Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Might's Illustrated Guide to a Ph.D.

From Matt Might, of the School of Computing at Utah University, comes this gem of a graphic illustration:

Every fall, I explain to a fresh batch of Ph.D. students what a Ph.D. is.

It's hard to describe it in words.

So, I use pictures.

Read below for the illustrated guide to a Ph.D.

Imagine a circle that contains all of human knowledge:

By the time you finish elementary school, you know a little:

By the time you finish high school, you know a bit more:

With a bachelor's degree, you gain a specialty:

A master's degree deepens that specialty:

Reading research papers takes you to the edge of human knowledge:

Once you're at the boundary, you focus:

You push at the boundary for a few years:

Until one day, the boundary gives way:

And, that dent you've made is called a Ph.D.:

Of course, the world looks different to you now:

So, don't forget the bigger picture:

Keep pushing.


  1. It's as reasonable an explanation as I've found so far. And in a lot less words too!

  2. Whenever I hear about the high cost of higher education, and the high expectations of an advanced degree, I always think back to Mad Magazine's "Rewriting Your Way to a PH.D." from Mad Issue #158, April 1973.
    Just keep re-writing your paper entitled "What I did on summer vacation" from second grade and voila! Genius!

  3. Not too far from the (somewhat sarcastic) asymptotic definition of what a person with a Ph.D. represents: "One who studies more and more about less and less until finally he knows all there is to know about nothing."


    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer