121

At best, the PhD thesis is read by:

  • The author
  • The examiners
  • The supervisor
  • The author's parents
  • The author's roommate / spouse / fellow students in research group

Or less than 10 people in total. What, then, is the point of writing it? Writing a complete PhD thesis is a time-consuming process, and that time could easily have gone into taking more courses, doing more research, supervising more students, and so on. Of course the PhD student has no choice but to write one, because the programme typically requires it. However that still begs the question as to why the programme requires it in the first place. if the thesis is so useless that so few people read it, what's the point of demanding a thesis as a prerequisite for graduation?

Somewhat related: What is the point of a PhD thesis whose content already exists in published papers? Still, even if there are more readers because a thesis provides a gentle introduction to the field, it seems more sensible to me to just write a monograph and leave out the thesis.

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    "less than 10 people" is already generous... I am quite sure my parents will never read more than 200 pages about IT security. Same is true for most friends who will have a look but might not go into detail. I sometimes say: You are in trouble if more than two people read your dissertation. The first two are your examiners, the third one is some unfriendly guy searching for flaws in your thesis... ;-) – J-Kun Feb 10 at 10:35
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    I question the premise of this question. I have several PhD Theses on my harddrive, all of which I have read, most several times, some of them I re-read regularly. And I am none of the things the OP listed, I am not even an academic. And I have good reasons to believe that e.g. Gilad Bracha's thesis has been read by dozens and Roy Fielding's by hundreds, just to name two. – Jörg W Mittag Feb 10 at 11:47
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    First, you say "at best", but those words should be "at minimum." There are plenty of world-shaking Ph.D. theses out there. Second, well, heck, you could say the same about almost all published research. I'd bet 90% of scholarly papers could easily be filed under "doesn't matter." – B. Goddard Feb 10 at 14:25
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – eykanal Feb 12 at 14:06
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    You're assuming the research in the thesis is only found in the thesis. In the sciences, it's common for the thesis to be an aggregation of previously published papers. – chepner Feb 12 at 14:19

18 Answers 18

131

For simplicity, I am going to let your premise that (virtually) nobody reads a PhD thesis stand, even though that's debatable and also a bit field-dependent. There are still a number of reasons for it to exist:

  • It's arguably more of a "writing to learn" task anyway. Students don't produce theses for the sake of the thesis, but to learn how to do research and write it up properly in a long, coherent book. Even if no single person outside the committee reads the thesis ever, it was still a good learning experience for the student.
  • There is a lot of history around the concept of a doctoral program requiring developing in new thesis (in the original meaning of the word), writing it down in a book (the dissertation), and defending this new thesis against the local learned community. Even though nowadays many fields don't communicate new research ideas through long books anymore, there is still enough historical appeal to the idea that few programs want to get out of it entirely. The entire process of writing and defending the dissertation also has some appeal as a significant milestone event, which nicely demarks the end of an era for the student - he is no longer a student, but a complete member of the academic community.
  • In many countries there is a legal angle to this. At least in Europe, a PhD program is usually legally defined to conclude with the production of a doctoral dissertation of some kind.
  • In the age of "stapler theses" (which consist of a synopsis and a collection of previously published papers in verbatim), the entire affair is fairly low-cost anyway. My last students rarely spent longer than 2 or 3 months on the actual "thesis writing".
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    +1 but I will add that there are places where stapler theses are not allowed, and on the other hand there are places where if you publish papers you don't need to write a separate thesis. – Kimball Feb 10 at 14:34
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    @xLeitix you are right but the last point is not true, at least in many countries in Europe. In addition to that, it is quite common that the write-up period is unpaid in many universities, as you are not doing research any more. – DimP Feb 10 at 14:47
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    @Nox a professor who does not encourage publications What?! That sounds almost like an oxymoron to me. – Thomas Feb 10 at 21:32
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    @Nox You're overgeneralising when referring to "Europe". There are big differences between different European countries as to whether sandwich theses are encouraged, discouraged, or disallowed. – gerrit Feb 11 at 7:59
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    "2 or 3 months" for a stapler thesis? Those I have seen take less than a week, as they consist of merely writing a 5-10 page blurb in front, and copy-pasting already accepted/appeared papers as chapters. – Boris Bukh Feb 11 at 14:42
80

"No-one ever reads a PhD thesis" is a big assumption, one that I would think says more about what you think a PhD thesis is about, and less about what it actually is about.

