Volume XXXIII October, 1927 Number 1
Productivity of Doctors of Philosophy in History
During the past year the American Historical Association launched a "drive" for an endowment of a million dollars to further the main purpose of its existence-the promotion of historical research. A committee was appointed to draw up a Proposed Programme for Research and Publication, that there might be a wise expenditure of the income derived from the prospective endowment. The committee felt that the Association ought to assume a more positive leadership than heretofore in stimulating and guiding research and in publishing the results. It was also agreed that the cause of historiography would be greatly advanced if more research papers found their way into print and if potential authors felt a reasonable certainty that the results of their labors, if worth while, would be printed.
These problems led the committee to undertake an inquiry, first to discover why there is not more productive research on the part of the holders of Ph.D. degrees in history, and secondly what obstacles hinder the publication of research, contemplated, in process, or completed. Accordingly a questionnaire was sent to some five hundred Ph.D.'s in history. About 260 replies were received, representing a great variety of institutions and professors. The questions were based on the assumption that the Ph.D. degree in history not only signified that the holder was capable of independent research, but that he was granted the degree with a hope, at least, that he would become a productive scholar. The answers received, with other evidence, point to the conclusion that less than twenty-five per cent. Of the doctors of philosophy in history are consistent producers. This may or may not be a fair average. It would be interesting to know whether there are more productive Ph.D.'s in English, economics, or mathematics, for example. Some have the impression that the holders of the Ph.D. degree in the physical sciences are more productive than those in history. It is asserted that relatively few of the German Ph.D.'s in history are productive scholars. Thus it is possible that the percentage given for history is not unreasonably low in comparison with other subjects. However, this would not be a reason against increasing the number of productive scholars in this field.
For an understanding of this problem it is desirable to consider briefly the history of the doctor's degree in America. About 1870 there began a great expansion of education. The leaders in the movement were anxious to elevate all professional education by giving a new significance to the already existing degrees in law, medicine, and theology; but outside of these there was a group of other subjects, later included under the term "Arts and Sciences", and for these the degree of "doctor" suggested itself. In England, and in most Continental countries, it denoted a scholar of mature years, who had made his name by important contributions to learning, and who might or might not be occupied with teaching. In Germany it meant a young man who had just completed his professional studies, had shown some capacity for original work, and would, presumably, become a professional teacher. The German usage was adopted in this country, and the degree was conferred, as was bound to happen in a democratic community, in accordance with the quality of the candidate and the resources of the granting institutions. The stronger of them set their requirements as high as they dared. The weaker ones imitated their forms, but could not then, and, it may be remarked, do not now, maintain their standards. A period of degradation followed which brought the Ph.D. degree into a not wholly undeserved contempt. Doctors in absentia and doctors by correspondence could not command respect, and certainly could not be expected to advance the cause of sound learning. We are now in a period of standardization, with its inevitable result: the elimination of the worst and the cramping of the best. The doctor's degree, as we accepted it from Germany, was never intended to guarantee the continuous productivity of all those upon whom the degree was conferred. It was hoped, however, that "out of the mass of rather highly standardized mediocrity" a reasonable number of individuals would rise to high professional distinction.
It is clear, from this brief survey, that one hindrance to research is due to the historical origin and purpose of the degree, and to the character of the candidates. Universities have not essentially changed the theory of the degree from the standpoint of future production. If the major universities would enter into an agreement to confer the degree only on those who are reasonably certain to produce, this part of the general problem would solve itself. As will appear later, however, such an agreement is unlikely; first because of a conflict of opinion on the proper relation between teaching and research; and secondly because of the difficulty of determining beforehand what candidates are likely to be productive. As Professor Haskins says, "Many people have to be exposed to training for research in order that the disease may take thoroughly with a few! This is a part of the waste of nature". The problem then, under present conditions, is not that of attempting the impossible-striving to make every Ph.D. a productive scholar-but rather that of removing obstacles which now hinder those who desire, and have the ability, to produce worth-while pieces of research.
Since it is generally agreed that Ph.D.'s have numerous duties, that of research and publication being only one, the question arises as to the relation between research and other obligations, particularly that of teaching. The answers to this first question show that it is considered as a major problem. The opinion is almost unanimous that the main duty of a Ph.D. is to teach, especially if located in a small college where he was appointed to his position mainly for this purpose. On the other hand, it is agreed that, both because it would tend to make them better teachers and because there is some obligation to produce, doctors of philosophy in history who have the ability ought to make some effort to extend the bounds of human knowledge, particularly in the case of those with natural inclination toward such work. The relative amount of time given to research depends on the institution. Many believe that the capable professors in the larger universities should devote nearly all of their time to research. In the smaller universities and colleges it is suggested that the percentage should, be twenty-five per cent. or more? A few believe that a large amount of time given to research might make some professors ineffective as teachers; that perhaps as vigorous a mental life may be stimulated in professor and student by wide reading and study, as by research. In general, then, by reason of the present organization, ideals, and methods of American colleges, teaching is looked upon as the primary obligation of a Ph.D. in history. But a majority of the replies indicate that there is a desire to have research looked upon as more of an obligation than is the case at present. We may conclude then that the prevailing theory of education is a major limitation on research. This becomes even more apparent in the answers to the second question.
