PhD Theses

Reading every word of a PhD thesis is ridiculous. The point of the thesis is that it forces the student to survey the entire range of the literature and place their own scientific work in a much broader context than is possible with a peer-reviewed publication. If the student did good publishable work in the lab, it doesn’t matter if there are “that/which” errors in the thesis. Who gives a fucke? This isn’t like in the humanities, where a PhD thesis frequently becomes a published book.

What matters is the underlying science and the breadth and depth of knowledge of the student about her field. The former can be assessed looking at the figures, and the latter during the oral examination. The purpose of the thesis is the process of writing it, not the final product.

And BTW, the other thing I don’t understand is this cockamamie notion that it is important not to allow someone who doesn’t “deserve” a PhD to get one. If the poor fucke spent five or more years in the lab, and they at least tried at some level to be successful, then if they write a passable thesis, they should get their fucken PhD. It’s not like giving someone an accounting degree who doesn’t know shitte-for-dicke about accounting and could fucke their clients’ shitte uppe, or a doctor who could kille a motherfucker.

What harm is some poor fucke who didn’t “deserve” a PhD gonna do with it?? Try to get a seat at a hot restaurant by making the reservation under Doctor Undeserving??


  1. says

    On the subject of reading every word, my thesis—the print copy that is in the university library, at least—has a typo in the title. None of my committee members spotted it.

  2. furtivezoog says

    Could I work in your lab? My undergraduate biology thesis was my nemesis for so many years… I would love to pursue a PhD, but, alas, where papers are concerned, I am a “fucke uppe” at getting them done. (I rock exams, but my ADHD, etc., mean that I am not very competent at completing longer projects, and the thesis is the longest of the long.)

  3. says

    In molecular biology at least, theses are obsolete — no one reads them. So why can’t we replace them with stapled-together journal articles? And if the goal is for the student to get a broad sense of the literature, can’t they write a shorter review article and staple that in too?

  4. anon says

    “I don’t understand is this cockamamie notion that it is important not to allow someone who doesn’t “deserve” a PhD to get one.”
    CPP- wtf? Are you sending PhDs out by mail order then? Do students in your program graduate without ever publishing anything? I’m not sure what your criteria are for undeserving. Normally, if someone is a total fuckup, they are booted out before they even reach the thesis defense stage. If they do reach that stage without ever having published anything, I think it’s just as much the advisor’s fault as it is the student’s. I don’t see any problem with reading a thesis either. for fucksakes, who cares what you or I read.

  5. says

    I’d say that if Undeserving is having a hard time getting dinner reservations that maybe the problem is in making the reservation under the name “Undeserving.”

    (Do people srsly put reservations under Dr., like it’s 1952 and we’re all supposed to be impressed? That’s comical!)

  6. Germanguy says


    Not really, only the pretentious make their reservations under “Dr. Blowhard”.

    Then again, I sometimes use my title to get things expedited, like when my kid got a pseudocroup attack in the middle of the night, and the nice pharmacy guy on the phone didn’t seem all that enthusiastic.

    “Yah, I’ve got my prescription pad at the office, do you have some blank ones when I get there?” speeded things up considerably.

  7. pramod says

    What harm is some poor fucke who didn’t “deserve” a PhD gonna do with it??

    How am I supposed to feel superior to all those without a PhD from an “elite” university then? I DESERVE THIS.

  8. Bill Door says

    #3, M. Price
    Currently writing my PhD thesis. It’s going to be copies of my first-author publications sandwiched by an intro chapter and some appendices. This is actually quite common at my university.

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