How Are PhD Students Evaluated? (A Guide On Assessing The Performance Of Grad Students)

How Are PhD Students Evaluated?

(A Guide On Assessing The Performance Of Grad Students)

Before I started my PhD I knew very little about how PhD students were evaluated. Through a bit of research and my own experience I have found that evaluation for PhD students is less objective than evaluation of bachelors or masters level students. Depending on the program, the university, and the part of the world, the process of getting a PhD can be very different, but the end goal is usually the same, produce an original piece of research that makes a contribution to your field. But how is the originality or contribution of your PhD work evaluated?

During the first few years of PhD work in North America, PhD students are evaluated relatively objectively through specific written pieces of work produced at the end of the their coursework. This work includes papers, large projects, and in many cases comprehensive exams (comps). After successfully passing comps, PhD students move on to their own research. Some universities use milestones to mark a PhD student’s continued progress, but the evaluation process for PhD students becomes far more subjective and usually based on their intellectual contribution and research output which includes not only their dissertation research, but often writing and publishing articles and presenting conference papers.

Just as an FYI – this post was written by a member of the R3ciprocity Team, but not Dr. Maslach. We are actively trying to grow this project, which is good news for you! We are trying to create the best resource for graduate students, and people that are interested in research and academia by giving back as much as we possibly can. There are so many things about graduate school and academia life that no one talks about that are incredibly important, and we can all need the help. However, you can watch the YouTube video that this post is based on below. Make sure that you also subscribe to the YouTube channel by clicking here!

Graduate Coursework

Evaluation during the first year or couple of years of a PhD is similar to the evaluation you experienced in previous education. Students take courses based on their area of specialization, which usually requires them to read quite a lot, and then meet to discuss the readings with each other and their professor. (You can read this blog post about the size and style of PhD seminar courses.) The courses require an end product of some type in addition to your many hours of reading and talking. Generally that end product is written. I wrote a lot of papers, but they were much longer and more complex than the papers I had written previously, however, they were evaluated more or less the same.

At the end of the proscribed coursework, many programs in North America also require students to take their comprehensive exams. Comps are essentially pass/fail exams that test what you learned in your coursework. Depending on the program, you might only be required to write a comp for your major field, but some programs require comps for all coursework fields. There might also be an oral component. This is almost like a mini dissertation defense in which you explain your written answers and then get asked more questions to test your knowledge of the coursework. Once comps are completed students move on to their dissertation research.

Here are two excellent YouTube videos to help you do well on your comprehensive exams:  

What Are Some PhD Milestones?

After the first few years, evaluation for a PhD student becomes increasingly subjective and less objective. Evaluation starts to depend more on your research and contribution, but some programs still have a few more objective tasks for you to complete called milestones. Milestones are often pass/fail, and vary widely by program. They are designed to be completed by a certain date within a program to keep students moving forward during the research and writing phase. For example, some disciplines such as History require students to submit a formal research proposal soon after their comprehensive exams. This research proposal is evaluated on objective features such as an appropriate and complete literature review and bibliography, but also more subjective matters like the proposed contribution to the field.

Some programs require students to give a colloquium paper (or, 2nd Year Paper), or present part of their ongoing research in an open forum to not only share their progress, but also to get feedback, not unlike giving a paper at a conference. Depending on the area of specialization, such as History or International Studies, some programs require students to take a language exam. This again is a more objective quantification of whether or not a student has the language skills to produce research in their field if it requires a language in addition to their native tongue. Generally, milestone evaluations are benchmarks to keep students moving along through the program to cut down on students taking overly long to complete their PhD.

What Is An Intellectual Contribution? (Quality vs. Quantity)

Outside of coursework, comps, and milestones, the evaluation of PhD students is much more subjective. Much of the evaluation is based on intellectual contribution, or what is your research contributing to your field. How is it new? How is it an improvement or clarification of existing knowledge? Why is it important to the field? How is your research helpful? Now some days you might sit there and think you have nothing new to contribute, all your thoughts have been expressed before. Don’t worry, WE all feel like that. But how is your intellectual contribution evaluated? Well it’s evaluated in a few ways: publications, conference papers, and your doctoral dissertation. I’ll talk a bit more about the dissertation below.

One of the more prominent ways intellectual contribution is evaluated not only for PhDs, but for academic generally, is through publications. (Here is a quick and dirty guide for writing a manuscript). This is not a straightforward task, and sometimes it is a question of quality vs. quantity. There is no perfect number of publications to shoot for, it all varies widely depending on career stage and discipline. What might be a high number of publications for one discipline is a low number for another. The quality of the publications can also vary pretty widely. You might know someone with a low number of publications, but the publications they do have are top quality, highly original pieces of research that are making a huge impact on their field. You could also know someone with scads of publications, but the quality isn’t quite as good and they are contributing something to their field, but not in a very impactful way. Numbers aren’t everything. How the research is used is important. Who is reading it? What is it being used for? What are the long reaching impacts? These types of things are also not always immediately evident. So a lot of evaluating PhDs on publications is subjective and based on the experts reading it.

Conference papers are another way intellectual contribution is evaluated. Are you applying to conferences? Are your abstracts accepted? How are your papers received at that conference? Conferences are a great place to meet and talk over your ideas with other people in your field and get their feedback. Our supervisors are phenomenal resources, but sometimes it is helpful to get the input and fresh perspective of someone with more distance from your individual project. Conferences also give you the opportunity to hear what other people are working on, and see if you can collaborate on similar interests.

You might want to watch these videos on attending conferences: And, this very real account of attending a conference:

Doctoral Dissertation and Defense

The dissertation or thesis is probably the best known component of the PhD process and measure of your intellectual contribution. The research you may have published or presented most likely was part of your wider dissertation research or at least very closely related. Some programs allow students to complete a dissertation by publication (i.e. their published articles are their dissertation), but many require a large research project that results in a lengthy written work. The dissertation is evaluated by your committee and defended by you at a dissertation defense. The committee examines the dissertation for many components, but chief among them is the contribution of the research to your field.

You can watch a video of selecting a doctoral committee here:

The process of writing a dissertation is many blog posts in and of itself, so here I’ll focus on the end evaluation. Once your thesis goes to defense you have to do what it literally says: Defend your ideas, defend your contribution to your field. There are of course horror stories about bloodbath defenses, but what it should be is an exchange of ideas centered on your work. Make no mistake, you are there to stake your claim in your field, and you will be subjected to a few hours of questioning about your work, but this is one of the very few occasions where you will have a completely captive audience present purely to discuss your ideas and your contribution to the field. If the committee agrees that your dissertation makes a contribution, and you have successfully defended it, then you pass the final evaluation. Likely at this stage you will have to make some corrections to your original work, but that is the last hurdle of the PhD evaluation process and you have made it through.

What if you are confused about your university’s standards for evaluation?

Don’t worry, confusion is part of the process. Everyone in academia at some point has been confused about the their own education. That being said, many students suffer from what is usually called imposter syndrome meaning that they don’t feel they belong in the PhD program, and that they got their by some mistake. (you should watch this YouTube video about imposter syndrome) They don’t want to call attention to this mistake and so they don’t ask questions to clarify for fear of looking foolish in front of their cohort or their esteemed supervisor. Know that despite the confidence many of your peer’s project, many of them feel the same confusion you do. If you are feeling confused about how you are being evaluated ask for clarification, read your program’s handbook, talk to your supervisor, and talk to your cohort. It’s best to get familiar with the standards of your field, and the easiest way to do that is to talk to other people in your field.

If you still need more help with how PhD students are evaluated, you can check out more of these blog posts from the r3ciprocity project:
  1. How to get feedback on your writing during graduate school.
  2. How many hours do professors work?
  3. Questions to never ask a PhD student.
  4. Should you get a PhD to become a business executive?

How Do You Get Feedback On Your Writing (During A PhD / In Grad School)?

How Do You Get Feedback On Your Writing (During A PhD / In Grad School)?

  When I was driving home from Orlando with my kids a few years ago, I wondered “How do I get feedback on my journal articles before I submit them to academic journals?” Then, I thought that getting feedback on your writing is a much broader problem to tackle. This was the beginning of my r3ciprocity project, where I am trying to create a system to allow people to get feedback on their writing (it’s mostly geared to academics at this moment to focus my efforts, but all writers and editors are welcome!). This article details how you can get feedback on your writing during your PhD. The article details:
  1. Some sources of writing feedback.
  2. Strengths and weaknesses of writing feedback / critiques. 
  3. Provides information on how to provide good feedback.
  4. Gives examples of good and bad peer reviews.
  5. And, provides a simple checklist for peer reviewing of articles. 

Sources Of Writing Feedback.

For professors (it is going to be similar for writers), there are three sources of feedback on writing:  
  1. Friendly peer review. Friendly peer-review occurs when your friends and acquaintances give you feedback on your writing. I think in the writing industry, these friendly reviews are called ‘beta-readers.’ The fundamental problem with friendly peer review is that you quickly run out of friends to ask. Also, friends are not going to provide the same honest feedback as blinded reviewers on a manuscript.
  2. Feedback From Conferences. You can also get feedback on your writing from attending academic conferences.  Some academic conferences, like the Academy of Management, have you submit a manuscript and the manuscript is peer-reviewed by volunteers. Sometimes they provide good feedback and sometimes they don’t provide good feedback on your writing. The issue with the feedback is often bad reviewers identify your problems, but don’t help you with solutions to your writing.
  3. Feedback From Journal Article Submissions. You also get feedback from journal article submissions through the peer-review process. Generally, peer review is blinded and you don’t know who your reviewers are. This process is very good and generally at a top-tier journal. You will get good reviewers that both can identify your weaknesses and help you provide solutions.  However, the process tends to be slow and you don’t want to submit too many weak articles to journals because this reduces your credibility with editors in the future. The academic journal system is largely volunteer, and it works on reputation. Further, the solutions tend to be rather technical, rather than constructive feedback on writing.
  I wanted the r3ciprocity platform to provide a middle ground by creating a system that focuses on helping people improve their writing by getting feedback from others (Here is a post that details some of the journey of creating the system). Moreover, many of the above solutions are focused on aiding professors, principal investigators, and not at helping out PhD students or other graduate students. This is a group of people that are learning the skills to become academics, but they don’t have the resources to pay for writing classes or expensive editorial help on their writing. I have been there.   Thus, I wanted to create a system that had a ‘freemium’ model in which you can get feedback on your writing for free as long as you helped out others yourself or for payment. This has dual goals of helping out as many people as possible and to make the system sustainable by having payment.  

What Are The Strengths And Weaknesses Of Writing Critiques / Feedback? 

  You might be asking why does feedback on your writing matter? When I get my writing critiqued from others, I usually find that there are strengths and weaknesses to these writing critiques.  