An analysis of these answers reveals the belief that at least fifty per cent. of the presidents of colleges represented are hostile, or so lukewarm that little real encouragement is given to professors who wish to carry on research. Either they are told that research is not expected or wanted; or if a professor does produce, no notice is taken of his work, in terms of larger salary and promotion, as compared with the recognition given to teaching or to administrative work. The phrases used by professors to describe the attitude of their president are interesting, such as: "He has no conception of research." "He is opposed to research during the academic year." "He does not promote on the basis of research." "He gives no encouragement." "It is not wise to answer the question", says one professor."He would like to be regarded as favorable", says another. "Lukewarm", says another, "thinks my contribution to life much greater if I contribute directly through teaching or committee work."
Of the fifty per cent. of college presidents asserted to be favorable or sympathetic to research, there are few, according to the professors, who do not emphasize teaching as the first duty, and few apparently who make a practice of rewarding research in terms of promotion or salary on the same basis as they do teaching. If the president of the college is lukewarm or hostile, then one important incentive to research is lost. The professor feels that he must protect himself by concentrating on teaching. The only other possibility would be for him to continue to produce on the theory that some other president would recognize his work and call him to a better position. It is discouraging to learn that so many college presidents are out of harmony with the most significant development of modern times-that is, the widespread spirit of research.
The purpose of the third question was to discover what proportion of Ph.D.'s in history had a consuming desire to produce; how far there was a vital interest in research. Generally speaking there are two types of faculty men: the teacher and the "researcher". A few combine ability in both lines in about equal degree, but the first group is in the great majority. As will appear later, the universities have allowed large numbers of candidates to gain the degree whose sole aim was to use it to get a "job", for teaching positions in many colleges can not be had without a doctor's degree. A large proportion of this group never had any intention of carrying on research after obtaining their degree, perhaps because of a realization of their own limitations, or lack of natural interest, or a belief that their usefulness lies in teaching. Sometimes a Ph.D. has an "inferiority complex". Then he puts on "protective coloring" as rapidly as possible, for his own safety and peace of mind and for its effect on his fellow-workers, superior officers, or the president." The business of a teacher is to teach."
Among those that have a desire there are three main groups. In the first are those who have a purely theoretical interest, and perhaps announce from time to time that they are "collecting material", but never actually produce. Obstacles to research are allowed to interfere with their desires. In some cases these obstacles are trivial and might be surmounted by moderate self-sacrifices.
A second group has the desire more strongly developed, and many accomplish something-one piece of work perhaps besides their thesis; a few miscellaneous articles mostly popular or semipopular, and perhaps one scientific article. This usually occurs during the first few years after graduation. Then the desire grows cold and this group also joins the seventy-five per cent. who are candidates for "spade work". There may be one more "flare-up", due to some particular cause or motive-a threat of dismissal; a heart-to-heart talk with the head of the department or the president, in which the victim is told to "produce" or take the consequences. If excommunication is not resorted to, then the president has a good excuse to suggest that no advance in salary or promotion can be expected. Incited by this Sword of Damocles, and perhaps by a tearful and pleading or ambitious wife, an article or even a book-"under way for twenty years"-flashes forth, much to the surprise and mystification of the profession; Rip Van Winkle awakes and he is back again in the first flush of youthful desires for production. Desires stimulated by such drastic means are usually short-lived. The urge to research was not the result of inward desire, of a passion for production, but imposed from without by some higher power. Still, production stimulated by such methods is perhaps better than none at all.
The third group, the twenty-five per cent., desire to produce so strongly that they carry on research consistently and publish it, often in spite of the most formidable obstacles and discouraging conditions. Nothing can stop them; the faculty, president, and trustees may be against them, and health, family, and perhaps position may be sacrificed, but they nevertheless will produce. An English scholar has said: "Those who write, write, and those who don't, don't." Somewhat more than half of the replies received declare that Ph.D.'s in history have a desire to produce. But it is not possible to determine from the evidence the percentage of the first two groups.
The answers to the fourth question seem to indicate that a few in the first group and perhaps a considerable number in the second would produce if certain obstacles were removed. It is almost universally conceded that much of the failure to produce is due to factors which prevent or greatly hinder the desire from being carried out. These are often so overwhelming that some of the twenty-five per cent. of consistent producers would not survive the hostile environment by which many Ph.D.'s are surrounded. The heartrending replies complaining of excessive teaching schedules, the number of different courses, and the starvation salaries, in relation to the time needed and the cost of research, make it plain that over wide areas the conditions favoring research are extremely unfavorable.
