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Three Magic Letters

, 368 pages

17 line drawings

January 2006



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Three Magic Letters

Getting to Ph.D.

Drawing on the largest survey of doctoral students ever conducted, Three Magic Letters provides a compelling portrait of the graduate school experience and identifies key issues affecting the success and failure of doctoral students.

Michael T. Nettles and Catherine M. Millett surveyed more than nine thousand students from the top twenty-one doctorate-granting institutions in the United States. Their findings, based on rational analysis of a vast amount of descriptive data, shed light on multiple factors critical to the progression of the doctoral degree, particularly adequate institutional funding and engaged and accessible faculty mentors.

This comprehensive volume will provide faculty chairs, administrators, and students with information and evidence for assessing their policies, practices, and programs to improve the graduate school experience and the future of the Ph.D.

Michael T. Nettles is the Senior Vice President for Policy Evaluation and Research at the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey, and Catherine M. Millett is a research scientist in the Policy Evaluation and Research Center, Educational Testing Service.

"Compelling picture of graduate school life... highlights important factors that contribute to student persistence and success."

"The book is impressive for not merely telling you what doctoral students are thinking... but in relating what they are thinking to how they are doing—mentally, financially, socially and professionally."

"Quite possibly, Nettles and Millet have produced what will quickly become a seminal piece of scholarship regarding the Ph.D."

"The first major study of doctoral education since In Pursuit of the PhD (1992)... the magnitude of this accomplishment cannot be overstated."

"This book undoubtedly makes an important contribution to the research literature on doctoral education... It breaks important new ground."

"An unprecedented look at how students race, walk, or crawl to the finish line."

"This informative, comprehensive, and enjoyable book goes far beyond the initial question about funding to examine essentially all aspects of the doctoral experience."

"Impressive... Will undoubtedly contribute to debates over how to improve doctoral education both in the UK and US, and indeed other countries."

" Three Magic Letters provides a huge amount of new empirical data to help us understand the process of graduate education. The authors' analyses and insights demonstrate substantial understanding of how process variables and socio-demographic factors interact. The analysis of underrepresented minority student experiences, in particular, points directly to actions that graduate schools can and are taking to improve the quality and outcomes of the graduate experience."