By Ian Inman |
The PhD journey can be a pretty daunting experience with lots of twists and turns along the way. During my time as a PhD student, I came up with the ‘PhD Game V2.0’ as a tongue-in-cheek way of thinking about the kinds of experiences doctoral students go through and the potential challenges they face.
It takes inspiration from work originally developed by the Jenner Institute (hence V2.0!) and takes you through the entirety of the PhD journey, from the title proposal, literature review, data collection and analysis, the write-up, the viva voce (meaning “live voice”, the oral exam), the possibility of being rewarded with an M.Phil, right through to the final award of the PhD.
All the hair pulling is there. There will be times when you wonder whether you did the right thing, you might feel a bit down, your life partner might feel pushed aside, and there might be times when the beer monster strikes as you try to work things through! And yes, some decide to take that lucrative job rather than complete the PhD.
It is hard work, but it can also be very rewarding. That feeling of producing an original piece of research that advances knowledge in your chosen field is unlike any other. So don’t be put off! Just remember to plan out your work, communicate with partners and family members so they know where they stand, and try to make time for activities other than research.
The game should help you to think more positively about the PhD process and bring some light-heartedness to times that can be particularly challenging. I hope that, as a result, doctoral students will face a more enriching experience. You never know, that square 39 event (not based on true events of course!) might just come along and rescue you!
For more PhD-game related content, by all means visit my personal blog at http://www.geocities.ws/high_temp_wear. Here I discuss my own experiences of completing a doctorate, ways to go about explaining what a PhD is to your dumbfounded friends and relatives and more!
Ian Inman is a former Ph.D. Candidate whose research sought to examine “Compacted Oxide Layer Formation under Conditions of Limited Debris Retention at the Wear Interface during High Temperature Sliding Wear of Superalloys”. He tweets at @Mackem_Beefy
October 9, 2020 at 8:39 pm
I’ll just add quickly for copyright reasons that I didn’t come up with “The Ph.D. Game V2.0” as such.
I was sent a copy of the original “Ph.D. Game” believed to be composed by someone within the Jenner Institute by my then colleague and predecessor Simon Rose when still at Northumbria University, previously sent to him by his predecessor, Philip Wood.
Just after submission, my primary supervisor changed the “viva voce” date to allow for a conference. I added square 43 in frustration and sent it back to Simon and others. It came back with a whole series of squares added (including the infamous square 39) and “The Ph.D. Game V2.0” came to be.
For the record, we all passed, Philip in 1997, Simon in 2000 and I in 2004, completing what had been a nine year project on high-temperature-wear-produced compacted, nano-crystalline oxide layers, misleadingly given the name “glazes”.
As commented above, please enjoy, have a laugh and by all means visit my main blog at http://www.geocities.ws/high_temp_wear. I’m also contactable at email@example.com .
October 14, 2020 at 4:09 pm
Thanks for sharing the above.
I saw the original Ph.D. game some years ago and some of the new entries certainly fill in the gaps in the original. I’m sure many of us have gone through square 40 and I’m minded of a middle-aged Ph.D. candidate who on passing his viva was told straight after by his girlfriend they were finished. He’d spent so much time on his Ph.D. during write-up he’d not seen the relationship slowly slipping away. She at least waited until he’d finished before she dropped the bombshell. Thus making time for family, friends and relationships is very important.
I’ve fallen into the trap of square 24 (specimens incorrectly labelled), with sticky labels falling off samples and thus losing a short sequence of data. As the samples were metallic, I switched to using an engraving tool to label the rear of the samples so labelling could not be separated from samples. Later, I was able to identify the samples though it was so late in the day the data wasn’t included in my thesis.