After teaching three or four hours a day-not a few have schedules of sixteen hours a week or more-besides attending to numerous other duties, consultations, committees-perhaps several hours of committee-work in one day-and other similar duties, when the day's work is done the time left is very short. "There isn't enough spunk to give the urge, not a sufficient spark to give the needful ignition." The man has "new courses" to work out-the fate of the average young instructor for several years. He must teach subjects with which he has little acquaintance. A professor who is the leader in his field, located in one of the largest universities in the country, declares that the chief deterrent is the necessity of preparing for and doing so much teaching for so long a period of time, nine months as against seven months at most "in all other civilized countries". This teaching usually yields materials suitable for textbooks rather than for writing that "enlarges knowledge or understanding".
Low salaries compel outside activities, extensive lecturing, extra courses, summer courses, and innumerable other activities and industries designed to bring in the cash needed to keep up a suitable standard of living, pay the rent or "union labor prices to plumbers, carpenters, glaziers and the like, chiefly for the consumption of gasoline".
Then there are various forms of "service" demanded "for the good of the university" ranging from "talks" before societies, clubs, Rotaries, and Chambers of Commerce, to the judging of debates and foot-races. The inability to say "No" is an important reason for failure to produce. Another form of service is connected with the problems of administration. A capable research man is often seized upon by the president or dean and is made to think that his opportunity for advancement is better through such work, and this is often the truth. This amounts to discrimination against research, though not perhaps consciously so. Administrative officers naturally pick as able men as they can, and if such a man happens to be a good research man, the fact is ignored.
The description given of the resources of small college libraries where perhaps two-thirds of the Ph.D.'s work is what one would expect. The answers show that few libraries have much research material; that where present, it is either scattered over a large field of history or is confined to local history. Where the material is relatively large, it lies along one or two particular lines. Thus trips to other libraries and depositories are necessary. The situation is very different from that which exists in the large university libraries. Those located in large cities are often supplemented by a dozen other libraries. Thus, much of the research accomplished must be done elsewhere than in the college library or immediate vicinity. But such research requires travel, living away from home, with the additional expense involved. In many cases this means travelling hundreds of miles for even state history, a thousand or more for national, and trips abroad for English and other European history. The conditions of research in history are so different from those of the physical sciences, for example, that there is no comparison. This topic is more fully discussed in connection with the answers to the sixth question.
On the other hand many who complain so emphatically of the lack of material, and offer this as an excuse for non-production, seem to be quite unaware of the nature and amount of material in the state and local archives, and in private hands. This is partly due to the fact that the Ph.D. may have been trained in European or English history, and is entirely unacquainted with the sources of American history or the nature of the materials available in his own locality. Or he may have been trained in colonial history and find himself in a North Dakota college. In either case he is convinced that he is "remote" from the materials necessary for research.
The answers to the sixth question are closely related to that propounded as the fifth. No doubt the lack of knowledge or appreciation of local material leads many to think only in terms of large subjects-those of a national or international character; or only about fields of research in which they were originally trained; or about fields in which they are particularly interested. It is not appreciated by many that a large synthesis of history requires hundreds of smaller pieces of work. Published programmes of research, outlining a dozen or more large fields, with suggestions covering sections and states, periods, topics, men, and institutions, in political, economic, religious, and social history, would be a great help for the isolated worker. The average professor in a small college does not realize what topics need investigation, how they might fit into a larger whole, and what material for them is available in his own locality. About one-third of those who replied to this question thought that research was hindered or delayed because of a belief that only a large subject was worth while for such purposes.
The answers to the seventh question show that seventy per cent. believe that one of the major obstacles to research is the excessive cost of publication and lack of suitable media. The answers read "very serious"; "outstanding cause of low production". "This I should say is one of the important obstacles." "Very discouraging situation." "Yes, I think so, in fact I know so to my sorrow." "Major menace." One struggling author reports that he spent $2800 to publish his book (in addition to the cost of research and preparation) "although I had no money of my own at the time". A recommendation from a "doctoral committee" urging the value of a thesis, and the great desirability of publishing it, led a large publishing house to write that they would be glad to publish the study if the author would advance $1600. One discouraged Ph.D. who is in an institution that makes no provision for helping its doctors publish and lacks a "series", declares that the only way to get a book published is to die, "then they will publish it in your memory".
Under present conditions the cost of publishing the Ph.D. dissertation is, for a large number of students, almost prohibitive. This discourages many from even considering the preparation of another study, because of a belief that the publication can only be carried out at great personal expense. Publishers also have an eye to the cost and profits. They want "popular" books and articles, for anything else will not pay.
