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Are PhD standards slipping?

@Bilbo - I do agree. But to my mind, 'minor corrections' implies at least a small change to the argument, rather than just fixing spelling errors. So I would say that giving someone 'minor corrections' for a few typos (i had four) would be quite harsh.

Ultimately though, as someone said below, nobody ever actually asks (in job interviews etc) whether or not you got corrections. The distinctions are pretty meaningless.

Are PhD standards slipping?

There can be a bit more to 'no corrections' than meets the eye. I was awarded my PhD with no corrections when in fact I did have a small list of typos and references to add. The examiners said they wanted to award 'pass with no corrections' in honour of the high quality of the thesis (not trying to be a big head, honest!) so all I had to do was correct the typos before the hard bound copy was submitted. Maybe this is what happened with the person mentioned in the OP?

I personally hate to see typos in work, as I suppose I would assume the author was sloppy, and I do think poor expression can spoil an otherwise good argument. But with a thesis, almost nobody else will ever read it, and if parts of it go on to be published then it will be copy edited by a professional anyway, and errors removed. So if I was examining a thesis, I probably wouldn't be too bothered about typos if the content was sound, because it's more of a personal document than a public one.

Deciding on a career outside academia.

======= Date Modified 10 Nov 2010 13:47:36 =======
Hi Keep Calm

I think you're doing absolutely the right thing in looking early. I finished my PhD last september and realised about 2 weeks into my first academic job that it wasn't the career for me - in retrospect I should have figured it out a lot sooner. I'm currently trying to extricate myself from my job and retrain into a completely different area. It's exciting, but immensely hard work.

I've found the Guardian website really useful - their careers pages have a forum and also they do these live Q&A sessions, there was one on 'breaking into publishing' a while back (I noticed because I was considering it myself). They are archived so you can read through them. Do you have any big conferences coming up in your field? In mine the various academic publishers all have stands at the big annual conference and I imagine it would give you a big foot in the door to be able to talk to people face to face if that is the sector you want to move in to. I think the only potential barrier is that publishing (like so many careers) seems to demand a lot of unpaid internships these days.

Regarding being a librarian, a friend of mine used to be a librarian in a 6th form college and had a masters degree in information management (i think). Something to do with being accredited through CILIP. Maybe ask at the university library if someone will talk to you about careers?

Sorry I can't be more help! Best of luck.

Just about to start a PhD...doubts already?

Hi Malcontent
As someone who has recently very reluctantly moved away from the North East for a job elsewhere I just wanted to say I'm sure you'll grow to love it in time - it is a wonderful area and people are so friendly! I'm sure you don't want to give your anonymity away by saying exactly where you are but here are my suggestions for things to do to get away from your tiny room and the freshers - I think I've covered all the university towns in the NE!

Newcastle/Northumbria: Laing gallery and Baltic gallery are both free and often have great exhibitions (Laing often has things related to Newcastle, while the Baltic is uber modern); Hancock museum behind Newcastle Uni is also free and has tons of cultural and historical artifacts from the region; Metro centre if you like shopping (although you can't get there on the metro, which is a bit confusing - use the train/bus); take the metro to Tynemouth and go to the beach, there is a big flea market in the station at weekends (or the fab second hand book shop in North Shields called Keel Row); Bede's World (anglo saxon theme village!); there is also a big gym in the top of Eldon Square (the shopping centre in town) which is run by the council and really cheap for students, which does lots of classes, rock climbing, all sorts.

Durham: 10 mins on the train to Newcastle so all of the above; castle and cathedral (tours of both available); Crook Hall - kinda chintzy stately home; Botanic gardens (up near Collingwood college); hire those little rowing boats and take to the river!

Sunderland: take the metro to Newcastle, as above; Museum and winter gardens; Washington Old Hall (National trust); i think there's an art gallery as well? (Sunderland's not my strong point) and if you can get to Hartlepool there is a maritime museum with a big old boat (history not my strong point either!) and some entertaining animatronic displays of ye olde sailors.

