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PhD Failure Rate – Tips To Avoid It

PhD Failure Rate

The PhD failure rate among students has been an issue of concern for a while now. The rise of the internet with various PhD writing services has made the problem worse. We are seeing few students taking up PhD courses at the university level, and the completion rate is also worrying.

How often do you hear the mention of PhDs in the local dailies or news bulletins? Well, safe for the two or three experts who will be called in a TV interview, the rest will be full of Mrs and Mrs That tells you something about the number of PhD holders in the country and the world at large. Research shows that most college students go as far as the Degree level and leave it there.

But why is this the case? Why does society have a low PhD completion rate? This post seeks to explore that at length. So let’s journey together, my friend.

What Is A PhD?

It is an acronym for Doctor of Philosophy. It refers to a professional or academic degree of the highest level of academic qualification that one can achieve. A PhD is awarded at the university level after producing advanced work that can significantly contribute to knowledge in a particular field.

PhD holders are referred to as Doctor. The necessary research experience and techniques needed for a PhD takes years. Most students tend to get discouraged on the way as they pursue such a degree. That is why there are few holders of such titles in society today.

On top of that, the PhD failure rate has also been high among students in the recent past. Most universities have registered a dwindling number of postgraduate students in PhD. This worrying trend has left many countries in questions as to what the future holds. Imagine a nation without professors and senior lecturers to teach at the university!

What Percentage Of PhD Students Finish University?

According to the APA website, 33% of the students complete their Doctoral Degrees in some fields. The humanities fields have continued to register quite a good number of students completing compared to the sciences.

The website notes that almost up to 50% of the Doctoral students don’t complete. With a study covering 30 institutions, 54 disciplines, 330 programs, and 49,000 students, the site identified that the PhD dropout rate goes up to 56.6%.

That should tell you the sad state of affairs about the dissertation defense failure rate. Some students start pretty well only to give up on the way. Others complete their dissertation papers but cannot defend them and thus end up on the list of failures. Note that not failed PhD cases are a result of laziness. We will talk about this aspect in great detail in the subsequent sections.

Why Does A PhD Take So Long?

To understand this clearly, we will look at the structure of a PhD thesis and what it takes to develop the final paper for presentation. While many institutions may have different formats for a PhD paper, here is a general rule of thumb for all of them:

  • Title Page
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Research methodology
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • Reference

The outline above in itself should tell you that a PhD paper does not take 30 minutes to complete. It is one of the key reasons why most students do not survive PhD papers. Each of the sections above results from extensive research, which equates to about 13-20 months.

When writing a PhD paper, students have to go through the following stages:

  • The prospectus part: It is where one has to lay the groundwork for the whole paper. It will take approximate 3-6 months. Most time in this stage is spent refining the topic and the researcher’s approach to the problem in question.
  • The proposal: It comprises chapter 1-3 of the paper. Here, students will have to expound their prospectus, dig deep into the literature, and explain the methodology in detail. This section also takes approximate four months to complete.
  • Approval of the proposal: The committee reviews your proposal at this stage before giving you the go-ahead to proceed. It may take up to two months for your proposal to be approved.
  • Data collection: It forms the backbone of your results and discussion and thus a crucial step in writing a PhD paper. Though this varies significantly depending on various factors, it may take approximately two months.
  • Writing your results and discussion: The students now present the data collection results and explain what they mean. Even though it is one of the most accessible parts of a thesis paper, it can take about one month to write.
  • Defense and completion: Before one is allowed on the graduation list, they will have to defend their paper and fulfil some university requirements. It may take up to one or two months to complete this process.

From the stages above, you can see that a PhD paper takes approximately one year to complete. Below are some other factors that make fining PhD a long process:

  • Insufficient resources during the research process
  • Natural pandemics such as the COVID-19
  • Sluggishness on the part of the supervisor
  • The process of getting clearances and approvals may also take some time.

Some students may take up to two years to finish a PhD. That includes other common PhD problems that are beyond the students reach.

What Is A Thesis Defense Like?

One of the primary reasons why students get failed Master’s thesis is how they present themselves during the defense. It is a crucial part of the award of a PhD which has seen many being locked out. But how does it look like?