I have read many PhD theses in my time. I find them to be a very different resource to papers. Often a PhD thesis is a very good read if you want to get a good overview of a particular field, explained in relatively simple language, and introducing and building up a complex subject relatively from scratch in easily digestible logical blocks, rather than assuming most knowledge is known to the reader.

Similarly, a PhD thesis is also more likely to go into some depth / proofs / exhaustive experiments that are typically omitted from journal publications on account of space and conciseness.

As a bonus, a PhD thesis is far more likely to be accessible to the general public than its respective papers, as the latter typically tend to be behind paywalls, whereas the former is typically accessible on-demand for free from their respective universities.

Finally, if you are lucky, your PhD thesis may form the cornerstone for an entire field, far more than a single paper might.

Having said all that, one factor that skews one's impression of how often theses tend to be read, is that it is still more likely that subsequent authors reading the thesis will cite the relevant papers generated from it instead, since they are more relevant in the context of a citation, therefore giving a wrong impression about how useful PhD theses are when one is exploring the literature in the first place.

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    I too question the assumption. I have had two different researchers at two different institutions come to me to confirm that the these they had in hand was actually mine. The reason for the confusion is that the these is in one field and I am working in another field. – Doug O'Neal Feb 10 at 18:46
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    +1 Also, potential employers may ask to see an electronic copy of the thesis to get an idea of the technical and writing skills of the applicant. This is especially useful when hiring a recent PhD (who may have not yet published extensively from their doctoral research) for a post-doctoral position. ;-) – Luca Citi Feb 10 at 21:28
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    Can't upvote this enough. Reading a paper on an unfamiliar topic is often horrible -- "this result is proved in [A,B,C]" (which all use different notations and formalism, and are difficult to unify); "the proof is simple and left to the reader" (only simple when you already know how it works); "an introduction can be found in book [X]" (which covers it in passing, in a very different way from the paper). No. A thesis can provide an incredible introduction to a specific subject, if well written, in a way that a paper simply can't or won't. – Richard Rast Feb 11 at 2:55
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    @RichardRast I can’t help but think you are unfairly comparing well-written theses with poorly written papers. – JeffE Feb 11 at 5:43
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    It might have been true that very few people read theses when they only existed as a single copy held in the degree-granting institution's library, and were only indexed in that library's card catalog, but they're becoming more and more accessible in our electronic era. I've even had researchers request undergraduate senior theses that they discovered through WorldCat. My social science undergraduates often love dissertations, because as the product of very young researchers they are much more likely to be about topics of interest than the product of more established researchers. – 1006a Feb 11 at 15:31
41

The main skill that students should learn during their PhD and demonstrate to graduate is producing, describing, and defending scientific results. Thus, when a PhD student wishes to graduate, they have to present some work that justifies this degree. This work is, broadly speaking, the thesis. Technically speaking, this can just be a bunch of peer-reviewed papers, and cumulative theses (a.k.a. stapler theses) are more or less exactly this, but the student is usually required to write an introduction and conclusion as a framework for their papers.

However, there are many reasons why a student cannot provide these or published papers do not reflect the entire work of the PhD student in question:

  • The field may have very long peer-review times, e.g., pure mathematics.
  • The field’s publishing and hiring culture favours one big paper in a highly ranked journal comprising everything, e.g., biology.
  • Scientific communication in the field mostly happens in form of large monographs (which a thesis can be).
  • The PhD work is only a piece in a huge project and is not suitable for being published on its own.
  • Some parts of the PhD work have not (yet) been published when the student wishes to graduate.

A thesis gives PhD candidates the opportunity to graduate in these cases. Note that in most of these cases, the writing work spent on the thesis is not wasted on a few readers, because the material will be reused in peer-reviewed papers later¹ or the thesis itself will actually be read by more people. So from a certain point of view, your premise is wrong: The thesis will be read by more people; it’s just not in form of the thesis itself.

This still leaves the point of why PhD students are forced to write an introduction and conclusion to a cumulative thesis, but then:

  • This is not a lot of work (I did this in a few weeks).
  • It may spur the student to see their work in a broader picture.
  • It is the most useful information for the thesis committee. (Depending on how the committee is formed, they clichéically only read the introduction and conclusion.)
  • It does train scientific writing on a level not seen in regular papers.

¹ though these are usually not read by that many people either

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    "Depending on how the committee is formed, they clichéically only read the introduction and conclusion". While this is true, every place I've known holds this as a poorly keep secret, rather than an official fact. The committee members are always expected to read the entirety of the work. During a pre-thesis exam, I was told by a committee member that I should leave to annexes a few developments that were only introductory and known in the literature. He complained about having to read them all even though I suggested by email that those parts could be skipped. – Mefitico Feb 11 at 11:05
39

I think the premise of the question is wrong. I have read PhD theses and I am not a PhD thesis author, examiner, supervisor, parent of candidate, room mate of author, etc.