Strengths of Writing Critiques

  1. You can identify if your main points are resonating. If you come back with a lackluster reviewer, it likely means that the reviewer didn’t understand what you’re talking about. you need to go back and make it resonate more by illustrating why your points are important.
  2. You can identify weak spots in your writing. When I am thinking about the writing critique, I’m thinking about both what the reviewer has written and also where they got lost with my points.This is looking ‘through’ the feedback. 
  3. You get new ideas. Whenever I get feedback from other people, I usually get two kinds of information. Some of the information is redundant, but some of the information is new can give me insight on the thing that I am researching. These new ideas are perhaps the most important reason why you want to get feedback from other people.

Weaknesses of Writing Critiques

  1. Getting feedback on your writing almost always hurts. I do not know of a time in which I did not want to give up on a project when I got feedback on the project I was working on. Know that it is just one person’s opinion, and can choose to ignore and push through.
  2. Writing critiques do not account for diverse opinions. There is this thing in statistics that is called the central limit theorem, and basically applying it to writing feedback, it means that one person’s opinion is just their opinion, and you need to account for many people’s thoughts to have a true understanding of what people think about your writing. The problem with feedback from one person is that we currently don’t have a mechanism to aggregate feedback from multiple sources / people. In other words, feedback is far more subjective than I would like. You have to learn what is good feedback and what is feedback that needs to be discarded. 
  3. Writing critiques are not weighted by their value. Because feedback is often free (not accounting for a person’s time) and we don’t compensate feedback, there is often considerable variability in the feedback that you receive. For example, it’s own thing getting anonymous feedback from someone on Twitter versus getting feedback from someone you respect and admire. If you can place value on certain types of feedback or from certain people, I think we will have much better feedback mechanism, and you will be better able to make a decision on your work. 

How Do You Provide Good Feedback On An Article?

  The goal with feedback on research articles is not only to improve the validity of the research article, but to also make it easier to read so others will read it in the future. Ultimately, what you should be aiming for is pointing out the problem in the paper, but also providing solutions to the problem. There is nothing more frustrating then getting feedback that provides little direction and how to solve the problems that the reviewer sees. Your goal should be to provide both problems and solutions to these problems.   In terms of what feedback you should provide, I think good feedback occurs when somebody can see the bigger picture of what you are trying to do and can steer you towards that bigger picture so you can have a larger impact with your article. The goal is not to get stuck in the details of the paper, but to give feedback that allows the author to see whether he/she can take the idea next.  

What Are Some Examples of Good And Bad Peer Reviews?

  These are hypothetical statements from good and bad reviews. I also provide some information about why these are good or bad reviews.  

Statements From A Good Review:

  1. “I like where you taking this idea, but I really think you should try to incorporate ideas about XXX as well.”
    1. Here, the reviewer is helping the author by suggesting that their idea is not broad enough. As the author, you should read up on what the reviewer is asking you to look at. Perhaps, you can incorporate some new ideas into your work. 
  2. “Your introduction is unfocused, and you need to reduce the number of pages dedicated to your introduction to 2 pages. Remember to also include your research gap and research question.”
    1. The reviewer is helping you by making your work more focused. Sometimes introductions just go way too long, and its an easy mistake to fix.
  3. “Your analysis is missing XXX, and you should try to include XXX into your paper.”
    1. These are the most straight-forward comments to address. It is an example of someone doing a good review because the author can directly address the problem. The more specific and detailed the comment is, the easier it is to fix and answer. Try to be specific as possible.
  4. “You need to clearly define your constructs on page 1.”
    1. This is a common critique, and it is a simple fix. You simply just have to define the constructs early and put the statement “We define XXX as…” The more precise and focused the review, the easy it is to fix.

Statements From A Bad Review:

  1. “This paper is good.”
    1. Blanket value statements give you absolutely no feedback. There is nothing you can do with this information.
  2. “This paper has fatal flaws and never should be published.”
    1. This kind of feedback will destroy the paper, and the basic ideas behind the paper. While the idea may not be good, you should focus on being developmental and think about the feelings of the author. The author(s) will likely never pick up the paper again after they get this reviews.
  3. “You are the worst writer I have seen.”
    1. This kind of feedback targets the individual author, and should be avoided. When given constructive feedback, you should focus on the task or the document, rather than the individual. A better statement might be “The paper could use more development.” Moreover, as a reviewer, you should have a learning mindset that the paper is not complete, but is in a constant state of development. Sometimes, authors might submit an article that is too ‘green’ to simply get some early feedback on their writing.
  4. “I like the basic idea, but I just feel that core idea lack face validity.”
    1. While this statement is common, it does not give the author much to work with. It does not provide rationale about why, where, or how the idea lacks face validity. It does not give the author any possible ‘out’ to respond to the comment because the idea will always lack face validity in the reviewers eyes. Rather, the reviewer should suggest to the author to go out and collect additional qualitative evidence or interview evidence to back up their claims.

Article Peer Review Checklist

  Here is a simple checklist for peer review of your articles. Its not complete, and I might add to the list over the next few years. Here are some basics:  
  1. Does the article cover all of the basic sections:
    1. Introduction.
    2. Theory development.
    3. Hypotheses development.
    4. Research Setting/Methods.
    5. Results.
    6. Implications / Discussion.
    7. Conclusion (Optional).
  2. Does the article have a clearly identified research gap?
  3. Does the research article have a research question?
  4. Are the constructs defined in the article?
  5. Are the hypotheses simple and easy to understand?
    1. Are there rationale for each hypothesis?
  6. Is the research setting clearly articulated?
  7. How was the sample collected? Is the sample representative of the population?
  8. Are the empirical metrics clearly laid out? Do the empirical metrics match the constructs in the paper?
  9. Is the analytical technique discussed in the paper?
    1. Can you follow the analytical technique? Why / Why not?
  10. Do the results discuss if the hypotheses are supported? If not, are the results interesting and counter-intuitive?
  11. Are there theoretical implications? If this is a practitioner journal, are there practical implications?
    1. Do the implications make sense?
    2. Do they match the theory?
  12. Does the author discuss limitations? If not, why are there no limitations in the article?
  13. Is the conclusion too broad or narrow?
  14. Grammar / Spelling / Syntax.
    1. Are there too many small grammar issues? Can you provide examples?
    2. Are the figures / pages / tables number correctly?
    3. What does the reference list look like? Are there errors in the references?
  15. Quality of overall idea:
    1. Can you take a step back from the paper and identify it was interesting and counter intuitive? 
    2. Are you going to tell other people about the idea?
    3. Did the paper change your mind about something?
  In summary, I wanted to help you get feedback on your writing. I wanted to give you as much detail as possible on why writing feedback is important, and how you can improve your writing during your PhD in the future using feedback. This article also details what I am trying to do with the r3ciprocity project, and why I think the r3ciprocity project is important. If you want to learn more about what it is like to get your PhD, and how you can become a better academic, you can look at these older posts that I wrote:
  1. Steps to improve your writing as an academic. 
  2. How to write a research article.
  3. Advantages and disadvantages of a PhD.
  4. How long is a PhD?
  5. Frustrating PhD questions to never ask someone. 

How Many Hours Do Professors Work In A Week?

How Many Hours Do Professors Work In A Week?

Many people want to understand how long do professors actually work in an average day. This answer is geared towards graduate students or undergraduate students that are thinking of becoming a professor,  and thus the answer will be pretty frank and straightforward. I want to make sure that you have full information before you start your journey as an academic.   Answering how many hours that professors work in a week is a bit of a tricky question as there are many components to the average workday of a professor. This is based on my own experience, and what other people that I know who are professors at comparable stages of their life. The average number of hours that professors work in a week is anywhere from 35-75 hours per week. Yes, that is a large variance, and you will get different answers by looking at different blog post or studies, and there are many reasons why  there is this variance, and here are some answers to these questions about how many hours professors actually work.   This is part of my r3ciprocity project,  which is kind of like an experiment, to see what happens to my life and others around me if I give back as much as I possibly can.  I am an Associate Professor of Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Strategy. I’m doing this for three reasons.   First, there were so many people that helped me out to get through graduate school that I decided to pay the favor forward and help you out.  I come from a rural town in Ontario Canada (Dryden) and I didn’t know anybody that had a PhD, let alone anybody that went to graduate school.   Second,  there is a considerable amount of research in the social sciences about the benefits of reciprocity, in being a person that values research, I wanted to see what would happen if I lived by the rules of reciprocity in my own life.   Third, I wanted to create a online platform where people would proofread other people’s work, to both allow researchers to get access to these individuals (in an ethical way), But also to solve my own problem by improving my academic writing with a tool that did not exist. I provide much greater detail about the academic support group / writing tool that is suppose to be in this blog post. By the way, instead of reading this blog post, you can also watch the video here (available after August 2019):

How many hours do professors teach?

  Most professors teach anywhere from 3-10 hours per week, depending on the role of the professor. If you are a more research professor with a large lab, or if you work with doctoral students, or primarily do your own research, you are looking at teaching 3 hours per week. However, if you are more teaching faculty at a university, you are going to teach about 15-20 hours per week. You are also likely to teach 3-6 courses per semester. You can also watch my YouTube video on a professor’s schedule, which might be very helpful for you:  

Do professors work full time?

  Yes, professors generally work full-time. Our work is spread out among many different activities, and that is why it is difficult to answer how many hours you work for week. For example, you might do research, teach, or do you service activities, and each one is important. Most professors have their favorites at what they like to do, unless they might give you one as work in the other one is not work. For me, I like to do research and write,  but it is difficult for me to do, so I view this aspect of my career as working. It also depends on the overall objective of your career. For example, those activities that don’t advance your career, such as emailing people unless it is related to research, don’t really count towards work as a professor in my eyes.  

How many days do professors work?

  Most professors work 5-7 days a week depending on your work schedule and what you are doing at the time. Don’t get this mistaken that professors work 7 days a week. Most professors tell you that they work 7 days a week, but they don’t necessarily count all of the things that you do that are ‘life activities’ which they perform intermittently. This competitive nature of telling people how much you work generally stresses me out. In other words, telling people how much you work is a bit of a game or demonstration of excellence in academia.   People have different work schedules as academics.  This largely depends on what is occurring in your life, and how you best work. Sometimes you work more, and sometimes you work less depending on what is happening in your life. Some people work well by getting up early in writing for a few hours,  some people spend 7 days a week at the office, other people write in the evening, and others try to perform a nine-to-five schedule. It all just depends on who you are, what commitments you have, and how you best manage your time.  

What are assistant professor work hours?

  The amount and time that you work changes as you progress through the career. Also, what you work on changes as you continue to work in the career. Early in your career, assistant professors are going to working on writing papers and researching, however as you become a Full Professor, you are going to be doing more service and out-reach work.   Some people think that you might work less as a full professor than an assistant professor. This might be true for some people, but you have to think about the people that become full professors are there because they enjoy doing research (there is a strong selection effect in this career), unless their schedule is unlikely to change. Indeed, you get tenure and you become a Full Professor because other people believe that you will continue on researching in your area.  