Most correspondents believe that the lack of suitable media for publication is a great obstacle to research. Those who deny this are usually men located in the larger universities having a "series" or special funds for publication, or they are able to persuade historical societies to publish their studies. In spite of the number of historical journals, and of patriotic, religious, racial, and other societies that have organs for publication, most of these are so limited in their scope that many worth-while small pieces of research fail to fit their needs. This obstacle applies with even greater force to larger studies of a scholarly character, written sometimes by men of national reputation, to monographs, such as doctor's theses, and to articles having general significance. This view is confirmed by the answers to questions 7 and 8.
The opportunities for publishing short studies in history as compared with the opportunities in many fields of science are certainly meagre. The Utopia reported by one correspondent is so exceptional that it may be offered as an ideal solution. "At our university a good piece of research, e.g., a monograph of 200 or more pages, approved by the proper committee, will be published by the University Press without expense to the instructor producing it." In Germany many great scholars made their names largely by brief but significant publications issued in the form of pamphlets. One calls to mind the great significance of the pamphlet literature of the American Revolution. It seems a pity that this relatively inexpensive medium lacks favor in this country. A book often means overextending the theme or "padding". But there seems to be no happy medium available for the publication of studies between an article of a few thousand words and a book of seventy-five thousand or more.
On the other hand some express the belief that authors who produce really valuable pieces of research have no difficulty in getting them printed; that there is much "hack-research" by ordinary men; that the attempt to print indiscriminately or on a much larger scale would result in the publication of a lot of "trash". Taking conditions as they are, the very pertinent question arises, to what extent effort should be made to increase materially the present percentage of productive scholars. Some believe that there would be considerable danger in stimulating research and publication by the wholesale, because of the probable deterioration in the quality of the product. "Besides, there are people of brains who are asking, in this age of question-marks, What is the good? And what is the good? I ask you." No doubt this somewhat pessimistic observer is disturbed by the fact that not a little research now being published is not worth while, estimated by one correspondent as high as one-half of the total. Another thinks that many dissertations are poor pieces of work, notwithstanding that they are produced under supervision, and even written in part by the "professor in charge". Others believe that relatively few men are likely to produce valuable studies; that no educational system or policy can produce an output of leaders only; that there is no possibility of a large number of men having the group of qualities that would enable them to become productive scholars. Why waste money and time, then, by trying to induce people to write who ought not to do so?
Several editors of historical magazines are very dubious about the quality of pieces -of research offered for publication: One writes that our methods of higher education, and the emphasis on "production" for promotion, probably stimulate the preparation of too many unimportant and mediocre research works. "As managing editor of ... reading countless such manuscripts, I come into close contact with this tragedy." Another complains that his chief difficulties as editor are, on the one hand, an excess of offerings from men under forty who have not learned to write, and, on the other hand, a deficit from the "oldsters" who have. A third complains that he has received but one manuscript in a year that was in first-class shape for printing. The editors however come in for some criticism, such as of partiality in their selection and printing of articles, and failure to seek out, stimulate, and encourage talented writers, especially the younger men.
Question 8 uncovered, seemingly, an unexpected gold mine of valuable productions, already completed, together with an astonishing number of projected and partly completed pieces of research that could be finished speedily if a grant were forthcoming. The very enthusiastic response to this question is a matter which might well arouse great optimism respecting the general attitude of Ph.D.'s toward research; but also some grave doubts and suspicions regarding these well-meaning promises. One explanation, perhaps, is the vision of summer vacations in Washington, London, or Paris, perhaps taking the bride along, and the completion of large original exhaustive pieces of work based "wholly on the sources", the surface of which "has only been scratched by all previous workers". Apparently any little old grant would be sufficient to start the research mill a-grinding, and it would not stop until the money, wind, or gas gave out entirely.
On the other hand there appears to be a considerable number of important pieces of research now held up because publishers demand from one to two thousand dollars in advance before they will consider publication. The financial sacrifice asked of historians is certainly a most serious problem. The cost of producing books has enormously increased in ten years, in relation to salaries, travel, food, clerical help, paper, labor, etc. It is unreasonable to expect a Ph.D. to pay half of his year's salary, or more, to publish a book that has already cost him perhaps several thousand dollars. "Its depressing effect almost stifles at times the desire to do research."
That grants in aid would greatly increase production is certain. If properly guarded there seems to be no reason why production so stimulated should not be of high quality. The pieces of investigation under way or completed are in a number of cases by men of national reputation. Under present circumstances they can not be published because the cost is prohibitive. It is not likely that salaries could be increased sufficiently to cover such expenses. Therefore endowments, grants in aid, and other forms of help seem to be the only solution of what is acknowledged to be one of the major reasons why there is no more productive research.
