That means an examiner might skim through years of a Ph D student's work in just a couple of hours.
“I think we owe it to the students to examine them properly and help prepare them for their future careers,” he says.
On the morning of Tom Marshall's Ph D defence, he put on the suit he had bought for the occasion and climbed onto the stage in front of a 50-strong audience, including his parents and 6 examiners.
He gave a 15-minute-long presentation, then faced an hour of cross-examination about his past 5 years of neuroscience research at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
This isn't necessarily a problem in itself, but some researchers worry that the decades-old doctoral assessment system is showing strain.
Time-pressured examiners sometimes lack training and preparation for Ph D assessments, which can lead to lack of rigour.“If you have worked on a collaborative dissertation, a potential employer might struggle to see whether you really are an independent thinker or could you read a lead a research project,” says Ortega.There is another matter to wrestle with — the fact that half of science Ph D graduates in the United States are choosing careers outside of academia, according to the National Science Foundation's 2014 Survey of Earned Doctorates.“'The thicker my Ph D, the better' has become a myth in the Ph D community, and is taking it down the wrong direction.” Farrar says that a slimmed-down document would be more appropriate.That could follow the concise format of a research paper, and include a review of the field, then short chapters on methods, analysis and discussion. And the examiners will probably read it all.” That isn't necessarily the case now.That could be because students are analysing more complex questions, performing longer literature reviews and using increasingly complicated methods that require lengthier explanations (see 'The expanding thesis').“It's unnecessary to have such a long thesis,” says Farrar, who recently assessed one such tome.One way to better reflect the team-based nature of science would be to write a joint thesis, an approach that has been used in arts and humanities graduate education in the past.However, this can make it difficult to assign credit.Almost all involve a written thesis, but those come in many forms.In the United Kingdom, they are usually monographs, long explanations of a student's work; in Scandinavia, science students typically top-and-tail a series of their publications.