Is an assistant professor full time?

  Yes, it is full-time, and it simply means that you did not get tenure yet. It does not mean that you are an assistant to the professor, which is sometimes confusing. 🙂 Once you get tenure you become an associate professor. The main job of an assistant professor is to do research, rather than teach or do service. These other jobs are for when you get tenure. If you want to read how to write a research paper, or what it takes to write a research journal article, I created a guide to write a journal article here.  

How much free time do professors have?

  Professors have as much free time as you a lot yourself for.  The best possible way to think about being a professor has to think of being a freelancer or entrepreneur. You build your career as you continue with the profession, in the things you do now have an impact on the things that you get back in 10 years. Thus, if attending Sunday service is particularly important to you, you will make time to attend that service. You build  what you want to do and how you want to do it, just so as long as you continue to do research and interact with other academics.   If you want to stay at the top of the game, you have to make your free time research-oriented. In other words, you try to do tasks that are fun but also help you become more research productive in your free-time. For example, if you have kids or a spouse, and you know you’re not going to have time to spend with them during the week because you are writing a paper, you spend some time with your kids on the weekend or the evening so they will understand when you devote time to your research.  

Do these professor work-hours create burnout?

  Professors do you get burn out,  but from what I know from burnout research is that burnout is more of a symptom of not feeling like you’re getting traction and not feeling like you are part of a community, rather than the work hours that you keep. This is why it is so incredibly important to ensure that you make time for yourself and to ensure that you have a life.  The amount of traction you get cannot be manipulated very quickly, as it depends on the domain and task environment that you are in as a professor.   However, each and every time that I start feeling burnout or stress is because I start feeling disconnected from The Real World. Doing things like this r3ciprocity project,  hanging out with friends and family, and exercising keeps me going as a professor. As long as I’m participating in real life, I tend not to feel burnout. You should aim to try to stay connected and to keep  track of the progress you’re making.   In summary, I hope I answered as many questions about the schedule of a professor and how many hours you actually work as a professor. I know that this answer is a little bit squishy, but the career is squishy as you yourself are creating what you want to do for the rest of your life. If want to learn more about what it is like to be a professor or if you are thinking of getting your PhD, you should read these blog posts that I wrote:
  1. How do you actually become a Business Professor?
  2. Excellent tips for writing a PhD applying to a PhD Program that you really need to read.
  3. Here are some pros and cons of getting your Executive Doctorate as opposed to your PhD in Business.
  4. How long does it actually take to get your Doctorate in Business to become a professor?

Five Frustrating PhD Questions To (Never) Ask A PhD.

Five Frustrating PhD Questions To (Never) Ask A PhD.

Imagine the scene. You find out your friend/ relative/ the stranger you met three minutes ago is working on their PhD. And you gave up on academia after completing your hard-earned bachelor’s degree so the world of graduate school is still shrouded in mystery, and is still a pretty huge deal.

But you should wait before launching into your questions. Others have been here before you and they’ve made mistakes. For the sake of the real-life PhD in front of you read on and get a crash course in the five frustrating questions you really shouldn’t be asking pursuing their PhD as well as some good alternatives to keep the conversation flowing.

To summarize and make your life easier, here are the five questions:
  1. How much longer do you have to complete your PhD? 
  2. What are you doing with all your time off in the summer? 
  3. You are a teacher, right? 
  4. What exactly do you do all day? 
  5. How come you just can’t hand in that article you are working on?
By the way, if you want to watch the video on PhD questions that you should not ask, where I am a bit more candid, check it out:

1. So When Do You Get Your PhD After Your Name?

Also known as: When will you be done? How long will it take?

Those letters are called post-nominal letters and can be placed after an individual’s name to indicate that they hold a position, academic degree or honor. Choosing whether or not to include them on your future business cards is a big decision and most PhD students will happily talk post-nominal letters with anyone. The frustrating part of this question is the when.

Asking a PhD student in the deep, dark depths of research when they will be done is like asking an unemployed person when they’re going to get a job. They don’t know and it’s as simple as that. The PhD student is putting in the work to get through the many requirements of their program just like the unemployed person is updating their resume and sending in application after application.

But the harsh reality is that hard work in both scenarios doesn’t necessarily bring quick results. The real progress is often dependent on other people; the advisor who signs off on your great idea or the manager who invites you for interview. You can hustle for weeks on end and still come away from a meeting or interview with dashed hopes and a new awareness of how far you have to go before you reach your goal.

Will it happen next week? Next year? Before pigs fly? Keeping optimistic and celebrating the small successes can keep you going when you lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel but it’s not easy. And having people in your life and at social gatherings focus on the end date just makes it worse. It will be done when it’s done and that’s the end of it.

Good alternatives: What are you working on right now? What is your next big milestone?

2. What Are You Doing With All Your Time Off In The Summer?

The summer vacation part of school where you skip out the doors sometime in June and don’t have to think about work until after Labor Day is a distant memory for those pursuing a PhD. The same for spring break and winter break. There just isn’t time, especially if you’re on the tenure track with a substantial amount of research. Your research has to be your priority.

Don’t think it’s work 24/7 – it’s not. Those undergrad “all-nighters” are a thing of the past. Neglecting to take care of yourself in order to spend more time working is the fastest route to burnout there is. And days where you forget all about the research are as vital to a PhD student’s self-care as eating and sleeping well. Take it from someone who knows. But no matter how well-balanced you manage to make your life there will never be enough of those days.

This is not a situation unique to PhD students. It is very rare to come across anyone who thinks they get enough time away from work to spend with their family, pursue personal goals or travel. And any graduate student will be quick to educate those who think going back to school is the best way to reclaim those four months off that we all took for granted as high school students.

Once you embark on a PhD it has a sneaky habit of stretching and expanding until it feels like this thing you are doing is your whole life. If you believe in the value of your research and find your specific topic engaging and empowering to study then that might not bother you. What certainly will bother you is when people assume that your academic pursuits mean you don’t have to work when the kids aren’t in school.

Good alternatives: What do you like to do when not working on your PhD? How do you relax and recharge when your work is stressful?


3. You’re A Teacher, Right?

Well sort of. Teaching in some way, shape or form at their university on courses related to their subject area is often part of the PhD student’s journey. Employment at the university  as a PhD student comes with fun benefits like stipends (money) and fee waivers (lowered course fees).

But taking this one aspect of a PhD’s work and labeling them “just a teacher” is about as dangerous as calling an actor who waits tables to pay the rent while he works for his big break “just a waiter.” It undermines and trivializes the true core of why they are doing what they are doing: their research.

Teaching is a noble profession. You don’t reach the PhD stage of your academic career without a lot of help and support from some superb teachers along the way and teaching as part of your own PhD program is a way to give back to the next generation.

Unfortunately that doesn’t change the fact that marking endless papers, or responding to an undergrad’s frantic emails about how her mark on the midterm will affect her GPA, takes time and energy. Valuable time and energy that you cannot spend on your own research. And having acquaintances marvel at how light your schedule is when you tell them you’re teaching three to four courses an entire year (a pretty full schedule for anyone) does not help.

Good alternatives: Do you teach at the university as part of your program? How do you balance your teaching responsibilities with your research?


4. What Exactly Do You Do All Day?

Hard work in many career paths produces easy to see, tangible results. Construction workers build houses, surgeons remove tumors and firefighters put out fires. The value of their work is universally understood and appreciated. But the work required for a PhD is not like this. It is the work of ideas, questions and words. The journey is complex and unpredictable, exploring wide but also continually refocusing and refining.

Progress like this is hard to see, even harder to measure and almost impossible to understand from an outsider’s perspective. Hours of explanation would not help someone with no interest in your research topic comprehend the magnitude of your middle-of-the-night lightbulb moment last Friday. Or why it is so important that you figure out how to get a copy of that obscure Australian journal published in 1994. Or why that minute variation in your lab results means doing hours and hours of what you’ve been doing already but with one key change.

The problem with this question of what exactly a PhD student does all day is that there’s often no way to answer it that will satisfy the asker. They could follow you around for three weeks and still be as clueless about what exactly you do because your schedule is not what you do. Your schedule is the means by which you work towards something that makes complete sense to you (and hopefully your advisor) but is as often as inaccessible to the general population as the meaning of hieroglyphics on the wall of an Egyptian tomb. So, how about try a different question.

Good alternatives: What is your favorite part of an average day? What are the advantages of doing your PhD compared to the usual 9-5 job?


5. Why Don’t You Just Hand In What You’re Working On?

When the going gets tough and things just aren’t falling into place you vent your frustrations to those outside the PhD bubble and this is the question you get. And there is logic to it. Because handing in what you have will get you the feedback you need to take the next step and make your work better, right? Not exactly.

Passing over your incomprehensible scrawl of notes and half-developed work to anyone in a supervisory capacity at the university is like displaying your bowl of mixed up egg, sugar and flour in a bakery window. Nobody wants to see that.

You know what they want to see? What they need to see? Evidence of your best work. They’re not looking for perfection – far from it. But they are assessing and evaluating and having something thought-out and put together, a cake rather than a bowl of ingredients, helps them support you in finding the best way forward.

The PhD process involves in-depth assessment every step of the way. Papers, questions and answers; a PhD is not for the faint of heart. And that is all before you defend your doctoral dissertation. Support and encouragement and other help may be much appreciated but “just hand in what you have” is not.

Good alternatives: Is there anything I can do to support you during this busy time? What are you currently working towards?

So there it is – five questions never to ask the PhD. All you have to do is steer clear of them the next time someone studying for a PhD crosses your path. The PhD will be pleasantly surprised at your skill in avoiding all their least favorite questions and everyone will go home happy.

If you are currently studying for your PhD or considering doctorate study then check out the other posts on this blog for lots of PhD information, insight and support. If you want to read a bit more about PhD life, you should check out the following articles:

  1. If you are thinking of a Professor, here are some comment ‘do professor’ questions in this post.
  2. Tips to write a statement of purpose that you will find extremely useful.
  3. Advantages and disadvantages of doing a Doctorate in Business.
  4. A guide to writing a research paper for your PhD (complete with step-by-step videos). is an online proofreading platform where you can get peer review support and suggestions for your own writing and help others by doing the same for them. Join the r3ciprocity project today and get started.

Thinking Of Grad School? Helpful Answers To “Do Professors…” Questions.

Answers To “Do Professors…” Questions.

I thought it would be fun to keep a tally of “Do Professors” questions. When I was growing up, I did not know anyone who was a Professor. Growing up in a small Northern Ontario Town (Dryden), it was far from anyone that had a PhD.  Actually, now that I am a Professor (of Innovation and Strategy), I can completely understand. It was not that long ago that I was thinking about doing a PhD, but had no idea what it actually means to have one. I had so many questions about what it was like about being a Professor. Now that I am a Professor (just newly tenured – hurrah!), I thought I would answer some questions about what life is actually like as a Professor. I think this would be really helpful if you are thinking of going to graduate school, becoming a PhD, or if you are thinking going into academia (which is becoming a professor). This is all part of my r3ciprocity project – of giving back to others who might find this information useful because there were some many other people that helped me get through graduate school. If you want to help out with the r3ciprocity project, you are always free to send me an email. So, here it goes: Here are some answers to “Do Professors…” questions. By the way, I purposely choose funny or odd questions because these are not answered anywhere else on the inter-webs.

