My Ph.D. took a long time—and there’s no shame in that

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by SteveFoerster, Jul 18, 2023.

  1. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

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  2. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    "But as the years passed, I began to worry. I investigated 10 different hypotheses—just to prove each a dead end. We didn’t want to publish papers that raised more questions than they answered."

    So, maybe those who have gone through the Ph.D process could enlighten me a bit on this one. I don't see how or why a confirmed hypothesis is necessary for research. Finding out what isn't true in science is just as important as finding out what is true.
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  3. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    I thought similarly. Maybe this is a weird STEM thing?
  4. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    Probably because it's harder to publish in high-impact journals when the hypothesis isn't confirmed. It's ridiculous, and it's led to people fabricating data out of desperation. If your goal is to become a STEM professor, and you don't have impressive publications, you could end up in what they call post-doc hell. Although, I think post-doc hell is now becoming adjunct hell. I just read the adjunct sub-reddit, and many in there are hoping their adjunct experience will help them land a full-time teaching job.
  5. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Technically, it is true that research that doesn't overcome the null hypothesis in favor of the alternate hypothesis (significant results) can still be considered significant. After all, such research closes off avenues for future (fruitless) research. Also, the purpose of the doctorate is to prove--under supervision--that the candidate can conduct original research. The outcomes of the hypotheses shouldn't matter.

    But they often do.

    Sometimes one's research is valued by its findings, not its quality in execution. Sadly, the researcher doesn't control this--if they could, why do the research? But disproved alternate hypotheses are often seen as failures. Unfair, but true.
  6. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I took a long time to do my PhD. I enrolled in 1986 and graduated in 2003. But that hardly tells the entire story. From 1986 through most of 1994, I was an active "learner" at Union. But even during that time I had to take several interims (6-months off) because of military duties. When I stopped, I was writing up my research. So, I'd had about 6 years in the program. Slow? Sure. Even when I was actively enrolled, there were months when I just couldn't get much work done.

    From 1994 to 2001, I was out of the program. In 2001, I reentered the program and finished in 3 quarters. (I had to conduct new research and write up a new dissertation.) But it still took months of back-and-forth with the assistant dean's office to get my final dissertation through. So, I'd say I took about 7 years of enrollment to do my degree.

    It felt like an eternity, but I spent 6 years at Leicester from enrollment to my viva. Then it took another year to make the changes requested.

    Theodore Streleski was a doctoral candidate in mathematics at Stanford. After 19 years of enrollment--and still feeling like he wasn't getting any support from his advisor--Streleski killed his advisor with a ball-peen hammer. He was convicted of 2nd degree murder and served an 8-year sentence. It was joked at the time that if he had faced a jury of his actual peers--other doctoral candidates--he would have been acquitted.
  7. Garp

    Garp Well-Known Member

    "Streleski told the court he felt the murder was "logically and morally correct" and "a political statement" about the department's treatment of its graduate students".
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  8. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Perhaps it is significant that Streleski's murder sentence was less than half the length of his enrolment. Does this possibly reflect some of the 19-year enrolment being treated as "Credit for time already served?"
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2023

    TEKMAN Semper Fi!

    I started to study Ph.D. at Capella University in 2010. As of today, after 13 years, I still do not have a Ph.D. It does not matter when you start or how long it takes. It matters if you are finishing it. "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" Lao Tzu; everyone goes at their own pace. Therefore, it is no reason she shames her Ph.D. journey.
  10. tadj

    tadj Active Member

    ...And then there are PhD dissertations in the social sciences that are 66 pages in length (from Introduction to Conclusions) that are shorter that most Masters theses (at least in Europe) and could only take an extremely long time to prepare in the writing stage, if one were very sluggish. Of course, I am not downplaying the time that it take to do the actual research, but that type of social science research is also a part of a Master's thesis. The same thing could be said about the prior coursework.
  11. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member

