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The Alphabet of PhD Study

Every language has its alphabet, and PhD is a language that only a few chosen ones can understand with its own alphabet too!

Here we decipher this alphabet so you can learn how to interpret this ancient language should you be considering becoming a PhD student.

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A – Academic

Academic is an overarching word that shines as the guiding star above any PhD experience. In other words, the purpose of a PhD course is to enhance your academic skills, including your ability to conduct research, teach younger students, and produce high quality academic writing. And that is why any PhD experience can best be described as the gate that leads into the world of academics! 

B – Broke

You will frequently hear that PhD students are broke. Although this saying is not completely true, it’s generally not far from the truth either. If you are a self-financed international student, you will need to pay annual tuition fees of £7,000-£12,000 for arts and humanities courses; £7,500-£25,000 for science courses; £10,000-£33,000 for clinical courses; and £4,000-£34,000 for an MBA. Needless to say, you will not bathe in luxury after paying for your studies! Even if you get a full scholarship it will only cover your basic living costs and you may well lead a lifestyle of making ends meet. OK, you will not be literally broke, but if you compare yourself to other people who are working you will feel broke. But don’t worry, a PhD experience contains many great aspects that will more than compensate for the financial limitations!

C – Crackpot

If PhD is a special language that only a few people can speak, then it is inevitable that in many cases PhD students are considered crackpots by the external world! Well, if you think better about it, a PhD is an excuse that allows people to talk to themselves for 3-4 years in a special language without being put into an asylum for doing so! And that should be a reason enough to study for a PhD.

D – Dissertation

Most of your PhD studies will consist of writing a dissertation on a specific topic in your field. Dissertation length can vary between subjects: in humanities you may need to write up to 100 000 words, and if you are a mathematician and discover a new mathematical formula, writing only two pages will be enough. If you are not very keen on writing hundreds of pages then opt for a technical subject where you will need to write less.

E – Eternity

Doing a PhD may sometimes seem to take an eternity. Fortunately, today’s PhD students are restricted to having up to 4 years to finish their studies. However, time is relative, and even 3-4 years can sometimes seem as eternity. But PhD is fun, and this eternity will pass more quickly than you’d expect or like!

F – Fudge!

As a PhD student, you will find yourself using the word “Fudge!” more frequently than you’d like. Whenever your research doesn’t work out, and these moments will inevitably come, the only thing to do will be to sit down and say: “Fudge!” Whenever you mess up something and you don’t know how to fix it the only thing to do will be to say: “Fudge!” A good thing is – saying “Fudge!” will always make you feel better.

G – Genius

To get motivated, many PhD students flatter themselves that they are geniuses. However, they soon realise that being a genius doesn’t help much in completing a PhD. Being self-determined is much more important than being a genius, because writing a hundred-page dissertation requires persistence even for the most intelligent person in the world.

H – Hypothesis

A PhD is all about making hypotheses and testing them. Near the end of PhD studies, hypotheses become so habitual that PhD students get lost without them. They start needing a hypothesis for everything they do, and even if they’re simply going to the supermarket to buy some bread they have to make a hypothesis! Fortunately, this habit does get lost once the studies are done.

I – International

With universities that are renowned all over the world, the UK is a great place for international students. Just think about your prospective career options once that you have a UK diploma. The doors of the entire world will be open to you.

J – Judge

As a PhD student, you will feel like you are sitting in a courtroom where you are constantly being judged by someone. You are being judged by your supervisor, by your examiners, and at the end of that judgment you will either pass or fail – just like a defendant can be proclaimed either guilty or not guilty. You’ll need to be your own lawyer, but if you defend yourself successfully there will be huge benefits!

K – Knowledge

Knowledge is power, and every PhD graduate is the “owner” of knowledge that only a few other people in the world possess. Therefore, those who undertake a PhD are among the most powerful people in the world when knowledge is considered. 

L – Latin

As a PhD student, you will be surrounded by strange Latin phrases even if your research project has nothing to do with Latin. To cover some basics, philosophiae doctor is the one who is in love with wisdom, and to get a PhD you will need to fall in love with wisdom as well.

M – Myth

There are probably more myths (link to common PhD myths) written about PhD studies than about Greek mythology. Some of these myths are half true, but many of them are not. If you are still deciding about whether to study for a PhD or not, make sure to avoid the trap of being influenced by these myths.

N – Narrow minded

It is not a prejudice to say that PhD students are in many cases very narrow minded. And who wouldn’t become narrow minded after working on a narrow research topic for a few years. However, having many friends and spending enough time on social activities is a vaccine against academic narrow mindedness.

O – Original

All PhD students want their research projects to be something new and original. And even if working on a single topic for 3-4 years may seem enough to fulfil this objective, in most of the cases it will not be enough time to produce a revolutionary dissertation. However, nothing is impossible, and we encourage you to become an example!

P – Prestige

Being a doctor is a matter of prestige. When someone refers to you as “Dr”, it sounds differently than “Mr” or “Ms” or many other titles. It is not as impressive as “King” or “Queen”, but it is very close!

Q – Qualifications

To get into a PhD program, you need to have certain qualifications to show that your knowledge is sufficient to climb the highest step of university education. Most of the universities will require you to have at least 2nd class honours (2.1) or equivalent to get into their program, but different universities have different grade requirements so it is best to read their admissions page.

R – Repetition

PhD is all about repetition. You will repeatedly be reading your dissertation and correcting various sentences ten or more times; you will be thinking about one and the same thing over and over again; and you will use the same research techniques multiple times. But each repetition will give you a new insight, and that is why PhD will rarely be boring.

S – Science

Although not all PhD courses fall under science, doing a PhD will definitely make you feel like a scientist no matter which subject you study. Indeed, as a PhD student you will need to conduct research, and each type of research has its roots in the scientific method. Even if you are studying arts and humanities!

T – Thinking

PhD is all about thinking, so if thinking is not one of your hobbies, don’t do a PhD! There are many benefits of just being able to sit and think. Indeed, it is a luxury that many people in the world would like to possess.

U – University

After the first month of your PhD studies, the university will become your home. You will work at the university, sometimes sleep at the university, and in many cases even eat at the university. Too bad PhD students are not like snails and can’t carry the university on their back once they are done with their studies. However, instead of carrying it on their back they can carry it in their minds as a nice memory.

V – Vacation

A good thing about being a PhD student is that you will have a lot of time for vacation. Well, “a lot” is always relative, but if you compare the length of vacation for PhD students and working people, PhD studies and “a lot” go hand in hand. 

W – Why?

As a PhD student, you will have tough moments, and at least once during your studies you will ask yourself “Why?” This will not always be pleasant, but it will make you tougher and prepare you for other hard times in your life.

X – eXamination

In order to get your PhD, you will need to verbally defend your dissertation, and this type of examination is called Viva. In Latin, viva means “long live”, and in the PhD language it means “long study”. But Vivas are actually fun – they give you an opportunity to show your knowledge and express your own opinions and ideas, imagine how many people would like to have this opportunity in their lives.

Y – Young

Doing a PhD is like entering a time machine. You enter young and exit old, while all the other people still look the same. However, this is all in the mind! After you get a PhD, you will feel more experienced than other people of your age, but your mind will actually be much fresher and ready to take new challenges.

Z – Zebra Crossing

Doing a PhD is like a zebra crossing. You feel like you are crossing a big road, and once you are on the other side there is a red light that prevents you from ever going back again. This is partially true, because this big road offers new experiences and takes you into the unknown, and once you are on the other side you will wish to repeat the experience over and over again.  But PhD happens only once in a lifetime, and that is why every moment of it needs to be enjoyed to the fullest!

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