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About Being in a Ph.D. Program

Disney's Seven Dwarves

Being in a Ph.D. program is like being all seven of Disney's (original) dwarves, but without Snow White.
You start out Dopey and Bashful. They pile so much work on you, and it takes so long, that you don't get enough rest and you're half sick all the time: Sleepy and Sneezy. That makes you Grumpy. If you stick to it, and you have a good dissertation chair, eventually you finish. Then you are Happy because people call you Doc!

The Importance of the Dissertation Chair

A wolf was padding through the woods one day when he came upon a rabbit pecking away on a laptop computer. Ah! Lunch! thought the wolf. He said, "Hello, rabbit. What are you doing?"

"I'm working on my dissertation. It's an explication of how rabbits eat wolves," said the rabbit, puffing up importantly.

"That's silly," replied the wolf. "You'll never get that past any dissertation committee in the world because everyone knows it's the other way around."

"Step into my burrow and I'll show you my research," said the rabbit, and they both went in. A little later the rabbit came back out, brushing clumps of wolf hair off his coat and went back to work. Inside the burrow was a lion, picking his teeth, surrounded by a pile of wolf bones.

The moral of this story is that the subject of your dissertation and the quality of your research are of secondary importance. What is most important is how powerful your dissertation chair is.


What is a Ph.D. ?

Dr. Matt Might has answered that one:


The stories of the dwarves and of the rabbit and the wolf are not original. They've been around academia in one form or another for ages. The image of the dwarves is copyright Walt Disney Studios; it appears here as fair use.

Last updated: 2016-01-15 22:29  
Originally published: