What is a PhD and what does it entail?What is a PhD and what does it entail?

What is a PhD? The terms, PhD means doctor of philosophy. A PhD is a research program that involves an exploration of a topic of interest (or problem) with so much depth that the researcher becomes an expert in it. The program takes an average of five years to complete. In some universities, it takes 4 years, others, up to 6 years. The depth of knowledge acquired is such that the individual knows more about the topic of interest than their adviser or others in the program or school.

What is a PhD and what does it entail?

What makes this possible is that the topic of interest is usually a small or narrow part of the bigger problem. Imagine studying a narrow subject for 4 years. You guessed what is a PhD, a PhD is mainly about the depth of the subject matter rather than the breadth. The breadth comes after the PhD education. After the education is when the individual starts to connect the dots of how their one topic of interest intersects with another topic (usually from another researcher), sparking the collaboration engine that PhDs are known for.

Course Work

At the College of Business at the University of North Texas, where I received my PhD, the PhD Program is 4 years long. Two of those 4 years is for doing course work. The course work is to prepare the individual for identifying and executing a successful research study. In those 2 years, the student enrolls in classes such as Research Methods, where one learns what research is and the systematic ways of conducting research using many methods (e.g., experiments, surveys, simulations). Other courses are Statistics-based, where one learns how to analyze data and interpret the results. One is expected to complete about 8 to 10 of these types of courses.

Even though these courses are essential in that one must pass them, the emphasis for the PhD is not on course work (universities in some parts of Europe do not require course work). So, do your best to pass and understand the methodologies very well because they come in very handy when you need to try several of them to make sense of your research data. Overall, getting an A in the course work should not be the objective. The objective is to learn the methodologies and use them for your research topic.

Make friends in your course work classes so you can ask for help when you need it. If you are like me that started my PhD well into my adulthood, it was a bit difficult initially to get into the statistics groove. YouTube came in handy, and I was not ashamed asking younger students to help me understand certain aspects. Phew!

What is a PhD and what does it entail?

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