June 21, 2024

Illustration: mehrere verschiedenfarbige Icons eines Doktorhutes

PhD: Who should and should not have a PhD

A doctorate is a special type of qualification. Proven “ability to work independently” (University Deans Conference). With this provision still very general, two groups of candidates can actually be distinguished, and a Ph.D. is not recommended.

Candidates and non-candidates

First, there is the group that overestimates itself. In my profession, for example, applicants have successfully implemented a social project and want to submit some kind of practical report with attached documents as a thesis. Interviews with those affected are then always combined. Such a project greatly reduces the quality requirements for today’s Ph.D. Working scientifically means knowing, describing, and transcending the state of the research, but not what is actually being summarized somewhere.

Representatives of the other group declared that any topic suited them and that they were interested in the title for “professional reasons”. These candidates don’t even have to be incompetent, but they don’t have a passion for a topic. You’ll try to get your Ph.D. with minimal effort (“Nobody will care about the degree later!”). For example, they read an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on this topic, which they took as a basis.

“These candidates don’t even have to be incompetent, but they don’t miss a subject.”

On the other hand, another group often does not apply: the group of cautious, cautious, self-critical. They cross out every word they just wrote and can’t come up with a better one. This group also includes those who make demands on themselves and their work that cannot be met – and because you doubt it, you don’t even care about getting a PhD – out of self-doubt. They choose topics that are too intense or stuck in secondary literature and because they want to get back into something. You prove self-evidence through three bibliographic references in order to secure yourself in all aspects.

Hegel’s paradox

Anyone who notices that current research (of course on a topic) needs correction, should decide to pursue a Ph.D. Who faces a sensitive gap. Anyone who thinks they can do a better job. Whoever encounters shortcomings wants to fix them. He who is convinced that he has something to say has not yet been said. If this feeling is “I can do better. You will be amazed! The world should know that!” Not there, the thesis would also become a boring literary work gathering dust in the filing cabinet.

So every PhD candidate needs self-confidence and ambition to be able to keep up with the research. Perhaps the sentence “Hegel was wrong here” should not be in the text. But the motivation must be to write. Without this claim to the same, only printed paper is produced, and the back of it can be used for notes or shopping lists.

Consider upgrading as a stage

Structurally, the following should apply: The Ph.D. is not an objective but a stage. You have to know where you want to go. After all, it is not frowned upon to get a PhD in order to have better career opportunities. But then you should also write the work on a topic that has this professional relevance. The thesis is then an entry ticket and a business card.

If you want to stay in the sciences, you should familiarize yourself with other opportunities and career paths. (Unfortunately) you can no longer submit a successful dissertation and thus justify your reputation. In order to successfully plan a scientific career, there are other aspects today: networks, many contacts, work with institutions and institutions, attending conferences, etc.

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Unfortunately, many applicants lack the aforementioned self-confidence. You have read everything, got acquainted with all the data and correctly processed the search case. The presentation is flawless and perfectly formatted. They always show up for the interview on time, are excellently prepared and then stop by. They do not have the courage to oppose Hegel, to say “I know better!”. Perhaps conforming to or meeting expectations is still part of the socialization of the family: “Pay attention to the opinion of the majority, political correctness, obey, be careful, do not venture too far …”. This is true, but frustrating. Sociology is certainly able to define this habitat in terms of classes or group theory. PhD funding here means encouragement.