    Hm. I had thought that PhD programs had a time limit for completion?
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  12. tadj

    tadj Active Member

    It depends on the country. External form, full-time doctoral school, coursework or none....
  13. chrisjm18

    chrisjm18 Well-Known Member

    It should be about quality, not quantity.
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  14. tadj

    tadj Active Member

    All I am trying to say is that Master's-level research can also approach this level of quality in the social sciences. I've seen it. And with such quantity (which I've illustrated with the 66 page dissertation from Liberty), it may be difficult to discern the actual difference. I know that PhD reserchers sometimes borrow the work of their own Masters students and publish it as their own research in research journals, a common problem in Europe, also illustrating my point. In terms of originality (a supposed hallmark of PhD research), it may also be difficult to spot the difference between a solid Master's and a PhD, at least in some cases.
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  15. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    As I've said repeatedly in this forum, just about everything regarding graduate education is negotiable. The guidelines set down are just those: guidelines.

    A few years ago I was coaching a client who was interested in grad school. His u/g GPA, however, was pretty low; he had a 2.3 and the school's literature said their minimum was 2.75 for admission. I encouraged him to go have a conversation with them. This highly-experienced and well-compensated manager had a lot more to offer at this point that some kid right out of a bachelor's program. The school was more than happy to waive the GPA requirement and to admit him to the program.

    Time-in-program requirements are their to be waived.
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  16. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    On average, social science dissertations are longer than STEM or business dissertations. Social science PhD programs also have longer average completion times. Yesterday, I came across a website that compared the average completion times for PhD programs in various regions, and U.S. PhD programs had the longest completion time. The U.S. requires coursework and a dissertation unlike Europe, which usually has dissertation-only doctoral programs.
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  17. chrisjm18

    chrisjm18 Well-Known Member

    My mother always told us, "nothing tried, nothing done."

    The chair of Curriculum & Instruction at Tennessee Tech told me that they generally don't offer GRE waiver. Still, I wrote a convincing letter and submitted it with my application. I was given full admission to the program.
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  18. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    My Doctor of Social Science is considered by the university to be equal to the PhD. And yes, the dissertation took a very long time. But that's because I made the following choices:
    • Employed a qualitative instead of quantitative research method,
    • Took an inductive instead of deductive approach, and
    • Chose to build theory (using grounded theory) instead of testing theory
    I've done one of each, since my first one was quantitative, deductive, and theory-testing. If I ever do a third, it will be like that (and I'll be very quick about it).
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  19. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    On waiving policy:

    I started my MBA journey while working for Xerox (and serving in the Air Force Reserve). After completing four courses at what is now Chapman University, I switched to National University after leaving Xerox and being selected for commissioning in the Regular Air Force. I got a lot of courses done before leaving for training, and several more after being assigned back in California. But I hadn't finished the four electives needed for the degree. Also, I was being assigned to Texas, and NU didn't have distance learning back then. Finally, I had maxed out the credit transfer limit with my Chapman credits. I was going to be stuck with no degree. So I applied for a waiver.

    Back then, National would award an MA in Business for 12 classes and 15 would get you the more-coveted MBA. Back then, that distinction mattered. (I really don't think it does anymore except with the highest-ranked schools and in certain employment situations.) The school said they'd waive the transfer credit limit, allowing me to take one class at some school in Texas and transfer it back for my MA. I decided to appeal to the chancellor. I noted my military situation, and that I'd be a good ambassador for the university, and I really should be given a shot at the MBA. The dude called me into his office and we had a chat. I walked out with the waiver I sought. I did my remaining classes at Webster University in San Antonio and got my NU MBA.

    You don't know what you can get until you ask. And National is really cool. You should check it out. ;)
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  20. wmcdonald

    wmcdonald Member

    From his jail cell, Mandela said he never failed, he learned from his experience! What is significant here, is recognize the only approximately 2% of the population in the US has a doctoral degree. If it is something you want to complete, time is not the issue! I encourage you to continue on the path! It will be worth the effort! And I concur, National University is a great choice to consider!

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