HD: 5 Ways to a Faster PhD
Posted: 27 July 2017 12:57 PM   [ Ignore ]
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No, not spam, but an article I wrote having nothing to do with etymology or even language.

[ Edited: 28 July 2017 04:08 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 28 July 2017 08:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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You are an impressive person, Dave. I respect what you have accomplished in your life. Few people have done so. And on top of that you have created one of my favorite web sites, and that has made my life better.

[ Edited: 28 July 2017 09:00 PM by Eyehawk ]
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Posted: 28 July 2017 10:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thank you for the article, very interesting.

Sadly, it seems that there is a decline in humanities enrollments.  I’m hoping that people, such as yourself, can perpetuate the pursuit of liberal arts and humanities.

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Posted: 29 July 2017 04:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Actually, humanities enrollments are not on the decline (at least generally, individual schools may, of course, vary). That’s a zombie myth that keeps getting repeated by the media.

Enrollments in the humanities have pretty much held steady since 1980. There was a decline in the 1970s. Humanities enrollments had reached a peak in 1967 mainly due to the post-war GI Bill followed by opening up of schools to women—who were largely excluded from STEM and professional studies. But this was over by 1980 and enrollments settled at a sustainable level.

Daniel Falcone, “On the Slow Death of the Humanities,” Counterpunch, 2016.

Peter Mandler, Rise of the Humanities, Aeon, 2015

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Posted: 29 July 2017 10:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Dave Wilton - 29 July 2017 04:18 AM

Actually, humanities enrollments are not on the decline (at least generally, individual schools may, of course, vary). That’s a zombie myth that keeps getting repeated by the media.

Enrollments in the humanities have pretty much held steady since 1980. There was a decline in the 1970s. Humanities enrollments had reached a peak in 1967 mainly due to the post-war GI Bill followed by opening up of schools to women—who were largely excluded from STEM and professional studies. But this was over by 1980 and enrollments settled at a sustainable level.

Daniel Falcone, “On the Slow Death of the Humanities,” Counterpunch, 2016.

Peter Mandler, Rise of the Humanities, Aeon, 2015

Well, I’m happy to hear, that is good news.

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Posted: 05 August 2017 11:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I’m surprised by the amount of time it takes to complete a PhD, so kudos to you, Dave, for achieving in the timescale. The other things that surprised me:

Don’t universities already require a proposal as part of the application? If they don’t, how do they know who’s doing what, what’s new and what’s relevant?
The funding issue: a friend who was awarded a PhD (engineering) was hired out as a consultant during the period which presumably paid his way and brought the university some repute. Engineering and the sciences are probably more commercial than the humanities, but I’d have thought a way could be found round this. Why isn’t this already the case?
A chapter-by-chapter outline: again, I’m surprised this isn’t already the case. If not, why not?
Hold departments accountable:  ditto.
Publicise the numbers: ditto.

After reading your article, it sounds to me as if universities are badly organised and not living in the real world.

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Posted: 06 August 2017 04:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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It really is incredible how you manage to do it all, Dave: getting a PhD, coping with the requirements of your work and at the same time creating and maintaining the best etymology site on the whole web. As Eyehawk said, very few could manage that. I certainly couldn’t.

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Posted: 06 August 2017 04:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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The British (and Australian and New Zealand) system is somewhat different from the North American one. As I understand it, British PhD programs are almost entirely research focused. There is no requirement or expectation that the grad student teach. Also, most North American schools have some kind of breadth requirement in coursework and examinations before the student starts to work on their dissertation, so the student engages in topics outside their research field. And when you apply to a British program, you do apply to work on a specific project. As a result, the nominal completion time for a British PhD is three years, as opposed to five in North America. Some claim that this results in lower-quality research. I don’t believe that to be the case, but there’s no question that those who emerge from North American PhD programs have a broader range of skills and are better prepared for the job market than their narrowly focused British counterparts.

There are also big differences between the disciplines. A humanities PhD program takes a very different shape than an engineering or sciences one, both in the requirements and how they’re funded.

As an example, here is the nominal schedule for an English PhD student at the University of Toronto. Each school and department will vary, but in broad strokes this is what a North American PhD program in humanities looks like. Canadian schools are also a bit different from US ones in that they generally require a master’s degree for admission. US schools may have more coursework in the first two years.
Year 1: Coursework
Year 2: Comprehensive exams (covering all of English lit); assembling your committee and defining your research project
Year 3: Special field exams (on your chosen field and research topic); candidacy status achieved, begin work on your dissertation
Year 4: Dissertation work
Year 5: Dissertation work, oral defense

Throughout, the student works as a graduate teaching assistant; typically starting with a grading-only TAship in the first year, then moving on to leading break-out groups. Once candidacy is achieved, most students will also serve as instructors in their own right, but that’s over and above the program requirements.

Also, many students will, at some point, work for a year or more as a part-time research assistant for a professor. This work is separate from the program and is funded by research grants acquired by the professor.

This is the nominal trajectory. Pretty much no one follows the plan exactly and most take six to eight years to complete, if they complete at all.

[ Edited: 08 August 2017 03:45 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 07 August 2017 02:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Consistent with Dave’s description, in the sciences a student in the US does not usually enter a graduate program (at least, not from a bachelor’s) with a project selected. In my program, during the first year we did “rotations” in the labs of three faculty members by way of getting to know them and the work they did (and them to know us); these were generally worked out by mutual agreement between the students and the faculty and were intended to help the student choose a mentor (and vice-versa).  We also did two shorter “mini-rotations” during the summer after the first year.  As I recall, students who had arrived with a mentor and project already selected were still required to complete the three rotations.  It did help to provide some breadth of experience.

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