A magnum opus or magnum hopeless?

by Anna Blanch on November 1, 2011

There was a time when the rare few wrote PhD theses and it was considered one’s magnum opus, or finest final work in order to enter into the hallowed halls of the heights of the profession. Now, not so much. In fact, I think there’s been a little “grade inflation” or maybe it could be better described as outcome distortion.

By that I mean this – for me the PhD has always seemed like a gateway that will allow me to be a journeyman academic. It’s the demonstration of one’s ability to write a cogent monograph length argument of original research. It is about contribution to the field, yes, but not the end point. It’s a precursor and entrypoint into the profession of scholar and teacher.

A Doctorate no longer serves as a guarantee to a faculty position – in fact any teaching position. It is a qualification required, but it is a bare minimum.

This is why I say don’t do this for the money.

It is akin to a paradox that would make Russell proud – I love to write. I need to write.

The PhD thesis is a very particular kind of writing.

As I hear of the numbers of applications received by universities this go round i’m hearing numbers in the hundreds, scary big numbers as individuals who not only have a Phd “in hand” but with monographs and many articles and conference papers to their names (and even a first teaching job under the belts) before application. The slippage is odd and it is both directions.

A PhD now demands more with less reward.

But you know what?

I’m doing it anyway.


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