How not to write a PhD thesis: Your Thoughts?

In this post entitled ‘How not to Write a PhD thesis’  by Tara Brabazon, notice the vulnerability of  doctoral researchers to injustices.  For example, after the oral exam, one of Tara Brabazon’s students suffers the slap of ‘minor revisions needed’ for ONE revision to a footnote in the fifth chapter.

The nightmare story of the doctoral researcher in the comment section at the end of the piece should convince everyone of the need for more transparency in the oral exam, in the selection of external examiners, and in instructions for revision that are given to students.

Please read this post and let me know how some of the problems Brabazon discusses could be ameliorated or avoided.  Note Brabazon is a British academic in the Humanities, so some of which she writes is particular to her discipline and her system.

How do the points Brabazon makes apply to doctoral education in other disciplines and countries.  How do they not?

How not to write a PhD thesis | General | Times Higher Education.

Look before you leap (part 1): 10 things you should know about a PhD but may not have been told

10 things you should know about a PhD but may not have been told.

Nick Hopwood

1.     You and your work are crucial to the future of humanity and the world

No, really. Fact is, society needs knowledge. Society is changing. We need new knowledge. We are constantly playing catch-up, as well as relying on people to get one step ahead and shape our visions for the future. Without research we are doomed. And without doctoral students, a huge portion of the research pie simply disappears. Estimates put doctoral research output at over 50% of all research output in some countries (eg. Australia).

But it’s not just that doctoral students provide an army of research worker-ants (though they do and are increasingly seen in this light at a policy level). The point is doctoral work is cherished because in many ways it is unlike much other research. In arts and social sciences, where we tend not to join existing projects in labs, doctoral students get to…

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How is doctoral Education Like Science Fiction?

I couldn’t get an old science-fiction story out of my mind. It told the story of a special school whose programs were designed to educate that tiny elite of the galaxy’s population capable of exploring the edges of the universe. With a laptop and a search engine at my disposal, I found my way back to “Academy for Pioneers,” by Raymond F. Jones (1956). The plot was simple. The academy was an elaborate hoax designed to make it possible for students to learn the unteachable. Although faculty members did not know how to instill judgment, spontaneity, or improvisation in the face of surprise and uncertainty, they did understand the conditions their students could not possibly tolerate. Only by requiring all candidates to undergo an education designed to appall truly elite candidates to the point of rebellion could the school ultimately identify those who were capable of learning to engage with the unknown (Shulman, 2010, p.1)”

How is doctoral education similar to the movie Academy for Pioneers?




Shulman, Lee. (2010, April 4). Doctoral Education Shouldn’t Be a Marathon. (Barkat, J. contributor). The Chronicle Review.

How to be a crappy supervisor (or: how to confuse, depress and dumb-down your students)

Does your doctoral program encourage you to set out expectations for the relationship between candidate and supervisor?

Nick Hopwood

After my blog post ’10 ways to annoy your supervisors’ I was contacted by a doctoral student who felt that an accompanying view from the other side could, and should, be expressed. I’m delighted to post her response. I’m particularly pleased by her direct challenge to my point about asking for permission before talking to others. I agree with her, as well as with my original point (yup, I’m human, so I can live quite comfortably with contradictions).

As you’ll see, my posts tend to be quite frank. The point is to spur discussion, debate and thinking (not to spout unquestionable truths). So thank you Verity Quill, for engaging with the post in exactly the way I hoped!

By Verity Quill, PhD (elect)

I just read Nick Hopwood’s discussion about ‘How to annoy your Supervisor”.  Well, it takes two to tango, as they say in the old country…

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