I am asked this at least once a day by someone or other so I thought I’d post about it. I have little in the way of content apart from what papers and reports I’ve already written for other purposes. I have a very long list of references which is only going to grow. I expect to finish my experiments within a month or two and then get started in earnest writing, which should take 3-6 months. Given that I’ve got 8 months in which to finish as a final deadline, this should be doable. 100′000 words is the limit, but it’s not really about size but content.
In case you’re not aware, dear reader, of what happens after that: you get a “viva voce”, which is a several-hours-long presentation and interview where you a) prove that you know your stuff and therefore probably wrote it yourself rather than paying someone on the internet to do it, and b) defend your work as significant enough, new enough, thorough enough and substantial enough to be considered worth a PhD (Doctor of philosophy, called DPhil in Oxbridge). There are 2 examiners in the viva, one internal and one external, neither of whom can have helped you with your work at any point. After the viva one of several things will happen:
- You totally fail. This is incredibly rare as people don’t normally make it this far with nothing to show for it, and no supervisor worth her/his salt would put you in for a viva knowing it’s likely to be a fail.
- You get dropped down to an MPhil. This is worth maybe 1/3 of a PhD, gives you a research masters degree. It happens when you have done some good work, but not enough of it to make a full PhD.
- Major corrections. You are given a long time (months to a year) to make adjustments to your thesis and do extra work to make it qualify for a PhD.
- Minor corrections. You are given a short time (weeks to months) to make minor adjustments to your thesis and possibly a little extra work to make it qualify for a PhD. With corrections you don’t have to go through another viva, you just send off your corrections to the examiners and they say if they think you’re done. At this point, you may start referring to yourself as “Doctor”.
- This never really happens, but occasionally a very clever and thorough person gets a pure pass. Not at all likely.
What do I think will happen to me? Well, I’m probably major or minor corrections. If I did exactly nothing for 8 months it’d be an MPhil. So, some work done, some still to do. If you’re curious as to what it’s been like to do a PhD, Jorge Cham has it covered pretty well - Piled Higher and Deeper!
“What makes music beautiful, then?” - in large part, it’s not putting in things that are awful. After that, the parameters are quite similar to what makes music sad. I can’t really give too many details when I’m trying to publish them - some enterprising soul might get there first!
“Did you enjoy doing a PhD?” - No. But I don’t think that’s the point of a PhD, is it? I have had points of enjoyment but mostly it’s been a long hard slog. I expect to feel satisfied when it’s done. I wouldn’t want to do it twice. If I could go back and pick a different more useful topic, I would.
“Will you be more employable with a PhD?” - Yes, about 5% more employable - it adds the chance to be a postdoc, of which there are very few in the country at the moment because no-one has any money. Hopefully this situation will improve when we properly dig our way out of recession. Every so often people in industry want a PhD holder, too.
“What’s next?” - I have no idea. Research or software engineering, most likely. It is highly dependent on what jobs are out there. Location is no object. Maybe Jim will get a job first and I’ll find one wherever that is, or vice-versa. Looking at the options I am tempted to do a genetics degree so I can work in bioinformatics - that field is huge! Looking for jobs is now my top procrastination device, even above social networks, and, of course: blogging.