Postgraduate study skills in science, technology or mathematics
Postgraduate study skills in science, technology or mathematics

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Postgraduate study skills in science, technology or mathematics

1 What is a PhD?

1.1 Thoughts on a PhD

Entering students often think of a PhD as a ‘magnum opus’, a brilliant research project culminating in a great work. This is rather a demanding model, and few students win Nobel Prizes as a result of their doctoral studies. More realistically, a PhD is research training leading to a research qualification. The PhD is a passport to a research career.

There are other views of a PhD, as well. Getting a PhD can be a ‘rite of passage’, prerequisite to admission into the academic ‘tribe’. It can be a deep, specific education in a discipline, preceding a post-doctoral period of on-the-job training. It must make a contribution to knowledge, and so it can be viewed as one's entry into the research discourse.

There are certain things that you are demonstrating through your dissertation:

  • mastery of your subject

  • research insight

  • respect for the discipline

  • capacity for independent research

  • ability to communicate results and relate them to the broader discourse.

These reflect competence and professionalism, rather than greatness. Importantly, they are as much about comprehending others’ work as about doing one's own.

STM895_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has nearly 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus