18 December 2014
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PhD degree

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This is a resource page designed to give you information and advice about PhD degree courses. A Doctor of Philosophy degree, abbreviated PhD, is the highest academic degree anyone can earn. It requires extended study and intense intellectual effort, with students required to master a specific subject completely, and to also then extend the body of knowledge about that subject. The "D" in PhD refers to the highest level of expertise available in a given field of study, that of Doctor.

Students are required to research, study and read a comprehensive amount about the subject matter. This can include published literature, general reference works, text books, scholarly journals, publications used to exchange information, and reports of scientific investigations. Doctoral Programmes are designed to develop exceptional individuals with skills that go far beyond their research arena.

Studying for a PhD can be a life-changing experience that will not only improve your understanding of modern issues and advances, but also of yourself and the way you work. It encourages fresh and stimulating thinking, requires perseverance and will take your education to the next level.
A Doctor of Philosophy degree, abbreviated PhD, is the highest academic degree anyone can earn.

The essence of a PhD, and what makes it different from other academic studies, is the research that comes with it as well as the interpretation and deep understanding. Research can be completed and presented as a dissertation, an article in a academic journal, or even as a complete book. A PhD is different compared to other coursework, in that there is less structure to it, with students having more independence to set their own goals and organise their daily schedule. Earning a doctorate requires the student to master the knowledge in their field of interest, as well as contribute to it through original research and thinking.

Points to consider when thinking about a PhD degree

Deciding if a PHD degree is right for you really depends on your interests, field, motivation, and career goals. Before enrolling on a PhD program, you should carefully consider your long-term goals. Remember this is an academic course that requires total commitment and one that will stretch your mental capabilities. It is a course that will require long hours of study, considerable intellectual energy, and a significant investment of time. Below are some questions you should ask yourself, as they will help you to come to a conclusion as to whether the outcome is worth the cost.

  • Why do I want to do a PhD?
  • What are the career opportunities once I complete the PhD?
  • What is the financial cost?
  • Is the programme noted for any speciality?
  • How much will you be able to earn after I have completed the course?
  • Will it benefit my employment or career advancement prospects?

What to look for in a PhD degree course

  • Look for one that is highly respected across the globe
  • One that attracts outstanding students of the highest calibre.

Benefits of a PhD degree

  • Many recipients of doctorate degrees are recognized as experts in their particular fields.
  • May yield a higher salary upon completion and is therefore worth the increased cost long term.
  • They can help you to gain senior positions.
  • Many universities expect members of their faculty to hold a PhD and to be involved in research work.
  • The course offers superb networking opportunities.
  • You will study alongside some of the brightest and most ambitious people in the country.
  • Upon earning a PhD you will enter an ‘elite club’ of people who hold a very valuable qualification.

The difference between a Master’s degree and a PhD
A Master's degree tends to be more career-oriented while PhD's tend to be more research oriented as they are typically aimed at preparing people for research-focused careers.

General points to consider about PhD’s

  • A PhD in one subject will not automatically make you an authority in other fields.
  • How long does a PhD take to complete
  • This really depends on the country, subject and study method. In the UK most PhD programmes last for three years, however as advanced programmes of study they sometimes can take anywhere between four to eight years to complete.


PhD personal statement

Always remember that when writing your personal statement your key aim is to convince the admissions committee that they should choose you over other candidates. The best way to do this is by giving as many compelling reasons as you can, and by demonstrating your ability, interest and commitment to the course.

Remember that a your personal statement is one of the main ways in which the university admission staff will judge your application and commitment to your chosen area of study. It’s therefore imperative that you capture your ambitions in a few paragraphs, demonstrate that you are widely read in the topic, and have lots of enthusiasm for research (you can do this by giving details of any research projects you have been involved in, include techniques and results). Also note that having strong academic references can help your application considerably, so if you have any you should include them in your overall application.

Bear in mind that what you put down in your PhD can be used against you. There is a real possibility that if you get to the interview stage you will have to provide evidence to back up your claims or suitability and what you have done to research your subject.

Points to mention when writing a PhD personal statement

  • How you found out about the course.
  • Your academic studies to date.
  • Your career goals.
  • Why you want to do a PhD (be very specific about what your goals are, avoid being vague.)
  • Give details of specific people, books or works that have influenced you.
  • Only include quotes that appear natural and not contrived.
  • Who you have spoken to about the course.
  • Are there specific academic staff you would like to study or research with.
  • Are there any particular modules that interest you.
  • Refer to any research projects, dissertations or awards  you have won.
  • Mention the relevance of your first degree.
  • Demonstrate a knowledge of current educational and classroom issues.

Examples of sentences and phrases that you can use when writing a PhD Personal statement

Opening sentences
I am applying for admission to the PhD program in (................) because I want a career in the (.........)  industry.

I believe that the PhD program in (............) at your institution would be invaluable in helping me to achieve my objectives.

Your career objectives
I intend to pursue a career in research and (..................)

Your research activities
My primary research interests lie in the fields of (..................)

In contrast to traditional (..........................), my focus is on (..................)

I am currently working on (..................)

Making suggestions
I contribute two possibly-novel suggestions, firstly, I propose that (..................)

Opening paragraph
This needs to be a thoughtful, interest-grabbing introduction that clearly explains why you have chosen this course, research topic, or university, and must have a well written conclusion at the end.

Show that you are
Focused and dedicated in wanting to achieve your academic goals.

Reasons why you want to study at their university
Aim to flatter them, one way to do this is to research the university and find out about their past academic / research achievements, then mention this in your statement.
 
Soft or transferable skills to list

  • Mention your communication, interpersonal and leadership abilities.
  • Ability to resolving conflicts
  • Responsibility – how you willing accept this.
  • Problem solving – how you analyse situations and then come up with solutions.
  • Organised  - mention your excellent time management and study skills.

What NOT to include
Do not write in the jargon of your specific area of research, avoid acronyms and other obscure references. Apart from appearing unprofessional you should remember that the people reading your essay may not necessarily be experts in your field.

Revising and rewriting your personal statement
It is a good idea to have several capable people read and revise it, as having multiple perspectives can strengthen any essay. Be flexible and keep rewriting your statement until you are fully happy with it. Always check the spelling and grammar by getting someone else to look over the draft before you send it. Be concise and keep to any word limit.


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