The reasons why so many students fail to complete their work and take their degree are varied. Many are incompetent and are told not to go on. Some leave, because of an offer of work. Some are offered positions and departing never return, perhaps because of marriage, or inertia, or belief that it will not pay to go on. Sometimes the cause may be dissatisfaction with the character of the instruction. The dread of the examinations is a deterring factor, for it often covers more ground than should be expected of the candidate, and more minute memory-knowledge, in particular portions of the subject of history, than should be exacted.
The replies to question 10 were in some respects more interesting and went to the heart of the problem more directly than the answers to the more specific questions. The fact is, the problem is much more complex than would appear at first sight. We are confronted with those "imponderables" that can not be measured quantitatively but are nevertheless fundamental. One we have referred to-the problem of the prevailing theory of education. In the words of Herbert Spencer, "What knowledge is of most worth?" Historically the colleges were established mainly to convey to each generation a body of organized knowledge, thought to be of great value to the individual and to society. This knowledge was in part cultural and in part vocational. While the kind of knowledge has varied-classical, literary, religious, political, economic, scientific, and social-information has been the goal in view. In the past, neither professors nor students were under any obligation to do much more than to study the books provided and absorb their contents. But in this age of scientific, and now social, research, the effort to discover new knowledge has, in the opinion of many, forced on the universities, and even on the smaller colleges, a new obligation. They must, of course, conserve and pass on knowledge already discovered and organized, but they are also under obligation to encourage their professors to discover new knowledge.
The widespread demand for more emphasis on research in the colleges is due to a number of factors: to the method of training Ph.D.'s, to the emphasis placed on the dissertation, to the place of research in the sciences and in modern industrial life, and to the belief that it is a desirable method of education. Research is believed by many to be at least equal in value to teaching. The colleges, it is asserted, would serve students and society better if they devoted more time to encouraging research as a method of education as well as for the possible results of research. For the great need now is that of developing certain mental processes in the professor and student, processes that the practice of research is most likely to produce-namely, the questioning attitude; the desire to prove that knowledge alleged to be true is really true; the desire to extend the bounds of human knowledge. Professors and students who do not engage in some research are in danger of worshipping the idols of dogma and precedent. Such an attitude of mind hinders the advance of knowledge, for it weakens that profound reverence for truth which enables one to accept new evidence, when it overthrows customary or preconceived ideas. If time given to research results in less total information, there is compensation in the fact that professors and students have obtained some power and technic in acquiring and applying information when needed; and that both, as a result, are better able to evaluate knowledge as well as more likely to extend its bounds.
Yet many distrust this method of education, mainly because their idea of education still centres on the acquisition of organized knowledge. If this is the major aim for education, then it should take a major part of the time of a really good and up-to-date professor. For he must acquaint himself with his subject, become a master of its literature, and keep abreast of the latest developments in his subject. He must know books, rather than the documents out of which books are made. His interest must be centred on passing on to the rising generation the knowledge and experience of the race as fast as it is discovered and recorded. He himself is therefore a spectator at the great game of discovering knowledge rather than a participator.
Owing to the nature of the demand and the character of the candidates, the graduate schools have developed a system of graduate training which does not lead to much productive research after the candidate receives his degree. Searching, not to say scathing, criticism of "the system" comes from both experienced professors and recent graduates. It is asserted, for example, that the dissertation is looked on as the end rather than the beginning of productive efforts; that the candidate often becomes discouraged because the teaching and training are "deadening"; that the "lectures" of many professors fail to inspire the student and to create in him the passion for research. In other words there is a failure to teach students to want to do research, not only with respect to the dissertation but after its completion. It is asserted also that staleness comes from too many college lectures in proportion to research courses. Criticism is made of the "hot-house" character of the theses; that too much aid is given, and that "coddling" is resorted to; that this results in the lack of ability to pursue independent investigation. Some professors come in for further criticism, not only for lack of power to inspire, but because they are unproductive, are narrow specialists, do not give adequate instruction in the technic of research, assign either petty or too large subjects for theses, and fail to keep in touch with their students after graduation. It is obvious that the individual professor is the "keeper to the gate of research-and should inspire in his followers the intellectual curiosity to seek new horizons, as well as to show them how to row the boat". If he fails to create a desire and passion in the able students to continue their research after receiving the degree, then this is a major reason why there is not more productive research.
Another general reason for lack of productive research concerns the ability of the candidates, in relation to the demand for teachers who have received their degree. It is asserted that the Ph.D. degree in history has become commercialized; that it has become primarily a teaching degree; that large numbers are given the degree, when it is believed that they are unlikely to become consistent producers; that many candidates have no intention of producing, after graduation, and look on the degree as a passport or certificate necessary to get a "job". Likewise presidents, especially of the smaller colleges, insist on having Ph.D.'s on their faculty, not because they expect or wish them to be productive scholars, but largely for advertising purposes. The large universities are thus crowded with mediocre graduate students, many of whom can not be taught the technic of research except with great difficulty. It is still more difficult, and often impossible, to inspire them with a passion for research. Low salaries and greater rewards in other professions draw off the best talent and leave those with meagre abilities as candidates for the Ph.D. in history. Thus an undue proportion of the professor's time is consumed, and he is hindered in his own productive work.
