Im about to do a part-time PhD and a friend of mine (who is currently doing a funded PhD) told me of a girl who do a part-time PhD in Archeology at UCL. Her thesis did not involve any experimental work and was mostly literature reviews. Anyway, cut a long story short, after 6 years she submitted and after her viva they told her her thesis was not good enough for a PhD and awarded her a masters. The women tried to sue the university but her case was thrown out.
This story scares the hell out of me because, wait for it, my part-time PhD will be non experimental and mostly a literature review. It will be a joint colab. between the Dept of Life Science and Archaeology at the University of Reading.
My friend could be BS but has anyone else heard of such things happening? Surely, if her thesis was not PhD worthy they would have spotted it at some point during the 5/6 years she was working on it. Should they not have spotted it after her 2 year MPhill stage? It looks as if her supervisor just used her to do his research for him and screwed her out of her money under the false pretense that her work was PhD worthy. This is unethical in my eyes. I hope its not true since it puts me off because you will never know the true intentions of your supervisor until its too late.
Even with a good supervisor a thesis can fail. This happened to a superb student in my department, who had just about the best supervisor. She wasn't even offered a Masters at her viva, but failed outright. This sent shockwaves through my department.
However a PhD has to make an adequate contribution to knowledge. I'd be very sceptical that something based purely on a literature review could do that. Or at the very least there's more of a chance that that might not be deemed acceptable.
I started a full-time science PhD over a decade ago. Recently I completed a part-time (6 year) history PhD. So I've been through the process twice. My second PhD was in humanities, but involved a substantial amount of new research. The literature review was a teeny weeny bit, maybe no more than 10% in total, probably not even that.
If you have faith in your supervisor, you should be fine. Perhaps that person submitted against the advice of their supervisor?? While it is not the supervisor who awards you the PhD, it is they who tell you when your PhD is good to go, ie ready for submission. Why not register (if you haven't already) with the British library thesis online service and have a look at other theses - either in your field or do a title search for those with literature review in the thesis title - it might put your mind at rest. It's free :-) and available at:
Thanks for the replies Bilbo and Ady.
Bilbo - what type of research did you do for your history/humanities PhD? I assume its very different to the life science style of experimental (i.e. lab based) research? Did you find the transition difficult, from life science research to a art based research? Im in a simmilar situation to what you were in, I have a life science research background but about to do a non experimental PhD. Im seeing the supervisor this Friday to discuss in detail but I have no clue what research I can do for my project.
I was a history student, so I did research in historical documents. For example I transcribed library borrowing records - thousands and thousands and thousands of borrowings - as well as trawling through diaries, letters, memoirs, autobiographies etc, looking for relevant references.
My previous go at a PhD wasn't life science, but computer science, so building software solutions. Very very different from humanities. But I've always been a historical researcher, since a very young age, so I took to the second go like a duck to a water. I also retrained from scratch: after I left my computer science PhD (left due to MS-like illness developing) I got a new BA in history, then a Masters. So I was fully retrained the second time around.
As an archaeology student wouldn't you be working with artefacts, either directly or second-hand, so writing about what has been found? Or archaeological surveys? You should be doing mre than just writing about what other people have done.
======= Date Modified 23 Feb 2011 11:05:16 =======
I have a similar story, I submitted, my supervisor said it was 100% certain to pass, my viva was cancelled because my thesis was 'so unsatisfactory'. I took it though the complaints proceedure and the OIA and they uphelded the majority of my complaint. I then went back, re-wrote the whole thing and had a very sucessful viva and graduated last year. It can, and does, happen. I am surprised they did not cancel the viva, this at least give the candidate a second chance.
======= Date Modified 23 Feb 2011 11:10:18 =======
I don't think this is about being part-time, it can happen to a full-time PhD just as easily.
I think one way of avoiding 'being used' is by communicating a lot with other people, your colleague and other students/lecturers in your field once you start. That way, you will get a good understanding of what is expected of you as a PhD student, and what is not.
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