Now, a defense provides evidence for a particular thesis. This evidence will depend on the kind of thesis at stake. It is the stage where you make the committee feel confident that you understand your field and focus area. It involves the following:

  • A presentation of the thesis by the student
  • Open-ended questions that require you to think critically about your work
  • Making a summary of specific findings in the thesis

So, you may ask, is getting a PhD hard? Certainly yes! As simple as these three things may look, they can cost you a whole year of hard work and sleepless nights. To arrive at an excellent thesis defense, you have to emphasize each of the steps above. Research has shown that most students who give out their papers get caught at this stage. That is why you must do your work and present something that you can defend with ease.

Factors That Contribute To PhD Defense Fail

We have seen that the process of defending a thesis requires the student to put the right foot forward. All the nitty-gritty involved in the process has a part to play in the final submission. Here are some of the reasons why students fail in defending their PhD thesis:

  • Lack of proper guidance from the supervisor: A supervisor who has not been involved in the research process may contribute significantly to the student’s failure. He/she is supposed to provide mentorship and support to the student in every step of the PhD writing process.
  • Laziness on the part of the students: Some students are generally lazy and do not want to put any extra effort into their work. Others will go as far as copy-pasting PhD papers available online and submitting them. The committee can point out all these mishaps and penalize the student.
  • Improper dressing: Most students overlook this, but it contributes a great deal when defending a PhD paper. The dress code will tell a lot about your seriousness on the project as a whole.
  • Not following standard procedures during the presentation: During the presentation, some students do not pay attention to procedures such as etiquette, illustrations, format, and style. The result of this is a deduction of marks which may lead to the overall failure of the student.
  • Inadequate time of presentation: Some fail to utilize the given time in convincing the committee during the defense. They end up exhausting their time without convincing the panel.

PhD defense has contributed a lot to the failure rate among the students. The five reasons discussed above are just but a glimpse of the more excellent picture.

PhD Supervisor Problems

The role of a PhD supervisor is to guide the student throughout the PhD writing process. A supervisor is crucial in helping the student make informed decisions on various aspects of the project. Nonetheless, countless problems arise with some PhD supervisors:

  • Some may be abusive: Such supervisors may be fond of responding rudely to the student’s concerns, humiliating them, or blaming them for their own mistakes. Such supervisors may make the student get kicked out of the PhD program.
  • Others are too controlling: They do not allow students to make their own decisions. In other words, these are the dictator type who will dictate the topic, methodological, or theoretical perspective of a thesis paper. With such a supervisor, you may not have a say in your paper and thus lack the motivation to continue.
  • The passive supervisors: These do not offer any leadership trait and avoid any intervention in the student’s work. They may only come in when a severe problem arises on the part of the student. Such a problem is a lazy grad student with a poor paper submitted in the end.
  • The apathetic supervisors: Such have no passion for the supervision process. They may not follow up on any latest development or show commitment. Students of such supervisors are prone to getting apathetic and coming up with a low-quality PhD paper during the submission time.

One can note from the above PhD supervisor problems that failure is inevitable. If the supervisors neglect their advising and guiding the students, then the failure rate will continue to soar higher. Therefore, the student and supervisor need to have a one-on-one relationship that will foster good relations throughout the entire process.

If the expectations of the PhD student-supervisor relationship are not correct, the end will be a shambolic work that will not see the light of the day. PhD supervisors should help improve the papers by providing students with continuous constructive feedback.

An imbalance between the two (student and supervisor) will also lead to low grades. Problems will arise if the supervisor is either involved too much or too little in the PhD project. It will affect the production of a well-written PhD paper that contributes novel findings to a particular subject area.

My PhD Advisor Ignoring Me – Should I Worry?

Yes! Remember that this is the person to guide you throughout the process – in other words, the anchor of your PhD paper. If he/she is ignoring you, then that should ring a bell in your mind ASAP! Some of the consequences of such an action may include:

  • You may not be able to stay on schedule.
  • You may not be able to get the relevant expertise in your subject area
  • Some of the decisions you make may not be effective
  • You may be at the risk of errors and missing out on critical elements of a thesis paper
  • You may feel demoralized due to the absence of a mentor

What percentage of PhD students drop out? We said that almost half of the number of them join. Looking at the critical role of a supervisor, it is clear that they also contribute to the dropout of PhD students. It is challenging for a student to produce a high-quality thesis paper without the assistance of a supervisor.

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