How clever are you?

posted
14-Nov-09, 14:21
edited about 24 seconds later
Avatar for Keenbean
posted about 10 years ago
Since I started my PhD my friends and family seem to think I am a complete genius, as does anyone else I mention the PhD thing to. But I don't actually think you need to be amazingly smart to do a PhD....hardworking and dedicated with a thirst for knowledge, yes, but not necessarily amazingly intelligent. I'm not saying that most people who do PhDs are not clever of course, I just don't think that it's highest up on the list of requirements for a PhD student. What do you think? KB
posted
14-Nov-09, 14:49
Avatar for Stubblejumper
posted about 10 years ago
You are absolutely right, Keenbean. Intelligent, definitely. Genius, no way. It's so much more about determination and perseverance. This is what I've been telling my two teenaged girls since I started my PhD studies. Now that I'm done, they think I'm a hero (that will wear off soon enough, so I'm milking it for all I can). A PhD to people without a PhD might seem the result of freakish smarts, but people who have attempted or completed one know that it takes stubborness and an arrogant belief that "I have something to contribute" to academe.;-)
posted
14-Nov-09, 15:07
edited about 25 seconds later
Avatar for BilboBaggins
posted about 10 years ago
I think it's totally about determination about perseverance too. It's a very long slog doing a PhD, particularly if like me you're doing it part-time over 6 years. It's incredibly tempting to give up, oh so many times. The hard thing is to keep going, on and on and on. That doesn't require masses of intelligence, but it sure requires sticking power.
posted
14-Nov-09, 15:24
by Maria1
Avatar for Maria1
posted about 10 years ago
Completely agree with the posts below. I am not particularly clever, articulate or knowledgeable. However, I am determined, prepared to make sacrifices, and hugely critical of my own work. I will hammer away at it until my work is of an excellent standard.
posted
14-Nov-09, 17:05
edited about 26 seconds later
by Eska
Avatar for Eska
posted about 10 years ago
I know a few people who are not so bright who have PhDs; from what I've seen it's about grim determination and hanging on like a barnacle against all the odds more than anything else.
posted
14-Nov-09, 17:30
Avatar for Magictime
posted about 10 years ago
Depends on the topic you're researching though, surely? Some ideas are just very, very hard to get your head around. 'Plugging away' might get the donkey work done, but it's not going to enable you to critically engage with complex theories and arguments - either you're capable of thinking on that level or you're not.

(NB I'm not trying to make a hard subject/soft subject distinction here - I'm sure people are wrestling with some brain-achingly difficult ideas right across the board!)

posted
14-Nov-09, 17:36
by Eska
Avatar for Eska
posted about 10 years ago
Hmm I see what you mean Magic. The individual I was thinking of particularly took 12 years to complete, and only worked a few hours per week. He really struggled with concepts etc.
posted
14-Nov-09, 17:58
edited about 16 seconds later
Avatar for Keenbean
posted about 10 years ago
I agree- some topics will be more complex than others and require different strengths and abilities. I look at the some of the neuroscience people in our department and think that they must be pretty damn smart! It just amuses me how people assume utter genius the minute you mention a PhD...I know there are some very very clever folk doing PhDs, I just think it's not always a pre-requisite! KB
posted
14-Nov-09, 19:08
edited about 2 seconds later
Avatar for BilboBaggins
posted about 10 years ago
Quote From magictime:

Depends on the topic you're researching though, surely? Some ideas are just very, very hard to get your head around. 'Plugging away' might get the donkey work done, but it's not going to enable you to critically engage with complex theories and arguments - either you're capable of thinking on that level or you're not.


But surely the admissions process should weed out those students who'd have problems with this? In other words only generally strong candidates are admitted to PhDs after all so students who would have huge problems with the tougher concepts wouldn't even get to the stage of tackling a PhD?
posted
14-Nov-09, 19:37
edited about 26 seconds later
Avatar for Walminskipeasucker
posted about 10 years ago
This is what I think based upon my lived experience of doing a PhD so far. The most important attribute a person can have when doing a PHD is the tenacity of Japanese knotweed, a quality that means you'll never give up no matter what life throws at you - you'll just pick yourself up, brush yourself down and carry on. A first for knowledge? Important, yes, but not at the expense of self-perceived normality. Naturally, being assiduous is par for the course in PhD land. Cleverness? I do think you need to be clever in the sense of bright, but certainly not a genius. Problem solving, linking theories and literature, learning new, often sophisticated skills (PCR, Western Blotting, descriptive or interpretive phenomenology) and writing at a level suitable for a PhD and publication in the academic sphere do require you to be quite clever - that's why I struggle so much. But then, there's different types of cleverness isn't there?

