What is a Ph.D.?

I recently read an article by Chris Golde of the Carnegie Foundation titled Preparing Stewards of the Discipline. As a doctoral student, I find her definition of the Ph.D., as outlined in the following excerpts, inspiring:

[T]he purpose of doctoral education is to prepare stewards of the discipline. …

A Ph.D.-holder should be capable of generating new knowledge and defending knowledge claims against challenges and criticism; of conserving the most important ideas and findings that are a legacy of past and current work; and of transforming knowledge that has been generated and conserved by teaching well to a variety of audiences, including those outside formal classrooms.

Students should understand that the Ph.D., at its heart, is a research degree. It signifies that the recipient is able to ask interesting and important questions, formulate appropriate strategies for investigating these questions, conduct investigations with a high degree of competence, analyze and evaluate the results of the investigations, and communicate the results to others to advance the field. …

Stewards have a responsibility to apply their knowledge, skills, findings and insights in the service of problem solving or greater understanding. Self-identifying as a steward implies adopting a sense of purpose that is larger than oneself. One is a steward of the discipline, not simply the manager of one’s own career. By accepting responsibility for the care of the discipline, and understanding that one has been entrusted with that care by those in the field, on behalf of those in and beyond the discipline, the individual steward embraces a larger sense of purpose.”

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