A fourth general reason for lack of production is the low social value placed on scholarship in the United States as compared with European countries. In particular the assertion is made that the country does not care for research in the social sciences, in comparison for example with the value it places on research in the physical sciences; that when research is done, it receives little social recognition; that when society and the nation honor scholarship more, then improvement will take place. The principal reasons given for this state of affairs are first the low level of culture in America, as compared with Europe or England, and second the value placed on material progress as measured in dollars and cents.
A fifth important reason for lack of production is a widespread belief that research does not pay. It is alleged that many who are productive fail to gain the reward they might reasonably expect; that, presidents of colleges and universities give lip-service to research, but do not take it into consideration, to any great extent, in making promotions or increases in salary; that therefore Ph.D.'s seek to advance by teaching, wire-pulling, and "social stunts".
It is believed that there are about six hundred Ph.D.'s in history living in the United States and that the annual increase is fifty or more. The evidence points to the conclusion that less than twenty-five per cent. are consistent producers. Two schools of thought are represented in the answers to the questionnaire. One considers that the situation will take care of itself; that production will follow the law of the survival of the fittest; that the best will produce anyway, no matter what the conditions. In fact it is argued that while the stimulation of research by artificial methods would result perhaps in a greater quantity of output, much of it would be of poor quality.
The second school believes that there is much light hidden under a bushel; that there is much latent talent that ought to be developed; that worth-while pieces of research, in process and completed, are now held up, partly from lack of encouragement and partly because of the cost of publication; that the percentage of producers is too low, and that it is desirable, both from the standpoint of teaching and of research, to increase this percentage.
The answers to the questionnaire indicate that the second school has much greater support; that the desire to carry on research seems to be more general than has been heretofore suspected; that there is widespread dissatisfaction with existing conditions; and that reforms are desired. The blame for the lack of more productive research is distributed rather widely: on defects in the system of graduate instruction; on deficiencies of some of the professors; on the granting of degrees to too many candidates who have little or no interest in research; on those presidents of colleges who fail to reward research; on the lack of time, because of excessive teaching schedules, and on the lack of money because of low salaries or lack of grants to defray the cost of publication; and in general to the low esteem in which scholarship and research, in the social sciences at least, are held in the United States.
The principal remedies for the solution of the problem are suggested by the analysis of the answers to the questionnaire. They may be summed up briefly at this point together with some suggestions not heretofore mentioned. It is clear that the Ph.D. degree does not mean much as a research degree. It is essentially a teaching degree as it always has been. Perhaps stimulated by the present emphasis on research in the physical, and now in the social, sciences, many believe that the time has come for conferring two different degrees. One should be given after a different training from that now given for the Ph.D. It should certify the fitness of the candidate for teaching. The second should be given after a very complete training in research. It should certify proved ability in research, plus the passion for it. In other words, let the university declare its belief that the candidate will be a consistent productive scholar and confer a real research degree. Another plan is that of making a clearer distinction, especially in the larger colleges and universities, between those members of faculties who are good teachers and those who are good research men. The latter should not be heavily burdened with teaching as is now so often the case. Instead they should be granted temporary or partial release from teaching, when it is evident that they will thereby produce important pieces of research.
The following "remedies" if generally applied would certainly bring about more productive work of a higher grade.
I. "Passion." A greater passion for research must be developed. More professors and students in all colleges must somehow acquire the desire to extend human knowledge through their own research. Professors responsible for training graduate students must make greater effort to stimulate this passion and follow up their students after graduation.
II. Opportunity. Presidents, executives, and chairmen of departments must recognize Ph.D.'s who have the flair for research and give them greater encouragement, by granting promotion and increase of salary for proven ability to produce worth-while research. They must also give more weight to research in calling men to fill vacant positions.
III. Selection of Candidate. More productive work will follow, relatively to the total number of Ph.D.'s in history, if, first, a greater emphasis is placed on selecting candidates who give the most evidence that they will produce; and secondly, if there is a more thorough weeding-out process during the period of study for the degree.
IV. Money. More money is indispensable, in the form of special grants, for travel and publication. The founding of research professorships with a minimum of formal teaching is another form of aid to research.
V. Scholarship. Scholarship must be more generally recognized in the professional world and by the general public; and the scholar must be given more social recognition in one form or another, prestige, honor, promotion, or financial reward.
The answers to the questionnaire indicate that the percentage of desirable productive scholars can be increased if these remedies are applied. If in the next ten years we may assume that our universities graduate five hundred Ph.D.'s in history of much higher ability than the average at present, and that fifty per cent. instead of twenty-five per cent. become consistent producers, then we may begin to hope for a new epoch in higher education in the United States.
