Looking Back:
Here is a set of posts that I did when I finished my PhD.  They cover a range of different topics that are scattered throughout other various posts: pt1, pt2, pt3, pt4, pt5, pt6.  My good friend John Goodrich also gives his thoughts.

What I wish I did before starting the PhD. Also check out my friend’s site that gives plenty of detail regarding schools and preparation: Interested in a PhD? Note: Instead of Manton he mentions April Wilson’s German grammar, which is probably the better choice.  Also, get on top of the technology (Endnote, Word, unicode fonts, etc.) and definitely start using Dropbox.

German and French:
Since language preparation is the big thing I’d do over, here are a bunch of posts I’ve done on learning German (and French): Translation Resources, German vocab list, German Bible translations, thoughts on my Goethe course in Berlin, and German and French graded readers. Here’s post on learning German online. Another great resource for regular translation practice is the Theological German Blog. See my Languages category for other stuff on Latin and Greek.

Choosing Where to Go:
A couple of posts: US vs UK PhD and US vs UK Redivivus, see also a more detailed post by Mark Goodacre, but also check out the comments.  SBL has a helpful Forum about this, as well.  Nijay’s Interested in a PhD? is very good on this–he discusses both US and UK programs. I’ve also got a (hopefully) comprehensive list of UK New Testament lecturers.

In the UK it’s standard practice to email potential supervisors and run your potential thesis topic by them. You will get varying levels of response.

Thesis Proposal:
General info on a proposal.

Financing the UK PhD
General thoughts on financing…costs and funding.  Also, here’s a piece of financial advice about retirement plans that I’ve found helpful.

Getting a Job After the PhD
Beyond just getting a degree, there are other things that are (almost?) necessary to get a job afterwards.

Getting Accepted to Present a Paper
Nijay asked my supervisor (John M.G. Barclay) about tips on getting an abstract accepted to SBL.

Writing Book Reviews
An easy way to experience writing for the public is through book reviews for journals, plus you get a free book.  However, they don’t give you much, if any, capital in the job market.  After doing several I’ve decided to cut back to only 1 or 2 a year and put that time into writing/editing potential journal articles since they take up too much time relative to the benefit of peer reviewed articles.

The Viva
Nijay summarizes potential questions at the viva, or the defense of your thesis. (The “i” in viva is pronouced long like “eye”.)


17 Responses to “PhD Pointers”

  1. Julie Says:

    Hey, Ben! A friend of ours from Southwestern Seminary ran across your site. He and his wife are considering Durham for PhD work. I teach with his wife and they were asking if I knew you from OBU. Glad to see all that God is doing with you and Heather! Always knew you’d do something in the scholastic realm! God bless!

  2. Ben Says:

    Small world. Definitely look us up if you come to visit.

  3. Karlo Says:


    this is an amazing site. Thanks. We are moving to Oxford this Fall to start in D.Phil in OT. Do you know of any Oxford students that have done anything similar to your site? How would Oxford compare with Durham [ie with moving expenses, finding a housing for a family, costs of living].

  4. Ben Says:

    Hey Karlo,
    Unfortunately I don’t know anybody at Oxford. I know a couple of people in Cambridge, and I would assume that Oxford is similar. Anyhow, they say Cambridge is about ~20-25% more expensive (cost of living-wise) than Durham (even some groceries). In Cambridge he said it’s easier to find accommodation since it’s a larger city, but houses are more expensive. If anybody out there knows more, please post.

  5. Alan Says:

    Hi Ben,

    A great site to all who plan to do a PhD in UK. I’m interested in hermeneutics and systematic theology. Are u aware of other sites or blogs similar to yours?

  6. Ben Says:

    Hi Alan, Unfortunately I don’t know of any. But if you find out let me know and I post it.

  7. JR Says:

    Hi Ben,

    Thanks for the wealth of information! I am considering studying in the UK sometime in the next few years, so this is very helpful. Two questions for you:

    I am wondering how the current situation with the dollar exchange rate is affecting the American presence over there (besides obviously sucking). Any thoughts or insights on how all that is affecting the academic world with respect to Americans there studying (the dollar’s value and relative costs will necessarily be an important part of my eventual decision)?

    Secondly, I have heard that the British system is different in the admissions process than the US in that (among other things) in order to determine if one will receive funding, a person must first accept their admissions offer from a given school. And thus, it is normal for a prospective student to accept admissions–at least to begin with–at all schools into which that person is granted admission. Is that really the case? How does that work? I would love some insight on that before I potentially tread through these waters myself. Thanks again for such a helpful site!

  8. Ben Says:

    JR, Glad to be of help. On the $/£ exchange rate it has gotten worse since we’ve been here, but it has stayed just about 2/1 for the past 1.5 years. We’re fortunate that it has not gotten continuously worse like the $/€ rate has. Durham seems to be continually attracting more US ppl, I suppose people just come knowing it will take a big chunk of money. If you can get a spouse to work FT while here, it is pretty helpful for offsetting the expense. If not, people have found a number of other ways.

    After talking with a couple of people, I the situation you describe is the standard way it works. Most accept at each school and then just let them know whether they’re coming or not. If you tell them no, and then try to renig (sp?) most won’t let you change your mind to yes, so it’s better to tell all of them yes.

    Hope that helps.

  9. Frederik Says:

    Hallo Ben,

    First of all, congratulations on your appointment as assistant to dr. Tom Wright!
    Ben, after many dreams and several difficulties (as you of all people will know), my family and I are in the UK and I will start in October with a MATR at Durham. I already hold a BTh and MTh from the University of Pretoria (I did my thesis on the resurrection – focussing on NT Wright, WL Craig, G Habermas, AJM Wedderburn and G Ludemann). My promoter was prof Jan van der Watt.
    As part of my MATR I have enrolled for the new module: The Bible in Tomorrows World which dr Wright will teach at Cranmer.
    I really hope that I could meet you and maybe have coffee some time.

    Kind regards


  10. Ben Says:

    I’ll be glad to meet you. I’ll shoot you an email to catch up.

  11. Ben D. Says:

    Good news (for Americans at least) is that the pound is dropping in value relative to the dollar quite dramatically at the moment. I just read that it is at a 30 year low right now and is still going down. This morning I checked and one pound was worth 1.82 dollars, and earlier this week it was 1.85.

  12. Ben Says:

    I think the $ just hit the 30 year low vs the Yen, but definitely not the £/$. Here’s the historical £/$ rate: Dollar/Pound. So with it in the 1.80’s it looks about average for the long term but still near the 20 year low for the $. For instance it was 1.72 a couple of years ago when I visited.

    The low/high points since the 70’s: in 1985 the rate was $1.1/£1 versus $2.6/£1 in 1972.

  13. Have a look at this for the opportunity to earn a classic three-year dissertation-only British PhD in New Testament and/or Hermeneutics in the US:


  14. The new website for the three-year British Ph.D. in Bible or Hermeneutics (London School of Theology) which allows you to stay in the US and work with your adviser stateside is now: http://www.thorstenmoritz.com

    If you need Theological German, please check out my http://www.theologicalgerman.com


    1. Let me add my recommendation for this program. I have a friend who is working with Dr Moritz and has found it to be an enjoyable process, that meets his needs for rigor and flexibility.

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