I'd like to think the general consensus is: Clever? Yes. Genius/amazingly intelligent? Nope!
posted
14-Nov-09, 21:55
edited about 6 seconds later
Avatar for PeteManic
posted about 10 years ago
I've just stopped telling people and old friends I run into that I'm doing a Phd - I just say am still at uni. It saves getting the eyebrows look and the "look at you" - no don't look at me thanks. I'm just grinding it out really like any other 9-5.
posted
18-Nov-09, 01:51
edited a moment later
Avatar for Montezuma
posted about 10 years ago
I don't think I have any experience of people thinking I'm freakishly clever when I tell them I'm doing a PhD. I have had people commenting "OMG you're till at uni?" though... I feel like I'm missing out! My ego could do with some massaging ;-)

I have to agree that it doesn't necessarily take amazing intelligence to do a PhD (although it won't hurt!). There are lots of really clever people in say journalism, businesses, politics, medicine etc. Lots of other professions also require intelligence, perseverance, good writing/communication skills, problem-solving skills etc. I think the motivation behind academic/research work is one of the major things that make it very different to other professions. Some people are interested in making money, some in winning cases at the court, some in entertaining other people etc whereas academics are about contributing to the world of knowledge. Oh that sounds so grand doesn't it? ;-)
posted
18-Nov-09, 07:30
edited about 13 seconds later
Avatar for cleverclogs
posted about 10 years ago
Well seeing as you did ask, I'm a MENSA member with an IQ of 170. But it's what a person does with their cleverness that counts.
posted
18-Nov-09, 08:44
edited about 6 seconds later
Avatar for Keep_Calm
posted about 10 years ago
Quote From Montezuma:

I don't think I have any experience of people thinking I'm freakishly clever when I tell them I'm doing a PhD. I have had people commenting "OMG you're till at uni?" though... I feel like I'm missing out! My ego could do with some massaging ;-)



My experiences exactly Montezuma! Most people I speak to don't know what a PhD is, never mind think I'm freakishly clever for doing one. A guy I've been seeing for a couple of months looked at me in shock the other day when I mentioned I would hopefully be a Dr in a couple of years, even though he knows I'm doing a PhD?! But that's another thread.
One thing I didn't fully realise until recently was the true difference between a PhD and any other educational qualification. Research invovles niggling away at a central single problem for a number of years. In my case it involves re-interpreting the same couple of lines of poetry or drama again and again and again until I'd give anything never to see them again. You don't get the freshness and feeling of discovery anywhere near as often as you do on a 'course'. So a love of solving puzzles and a strong desire to find the root of your chosen problem are, as everyone has said, crucial.
The problem I find is that I tend to think I don't have those qualities. Until I look back over what I've done and notice the countless times I've forced myself to keep going even though I was sick to the death of everything. I wouldn't characterize myself as particularly assiduous or stubborn but history suggests otherwise!
posted
18-Nov-09, 15:23
edited about 7 seconds later
Avatar for Keenbean
posted about 10 years ago
======= Date Modified 18 Nov 2009 15:24:42 =======
Hmmm, well a member of our department is very fond of telling people that he has an IQ of 180 but he doesn't have the best degree results out of us all by any means (I have better GCSE, A-level, BSC and MSc grades than him!) and he is having every paper he submits rejected (which, I concede, might just be down to bad luck and tough reviewers)...so I think whilst you do need to be fairly smart to do a PhD, it really isn't everything, and high IQ scores don't necessarily equate to success unless you have the other necessary qualities as well. I guess one would imagine that the vast majority, if not all, of PhD students would have a higher than average IQ, although there is of course a lot of debate about how useful IQ is as a measure of how well one can perform on 'real-life' tasks. But I do know quite a few people doing PhDs who only got very modest A-level and degree results, but who have been extremely successful and sailed through their PhD with numerous publications in high quality journals, so there is clearly more to it than being able to get good exam/coursework grades and doing well on IQ tests. Well, from what I can see anyway! KB

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