Marcus W. Jernegan.
 The members of the committee are Professors Dana C. Munro of Princeton, Carlton J. H. Hares of Columbia, Arthur M. Schlesinger of Harvard, William K. Boyd of Duke, and Marcus W. Jernegan of Chicago.
 Questionnaire for Doctors of Philosophy.
The Committee on Preparing a Programme for Research and Publication of the American Historical Association wishes to obtain information on the question "Why graduate work in history leads to so little productive research on the part of holders of Ph.D. degrees". You will confer a great favor by replying to the enclosed questionnaire (omitting your signature if you wish) giving your frank and full opinion on the question asked. Please send replies as quickly as possible to Professor M. W. Jernegan, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
1. What in your opinion is the obligation or duty of a doctor of philosophy in history to teaching on the one hand and research on the other?
2. What is the attitude of the president of the institution where you now hold a position, toward research as compared with teaching?
3. Is the desire to do research work generally lacking, and if, so, for what reasons ?
4. Is the failure to "produce" due to factors that prevent or greatly hinder the desire from being carried out? e.g.: a. Teaching load, number of hours and different courses per week; b. Relation of salary to cost of and time needed for research; as affected by outside work, pleasure, standard of living.
5. Does your college library, or any other depository of historical material in your immediate vicinity, contain sufficient materials for a line of research that could be pursued with profit?
6. Is it true that research is hindered or delayed because of the belief that only a large and important subject is worth undertaking?
7. Is it true that the difficulties of defraying the cost of publication, or fording a suitable medium, are serious influences which hinder research?
8. Would you be likely to produce a particular piece of work if you were assured of a definite grant sufficient to cover part of the expenses of research and publication?
9. Why do so many students make a substantial start in graduate work but fail to take the final degree?
10. Will you add any other reason that you think of that will help to explain why there is no more productive research on the part of holders of Ph.D. degrees?
 A preliminary report was made by the writer at the last December meeting of the American Historical Association, at Rochester. Another report, based mainly on the answers to the first four questions, was made at the meeting of the Association of American Colleges held in Chicago, and was printed in its Bulletin for April, 1927. The writer also published an article, "The Colleges and Historical Research", designed to throw light on the problem of research in the smaller colleges (question 5), in the Historical Outlook for March, 1927.
 This estimate is of course tentative.
 "I am not certain that our proportion of 'routine men' as compared with our leaders is larger than the proportion in any other profession."
 The following historical survey is based on a letter from Professor Ephraim Emerton of Harvard: a history "through the whole of which I have lived and a part of which I was."
 Even now the requirements for the degree as set forth by the major universities do not stipulate or indicate the obligation, or even the desirability, of productivity after the degree has been conferred.
"Any person on whom the University [Harvard] confers the degree of Doctor of Philosophy is thereby recognized as qualified to give instruction to candidates for this degree in the subject in which he has taken the degree, and to advance knowledge in that subject by his own investigation."
 Another correspondent remarks: "But you cannot make a factory turn out the products of a seminary and not all seeds will germinate into fruitful plants. We may expect a process of the survival of the fittest only, under any conditions. And the fittest are not multitudinous."
 This is well stated by Professor Cheyney: "I imagine that the fact of the matter is, that the group of qualities that enable a man to become a 'productive scholar', like the group of qualities that enable a man to become rich, or to be come a good college president, are not often found under one hat. When they are, it is a pity that 4(a), 4(b), 7, and the absence of 8 should make the way of the scholar so hard and his output so small as they are, under present American university conditions. ... It is not necessary that all teachers and students of history should be writers. Nor are the latter necessarily any better than the former. But for the purpose of this inquiry, I suppose the latter are the sheep and the former the goats. The great desideratum is therefore to separate the sheep from the goats and give the sheep better pasture."
 Question 1 of the questionnaire.
 "I should make a distinction between a college and a university. By accepting a place in a small college, where the funds are short, the doctor of philosophy thereby obligates himself, it seems to me, to devote most of his time and energy to teaching." See note 13.
 "The duty of any individual will depend upon his peculiar temperament, i.e., his consciousness of ability as a teacher or as a scholar."
 "For instruction of freshmen and sophomores, teaching should take 8o per cent. and research 20 per cent. of the time. For instruction of upper classmen the proportion should be 65 per cent. for teaching and 35 per cent. for research. The conflict between research and teaching does not seem to me to arise in instruction of graduate students."
 "What worries me much more than the dearth of research is the all too current evaluation of a man's worth by his actual production rather than by his actual effectiveness in the class-room, and the partial perversion of undergraduate teaching by confiding the job to men whose interests lie elsewhere, and who consider it as an unpleasant interruption to the life of scholarship. Can we not differentiate more sharply than we have hitherto done between the graduate and the undergraduate teacher?"
