What are your 10 reasons for wanting to do a PhD?

You should have 10 reasons for why you want to do a PhD advises Tara Brabazon, professor of education at Charles Sturt University, Australia. The reason for ten is that one or two reasons for commencing a PhD may fade over time, but to have ten means there is more chance that they won’t all fade away. You can look at your 10 reasons when the going gets tough to give you motivation and remind yourself on why you started in the first place.

My reasons have been quite clear from the beginning and here I share a few of the top ones which have a deeper lasting meaning than some others such as “it would be cool to have the title of Dr.”

1. To become a well-rounded researcher: As a research assistant without a PhD, and in a department that was quite research inactive, I felt my skill levels as a researcher were stagnating. It was always an ambition of mine to work somewhere where I would constantly learn and move up the senior ranks to be a senior researcher and perhaps try for a PhD for publication, if at all, as I do believe that the PhD is not the only way to become a researcher. This did not really turn out to be an option, so the traditional PhD route became the more realistic route. At the Institute of Education where I am a student, we have a large number of research methods classes and in my department I am getting a lot of support in learning how to handle longitudinal data. I really feel I am learning new methods and techniques which was exactly what I wanted.

2. To become a more knowledgeable, analytical and critical thinker: When listening and speaking with colleagues and friends with PhDs, I was always impressed by the way they spoke and they way they thought. I don’t mean fancy language and jargon, but rather their criticality, the way their minds operated, the way they knew about things such as ‘concepts’ and theory. I wanted to develop this way of thinking deeply, analytically and critically which I can see happening to me now that I am one year in, so feel good about that.

3. To feel more legitimate as a sociologist: I used to be co-convenor of the British Sociological Association group Sociologists Outside Academia. The group was for anyone who considered themselves to be a sociologist, no matter where they worked or their qualification level. We felt that sociology is something that goes beyond an academic discipline and viewed it as a distinct way of thinking about the world. I did feel slightly uncomfortable though when I mingled with established sociologists who worked in universities partly because at the time, my sociology was quite outdated, I had no particular area of deep knowledge on any topic and although I worked in a university, this was more in an administrative role. I felt neither inside nor properly outside academia because of my limited knowledge. Unless you are motivated to self-study or have access to excellent adult education classes in sociology, it is really quite hard to get the motivation to learn a topic deeply outside of academia.

5: As a stepping stone to making a difference: When I was growing up I wanted to be an environmental activist like Swampy. However, I think that everyone has different skills that they can bring to social change and mine may be more the research and writing side rather than the physical activism. However, although my current PhD topic is not going to have a profound effect on the world directly like some theses which are more activist in in tone,  I think that by learning how to properly research, be robust, write well and know how to analyse a variety of data is necessarily to work for social change.

6: I want to wear my gown whilst playing my steelpan: This is a slightly more frivolous reason but actually, the visual image of playing my lovely pan whilst wearing the jaunty PhD beret really spurs me on!


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