For the most part you are right. Most PhD theses are absolute garbage and wastes of time. But in the best cases, they do achieve a broader distribution.

You are absolutely not required to write a dissertation. If you feel that your time is better spent taking more courses, doing more research, supervising more students; then you are probably right.

A probable consequence of this decision is that you will not earn a PhD degree. But I feel that my lack of a degree has been fairly inconsequential to me. You have to decide what is right for you.

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    A good thesis goes into more detail, and has a better related work section, than is possible in a journal or conference paper. I like them. – Patricia Shanahan Feb 10 at 9:18
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    @PatriciaShanahan if you like them and are not a member of one of the groups mentioned in the OP's question, then the theses that you liked are an excellent counter example to the OP's best case scenario. – emory Feb 10 at 9:36
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    I am the author of one dissertation, so my reading that one does not count. For the vast majority of theses I've read, I am not the author etc. – Patricia Shanahan Feb 10 at 9:48
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    I don't really understand how this got so many upvotes. The first paragraph might be the beginning of an answer, the second paragraph might be the beginning of another (rude) answer that would be in total contradiction to the first one. The rest is irrelevant to the question. – Julien Lopez Feb 10 at 13:50
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    -1 The second half of this is sarcastic and is not addressing the question. The first half is not much of an answer either. – Thomas Feb 10 at 20:37
15

The purpose of a PhD thesis is to demonstrate that the author can do all of the following:

  • Organize a large project
  • that makes an original contribution to scientific knowledge;
  • have the persistence to carry out such a large project;
  • know the state-of-the-art in the field well enough to recognize an original contribution;
  • have good enough communication skills to explain, diagram, and present the results;
  • have the scientific rigor to present the results honestly, without "lying with statistics"; and
  • provide valid citations for how the project builds upon existing work in the field.

A typical organization looking to hire a PhD is looking to fill an Associate Professor position or a senior scientific researcher position. The position typically is responsible for organizing a line of scientific research, obtaining funding, and presenting results that are worth the funders' investment.

Several posters on this thread have suggested "stapler theses" be used instead. Such theses do not demonstrate the ability to organize a large project, nor the persistence to carry it out.

  • I don't think people are "suggesting" stapler these be used instead, but rather remarking that these stapler these have already become the norm in many departments (in particular when the department has a rule that "x number of papers are required" in order to get the degree). – Morgan Rodgers Feb 17 at 18:20
13

Until about 100 years ago, the PhD degree did not exist in many advanced academic environments. It postdates, by far, rigorous academic research in any subject. It has become the entry-level qualification for an academic career, I suggest, as a crude mechanism to weed out people who like the idea of an academic career but who lack the basic abilities to prosper in such a career.

Likewise, to be licensed to drive a car one has to take a test. The test does not really relate to generalised ability to drive, but it signals that you can't just sit in a car and drive it.

Some people can drive well, even if they have never taken a test, and some people can be brilliant academics without ever having to write a PhD thesis.

The answer to the question "what is the point of the PhD thesis..." is that writing it is the test you have to pass if you want an academic career. It is a different question to ask why is the PhD a basic requirement for an academic career.

For some research students, those who are not interested in an academic career but who are very interested in their subject, however, the requirement to write a thesis is a kind of realty check on their research. Without the need to write a thesis I could flatter myself that my work is ground-breaking; writing a thesis sets a bar, maybe not very high, that distinguishes reality from vanity.

12

Please think of the mathematician John Tate's 1950 Princeton thesis on harmonic anaylsis. This single thesis made him world-famous. Thesis is an intellectual start for many academics,a sort of ladder to the higher world of thought and approach.

11

Much of the point of the dissertation is to demonstrate that you really understand something, which isn't really a function of journal articles or conference papers. In mathematics, anyway, the best thing about doctoral dissertations (and some master's theses) is that the good ones have thorough reviews of the literature and complete expositions of foundational material. In many cases, it's the only place to find details that are too basic for journals and too specialized for textbooks. So even a dissertation that isn't great from a research standpoint can be extremely useful for its exposition and bibliography.

11

This question is based on a false premise, namely that nobody ever reads theses. This is a bit of a meme among grad students, but it's just that: A fashionable whinge. It's not actually true.

