PhD Paths

Routes for professionals to and through the PhD

When you set out, a PhD looks something like this. You know where you want to get to (on stage in that red gown), but how to get there is a bit of a mystery. There is no obvious path. Where do you start? What's the best route? Some of those rocks look tricky, what's the best way to get up them, without too much back-tracking.

Getting a PhD is always an individual journey. There is no paved highway that will get you there quickly. You'll have to carve your own route, but it helps if you have some idea where to start and what to look out for. You should expect setbacks and challenges, after all it is an acheivement precisely because its difficult. But that doesn't mean you have to go entirely unprepared.

PhD Paths is designed to help you. This series of short, practical books will show you some of the ways to get there, warn you about the difficulties you are likely to encounter, and pass on tips from those who have gone before as to what gear you need, where to get help and how to tackle the hard parts. This series will help you to figure out the best paths to take for your PhD journey.

Who is it for?

This series is for you if

A PhD would be the obvious next step for you, but it's not easy. You may have a lot of questions. You've probably seen others struggle and maybe even give up. You know it’s a big commitment.

How does it help?

PhD Paths helps you to face the common challenges of doctoral education

Before you enrol it will help you to evaluate whether this is the right thing for you, to work out where to study and to apply and get accepted into a PhD program.

Once you are enrolled it will help you to find your way through the academic literature, to identify a good research problem and to craft a PhD proposal. Then to develop a good working relationships with your supervisor or advisors, to manage your research project and to build a network of support that will help you to deal with the challenges of doctoral study.

Each book is short, around 25 000 words, and focused, so that you can pick up the information that you need, when you need it.

They are written in an accessible style. These are not academic books. They are practical, giving you tools that you can apply to make decisions, evaluate options and take action.

What's the context?

Is it relevant for my profession, in my country?

This series is specifically for people with professional backgrounds. Its for you if you are an engineer, a business person, a manager, a marketer, a teacher, a government official, a medical doctor, an accountant, an IT specialist, a lawyer or a nurse. If you work in an obscure professional niche, it’s probably for you too. A lot of what I have to share is about the relationship between professional practice and academia. That doesn't mean its not relevant to other PhD students. Have a look at the samples and decide for yourself.

I write about PhDs in the British tradition, rather than the American tradition, because I am based in South Africa. In this tradition, the PhD comes after a master’s degree and you complete a substantial research project, under the guidance of a supervisor. The American tradition generally entails a year or two of coursework before conducting research. Despite the differences, the research component is similar, so you may find PhD Paths useful whatever tradition you study in.

South Africa is an international hub for doctoral studies because of it’s respected universities and low fees. Almost half of the doctoral graduates in South Africa are international students. While the majority of international students come from other African countries, we have students from every continent and most countries studying here. Doctoral education is pretty international. So you should find a lot of useful information in the series, no matter where you are from or where you are studying.

Titles in the series

Is a PhD for me? What professionals can expect from doctoral studies

Buy these books

Buy the PhD Paths books from most major ebook sellers

About me

Judy Backhouse is a career nomad and cross-disciplinary scholar. She trained as a Mathematician, pursued a long career in the Information Technology sector where she worked as a programmer, database administrator, systems administrator, systems architect and, eventually as a manager. She practiced the art of management in a number of South African companies.

In 2001 she left the IT industry, meditated for three months, and turned to more academic pursuits. She completed a PhD in Education at the University of the Witwatersrand researching doctoral education – how it was done and how students experienced it.

She has worked as the Head of the School of Information Technology at Monash South Africa, Director for Monitoring and Advice at the South African Council on Higher Education, and Head of the School of Economic and Management Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). As an Associate Professor in the Wits department of Information Systems she researched the role of Information Systems in Smart African Cities and convened the PhD program for five years.

She has processed many applications for PhD studies, interviewed many candidates, taught classes to PhD students, sat on many review panels, listened to tales of woe and triumph from doctoral candidates, trained doctoral supervisors, run research writing workshops for students and staff, examined many PhD theses and attended numerous graduations. The PhD Paths series arises from her continuing interest in doctoral education and what it means.

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