Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 14 Issue 01

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Volume 14, No. 1
Pages 88 - 89

THE OCEANOGRAPHY CLASSROOM • What is the Purpose of the Ph.D. Degree Program?

Dean A. McManus
First Paragraph

More than one department is currently reviewing its Ph.D. degree program in oceanography. The basic question of such a review is: what is the purpose of the program? I think we would agree that the most basic answer to that question is that the Ph.D. program prepares students to be oceanographers. More specifically, we might say that students are expected to demonstrate proficiency in the craft of inquiry by successfully completing original research projects and writing the descriptions and results of their work as dissertations that are intended for reading by scientists in the students’ specialties. We might elaborate that, in order to achieve this distinction, the students must have accumulated sufficient knowledge within their specialties to set the context for their research. They must also have gained sufficient practice in appropriate inquiry and thinking skills to enable them to represent the research problem in a soluble formulation and to obtain the necessary information in the proper form for them to reason their way to an acceptable solution. I submit that this is not an unreasonable statement of what has commonly been expected of students in order to receive a Ph.D. degree. They become the oceanographers of the future. They continue the discoveries; they inform us about new findings; they apply those findings for the benefit of society. The next question is whether this is how graduate students should learn to become oceanographers today. And the answer to that question depends in large part on what oceanographers do today.


McManus, D.A. 2001. In the oceanography classroom: What is the purpose of the Ph.D. degree program? Oceanography 14(1):88–89, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2001.54.