I've read plenty of theses, occasionally they will have some data that I need, I've even cited them. The biggest reason that I don't do it more is that usually the content of theses in my field is also published in papers, and it's better to use the original report.

In humanities theses are expected to be original works, and often people publish them as books. I've actually read many such books, often without realizing it was a thesis - the topic was just interesting to me. I found the book in a library, where it was bound with a professional cover, so presumably it was published by a real publisher. Not necessarily a best seller, but I'm sure more than 10 people read it. Some people must have even paid for it.

Similarly, many people stick to the topic of their thesis and keep reworking it into books and papers along the same line. In that case people may not have read the thesis, but the writing they did consume has its foundation in the work that went into the thesis.

There are plenty of people who graduate without publishing much. If such a person were applying for a job, certainly being able to look at their thesis would be valuable.

But to ask about readership is to miss the point. The thesis is an exam. Do you complain that writing papers for a class is pointless because only the instructor will read them? The thesis is exactly like an exam. It's your final exam of PhD school. You need to pass to show that you have learned enough to graduate. It might seem absurd to have an exam hundreds of pages long, but then again, big degree, big exam. You're not really required to make it hundreds of pages long, in any case.

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    In the humanities, your thesis is basically the draft for your first book. Presumably the book will benefit from a bit of professional editing, and maybe a bit of polishing from a less stressed-out-grad-student point of view. . The theses however will be read by everyone who contemplates hiring you, especially for that important first job, and it will be evaluated in how much work will be necessary to lead to that first book. Remember the publish or perish trope? The theses gives a good hint as to whether you can publish. – George M Feb 15 at 18:21
9

Riemann, Gauss, Grothendieck, Serre, Scholze, and various other mathematicians throughout history produced absolutely fantastic doctor thesis that shaped entire fields. Riemann's, for example, marked the beginning of the study of Riemannian Geometry and of Riemann surfaces. In his master's thesis, William Karush delineated the KKT conditions.

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    Nowadays, such achievements are far better placed in journal articles than theses. – Orion Feb 10 at 22:11
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    @orion: why? Journal articles are forced to be too short for some things. A thesis gives the author a lot more flexibility. – Neil G Feb 15 at 7:16
8

This is very field-dependent. In some fields, theses are read.

However, my experience in computer science is that the thesis is pointless, aside from being a degree requirement.

Your premise is optimistic. I am confident that, apart from myself and my advisor, no one has read more than 5% of my PhD thesis. And my advisor probably only read about 15% of it and skimmed the rest (based on the feedback he gave). I remember that, during my defense, one of the committee members had printed out the first ten or so pages of my thesis and was quickly reading the abstract before I started speaking.

My thesis has accrued precisely zero citations in three years, while the papers that went into it have gotten hundreds.

This is a bit disappointing, given that I put some effort into my thesis. I improved and simplified some results and included more detail and exposition than in the corresponding papers. That was a waste of my time.

My experience seems typical for computer science. The culture is that no one reads theses and they are a waste of time. But, again, this may be different in other fields or even in other countries.

7

One aspect of this being overlooked is that often times broader issues in a particular field of study - issues perhaps years down the road - will drive retrospective research into what others have thought or written about in the same field. A research work in one decade might prove to be a foundational, essential work in another. Think of it as a loose analog to lawyers and judges seeking legal precedents, but in a more academic context.

Granted, this may be an exceptional case, and surely there are many PhD dissertations sitting on shelves, untouched since their completion, but I think most dissertation efforts were undertaken with a sincere effort to research something of value; there's really no way of knowing at the time it's written of its relative future worth.

As an example, many years ago, I read a good portion of a PhD dissertation on "tri-state" or "indeterminant-state" computing - but it was written about 40 years ago. Right now, quantum computing explores variations on almost precisely this very concept. That makes the dissertation I read borderline prophetic, as it was literally decades before any notion of quantum computing existed.

7

I would like to offer a different perspective in my field i.e.meteorology and earth sciences. I actually find Ph.d theses very useful. Majority of the theses that I have looked at do contain the software (numerical Fortran routines) that solve a particular problem in atmospheric sciences usually in the appendices. In some universities the thesis is then digitized and placed in a online repository where can it be downloaded. In some cases one can actually search for these Fortran routines and then obtain the searches in a google search. In my field(and related fields) the thesis committee and the thesis advisor make it mandatory to include the software in the appendix. I have seen this in theses originating from the USA as well as from Europe and Asia.

