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Masters and PhD

In a graduate class, a teacher was saying that the person had to study more than 700 academic books before appearing for the comprehensive examination, and it was almost a book a day. That was a huge endeavor. We were in awe. I am a first year PhD student and very busy with compulsory courses to finish, and I did not even try to understand the comprehensive examination. For me, first thing, first!

Anyway, one master’s student suddenly asked me how I felt about the difference between a master's program and a PhD. That was a sudden approach, and I was not ready to answer because I never thought of it. I answered, "Oh! What is the difference? I think, previously in my MA program, my supervisors prescribed me books, published papers, articles, and so on to study, and I had to read those academic papers and present reviews on them. Now, in the PhD program, I select the academic materials, study them, make notes, and speak before my supervisors. I feel this is the difference between a master's and a PhD program.” I saw that the teacher seemed in agreement, and the students understood that a PhD program involved many independent initiatives.

For me, I am very worried about what I will say about my development in my research in a bi-weekly meeting. I know if I cannot make any progress in my work, and my supervisors would say, “Okay! Very good, Khalid! See you next meeting!” I will be in big trouble for two weeks without a direction. So, every day I must be alert, and each day I am studying new articles, but I do not know how to finish a book in a day. Academic books are not novels or fiction. If it is a novel by Chetan Bhagat, the size of the book does not matter, and I would say today, “I shall return the book tomorrow.” In addition, I am not a speedreader, and I have to work for my sustenance, such as graduate assistantships, teaching assistantship, and so on. Anyway, I think, “I am what I am.” I am trying to catch the bus. Please don’t throw me under the bus. Yes! There is a huge difference between the two because of their approaches and the breadth of their studies.

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