Thursday, 3 December 2009

Postgraduate Education

Coming to the end of this book about doing a PhD, I have learned some interesting things about postgraduate education. Some of this was not completely new to me. Still, I find it useful to write down some notes about it.
First, postgraduate education is an apprenticeship. The student is learning the research profession in the painfullest way, and he is expected to initiate discussions, ask help, assess what he does not know and needs to know, and manage his own learning. This means that he should not expect having others telling him what to do next, like in undergraduate education, and that is not a deficiency. It is an opportunity (Phillips and Pugh 2).
Second, the student acquires a new identity during his apprenticeship. During the painful process of doing a PhD, the student matures and hopefully becomes an equally able and confident researcher. Moreover, he must be prepared to discuss his point of views with everyone despite their status, unlearn and rethink the previously learned doctrines, doubt and question around him, and admit that he does not know regardless the fear of being thought stupid (Phillips and Pugh 4).
Third, the Phd is awarded for original work. This originality must be limited in scope for the student's sake (of course) and limitations of his own work. Phillips and Pugh note that here are several definitions of originality (63-64). Therefore, it is not that difficult to be original. It is often more complex to narrow the scope of the work and to successful focus than to be original.
Fourth, the PhD qualification is a research training exercise. Phillips and Pugh explain that you are learning skills to carve out a researchable topic, master the techniques required and use them appropriately, and communicate cogently your findings (23-24). Therefore, you need exploration and practice time to learn these abilities. You also need to develop a critical mind in order to be able to evaluate your own work and the work of your pairs at the current state of the affairs.

Cited works: Phillips, Estelle M., and Derek S. Pugh. How To Get a PhD: A Handbook for Students and Their Supervisors. Philadelphia: Open University Press. 3rd ed. 2ooo

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