Do professors get drug tested?

No. We don’t. However, I suspect that there are some universities around the world that would want drug testing by their professors. I have not heard of any through the rumor-mill. Moreover, you have to ask yourself is what they will be testing for? The only drug that professors would be likely to take would be stimulants that help you focus. A large number of us drink coffee to stay awake or to make the day go by quicker. Although, it might be an interesting study to investigate the likelihood that professors would take stimulants pre- and post-tenure. 🙂

Do professors verify doctors notes?

Yes, we often will verify doctor’s notes or at least give strange looking notes to people that are more equipped to investigate these notes. But, like everyone else, how much effort we put into investigating doctor’s notes depends on how energetic we are that day.

Do professors actually check sources?

Yes, they do check sources. There are two problems here. First is plagiarism. Plagiarism is a big deal. Not only that, it degrades the quality of the class and your learning experience. Learning is hard, and we all like to cut corners on learning. It is the job of professors to make sure you don’t cut corners when you become a working professional. As an engineer, I treat this as if my life depends on it. And, making sure that university students actually learn something (like chemical engineers), is important to someone else’s safety. Second, is credit. Most professors have already put in a lot of work to get to where they are, and they value the credit they get from others.  Indeed, professors actually make a living from you citing their work. The more creditable sources that you cite, the more likely that someone is going to cite their own work. Without protecting this scientific norm, we can open up the gates of other people disregarding giving credit. Don’t think you will get caught? You have to check out this video on how professors check for plagiarism that I did:

Do professors actually read papers?

Yes, most professors do actually read the papers. However, occasionally, reading papers gets really boring. Moreover, it takes time and effort away from professors writing their own papers to get published. Publishing helps them maintain their job in academia. Thus, we tend to read through the papers as fast as we can, given the constraints of the task.   The amount of time that we spend reading student papers also depends on many different factors, such as the weight of the assignment throughout the semester, the timing of the assignment, and personal factors (how fatigued we are, or if we have other things going on in our life).

Do professors date students?

Occasionally, dating students does happen. However, most professors are pretty wise to prevent this from happening by setting barriers in place.  For example, there are pretty strict rules in place not to date undergraduate students, and we can lose our jobs. Really – it can happen. Not only that, you can be subject of rumor as ‘that person.’ Rather than be urban legend, most professors are really careful about relationship kind of stuff. It took a lot of work to get that professor position to loss it based on some scandal. The notion that a student and professor gets swept off their feet like in the movies is just not real – that is not how love works.   If a student does make a pass at a professor, 9 times out of 10, it will be rejected and will be quietly reported to senior faculty (department chair) to make sure things are ok with their job, or at least all rules and procedures are followed.   However, when professors are romantically interested they will wait until the student is completed their degree. Generally, it is so rare, that I am fairly comfortable saying that this does not occur with undergraduate students. It does occur more often with graduate students, but this is still rather rare. Of course, love happens at all ages.

Do professors answer emails on weekends?

Yes, most professors will check email on the weekends. We might look at the email to see if it is very important.   Do we answer the emails? It depends on what is happening in our lives at the time.  Also, in some parts of the world, the workplace might prohibit professors from answering emails after hours, unless they really want to answer those emails.   Thus, if you’re going to send an email to a professor on the weekend, you should expect a reply the following work-week. You will likely not get an email reply that day.

Do professors make a lot of money?

It depends on what you mean by a lot of money. Wages and salaries of professors are publicly available information in most states in the US, and provinces in Canada.  You are free to look up this information.   However, if you compare against what most people get in industry for the same education  an experience level, we are probably about 10-25% underpaid than what people in industry make.  In some academic fields, the disparity might even be larger. If you are interested in finding how what fields do better in terms of salaries, you so watch this video:   However, this is not a complaint. If you compare to the median salary in a country, many professors do ok, and have a pretty good living. Generally, the academic marketplace is such that professors make a comfortable living to live a reasonable life. You will really see a ‘rich’ professor driving around in a Bentley, but you will not likely see a tenure-tracked professor who is eating cat-food either.   That being said, If you’re interested in wealth accumulation, the wages and salaries of somebody often doesn’t predict their wealth accumulation when they are older. A bigger factor as to whether somebody becomes rich is whether they actually invest 10-25% of their salaries in reasonable mutual funds over their working-life. Unfortunately, it is rare that people invest over the course of their life, even for many academics. Thus, you might actually see rich professors, but they do not look rich or make a substantial sum of money. They are rich professors because they saved and invested their whole life. You have to watch the YouTube video to watch me discuss these issues in person. You will love it: Finally, I wanted to point out that this is part of my r3ciprocity project, in which I am building a sharing economy proofreading platform to get feedback on your writing to find freelance editors that are going to do a good job at your work. The principle behind the proofreading platform is based on reciprocity – give and take. In addition, I wanted to give back to graduate students because there are so many people that helped me out to get to graduate school, so I am accumulating resources of all of the different things that I have learned about graduate school and getting your PhD. Here are some interesting articles that I wrote that you should read:
  1. Why I am building a writing accountability software, and why this will matter for science.
  2. Should you get a PhD to fast-track your way to business executive?
  3. Is the GMAT easier than the GRE? And, why it does not matter.
  4. The best advice and tips to write your PhD Statement of Purpose To Get Into A Business School.
  5. Is 30 years old, too old to get your PhD?

Are There Writing Clubs For PhD Students And Faculty?: Building An Online Writing Accountability Group

Are There Writing Clubs For PhD Students And Faculty?: Building An Online Writing Accountability Group

  When writing my thesis in graduate school, my PhD supervisor suggested that I should go to a writing club or a writing resources center at my university (Back in 2007, it was called The University of Western Ontario). Did I do it? No? Why? Because I felt that it would take away from doing my research during my PhD, which was a bit short-sighted but also a very rational thing to do. Why would I spend time on things other than writing my dissertation or papers? Going to a writing center just seemed like a massive side-track.   However, this began a preoccupation with developing a online writing accountability group and peer feedback software that would go on for several years.   This post is about my journey of building an online writing accountability group for PhD Students and Faculty. is a writing resource that mimics the peer review system, and tries to make the natural system of reciprocity that occurs among academics and graduate students more explicit. I am also trying to build in writing accountability measures that will help provide support for graduate students and faculty who do not have access to writing resources. Like me, many academics work remotely or asynchronously which makes visiting in-person writing clubs or accountability groups quite cumbersome.   Why is there a need for an online writing club for PhD students and faculty? Writing is such a central part of our job, most of us struggle with writing on a regular basis, and then we blame ourselves or our students for a lack of productivity or lack of skill at writing. We tell ourselves that anyone that is incapable of writing X numbers of papers before their PhD is completed or before they get tenure is of somehow poor quality.  

Why Do We Need An Online Writing Community? The Challenge Of Academic Writing Is Not Our Skill But A Lack of Supportive Technologies

As the founder of the platform, I wanted to flip this logic on its head. I think it is normal to struggle with writing. I don’t think it is abnormal to feel anxiety or depressed while you write your thesis. I think you are strange if you do not feel anxious when you get feedback from other academics. I think it is the norm – Most people I encounter struggle with the writing aspect of academia. This is strange, because this is our job. Why do you think so many people attempt to go into academia and fail at it? It’s not because they are not bright or that they lack the skill to do so.   Rather, as a Professor of Innovation and Strategy (who studies learning and decision-making in organizations), I think the problem is a lack of available technologies to help academics succeed. A technology is just simply a solution to a problem that we have in the form of a tool, technique, or procedure. If we had better supporting technologies to help us write and enjoy writing, we are likely to perform at a higher level, and as a larger consequence, science will benefit from greater output of knowledge.   Being stuck be yourself writing in solitude on your computer is generally not, we as social animals, are evolutionary programmed to do. Countless academic articles discuss that we do much better in groups. Virtually, the entire fields of Economics and Sociology show that we not only do between when we have support from others but also when we trade/interact with others. We feel much better about ourselves if we are part of a community. Indeed, one could argue that the entire field of management is about thinking how to coordinate resources between people. Consequently, I think most people do better when they have resources and increased connections with others that help them perform.  Even if some of us might thrive without a supportive of community, I think these folks could do better with a writing community and technology resources that accelerate their writing abilities.  

What Factors Contribute To Academic Writing Difficulties?

  From my point of view, there are several factors that I would like to change with our current academic writing environment, and I am making positive steps towards changing how academic writing occurs with the project. I know that this is just a very small step. 🙂 However, I do feel proud of what we have accomplished so far – three years ago none of these resources existed. Now, they do. It is a work in progress, but it is a step in the right direction.   Please note that this blog post is not a lament about the tenure system, academia, or publish or perish. These factors are unlikely to change – academics have been debating these issues for years with their colleagues. Graduate students have struggled with learning how to write, and they will continue to do so. Also, generally, the tenure system actually works quite well. It is a market mechanism that in the very long-run is somewhat reflective of value. It’s not perfect, but it is the best it can be. The alternative – having limited systems for knowledge discovery and knowledge accumulation is far worst.   Rather, I think that our current system needs greater support for academics, graduate students, and faculty to excel and achieve academic performance. To me, it seems like an opportune time for an innovation to solve at least a small amount of these problems, or at least make our writing efforts more fun. As a Professor of Innovation, I teach my students to look for these opportunities to scratch your own itch as there is at least a market of one (yourself) for the innovation. What characteristics of academic writing make it difficult to do for most people?
  1. Academic writing can be mundane because a large component of academic writing is repetitive and involves social isolation. At least for me, I have difficulty writing in large social groups that are noisy and do not allow some time to think.
  2. The link between your efforts and academic outputs is distant. (Given my interest in learning and innovation, the distant link between action and output is quite salient to me). When you write a paragraph, you are unlikely to see it in print in an academic journal for 5 years or more. You have to be very implicitly motivated and if you don’t see any value in these short-term activities, you are unlikely going to put much effort into the activity even if it will net you large long-run benefit. This is akin to weight-loss or smoking-cessation decisions. We all know that “how” to loose weight, but few of us act on that. A large reason is because we do not see intermediate rewards for our day-to-day efforts (See Thaler and Sunstein’s now famous book “Nudge”). If you do not monitor your daily progress in some operational way, it can be difficult to know if you are reaching your targets or whether you are spending too much time working and too little time having fun. 
  3. We may fear disapproval from others or feel anxious about asking others for help. This is especially true for PhD students that may feel a strong power imbalance between faculty and PhD students in completing their work. Assistant professors are too busy getting tenure to help out junior scholars with their writing, and Full Professors are just too busy, period. Fearing feedback either from others or from the journal peer-review system seems to be the conversation of choice for most academics. Almost all of us have war-stories from reviews that we have received on our work. Either the reviews we receive are too scant (“Nice paper!”) or too negative (“This paper is so bad that you can use it as a form of torture.”).
The combination of isolation and working long hours on our ideas, a lack of immediate feedback on our efforts, and fears of disapproval or not achieving tenure or a job creates a problematic situation. There has to be a better way.  

