- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Sourcebooks (December 1, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1402226675
- ISBN-13: 978-1402226670
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#1,196,482 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #334 in Books > Education & Teaching > Higher & Continuing Education > Graduate School Guides
- #1139 in Books > Education & Teaching > Higher & Continuing Education > Adult & Continuing Education
- #2029 in Books > Education & Teaching > Higher & Continuing Education > Test Preparation > Professional > Professional
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How to Survive Your PhD: The Insider's Guide to Avoiding Mistakes, Choosing the Right Program, Working with Professors, and Just How a Person Actually Writes a 200-Page Paper
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About the Author
Dr. Jason Karp received his PhD in exercise physiology in 2007 after seven years of doctoral work, during which he learned everything you shouldn't do if you want a PhD in four years. He is a prolific freelance writer and professional running coach. He lives in San Diego, CA.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
"Life is the sum of all your choices."
When I was in high school, my electronics teacher had a silly, fortune-cookie saying to remind his students not to touch electrical wires with two hands and risk shock: "One hand in pockey, no get shockey." Like touching wires with both hands, there's a wrong way to do almost everything. For example, going down a park slide head first, throwing a paper airplane at your high school teacher, and not buying your twin brother a birthday present, instead claiming that you forgot his birthday, would all be considered by most as errors in judgment. I'll be the first to admit I don't always make the best decisions; but I've learned a great deal from my mistakes and, hopefully, you can, too.
Life, as we all know, is full of choices. Some choices are big (like where you attend college, who you marry, whether or not you have kids), but some choices are small (like which movie you see, whether you buy a microwave at Target or Walmart, whether you have a grande peppermint mocha Frappuccino or a venti chai latté at Starbucks). Some of the choices we make are good, and some are bad. However, the key to making any choice, especially the more important ones, is information. The more information we have about our options, the better the chance of making good decisions. And when it comes to getting a PhD degree, there are many options and many choices.
Choosing the PhD
Everyone is different, and naturally, people choose to get a PhD for a variety of reasons, including:
- For the pursuit of knowledge
- For the prerequisite to becoming a college professor
- For the love of research
- For future professional opportunities
- For the delay of getting a job
- For status and acclaim
- For fear of "the real world"
- For an ego boost (my favorite reason)
Ego is such a big part of the PhD that it should be spelled with a capital E. Despite what someone tells you is his or her reason for achieving a doctorate degree, there is always at least some amount of Ego behind it-there are tons of people in academia with big Egos. After all, it's pretty cool to be called "doctor." Let's face it: it makes you feel good.
Did you know that less than 1 percent of the U.S. population has a PhD? According to the Chronicle of Higher Education and National Science Foundation, 43,354 PhDs were awarded by U.S. schools in 2005 (their most recent data). Of these, 27,974 were awarded in science and engineering disciplines, and 15,380 were awarded in liberal arts and humanities disciplines. In the sciences, 7,406 PhDs were awarded in agricultural science; biological science; computer science; earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences; and mathematics; 3,647 were awarded in chemistry; physics; astronomy; psychology; and social sciences; and 6,404 were awarded in engineering (e.g., chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical, and other types). Sounds like a lot of PhDs hanging around, but these figures are actually quite small when you consider there are over 300 million people living and working in the United States.
These small numbers are one reason why doctors, whether they've earned PhDs or MDs, hold such a prestigious role in society today. People look up to them. Ego may not be the driving force behind someone's decision to pursue his or her PhD, but it's usually there if you look deep enough.
Top customer reviews
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When I thought I understood how to explain my process and reasons behind my dissertation, Jason let me know (through his book) that I was simply explaining things incorrectly and leaving my readers confused. I enjoyed the examples he shared because they were detailed and showed why these mistakes are common among PhD students.
Great way to get the ball rolling and be on your way to finishing your PhD. Just when I was about to give up I found How to Survive Your PhD. Concepts (such as Conceptual Framework and breaking down the process) that I had difficulty with were addressed by Jason.
Nope. That is not this book.
To be frank, I spent more than half of the book rolling my eyes at various passive-aggressive quips at the author's advisor and fellow students. By the end, this felt more like a book on how to blame other people when your PhD takes much longer than you expected. Which is a pity, because I think this story had good teaching potential. I can't even begin to imagine how frustrating and disheartening it would be to work on my PhD for seven years! The author could have turned that experience into something positive, by giving concrete examples of how he dealt with problems, instead of just complaining about them and then advising to avoiding them in the first place. For example, the author complains multiple times about the frustrations of Human Subjects Committees. We get it. Bureaucracy is tedious and takes a long time. But if you do human research it is something you just have to deal with. How about some tips on speeding up the process (eg submitting a modification of a pre-existing protocol instead of a whole new protocol)? Or advising good time management: while you are waiting for IRB approval, could you be doing some in vitro work instead? Or getting an in-depth knowledge of the literature? Or working as a TA to pay off some student loans? Nope. You will find little of that here. However, you will walk away with the impression that IRB's are brutally slow and are probably plotting against you.
Even more concerning, some of the advice in this book is not only bad, but could actually get you in trouble! The author suggests that you try to "recycle" your writing, claiming that you cannot plagiarize yourself - not true! He also talks often of how he made money on the side by writing for a commercial magazine, but he never cautions that if you are funded 100% by NIH, NSF, etc that you are not supposed to have an outside job. Here's my hint to surviving grad school: if you want to go into academics, don't piss off your main funding agency by publishing plagiarized magazine articles.
By far the most helpful parts of this book were the tips on working with your advisor, like only giving them a chapter at a time to read, or highlighting the relevant changes. I also found the chapter on writing your dissertation helpful, especially the tips on how to write a little every day. Although the list of phrases you should use was particularly horrifying - just because everyone else in science overuses passive voice doesn't mean you should too! Nevertheless, I did find this chapter helpful, and it earns the book 2 stars.
All in all, I suggest passing on this one.