Middlesbrough: MIMA (Middlesborough institute for modern art) and the Dorman museum (regional history) are both good; Ormesby hall (National trust); there are some public parks in town as well.

I would say - get out, keep yourself occupied (it might also give you something to talk about with the freshers) and don't expect it to feel like home too soon. I do agree that finding a shared house with some postgrads or young professionals would be better but maybe wait until you've met the other postgrads - there are undoubtedly other people in the same position as you.

As to whether you've turned your back on history - well, I did a degree in politics, then an interdisicplinary PhD, and now I work in a geography department. I wouldn't say my research interests have really changed, it's just that different aspects are emphasised to fit different requirements. If you feel strongly that you want to go back into a history department after your PhD then try to ensure at least one publication in a 'proper' history journal and keep up with conferences in the field. But I would say at this stage, keep an open mind because the best jobs aren't always where you think they're going to be! Also with regards to your new uni being a 'step down' - i think every time people move universities it is natural to consider whether it's a step up or down, but far and away the most important thing it hte research community you're going into. I moved from a university deemed very good by the outside world but where our degree programme was shockingly mismanaged and not one member of staff could even be bothered to write me a reference for my PhD application! But the place I went as a postgrad was the total opposite - small, tight knit community of supportive people with a passion for the subject.

Give it time and try not to worry about the living situation - it'll sort itself out. And good luck!

Can anyone help me out??? Star and/or praise available.

I can access it, if you PM me your email I can send it on.


What motivated you to commence a PhD?

I started doing my PhD because I wanted to be an academic - that is, a lecturer of some sort. But I had absolutely no 'burning desire' to research a particular area, and I really struggled to pull some waffle together as a research proposal. I think I had the desire to research, but no idea what direction I wanted to head off in. I like the problem-solving aspect of research, rather than the 'fitting into a community of scholars' aspect where you have to nail your flag to various theoretical/empirical posts. By the end of my PhD (which I finished in November) the situation was totally the reverse. I adored my topic and firmly believed that my approach was the best possible way to go about researching it. I became part of a wonderful network of academics in a similar field. And, ironically, I was no longer sure whether I actually wanted to stay on as a lecturer or not. For the time being I am working as a research associate, but I have no idea what will happen when my 2 year contract runs out.

Awkward situation with team-mate!

KB - you have my total sympathy and support. In seeking to share the burden of dealing with one jerk, you have unwittingly attracted the attention of another. Hope your research is going well, and I'm sure the situation in your team will work itself out over time. Heifer.

lecturer salaries

I would agree with all of the "just apply" messages below - seriously, nobody will think that you are getting above your station. The absolute worst thing that can happen is they look at your CV, feel you are underqualified, and put it in the bin.

Just a thought as you mentioned commuting to London - does the £35k include London weighting? Because at my northern university Grade 7 (entry level) lectureships are around the £29k mark, and Grade 7 posts at the LSE are £35k because of London weighting.

For the record, my own meagre postdoctoral research job pays £24k, although I am shortly moving jobs to another meagre postdoctoral research job that will give me £28k (due to my year's experience).

External Choice - Easy or Hard Examiner?

I know what you mean about feeling like you 'cheated' - in my case, I picked the examiner who sounds like your Prof Y - my thesis was largely based on his theory. In advance of the viva, I had a huge panic thinking it was a terrible idea because he of all people would be the most likely to say that I had misunderstood/misapplied his work. Then after the viva (he passed me) I started to worry that maybe he had been the 'easy' option because he would have been flattered that I used his theory. The moral of this story? It's easy to find ways to feel insecure about your own acheivement :-)

Seriously though, there are some other factors to consider. The reference from my external was a big factor in me getting a job - he is a big name in the field. We are also considering co-authoring a paper, and if I ever get my thesis published as a book then having a recommendation from him would be a big bonus. Think about Prof X - is he going to be able to offer any of these things? Also consider how both of these people will interact with your internal examiner. If they are coming out of slightly different areas/disciplines then the viva could go in two very different directions, depending on the area that your internal is coming from.

I think you should go with your gut feeling. Good luck!

How many job applications till you got the job?

