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Definition of PHD

A PHD is a type of postgraduate degree, awarded to students who complete an original thesis that offers a significant new contribution to knowledge in their field. You will have to research an area that very few people have researched before.

A PhD is a globally recognized postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities and institutions of higher education to a candidate who has submitted a thesis or dissertation, based on extensive and original research in his or her chosen field.

Doctoral qualifications are available in all subjects and are usually the highest level of academic degree a person can achieve. A doctorate can assume a mythical status. Are they only for geniuses? Do you have to discover something incredible? Does the qualification make you an academic? And are research degrees only for people who want to be academics?

Even the full title, ‘Doctor of Philosophy’, sounds a bit mysterious. Do you become a doctor? Yes, but not that kind of doctor. Do you have to study philosophy? No (not unless you want to).

What does ‘PhD’ Mean ?

PHD’ means ‘Doctor of Philosophy’, which is an abbreviation of the Latin term, (PH) ilosophiae (d) octor. The word ‘philosophy’ here refers to its original Greek meaning: philo (friend or lover of) sophia (wisdom).

Unlike most master’s courses (or all undergraduate programs), a doctorate is a pure research degree. The modern doctorate is a diverse and varied qualification with many different components.

While the second or third year of a teaching degree is quite similar to the first (with more modules and courses at a higher level) a doctorate moves through a series of stages.

A typical PhD usually involves:

  • Conducting a literature review (a survey of the current scholarship in your field)
  • Conducting original research and compiling its results.
  • Producing a thesis that presents your findings.
  • Writing your thesis and presenting it as a dissertation.
  • Defending your thesis in a viva voce oral exam.

These stages vary somewhat between subjects and universities, but tend to fall into the same sequence during the three years of a typical full-time doctorate.

PHD vs. Doctorate

First things first: what is the difference between a ‘PHD’ and a ‘doctorate’? Often, there is none.

To qualify for a PhD you need to produce advanced work that makes a significant new contribution to your chosen discipline. In doing so, you will obtain the title of ‘Doctor’, hence the name.

The PHD is the most common type of doctorate and is awarded in most academic fields. Other doctorates tend to be awarded in specific subject areas or for more practical and professional projects.

Essentially, all PHDs are Doctorates, but not all Doctorates are PHDs.

It requires at least three years of hard work and dedication after completing a bachelor’s degree (and probably a master’s degree as well). You will have to sustain yourself during those years, and while you will develop an impressive skill set, you will not advance directly into a career.

But a doctorate is also immensely rewarding. It’s your chance to make a genuine contribution to the sum of human knowledge and produce work that other researchers can (and will) build on in the future. No matter how obscure your subject, there is no such thing as a useless doctorate.

A doctorate is also something to be incredibly proud of. A proportionately small number of people do academic work at this level. Regardless of what you end up doing after your doctorate, you’ll have an impressive qualification, and a degree to match. In addition, non-academic careers and professions increasingly recognize the unique skills and experience that a doctorate brings.

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