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Re-envisioning the Ph.D.
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Project Background

A Brief History of the Study and Project

In this section the history of the Study and Project are outlined up until the 2000 Conference. The next sections will discuss more recent events.

The work began by identifying and collecting substantial information regarding the Ph.D. as it is currently conceived, defined, described and awarded, and, additionally, any plans for future innovation. Through interviews and email inquiries with hundreds of individuals in research-intensive universities, comprehensive and doctoral universities, liberal arts and community colleges, doctoral students, business and industry, foundations, government, disciplinary and educational associations, K-12 education, and accrediting agencies, we documented different kinds of statements, projects, commissions, recommendations, initiatives, calls for change, reports, articles, accrediting standards, critical essays and various texts related to reconceptualizations of the Ph.D. These efforts are sometimes hidden in specific departments in a wide range of institutions, are being discussed by disciplinary and learned societies, designed by Graduate Schools, proffered by critics and reformers, and therefore cannot be accessed or assessed by conventional survey methods. One way to inventory these efforts was to conduct an "environmental scan" of sorts, consisting of both collecting and cataloguing examples, and analyzing the trends and themes revealed in the examples.

Working from interview transcripts and other documents, such as articles and books, public presentations, doctoral program descriptions and materials, and the other sources of information, the researchers:

1. Identified themes and patterns in the concerns about doctoral education (see our Concerns Brief).

2. Assembled an inventory of powerful examples, creative ideas, initial experiments (see our Promising Practices) which were made available for viewing on the Project's website that addressed those concerns.


In addition to uncovering effective and useful examples, this qualitative work revealed individuals around the country who have interesting and innovative perspectives related to re-envisioning the Ph.D. Their thinking has been captured and included in appropriate ways to insure that the "environmental scan" produces the best ideas available for review and deliberation.

The Project's website became a window into the Project's efforts, and efforts around the nation (and increasingly, the world) that are taking place to develop programs, practices and new visions of doctoral education. Initially its main products were the collection of Promising Practices, and a Selected Bibliography of important documents that discuss doctoral education.

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