The Birth Of A Simple Writing Club For PhD Students And Faculty

During one of my PhD classes, I was teaching about Frederick Taylor and Scientific Management. Scientific Management is an old field of management that is really about optimizing the amount of time and motion you spend on each task. It does have some warts, but you can think of it as a foundational theory of management.   Difficulty Writing. As part of the class, I had the students record the number of words they wrote every day for a month. Think of it as a small writing club for PhD students, and the students were inputting their efforts into a writing group worksheet. This was not some in-depth experiment, but just a fun in-class activity to illustrate Scientific Management. Something interesting happened – the students were motivated to do so for a few weeks, but one-by-one they stopped the recording the number of words on their own. They got me thinking – why did they stop? They were all smart and ambitious people. If you want to improve your writing, I wrote a great blog post about this that you have to read.   Lack of Reviews. It also bothered me that when I received reviews for conferences and journals that the reviews tended to be highly variable. I remember having a discussion that a fellow PhD student years ago that most people do not put much effort into reviewing, and that reviewing activities are a race to the bottom.   Over the course of several years, I was curious why they stopped recording what they wrote. It also bothered me that people did not put much effort into reviewing. True, some of academics might have been unmotivated to write or review for others. Both of these activities will greatly improve the productivity of academia, but no one did it. Think of it as a big prisoner’s dilemma problem – the optimal course of action is for everyone to cooperate, but cooperation is limited. Having tendencies to cooperate, that simply did not make sense too me.   On a drive home from Disney World with my kids, it hit me. The reason why people struggle with academic writing and often do not provide adequate reviews is that there was not a system in place to help enjoy academic writing, and providing friendly reviews to others was seen as a negative because it took time away from writing their own papers. But, what if we can change that?

Building A Peer Reviewing and Writing Accountability Software For PhD Students And Faculty.

My goal with is to build out a sharing economy proofreading platform where people to get help on their writing. They will get feedback from other people, and that the system motivates people to write. I think if we can design a system that makes writing more social and more fun that we can not only improve our writing experience but also improve science. If we can improve the productivity of PhDs, reduce the anxiety and negative affect we feel during our PhD writing that we can greatly improve the productivity of science as a whole.  

Writing Group Rules: What I Would Like To Do To Improve The Online Writing Accountability On

  1. Improve the community feel on One of the things that I think need improvement is community feel of While I built up a large YouTube community, I really want to improve the community features on the platform. Over the course of the next year or so, I will be making an effort to improve the community feel of the proofreading software. I think it would be nice if people can get to know each other a bit more, and thus, the reviews from others will not feel so scary. 
  2. Add accountability measures and metrics into the proofreading system. Over the past year, we have added email notifications and pop-ups to the platform to improve the accountability of community members, but I want to add even more accountability measures. I also want to add writing metrics and graphs to let you know if you are making progress on your writing.  I want it to feel a lot less like an anonymous software that you are interacting with, but you are interacting with other academic writers and editors around the world. I want it to feel like you are reviewing someone’s work in your hometown (for me, Tallahassee, Florida).
  3. Provide notifications if you have not written any content in a while. I want to add notifications that will to prompt you to write. I want this to improve your writing productivity. 
  4. Make it more humorous and add ways to make our research more fun. I am looking for ways to add humor and make it fun to interact with on a daily basis. To get me to use the proofreading software on a regular basis, I need to laugh.
  5. Add tools that are specific to PhDs and scientists that help with our work. I want to add tools and integrations that help us become more productive.

How Is The Proofreading / Writing Group Software Monetized?

My plan is to ensure that the software uses a ‘freemium’ model. If you interact on the platform and give back by reviewing other people’s work, you keep 100% of the credits you earn on the platform. There will only be a charge for people that want to take money out of the platform. I might eventually add some advertisements, but I think that is pretty far away. But, who knows?

Questions And Answers About That You Must Be Wondering:

1. What About Quality Assurance On

Quality assurance is very important to me. I am always trying to think of ways to improve the quality of reviews on the platform. I think we have made a lot of progress on the platform to ensure quality assurance on the reviews from other. There are three main mechanisms for quality assurance on
  1. Vetting and selection of people that will proofread and provide feedback. People that want to review or proofread will generally select into doing a good job. Moreover, we have a test review system in which each reviewer has to be vetted and approved by Admin staff. Right now, it is me. 🙂 
  2. A simple system check to make sure that the reviewer / proofreader is providing enough feedback. The system will not allow you to upload a review that has no changes on it. Also, there is a color-coded system that indicates you have made sufficient changes on the document. 
  3. Rating systems and incentives to help continue to do good work and develop proofreading skills. Once you upload your review on, you rate the reviewers work. The reviewer has to maintain an average 4.0 rating to be able to convert credits into money on the platform. 
  4. What about plagiarism or reviewers copying your ideas? I am maintaining a strict policy that reviewers will not be able to use the system if they have a verifiable plagiarism dispute on the platform. We have also built into a mechanism for confidentially, but having the reviewer explicitly opt-in to a confidentially option on the platform.
If you are curious about quality in the sharing economy, you have to watch these videos:  

Implementing A Proofreading Checklist: Proofreaders, What Do You Want In

  My next task is to implement some form of proofreading checklist or reviewing checklist on the platform. I not only want to improve the writer-side by including more writing mechanisms that improve your productivity, but I also want to make it easier to reviewer other people’s work. One of the easiest and most effective ways to improve an activity is by implementing a checklist. Please watch the YouTube below and let me know what you think the proofreading checklist should look like. A proofreading checklist provides detailed information about what you should check in a paper. Please let me in the comments of the YouTube video how you edit and what are the key areas we should include on this checklist. For me, a lot of it is just cutting out fluff in the paper. Please let me know what your key problems are in each people, so we can build this into the platform. I am also looking for suggestions in how to implement the checklist. Do you want it implemented when the editor uploads the reviewed document, or when the editor downloads the paper to review?  Or, have them go through step by step on the checklist? My goal is to implement this check-list over the next while, be please do let me know what you think about making this proofreading software work. Are there writing clubs for PhD Students and Faculty? I am trying to build one option that will help you out with your writing and getting friendly peer reviews. Thanks for reading this blog-post! I can really use your help with this project. I know it is a crazy idea, but I really do think we can create a writing software that can mimic a PhD writing club that could be helpful for many people. If you want more to read, you might find these blog posts really useful:
  1. Tips For Writing Your PhD Statement of Purpose.
  2. A Step-by-Step Guide To Writing A Research Paper.
  3. An Excellent List Of Grammar Checker Apps.
  4. Designing A System To Prevent Gray Market Paper Writing Services.
  5. A Proofreading Site For Good?

Doing A PhD For An Executive Business Career

Should You Get A PhD For An Executive Business Career?

Well, it depends. A PhD does make sense for many careers, particularly if you are interested in research and development, but I would not recommend doing a PhD for an executive business career. It really depends on the type of PhD that you get. Not all PhDs will advance your business career. A PhD can be beneficial for an executive business career if you pursue a PhD in the hard sciences (Chemistry, Physics, Engineering, Toxicology, etc.), or a social science like Economics. It is somewhat common to see people get a PhD in the hard sciences, and then an MBA. The PhD / MBA combination seems to allow people to go into management after their science career. The normal career right after your PhD / MBA is something like Pharmaceutical Sales, Management Consulting, or Drug Development Project Management.

What About A PhD in Business Administration?

Nope. I would not recommend a PhD in Business Administration for a non-academic career. Ok, that sounds weird, right? Shouldn’t getting a business PhD allow you to become a Business Executive? Isn’t it a terminal degree in improving or understanding business and markets? What is going on there? A PhD in Business Administration is generally geared towards you becoming a professor at a business school. Indeed, there are strong norms against going into industry after you do your PhD in Business Administration. If you go into industry, you are likely going to have end strong relationships you built with people within academia, and that might be a difficult task if you invested a lot of time in the relationship. As a business school professor myself, I rarely see anyone go into industry after their PhD in Business Administration. There are some people that do, but not a lot of people do. Why is that? Most people get a PhD in Business Administration after they spent a great deal of time in industry. Indeed, the top Business School PhD Programs like Wharton (UPenn), INSEAD, Stanford, Harvard (especially these folks), Berkeley, etc., recruit candidates based on how much industry experience they have, as well as the intellectual fire-power they may have in the future. There is a bit of a trade-off, though, because too much industry experience may prevent you from getting into programs because people fear that you will either go back into industry, or you will not have enough time to make a major contribution to the academic field. I am not saying that people do not go into industry after their PhD in Business Administration. You do see some people pursue the non-academic route, but this after they decided that the PhD academic route was not for them. In other words, it usually means they were relatively unsuccessful with the traditional academic route. Or, they just decide that the traditional academic route is not what they wanted. This focus on academia is changing and more and more people are going into industry, but I would say, that overall this is not an ‘acceptable’ route with a PhD. The primary reason is that academia is becoming more competitive, and thus, in order to sustain themselves, a few people are turning to non-academic routes once they have completed the PhD. Still, I would not recommend a PhD as a stepping stone to bigger things in industry. I would highly suggest that you only do a PhD in a Business School if you are choosing to become a Business School Professor. (It is a good career path, but if you read on this blog, it is pretty difficult.)

Should You Get Your PhD Part-Time For An Executive Business Career?

Again, I would likely not recommend this route if you are planning on becoming a professor in business school. Part-time PhDs generally are focused at clinician audiences, and most major business schools do not offer these programs. However, you could go this route if you are thinking of advancing your knowledge of business, and in this case you might want to select a doctoral program that specifically targets executives. There are some Doctoral Programs that do target business executives. These are likely labelled as part-time PhDs, online PhDs, or executive DBAs (Doctorate of Business Administration). Some of the programs are completely legitimate, and they are focused on helping you become a more thoughtful executive. However, just like in undergraduate programs around the world, many of these programs vary in quality and cost. Please do your homework! Before you agree to go to a program, do this simple trick. What I normally make my own undergraduate students do when they are selecting graduate programs is to actually gather the data on how much the program will cost, the percentage that people will be employed, where they are employed, and the wages they receive. This simple spreadsheet will save you a lot of heart-ache. Many people put more effort into choosing the movies they are going to watch on the weekend, then their school choice. Go get some physical data. Now, if you are somewhat independently wealthy, and the cost / benefit of the doctoral program does not matter, then look at the reputation of the doctoral program.  (By the way, there are surprisingly a large number of people that are in this camp, and I am not being funny). If the financial aspects of the executive doctoral program does not matter, than you should look for the programs that have great professors with PhDs from outstanding institutions.  Why? Because these professors likely have the most recent or best training. I have some great blog posts on dealing with PhD issues that you might feel are extremely valuable, such as whether you can get multiple PhDs, deciding on getting your GMAT or GRE, tips for writing your statement of purpose, going through the PhD interview. I think you should really read these posts. What about if you are sitting on the fence between becoming a professor and going into industry? You should likely choose the standard ‘academic’ PhD in Business Administration route because it will keep this option open. If you go to less legitimate programs for your doctorate, you are drastically limiting your potential in academia. Academia has popularity dynamics, and reputation does matter. However, that being said, most high quality PhD programs are going to focus on academics, and training you to become a professor, so do not expect anyone to be pleased with your choice if you go back to industry. Feel free to watch a video on doing a Business PhD part-time below:

How Come You Just Don’t Get An MBA or Executive MBA? What Is the Difference Between Executive MBA (EMBA) And Executive DBA (EDBA)?

