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The PhDictionary

A Glossary of Things You Don’t Know (but Should) about Doctoral and Faculty Life

The PhDictionary

A Glossary of Things You Don’t Know (but Should) about Doctoral and Faculty Life

Navigating academia can seem like a voyage through a foreign land: strange cultural rules dictate everyday interactions, new vocabulary awaits at every turn, and the feeling of being an outsider is unshakable. For students considering doctoral programs and doctoral students considering faculty life, The PhDictionary is a lighthearted companion that illuminates the often opaque customs of academic life.

With more than two decades as a doctoral student, college teacher, and administrator, Herb Childress has tripped over almost every possible misunderstood term, run up against every arcane practice, and developed strategies to deal with them all. He combines current data and personal stories into memorable definitions of 150 key phrases and concepts graduate students will need to know (or pretend to know) as they navigate their academic careers. From ABD to white paper—and with buyout, FERPA, gray literature, and soft money in between—each entry contains a helpful definition and plenty of relevant advice. Wry and knowledgeable, Childress is the perfect guide for anyone hoping to scale the ivory tower.

304 pages | 3 tables | 6 x 8-1/2 | © 2016

Chicago Guides to Academic Life

Education: Higher Education

Reference and Bibliography


“Fom ABD to P&T, higher education has its own language (and we’re not even talking about discipline-specific jargon or academese). Most Ph.D. hopefuls become fluent via the immersion method (aka graduate school), but what if there was a dictionary of sorts to help out along the way? Now there is. . . . While Childress is honest with readers about their relatively poor chances at a landing a tenure-track position, he offers himself and his experiences up as guides to those who would tread the graduate school path anyway. The result is an unusually hopeful addition to the literature on graduate school that makes pursuing a life of the mind—even if the end state isn’t a professorship—seem worthwhile.”

Inside Higher Ed

"Offers extended, often wry, entries on 150 phrases and concepts for those considering doctoral study or faculty careers."

Chronicle of Higher Education

"Lays bare the unspoken and often assumed rules of the game and sets about defining them for the uninitiated. What makes The PhDictionary so successful is that Childress’ perspective allows him to make the kind of class and structural analysis so often absent from career advice given to doctoral students and early career researchers."

Times Higher Education

“Provides a balanced viewpoint and a wealth of valuable information that will benefit anyone considering or pursuing a higher education faculty or administrative career. General readers interested in what goes on behind the hallowed (and enigmatic) walls of academia will delight in this well-written, witty, and thought-provoking compendium.”

Library Journal

“Beautifully vivid and well-written, The PhDictionary pulls back the curtains of higher education to those of us, like myself, who have come to the academy from first generation, blue-collar families. Childress delivers a valuable view of the organizational landscape by blending human stories with national trends and wisdom from the field. Balancing the unforgiving realities of faculty life in higher education today with a good dose of humor, this book is an important addition to ‘the Straddler’s’ library for those new to the field and anyone who mentors them.”

Jeanne Mekolichick, assistant provost for academic programs and professor of sociology at Radford University

“This book is very funny. Though not a satire, at times it feels like Gulliver describing Yahoos in the land of Houyhnhnms: the perspective of outsider-to-outsider allows for some laugh-out-loud observations about the world of higher education. New or prospective faculty will find it helpful, even reassuring, to have the stresses and occasional daffiness presented with such accuracy and candor.”

Ken O’Donnell, senior director of student engagement and academic initiatives & partnerships at California State University

“An offbeat, original, and witty take on surviving graduate school and the professor track. Childress's book will be especially useful for ‘first in family’ academics who have no previous experience with our peculiar profession.”

David D. Perlmutter, professor and dean of the College of Media & Communication at Texas Tech University and author of Promotion and Tenure Confidential

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