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Difficulties faced by modern PhD students

Difficulties faced by modern PhD students

Deciding to do a PhD is not an easy decision. Although the candidate’s competence is an important fact it is by no means the only or the main one. The real difficulty in doing a PhD for home and foreign students lies in the peculiar nature of this degree. Peculiar because it is not a standard degree most people have and therefore, reference and advice is not generally available to potential candidates. A PhD, above all, is an intellectual choice, a commitment to learn beyond the boundaries of the chosen disciple, a thorough effort to contribute to improve the understanding and hopefully transform the way in which your disciple is conceived. This requires PhD candidates to have matured the understanding of their discipline to avoid transforming their thesis into a repetition of already well established concepts and methodologies in need of no further testing. Originality and simplicity should be the key guiding principles behind a PhD proposal. Originality, because it makes the idea stand out on its own rising academic enthusiasm and interest in its development. Simplicity, because the simpler the idea behind a PhD thesis is, the easier its comprehension and the lesser the potential objections to its practical realization. However, the simplicity of the idea behind a PhD should be sufficiently profound, philosophically speaking, to shake the foundations of academia. This is why there is nothing more difficult than simplicity.

The question now is who can undertake such an intellectual and academic challenge that requires reinventing oneself to reinvent academia? How fit and committed are PhD tutors and supervisors to guide students through a PhD thesis? If the spirit is strong but the flesh is weak….How can supervisors’ professional commitments to departmental` objectives and students’ lack of intellectual and personal maturity condition the attainment of the ultimate goals of a philosophical treaty like a PhD? The answer to this question is not easy given the mercantilist drive affecting academia in the western world in the last decades of the 20 and 21st century.

The rapid technological progress has favored, on the one hand, the development and application of sophisticated methodological tools that have rendered data collection and analysis easier and more precise, but on the other hand, it has somehow conditioned the development of a functional superficial analysis of the PhD thesis based solely, in many cases, on the descriptive application of the methodology used. Original thinking or thinking outside the box is discouraged as functionally inefficient and potentially threatening to the PhD acceptance. The real difficulty faced by modern PhD students is to know how to approach the topic and development of a highly personal piece of work like a PhD, which, in the best of cases, will require the candidate to commit four years of his life and how to establish a healthy mentoring relationship with the PhD supervisor.

a blog by Dr. Mario B. Curátolo

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