If you are thinking of going industry, than the fastest and most legitimate route is not the PhD in Business Administration, or a PhD in other fields for that matter. Just go get a MBA (Masters of Business Administration) or if you already have lots of business experience, an Executive MBA. Again, this will save you a world of hurt. You will notice that the career prospects for an MBA are quite good, and is generally much quicker to obtain the returns from the degree. So you might be wondering? Why get an EDBA, then? Honestly, part of obtaining any doctorate is bragging rights of being called a doctor (but not the one that saves lives). 🙂 However, the key difference between an Executive MBA (EMBA) and an Executive DBA (EDBA, Executive PhD, and the like) is that the EDBA provides a more academic or theoretical understanding of organizations, whereas the EMBA provides a more practitioner (“practical”) understanding of organizations.  Does that mean that the EDBA is better than the EMBA? Absolutely, not. There are many reasons to choose the EDBA and many reasons to choose the EMBA, and it really just depends on your individual motives. I want to point out that I do not have a ‘dog in the fight’ as my institution does not offer either program, and I have not real particular bent towards the value of one over the other. Both of these degrees can be suitable for the right person. What are some other important differences between the EMBA and the EDBA?
  1. An EMBA is more common than an Executive DBA program.  This alone should make you seriously consider the EMBA if you are just thinking about career prospects. You will likely have an easier job finding an job if you are using the EMBA to find another career than an Executive DBA. Why? More people just understand what the EMBA is all about, and thus, it is easier from a hiring prospective. However, if you are thinking of the EDBA just for academic interest or because you would like to have a doctorate, than it does provide value. 
  2. An Executive DBA program will allow to get a much more theoretical understanding of the world. You will likely learn all of the theories and ideas that you would learn in a PhD, and then you will get the opportunity to test these theories in your organizational setting. I like the idea that you can apply what you learn, and that you will learn more of the meaty ideas that one learns during their PhD.
  3. An Executive MBA will be much more hands on. What do I mean by this? It will be less abstract, and focus on more practical ideas. You will learn about immediate tips and tricks, but you will not learn the underlying reason ‘why’ these tricks work. In other words, you can think of the EMBA as focusing on “know-how” and the EDBA focusing on “know-why.” The value of know-why is that you can eventually learn to apply the theories in more contexts.
  4. You will be to communicate more with technical staff about scientific ideas with an Executive Doctorate of Business Administration. Why is that? Getting an understanding of research methods, statistics, and theory gives you a much better appreciation what what technical staff may be discussing. Of course, this only matters if you work in an industry where science is valued, such as pharmaceuticals. In other fields, it may not be nearly as important.
  5. Executive MBA programs are often much more shorter than executive doctorate programs. You will complete the degree in a few years, whereas the executive doctorate is often open ended and can take roughly four years. This means that the may be cost differences between the programs. However, as I mentioned above, please do your homework as the variance amongst programs in cost is quite surprising.
Check out this YouTube video if you want to get my personal thoughts on the matter. I think you will learn a lot about the difference between an EMBA and a EDBA:  

What Degree Would I Choose?

If you are doing the degree to upgrade your job position in industry (i.e., you want to move up the corporate ladder), I would highly recommend doing an Executive MBA from a high status institution as this will carry a lot of weight in the marketplace. However, if you are looking to learn about the science of management, organizations, and markets, and you are doing the degree less for the job prospects but more for discovery and self-actualization, I would definitely recommend the executive doctorate program.  You should also note that your degree does not make you who you are – it only gives you additional points of leverage. So, if you really want to become a CEO at a F500 company or you want to become a Professor at HBS, go out and figure out how to get there. Not everyone will get there, but most people will never try. Most people will think you are crazy to even consider it.

The R3ciprocity Project.

What is the project? If you don’t know me – I am a Professor of Innovation and Strategy. There were so many people that helped me out to get through graduate school and become the person who I am,  so I actually wanted to do something. (Here is a past blog post about it). I also read a lot about the benefits of reciprocity in the academic literature, so it made sense to start helping other people out. I created a sharing economy proofreading platform designed to help you get feedback on writing and modeled after principles of reciprocity. Check out the platform by clicking this link. I also needed a way to market the platform, so I thought the best way is to be helpful, honest, and just a nice person on the internet. (Seems like an unicorn – someone who is nice on the internet?!). Perhaps, someone might find this useful. Anyway, thanks for reading this post about EMBAs and EDBAs – I know that this can be a difficult choice in your life. But know this – whatever you choose, the path of life will take you where you are suppose to go. Things have a funny way of turning out the way they should be.

PhD Interviews: What Does An Interview Mean For A PhD / Doctorate In Business?

When you get a PhD interview, what does it mean about you as a candidate? If you are anything like me, you probably stress about the PhD interviews that you might or might not get. Let’s discuss what PhD interviews mean for you, and go into details about interviews in all stages of the academic journey. Generally, any interview, whether at the PhD stage or when you are at the Professor stage, means that the school is quite interested in you. You have passed through several hurdles in the application process, which schools use to screen out applications. For example, you made it through screening based on sheer numbers, such as a your GMAT or GRE scores, and your GPA. It also means that people looked at your letters of recommendation, and were impressed what they had to say about you. It also means that people on the committee read your statement of interest / purpose, and thought it was OK to pretty good. All in all, a PhD interview means that you are 1/4 of the way done in getting into the school of your choice. Congrats!

What Do Potential Advisors and Colleagues Look For In The PhD interview?

At the moment when you are being interviewed, the selection committee is looking to see if you would be OK to work with for several years. I bet that sounds rather strange to you. However, the fact is that academics worry about you as a colleague. You will be working very closely with different academic colleagues for years to come, and frankly you are going to be a significant risk. Everyone in academia has been burnt by someone at one point in their career, and they are going to take the process of working with a new colleague very slowly. Or, at least they should. This means that during the PhD interview, they are not only going to be looking at your resume / CV, but they are also going to be looking at how you act and carry yourself. This makes the screening process during the PhD interview rather subjective, but this subjective stuff matters. What are the main things that people look for during PhD interviews?
  1. They are looking to see if you have thoughts on your own. Can you ask sharp questions? Do you have original ideas?
  2. They are looking to validate your resume / CV. Are you capable of doing the things you say you did on your resume?
  3. Are capable of being a good colleague? Bob Sutton’s work (you can get his now famous book on Assholes In the Workplace on Amazon) suggests that a single bad apple in an organization can wreck the organization. They just want to make sure that you are not going to make everyone’s life difficult or make them embarrassed when you go on the job market as a representative of their academic kin.
  4. Most importantly, they are looking to see that you are not going to disappear during the PhD program. You will be surprised with the number of people that just fade away during the PhD process. Maybe they decide they don’t like the PhD program. Maybe they get better options elsewhere. Whatever the reason, spending months / years training someone to have them disappear is very costly. Most potential PhD colleagues / advisors are just looking to see whether you actually are serious about doing a PhD in Business or related area.

Why Have PhD Interviews In The First Place?

Most business professors are going to admit that PhD interviews are a rather ineffective tool at screening applicants. However, it is the best tool that we have. I personally wish there was some better system as sometimes people that are highly competent are passed over. However, the combined system of screening and ranking based on resumes, GMAT / GRE scores, and online and in-person interviews over the course of a month or two, does an OK job at selecting candidates. Selection barriers, whether it being for organizations or humans, are generally very crude but when applied in aggregate work adequately for screening. One has to remember that the graduate school screening and interview process is not about selecting the ‘best’ candidate, but of vetting out the worst candidates from the selection pool. This logic is different and it is a logic of risk minimization, rather than candidate maximization. Again, professors are just trying to make sure that you do not make them look bad or cause them trouble in some way. If you take the logic of risk minimization, than it would appear that PhD interviews are necessary. PhD interviews are necessary because the applicant can often seem a little bit more different on paper than they are in person. People have a tendency to make themselves look outstanding on their resume. Professors, as would a business, just want to get to know you as a person to make sure all bodes well for them.

What Are PhD Interviews Like?

Again, I have been on both sides of the interview. When you are being interviewed for a PhD position, you will be stressed and overwhelmed. You will feel like you are not smart enough. You will also be nervous. The subjective part of the experience is more important to you. When you are doing the interviewing, you will more focused on screening. You will also be asking yourself about whether you can work with this person. Are they going to be friendly? Are they going to work hard? From the interviewer side, PhD interviews will feel a lot more objective, and you are not focusing on your feelings.

What Are The Stages Of PhD Interviews?

Let me first point out that every interview process is going to be different for every organization and every selection committee. There can be multiple points for PhD interviews. There might be an initial Skype screening with one person, then there will be a group Skype interview, and then eventually a campus interview with multiple people. However, the general process for PhD interviews goes like the following:
  1. The initial screen is based on your paper application. This is performed by a graduate officer, who will just check to make sure that you have all of the required application paper work. Any application that is missing information will be rejected.
  2. Initial paper selection. The selection committee will all look at the applicants, and pick the best people that they like. They will then meet and discuss their picks, and arrive upon a set of 5-15 people that are pretty good on paper.
  3. The first interview is the initial email chat or Skype / FaceTime interview. This initial interview will last about 30 minutes, and will usually be done by the senior person that is on the selection committee, or perhaps two people on the selection committee. This initial interview is just a simple screen to reduce the number of candidates from say 10-15 to 5-10.
  4. A more in-depth interview. This interview is the real interview that might include multiple people, and might involve a trip to campus. You will meet with several people, either individually or as a group. You might even meet with other doctoral students.
    1. For PhD students: At this point, the selection committee is honing in on its top picks.
    2. For Assistant Professors: If you are going for an Assistant Professor position, this is going to called the campus visit, where you will have to give a research presentation for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours.
  5. The offers will be sent to the top 1-5 people, depending on how many positions are available. If one of the top picks rejects the offer, the committee will move down the list until either the position is filled or the pool of potential remaining candidates is unsuitable.

