The Unwritten Rules of Ph.D Research

Today, the wonderful world of Scribd ran me right across the book The Unwritten Rules of Ph.D Research.

Interesting, considering that going back to school is almost always on my mind. I'm usually not a fan of self-helppy-ish how-to books, but in this case, I think it's alright.

I've read before that going to grad school is like joining a cult.

For anyone who has been in graduate school, numerous portions of Hassan's outline of the mind-control practices of cults will seem weirdly familiar.

- Behavior control: "major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals"; "need to ask permission for major decisions"; "need to report thoughts, feelings, and activities to superiors."

- Information control: "access to non-cult sources of information minimized or discouraged (keep members so busy they don't have time to think)" and "extensive use of cult-generated information (newsletters, magazines, journals, audio tapes, videotapes, etc.)."

- Thought control: "need to internalize the group's doctrine as 'Truth' (black and white thinking; good vs. evil; us vs. them, inside vs. outside)" and "no critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy seen as legitimate."

- Emotional control: "excessive use of guilt (identity guilt: not living up to your potential; social guilt; historical guilt)"; "phobia indoctrination (irrational fears of ever leaving the group or even questioning the leader's authority; cannot visualize a positive, fulfilled future without being in the group; shunning of leave takers; never a legitimate reason to leave"; and "from the group's perspective, people who leave are 'weak,' 'undisciplined.'"

Lot of professors, TAs I've been around have also remarked, "I wouldn't wish grad school on anyone." Graduate school has been described not as a learning process in terms of "bettering yourself" or "getting more knowledge", but more a "socialization" process where you learn conventions, ways of doings, pecking orders.

The book below speaks to a lot of that socialization process of grad school. Little stuff that you might overlook. They talk about "fitting in" within the culture of academia. They talk about a lot about how getting a Ph.D is like a rite of passage, an elaborate, drawn out hazing ritual you have to get through so you can become a 'peer.' In the end, what these authors seem to be saying is this: those hazing rituals imposed by the universities/institutions are in place to show that you could create, organize, and manage research in your area of discipline by yourself.

The Unwritten Rules of PhD Research (MJ Version)


Dom said...

damn, this is mad interesting. makes me not wanna pursue a phd. haha.

Brian J. Delas Armas said...

Eh, just takes getting used to those expectations is all