There was another thread about this recently, here:


Personally I got the 4th job I applied for (research job, social science), but my husband put in 25+ before getting anything (humanities).

When to get married?

I got married at the end of my first year. Mum made my dress, mother in law baked the cake, father in law lent us his vintage car, uncle played the organ, friend did the flowers. Table decorations, makeup and other little bits and pieces came off Ebay. We had the reception in the local pub and didn't have an evening do (neither of us "do" dancing!). The bridesmaids carried beaded handbags rather than bouquets so they could re-use them. I did the orders of service myself and got them printed in the university bindery who were fab. For the invitations I found a rubber stamp in art deco style (that was the theme we went for) and then printed the inserts on the printer in my postgrad office (slightly cheeky I know but I considered it payback for years of printing everything 2 to a page, double sided while other morons merrily printed out entire books without a second thought).

I actually found it a really nice diversion from my PhD because I love planning and organising things but you could always consider getting a wedding co-ordinator if you don't have the time or inclination to do it yourself.

The only thing I would add is that while some people love to be asked to help with weddingy stuff, for other people it is really stressful so make sure they really, really want to do it and aren't just being polite. When my brother got married they asked me to do the flowers and while I'm fairly competent I'm not a trained florist. The night before the wedding I was in tears and barely slept because I was so worried that they wouldn't be right/would have died overnight etc. Strangely I cared less about my own wedding than I did about theirs because of the responsibility of having to contribute something that I wanted to be perfect!

Should I apply for this job?

I would also add - definitely don't be afraid to ask your supervisor about it. There would be absolutely no 'moral' reason why not - people get in touch with prospective employers all the time to ask informal queries about their suitability for posts - and moreover, getting jobs is (for better or worse) all about having the advantage. The more you can know about the job and who else might be thinking of applying for it the better. Also, if you ask her and she says you're not experienced enough/not close enough to completion/etc, surely that is less potentially embarassing than putting in an application without saying anything and then having an awkward conversation in the corridor if they don't give you it?

Where to look for post-PhD academic jobs?

One other thing, make sure your head of department and as many other people as possible know you are looking for a job so that you are first in line for any casual teaching that they might be able to offer - it can take a while to find a first job so being able to piece together shorter contracts is important and most departments have to buy in some lecturing/demonstrating throughout the year.

Where to look for post-PhD academic jobs?

The Times Higher Education website is quite good, as is the Guardian website, although they take a bit more trawling through than jobs.ac.uk. Check whether your own university has a vacancies alert type thing that you can sign up to. For Oxbridge jobs google 'Oxford Gazette' - can't remember what the Cambridge equivalent is off the top of my head, but they list more appointments on there than they generally advertise elsewhere.

also make sure you are subscribed to any listserv/other mailing or discussion lists in your field as sometimes people circulate job adverts through those. If you are thinking about postdocs (as opposed to strictly lecturing posts), try googling 'academic jobs wiki', it is a good resource for current humanities and social science postdocs (although focuses more on US jobs).

Hope this helps (and that it doesn't get moderated into oblivion)

Why I didn't the job i wanted so much :(

======= Date Modified 08 Mar 2010 13:49:20 =======

I agree with Wal. It's clear you are upset and I don't want to be harsh, but you are going to need a very thick skin to compete in the current academic job market. It is very very common to not hear anything back from employers if your application is not successful - it's not particularly nice or helpful of them, but then they probably had over 100 applications per post. you thought you had the ideal qualifications for the job, and you most likely did, but then so did many other people, some of whom had more experience/publications/teaching hours than you. It's not always a matter of you doing something 'wrong', its just that there are so many other people competing with you who are also doing everything 'right'.

If you're serious about getting an academic job you need to be prepared to keep putting in applications for months. My husband (arts subject) got his first academic job last week after searching for 1 year and 1 month, putting in about thirty applications. Two of his friends who completed at the same time have yet to find work, while a third gave up and left academia. It's really tough.

I hope you can get through this difficult patch and stick it out. there are lots of others on this forum trying to find jobs too, and I hope you can find support here and elsewhere.