How Do You Prepare For Your PhD Interviews?

Preparing for your interviews is much like preparing for a first date. You want to do everything to make sure that you seem impressive during the interview. Many academics are not going to care about what you are interested in, and frankly, if you are like I was, you will only have a vague idea of what you are interested in. I would concentrate on the senior scholar’s research to prepare for the PhD interview. Read a large chunk of the research that the people who are interviewing you have written. On 1-4 articles for each person, have notes about what the article is about, what you liked about the research, and how you could build on their research. Then during the interview, you could say, “I really liked your article on X, but I was thinking of doing Y as an extension, what do you think of this idea?” The goal is to get the conversation focused on research, and in particular, their research. I am more energized by research questions, than questions about ‘what is it like at Z university?’ I would also read a few of the latest articles in the scholar’s field. It is not likely that the scholar has just read them, but it they have, you can ask them about this latest research, and what they thought about the research, or tell them about what the research is about. Lastly, I would have thoughts about what tools and assets you can bring to their lab and their institution. For example, if you are good at programming, than you should discuss how you want to applying your programming to the lab.

How Should You Dress And Act During Your PhD Interviews?

The generic advice is you should try to dress and act for the occasion. However, what the heck does that mean? Personally, I grapple with two schools of thought. I would try to act yourself as you want to be representative of who you are during the PhD program. This might turn some selection committees off as they might view the event more ritualistically, and view such actions as a sign of disrespect. The other school of thought is that you should be as polite as you possibly can be, and to over dress for the occasion. The best thing, I think, that you can do is dress formally (business causal – get a suit or a sport-coat and some slacks). You should do proper things like wait to be invited into someone’s office, say your please and thank-yous, and address everyone by Dr. / Professor So-and-So. How is the Professor going to dress? Most likely they will either be in sort-of classic IBM wear, or something less fancy. They will be wearing slacks and a polo / button up shirt, and/or jeans and a t-shirt, depending on their style. Don’t worry if you are much more well-dressed than they are. This is the norm when you go on interviews. Please ask questions about research, and please point out how much you liked the professor’s work. Of course, this has to be sincere, and you have to have read a few of their articles. In the end, you should just try and enjoy the process. If you can feel engaged to the conversation, than that is probably a good sign during the PhD interview. If you can have a conversation, and the conversation is a lot of fun, then that is likely the place for you. If you have a conversation, and the conversation is absolutely painful, consider reassessing the choice. There is one caveat here – extremely bright and talented people operate at a level that you are not going to be used too. You will likely feel lost or uncomfortable during conversations with them. Don’t worry – with time and effort, you will be able to have a conversation at their speed. Or, not…

What Are Some Good Questions To Ask During Your Grad School Interview?

Grad school interviews are always challenging, and it is expected that you will feel uncomfortable. We all felt uncomfortable during that process. Again, it is akin to dating, and you never quite know how their other person is viewing you. That being said, there are some questions that are pretty universal when you are talking to other academics. These questions often help when you are in these awkward situations. Here are several questions that you are free to ask during your grad school interview: 1. What do you research? This is a key question, and any of its variants. For example, you could ask why did you choose to research that? What have you learnt from your research? Where is your research going in the future? What are your research projects? This is akin to asking somebody about the profession, and generally if you ask academics about their projects, they will talk about these points for a long time. 2. What kind of research support will I get as a graduate student? You have to be careful how and when you ask this question as it might come across as self-centered. You probably should just ask the Chair of the Department or someone like that to have the best understanding. Moreover, if you ask junior colleagues, you are likely not going to get the correct answer. 3. How would you handle if I decided to switch supervisors? Again, this is a rather sensitive topic, and you ought to only ask the Department Chair, or someone along those lines. The reason is that you do not want to give a bad impression at the get go. Another good reason you could ask are junior or senior PhD students in the PhD program. They will likely give you a more candid answer. 4. Where have your PhD students gone in the past? Who is your most famous student? You should be able to answer this before you go into the interview, but sometimes you just don’t know what the answer is to this question. The goal is to get to know where they are placing students, and to see if they have any outliers. Sometimes outliers could be a good predictor of your potential success, because it means that if you work hard, they can place you in good positions (ie. what school are they currently at). 5. What would happen if my PhD advisor moved to a different institution? Again, this is one of those sensitive questions that you ought to talk about with the Department Chair, or someone like that. Why is this an issue? Academics move all of the time between schools, and I have seen more than one student end up in an awkward position where their supervisor left to a different school. Rather than asking, you might want to get a sense of how supportive everyone at the school might be if that person left. Would they work with that doctoral student? Who would be a potential supervisor that has somewhat similar interests? It is important to find a place that would be willing to work with you, and has the resources to work with you if things get a bit wonky with your PhD. 6. What is the average salary of those who graduated in this program? What is your pass rate? You need, no must, ask this of the graduate admissions officers at the school. Don’t ask the Professors, but ask the people who have this data (the admissions office). You need to understand what you will make after you put in this investment towards a PhD. You also need to know your chances of making that amount. If the average salary of PhD graduates is $50000, that is not a good investment. If the average salary is $100,000 but only 1/2 make it through with a good job, well your expected salary is $100000*1/2=$50000, and you are no better off than the seemingly worst alternative. Take the time to get these numbers – they will save you from making a big mistake. With the size of this investment in your career, you need to be hyper rational about your choice. 7. Where do PhD students usually publish in this program? This is a subtle question, and you can ask the Professors about this. It is a subtle question to get at the quality of the potential candidates. If the PhD program produces candidates that are routinely publishing in obscure journals that are not on mainstream lists of quality journals, you should look into why that is the case. I am not saying for you to not go to those schools, but these quality publication outlets matter for your career success in the long-run. And, you can predict that whatever those previous PhD students are doing, you will be doing the same.


The goal is to find a program that is both research intensive but also fits your lifestyle. You want to end up a school that allows you to research in your given area, and that the research you do, you can be proud of. That is why that the PhD interview is quite important for you to determine about and make sense of the program. A couple things you should remember during the PhD interview:
  1. You should always weight research heavier than teaching when you first start your PhD. Focus your conversations on research. You will go a lot further with the interview.
  2. The PhD interview is not just an assessment of you. You should assess the program. If your gut-feeling is sending you a signal in one way or another, you should listen to that gut feeling.
  3. Talk to people that might be in the know about the PhD program. Try to get honest and open feedback on the PhD program.
  4. If your PhD interview does not go as well as you would like, get back up, and keep marching forward. Science is a relentless battle of self-determination.

The R3ciprocity Project

Before you go, I wanted to tell you about the project. The project started out as an idea to create a sharing economy proofreading software because, as an academic, I almost never knew how my writing stood, and I was anxious asking for peer feedback. Anyway, I am continuing to build out this software, and make changes to make it better. This project is a work in progress, and it continues to evolve with each passing month. Nothing is perfect on the platform (or this blog). However, this is precisely the point with the r3ciprocity project. Nothing is perfect, and two (or more) eyes are better than one. A little while after I created the website, I realized I needed a way to get the word out, so I started doing YouTube videos and blogging to help out people that were going through graduate school, particularly if you are getting your doctorate. Getting your doctorate is hard, and I just find that there are few resources available that are helpful, open, and real about the experience. Most resources are either just marketing speak from various universities, too pessimistic, or just not real. My mission with this project is to keep helping other people do better research, keep it real, and also try to incentivize other people to be nice. You ought to check out these other blog posts that will help you with your PhD decision:
  1. Are you thinking of getting multiple PhDs and unsure if this is OK? This in-depth blog post on getting multiple PhDs will help you with that decision. 
  2. If you are writing your statement of purpose, you need to read with post on writing statements that actually work.
  3. You might want to read this post about meeting with your (potential) supervisors, and what you should expect in each meeting.
  4. You should read those posts on how to get a PhD (in Strategy) and how to become a Business School Professor. You will find them very handy!
Good luck with the PhD interviews! I know that you will not need it. 🙂

Is It Possible To Get Multiple PhDs?

When I was younger, I sometimes thought whether you can you get multiple PhDs. For example, can a rocket scientist have a PhD in Chemistry and Math. Now, after being a Professor for a while, I do know it is possible. Absolutely, people get multiple PhDs. Having multiple PhDs is uncommon, but people do to get multiple doctorates. I have run across people who have done it on occasion. Please watch this video if you want to see me in person talk about people getting multiple PhDs. I provide a lot more background and personal notes than in this blog post.

Why Do People Get Multiple PhDs?

Generally, there are three reasons for the multiple PhDs:
  1. People get a second or a third PhD (a third is extremely uncommon) if they are  upgrading their research skill-set. Sometimes people upgrade with an additional PhD within their previous area of research. The PhD they have is from another geographic location that is unrecognized in another geographic location. For example, this generally happens when someone immigrates to another country, and for some reason, the PhD is just not recognized in the new country.
    1. Upgrading a research skill-set is also common if someone is interested in a particular topic and they want to dig deeper into that topic. For example, let’s say that you are studying human behavior, but you realize that you need to understand set theory to better explain the human behavior in a more elegant fashion. Getting another PhD might be an excellent way to expedite your development of a research program in that area that combines set theory and human behavior.
  2. People get an PhD if they are transferring to a new area of research. When they transfer to a new area of research, they need to get extra skills in the new area. For example, say a person has a PhD in the Humanities, but they slowly realized that their research interests lie Mathematics. They will pursue the Mathematics PhD to get a better understanding of Mathematics, and so they can read and publish within Mathematics journals. In Business Administration, Law, Medicine, and another other professional program, many people transfer to these new areas from other tangential areas. For example, engineers or scientists sometimes move into business, and become Business School professors by getting a PhD in Business Administration or a similar degree (i.e., a PhD in Industrial Organization in Economics).

Why Don’t More People Get Multiple PhDs?

Brutal honesty? Getting a PhD is generally a tough process. Sure, I have heard some people say that they had a lot of fun during a PhD, but I am going to call them out on that. If the PhD was easy, then more people would want to do one over again a second and third time. It is just extremely uncommon for find people with multiple PhDs because there are significant costs (both in time and finances) associated with pursuing the degree. The closest thing where people may repeat a PhD, and it is somewhat common, is a Post-Doctorate. A post-doctorate is a paid (or non-paid) position where you extend your research program. You might work on additional papers, or continue to make your current research better. Basically, you are just extending the time you have before you get a tenure-track university position.

Does The First PhD Improve Your Chances Of Getting Into The Second PhD Program?

