Doctorpiece Theater

To get your PhD you have to do a dissertation. For some this is an important product that demonstrates your ability to produce original research. To others, it’s a vestigial ritual and a waste of time on the way to becoming a productive scholar. In this episode we discuss dissertations – what they’ve been in the past, what they are today, and where they might go in the future. Is a dissertation necessary for the kinds of work that someone might do with a PhD? As graduate training has evolved, how well has the dissertation kept up? Are oral defenses a valuable part of the process or an elaborate hazing ritual? Are they better if they’re public, private, or don’t happen at all? And most importantly, should all defenses involve swords? Plus: We discuss a letter about escaping from a toxic and abusive advisor.

The Black Goat is hosted by Sanjay Srivastava, Alexa Tullett, and Simine Vazire. Find us on the web at, on Twitter at @blackgoatpod, on Facebook at, and on instagram at @blackgoatpod. You can email us at You can subscribe to us on iTunes or Stitcher.

Our theme music is Peak Beak by Doctor Turtle, available on under a Creative Commons noncommercial attribution license. Our logo was created by Jude Weaver.

This is episode 70. It was recorded on November 20, 2019.