columbia do some ritual or it’s designing and delivering a survey to find out how people make political choices, there’s a lot to learn about and a lot to do.

Each method has it’s own analytical tools. Every dissertation includes chapters on lit review, research question and hypotheses, data collection, data analysis, and then, finally, results.

Anyone willing to do the work can do it. Obviously you have to love reading. But if you don’t get an attitude based on all the stuff you’ve read, they’re generally pretty nice people. I know my boss is.

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