Personally, I think that getting into the second PhD program is a matter of framing your first PhD.  People read a lot into what you did or did not say. Anything that is unusual gets more scrutiny than the usual. If you frame the first PhD as a loss, or as a complete waste of time, then I really don’t think you will have good chances of getting into the second PhD program. People are going to believe that you will be not satisfied with the second PhD either. You would be surprised, but some people (not many) do just collect degrees for the sake of collecting degrees. This happens a bit more with Masters degrees, though. If you frame the first PhD as a matter of discovery, and that you found your passion in the topics covered in the 2nd PhD, you will have a considerable easier time convincing people about why you are going for another. Really, this is what your 2nd PhD should be in the first place. It should be about discovery and your passion for the new research area, and the 2nd PhD just accelerates this discovery process. If you are interested in doing a PhD in Business, you have to read the following resources that I created for you.
  1. This blog post is an in-depth look into doing the GRE or the GMAT, and which one you should choose to do.
  2. This blog post is about tips for writing your statement of purpose. I really do think these tips work, and they are not what you see elsewhere.
  3. This blog post is about the advantages and disadvantages of getting a PhD (in Business, of course). You should read this post if you are on the fence about doing a PhD and need additional information.

Do You Need The Multiple Doctorate Degrees?

Before you pursue another doctorate, you should really think about whether you need the other doctorate. Some people just start doing research in the new area, and slowly gravitate to that new area. You would be surprised how much you can learn on your own. Melissa Schilling, for example, has done research in both the study of strategy and Alzheimer’s. You might save yourself a lot of hassle, just by picking up some journal articles and learning about the new area.

Are Multiple PhDs Recommended?

Doing multiple PhDs is really just a personal choice. You already know that the first PhD was rather challenging, so doing a second one might go quicker given that you have this information. Most often, I believe that people that stay within similar domains appear to do their 2nd PhD quicker than those that go to another domain. Of course, this is just a qualitative gut-feeling, but I suspect this is true. Eggers and Song’s paper shows that this may be the case for entrepreneurs, so I suspect it is also true for 2nd time around PhD students. However, in the end, all of these really just depends on your abilities to get the second PhD done. What predicts PhD success? I really, really think it has little to do with intelligence, privilege, or natural endowments.  Rather, it is all about your passion to get it done, and your passion to do work. If you love work, than the 2nd PhD makes sense. Some people just have grit to do the PhD, and those that want to do a doctorate for a 2nd time are just curious, and they see the value in education.

An Aside About the Project.

Before I go, I wanted to let you know that this is part of my project. There were so many people that helped me out to get my PhD, and to allow me to become a professor, I wanted to create something that I could pay the favor forward. I am building a sharing economy proofreading website so you can get feedback on your work (it’s a work in progress, so please be OK with errors in this blog post. 🙂 ). I have also created a pretty extensive catalog of questions and stories on YouTube. You ought to check it out, so you can find out more about me as a person.

A Couple Of Bonus Videos.

I wanted to leave you with a few more videos that I think are worth watching. One is about whether doing a PhD is worth your time. I personally think it is, but I truly have to wrestle with this question. It was not clear to me, but I was in the ‘trenches’ and did not see the immediate value of my PhD. Now, a few years later, I really see the value in getting a PhD. However, the reason why is not what most people think. Personally, I think it is the knowledge you gain, and the opportunities you see when you have a PhD that is truly something you cannot get without it. My last video is about whether getting multiple Master’s Degrees is better than getting a PhD. It turns out that this is a rather common question because many scientists and engineers will get a Master’s Degree in their field and then decide to get either a PhD or an MBA. I kinda did both – I did my PhD in Business Administration. A PhD is a research degree, but I am able to combine my love for research and business. Anyway, you should watch this video if you want to learn about getting a PhD, or getting multiple Masters. I also have a blog post that goes much more into detail about multiple Master’s, and I think will be quite helpful for you.

GMAT VS GRE For PhD Or MBA: Which Is Easier?

The GMAT and the GRE are the most common standardized tests used to assess how you are going to perform in an MBA or a PhD in Business Program. The GMAT is specific to Business School Applications and the GRE is more generic, but it is used in most graduate programs. You are likely wondering what test you should take for your MBA or PhD in a Business School. What test is going to net you the best return for your effort? If you are have already have a few business courses, you understand the value of acting strategically and prioritizing your resources. So, what standardized graduate test is easier? Here is the answer: It does not matter. If you are thinking about what graduate test is easier, you are thinking about the problem completely wrong. You are thinking about only one side of the equation – your skills and capabilities to take the test. This is only the supply-side of the entrance to the Business School equation. How do I know this? I am a Professor of Innovation, Strategy, and Entrepreneurship, and know the market for PhDs in Business (and as well, the market for MBAs) pretty well. You should be thinking about the standardized tests within a marketplace of other candidates for Business School education. This means that there are both the supply-side and the demand-side of the equation. In other words, it is not only how well you perform on the GMAT and GRE, but also how well others in your cohort of applicants perform. For example, let’s say you get a 600 on the GMAT. This is an OK score, but in most situations, this score would not be high enough for a PhD in Business. However, if for some reason, the average score of all other applicants in the same year that you are applying is 550, you appear to outperform other applicants. In that rare situation, you might get into a PhD program.

Is The GMAT And GRE Different?

The questions on the GMAT and GRE may be different, and some years one may be more difficult than the other. Every so often, the tests change, and one may be qualitatively different than the other. I have heard that the GMAT Math section is more difficult than the GRE Math section. However, these differences, and the changes over time does not matter if you take a market perspective. First of all, admissions offices normalize each test. What does this normalization between the GMAT and the GRE mean? If one test is easier, the graduate admissions office simply makes an adjustment to account for the ease of test over the other. Indeed, some universities and colleges even do this normalization with high school grades – they normalize the grades based on the high school one attends. How does this normalization between the GMAT and GRE occur? Many programs and business schools will compare how students with a specific GMAT / GRE scores compared to how their students perform in the graduate program in the following year. If they do well at the GRE, and perform poorly in their program, they will adjust the weightings on the GRE downward. If the Business School students do well on the GMAT, and perform poorly in their program, they will adjust the weightings on the GMAT downward. The explicit technique to do this calculation is rather easy – you just have to perform an ordinary least squares regression on student grades. But, you do not even need to be explicit and detailed on adjusting for differences in GMAT and GRE scores. People are smart. They will adjust based on how they perceive the students are performing. If there is a marked difference between the two scores, the admissions teams will simply just up the cut-off for the least rigorous test. Second, how well you perform on the GMAT or GRE score really just depends on how well other people in your cohort perform. You simply just have to have a test score that higher than other people in your cohort. Of course, this cohort varies dramatically depending on the program you are applying to, and the year in which you are applying to the program. In some years, Business School programs have many great candidates, and there is an embarrassment of riches, and in other years, not so much. When the applicant pool is much larger than the number of PhD positions, then the GMAT score that is required for a PhD increases in that given year increases. In other years, when the applicant pool is smaller, the GMAT score required for a PhD may decrease. It just really depends on what is happening in the marketplace.

Do You Have To Perform On The GMAT Or GRE?

I am not saying that you can slack on your GMAT or your GRE. It is important to just to do well on either test, rather than worrying about gaming the system. Both the GRE and the GMAT are suitable, however you have to check with the program where you are applying too. But, if you are thinking of doing a MBA or a PhD in a Business School, I would just make your life easier, and just focus on acing one of the scores, and then move on with your life. You should spend more time thinking about how you can study for either one of the tests. You can watch the video below for additional details about the GMAT and the GRE for doing a PhD. I believe the video will be very helpful for you, and you will also get to see me in action. 🙂

Should You Study The GMAT Rather Than The GRE?

The basic reason why Universities use these tests is because they are trying to have a standardize quality metric across many schools around the world. Because the test scores are probably the only metric that is standardized for potential candidates around the world, they can use the test scores to better find people that are outstanding and dedicated to doing a PhD. Standardized metrics, like the GMAT and the GRE, makes easy to compare applicants based on this one score. Of course, there are benefits for Business Schools, because it is easier to identify outstanding candidates from remote places. However, it also presents a challenge because many Business Schools know that people try to game these metrics, and because it creates competition based on GMAT / GRE scores. Nonetheless, if you are applying for any graduate program in a Business School, I would study the GMAT. However, if you are thinking about doing graduate work in other fields like Economics or Sociology, then it makes more sense to study the GRE. Why? I think it simplifies your life to focus on only one thing. If you do not have a good sense of what you want to do as a research career, I would not apply to any program just yet. You should wait and really think about what you want to study, and then work backwards to get you there.

What If You Did Not Meet The GRE Or GMAT Cut-off For A PhD Program?

Let’s say you stank up the GMAT Test. Like, really stank it up. What should you do? First of all, I would retake the test until you get a good score. I would also take any and all test prep courses you can find. Yes, these test prep courses cost money, but it they can help you increase your GMAT or GRE score, they are well worth it. Indeed, I studied straight from the books when I took my GMAT Test, and it was the one main thing that I regret with my PhD application. This YouTube video on the GMAT Cut-Off provides additional details about what you should do with low GMAT or GRE scores. At the end of the day, the key thing is for you show that you are outstanding in many other areas related to research. The GMAT or GRE score doesn’t necessarily matter if this is your core objective. The GMAT / GRE is a right of passage. It is also a matter of pride to get a high GMAT score, but what PhD programs are really looking for is whether you can do research. A high GMAT / GRE score also matters in terms of external validation for a particular Business School. Professors impute that you will do well as a researcher based on your standardized test scores, and every professor knows that this is an extremely rough imputation. How can you demonstrate that are amazing at doing research? I would actually do research – create some new research tool, are passionate about doing research, or have publications in other areas. It is not uncommon to find lawyers, engineers, or scientists with publications in their fields apply to PhD programs. While these publications do not count towards tenure (generally), they do show that you are going to take the PhD program much more seriously then just being able to score well on your GMAT. If you know of people that can vouch for your research ability, than this matters a lot more than a single score. If you get a letter of recommendation from a Noble Laureate, people are going to look at your application, even if your test scores are low. You can get to know the people that you are likely to work with. This post details information in how to have meetings with potential PhD supervisors. You should also work on your statement of purpose. You really ought to read this detailed post on writing a statement of purpose. I have a lot of detailed information on how to do well at your statement of purpose that actually do matter for your application. I also have another post on tips that you should consider for applying for a PhD, and these tips are things that took me 15 years to figure out.


Most people try to game standardized tests, and spend far too much time thinking about what standardized test is easier to take. My point is that it does not matter whether the GMAT or GRE is easier, you will likely perform as well as you should, once you normalize the test scores and account for the marketplace of other candidates. In the end, what matters is that you show that you are willing and able to do research. The GRE and the GMAT are just used to impute your capabilities, and there are many other ways to impute research capabilities. For example, you can actually try to do research. Yes, you might not know what doing research is at the moment, but you can start by reading academic articles in your area of interest and reading this ultimate guide on writing research papers that I created. This is part of my project, where I wanted to help out others excel in grad school. I created a sharing economy proofreading platform so you can get feedback on your writing, and I have a bunch of YouTube videos that detail what it is like being a PhD or becoming a professor (just search for r3ciprocity on YouTube).