So the cumbersome issue of contacting the author of a peer reviewed research paper and asking him/her for their software is completely eliminated.

5

At least in my field (physics), the PhD thesis is a pointless ritual that deserves to die. It continues to exist only for historical reasons.

A bunch of answers have quibbled with the statement that nobody reads a PhD thesis. Although I have sometimes read people's theses in my field, I would have preferred it if the relevant work had just been posted on arxiv.org as a series of preprints of papers (as has been the custom in my field since ca. 1998 for anyone who wants their work to actually get read).

Basically what should happen IMO is that all schools should allow a "stapler thesis," i.e., PhD candidates who have published 1 to 3 papers in a field should be allowed to get the degree. One paper would be for the case of a groundbreaking result. Three papers would be more normal.

Usually a thesis contains one or more introductory chapters laying out the theory for a nonspecialist. These are handy if there are one or two members of committee who are not familiar with the candidate's subfield. But it's absurd to go to the trouble of writing all that material just for the benefit of one or two people. If it's really a good intro, better than anything else out there in textbooks or review articles, then it should be publishable as a stand-alone paper in a journal that publishes that sort of thing. In my field, that would be Am J Phys for a short paper, or Rev Mod Phys for something longer. But in most cases the same material has already been covered in a publication such as a textbook, and the thing to do would just be to walk over to the relevant committee member's office and hand them that textbook to browse before they dive into the thesis.

It's possible that the thesis still makes sense in some fields. For instance, a sociology thesis might in effect be a long monograph, and I believe it's still customary for people in sociology to publish monographs (maybe even expected for tenure at some schools?).

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    Your opening statement is just false, but it sounds like you had a bad experience with your particular department. IME, most physics PhDs spent time on side projects, developing software, models, techniques, etc. that wouldn't make it into a stapler thesis (which are allowed by departments I've been in). The thesis is an essential resource to future students and faculty as documentation of unpublished, incomplete, or defunct research projects; it's also good to stock with useful figures that didn't fit into final drafts of published work. – Sam Feb 10 at 20:03
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    I know at least one physics PhD thesis for which one chapter contained a calculation that was not found anywhere else (and which was probably unpublishable by itself, since it simplified known results) and another chapter was an excellent survey of a rather specialized subfield, not duplicating anything in the literature. The other chapters contain results in published papers. This thesis has been cited 27 times, according to Google scholar, more than many papers. – Peter Shor Feb 10 at 21:27
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    @Sam: "Just false" isn't the same as "something you disagree with." it sounds like you had a bad experience with your particular department. Not true. The thesis is an essential resource to future students and faculty as documentation of unpublished, incomplete, or defunct research projects; it's also good to stock with useful figures that didn't fit into final drafts of published work. This is what internal reports are for. A PhD thesis is supposed to be an original contribution to human knowledge, not documentation of someone's java code. – Ben Crowell Feb 11 at 21:53
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    @BenCrowell I wasn't sharing an opinion; it is a fact: there are departments for which the thesis is not a "pointless ritual that deserves to die", and it exists for more than "historical reasons". Unpublished research can still be "an original contribution to human knowledge". You may have your own definition of what a PhD thesis is (or should be), and that's fine, but your statement is false as it applies to academia, the subject of this site. – Sam Feb 11 at 22:09
5

The premise is not valid. I have read hundreds of theses and dissertations when conducting research and regularly cite them in my work. One issue is that many theses and dissertations are collected behind various digital walls (Proquest, University repositories, etc) and are not easily viewable in a free and open way on the internet. It surprisingly still takes a library visit or special request to get a hold of them. I personally posted my 2012 dissertation on the web myself and now have a reasonable number of citations to it. I get questions and comments on a regular basis about the document and its contents to this day. Maybe we just need simply make the documents accessible.

EDIT: Just wanted to add that having a goal to write a theses that people do want to read, can also help. Writing with the expectation that no one reads it will likely diminish the quality and attractiveness to readers.

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    I agree with much of this. If a PhD student isn't reading theses in their field - and I don't mean just those of their immediate department, their supervisor and so on - then they should ! Why? To learn how to communicate clearly and engagingly in print - and how not to ! External examiners may be excused being tetchy with a thesis that is badly written or disorganized. A PhD award should be proof of one's competence to teach in the overall area of one's research as well as conduct further research in that area. Teaching is about good written communication as well as oral communication. – Trunk Feb 13 at 21:13
2

Back up a bit. A PhD thesis is meant to describe research that was explicitly conducted to advance the state knowledge in some relevant manner.

The extent to which it is not read is a failure of some sort to reach that ideal:

  1. The state of knowledge was not sufficiently advanced.
  2. The advance is not sufficiently relevant (yet).
  3. The advance has not been adequately disseminated (yet).

To be clear, failure above refers specifically to the readership size question. There can be other measures of achievement that contribute to the "success" of the PhD thesis: Candidates may have gained

  1. knowledge
  2. research skills
  3. credentials

that will serve them well throughout their career. But make no mistake: A PhD student should strive to make contributions beyond the benefits received. Ideally, the thesis will be read by more than those with only a personal interest in the candidate, whether by cover-to-cover reading or selective consultation for details elaborating on earlier publications of preliminary/intermediate results.

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    I think this misses the point of the question. There are ways to contribute to the field other than through a thesis, namely publications. So a thesis not being read does not mean the author didn’t contribute to the field. – Thomas Feb 10 at 21:39
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    @Thomas, you're welcome to commiserate with OP about the futility of writing PhD dissertations. I, on the other hand, disagree with the premise. I also disagree with both your objection here and your answer, including where you state without evidence that in computer science, no one reads theses and they are a waste of time. Contrary to your objection here, I maintain that successful PhD research will lead to readership beyond the inner circles of the candidate, your unfortunate personal, anecdotal experience notwithstanding. – kjhughes Feb 10 at 22:20
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    I maintain that successful PhD research will lead to readership beyond the inner circles of the candidate. That is true, but that doesn't mean the thesis will be read. Many theses are redundant in the sense that most of their content also appears in published journal/conference papers. Thus readers have the choice between reading the thesis and reading the paper. I maintain that they almost always opt for the paper, at least in computer science. – Thomas Feb 11 at 0:53
2

In the hard sciences, I really don't see the value of the exercise. Seems like more benefit from learning to publish and publishing real papers. If anything, it can be the opposite of value as there are people who write a thesis and don't have independent papers. Although maybe sweating the thesis is away to put the weaker students through something (some exercise) before you give them the union card. In some European countries it's actually even explicit that the thesis is just 3 published papers (without even an effort to synthesize them).

However instead of worrying about changing society, my advice is to just deal with the situation. Do your best on papers. And for the thesis just get by (it is pass fail after all). Note that does NOT mean to let obvious errors or typos or poor writing get by. It should still be good professional work product, like a technical reort in government or industry.

So:

  • Don't kill yourself on the lit search.
  • Don't go learning LATEX if you don't already use it.
  • Don't use some super complicated Word template that is hard to manipulate.
  • Don't use some complicated drafting or graphing program if not familiar with it already.
  • Do fit in unpublished work so it is "somewhere" but don't kill yourself to finish up every thread by doing more experiments. Assuming yu have enough in the main material, the point is just to somewhere put down stuff so not lost to lab group. But don't kill yourself on this...it's a nice to do.
  • Same as last bullet but also use opportunity to document any little tricks of methods or apparatus that might help the group. But again...this is a niceness you are doing...not the main point.
  • Do get it done fast and get out of there. Try to avoid a lot of editorial criticism.

P.s. I actually do think theses can be useful looking at a field or a research group especially when coming up to speed (or for members of same lab group). Get a feel for what is going on. Some between the lines given. But my impression is still that most people don't know this trick or do it enough. Also, I have definitely seen people omit citing prior work from theses.

  • 3
    I disagree. One must always learn better Technical writing skills, formatting and grammar skills, graphic , schematic and block diagram skills and make easy to read. Not coincidental duplicates of 10k similar theses. – Sunnyskyguy EE75 Feb 10 at 20:40
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    If you want to learn new typing skills do them along the way because it is worthwhile on its own. Not when you are in crunch time finishing up. Have seen a lot of students struggle because they added on new challenges like this, while they were in the midst of producing a big document under some time pressure. Also, despite the very computer bent of this website, there are a vast amount of fields/people who value writing ability (sentences and words and paragraphs and logic and organization) far above typesetting. Just look at the corporate world. LATEX is valued less than writing skill. – guest Feb 10 at 20:57
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    The major plus of writing a thesis for me was latex practice... – drjpizzle Feb 15 at 11:48
2
  1. The point of hard work is to get good (at something).

  2. People will usually by nature be lazy.

  3. Therefore it is (usually) necessary to find a way to trigger this hard work somehow.

Course requirements and theses and (ultimately) using the fear of "dropping out" are some ways to try and make this hard work happen.

protected by Massimo Ortolano Feb 11 at 18:52

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