 This is Dr. Jameson's view: "It is true that most teachers of history can not keep themselves thoroughly alive if they do nothing else than to teach their classes and make necessary preparations. But many excellent scholars and cultivated persons keep themselves thoroughly alive by reading-the reading of things that they don't positively have to read in order to confront their classes-without proceeding to print results of reading. That may answer all purposes, provided the man has once learned how to conduct a prolonged investigation and write a book, and could do it well if he chose."
 It should be noted that the testimony is not from the presidents themselves but from the professors. Some of the replies appear to place the blame for lack of research on the president because that is the easiest method of excusing non-production.
 "My president, like other presidents, renders lip-service to research but immediately forgets this interest when the teaching schedule is handed out, and only remembers it when he is hiring a man whom he can herald to the local community as a great scholar."
"Our teachers are employed first of all for their services as teachers. If they can do research in addition to their regular teaching some recognition is given them in words but not in salary nor professional rank."
"A mildly, but not aggressively, friendly attitude toward research, with emphasis, perhaps, chiefly upon its contributions to the tone and prestige of the institution. In the recent past these qualifications seem to have been stressed in the following order: (a) teaching ability; (b) public appeal (particularly, perhaps, in the case of historians, who have been regarded as publicists); and (c) productive scholarship."
A few replies were received showing a more favorable attitude toward research. From a Ph.D. in history who is now president of a college: "Some doctors of philosophy in history could not possibly teach and others, who have fairly earned the degree, ought not to try to do any writing. I do not believe there is any abstract answer to this question. I believe that most people teach a great deal better if they have some research project afoot. This brings to them stimulation of interest; it enlarges their fund of illustration and in other ways improves their teaching. I feel that research should be encouraged (where men are competent for it) by reasonable teaching hours, by sabbatical years, and by salaries which will enable people to work at scholarly tasks during the summer." See note 44.
 "Why then, you ask, did I presume to waste the time and the energies of a university graduate school in working for a Ph.D. degree? My answer is that I wanted to do college or university teaching; the possession of such a degree is practically necessary in order to get any good appointment in such institutions. ... For example, I was offered a position at ... before I had finished my dissertation and secured my degree, but it was assumed and the appointment was virtually on the condition that I would get the degree. That is the whole story, and I am confident that there are dozens of doctors of philosophy who, like myself, worked for a Ph.D. degree merely to gain a necessary qualification for college or university teaching."
 "This type of man is primarily a critic and a teacher rather than a productive scholar. If allowed to follow his own bent, he becomes a master of all the literature in his field and is always abreast of the times. He knows books, is broad and has a well-developed personality-in short, is a splendid teacher-writing is exceedingly painful to him; he always goes about worried because he has not produced and is consequently unable to pursue his natural instincts to read broadly. He neither reads broadly nor produces, but dries up and frequently salvages the wreckage of his personality by mastering some side line or avocation."
 "When they begin to teach they talk about research but always find a good excuse for not doing it" "It is good form to profess a desire to do research work, even when no desire exists."
 "The most fruitful source of lack of research work is inertia and the unwillingness on the part of the teacher to pay the price in labor and time necessary to complete a given research task."
 "The story is pathetic and constantly repeated. At the university the atmosphere stimulated them to all sorts of ambitions and they leave with great desires and expectations. The first year out is full of adjustments but the ambition is still there. Gradually the pressure of college duties wears them down and after four or five years the research idea is given up as hopeless."
 "The desire to do research work for its own sake is generally lacking, in the main because the doctorate is now received by many who have no real passion for research."
 "The qualities that enable a man to obtain knowledge, acquire the training and perform the specific piece of research work connected with the degree are not unusual. Many young men and women have the industry and intelligence called for by the requirements for the Ph.D. But few have these further qualities that lead a man to go on, stick at the subject, overcome obstacles, endure delays, avoid submergence in other duties, and, above all, to retain the enthusiasm for his subject that alone can produce tangible results, in the way of finished historical writing."
Professor J. H. Robinson writes that: "After all there are very few who are impelled by so persistent a curiosity as to make head against the manifold immediate demands of life. Patient seeking and, above all, the thoughtfulness which gives form and value to its findings, require a great deal more time than one cumbered with man's usual obligations and distractions can hope to enjoy. Those who go on thinking and questioning, in spite of all the odds, rarely picture themselves as engaged in 'research'. Veblen engages in one 'inquiry' after another ... and this is a good word of his. For honest curiosity is the firmest basis for discovery. 'Research' smacks of obligation or of ulterior aims rather than of persistent wonder."
 "One very important consideration in all cases is that of time. No one can teach more than five or six hours a week and have a fresh mind and sufficient time for reflection to be a useful productive scholar. The Old World discovered that fact many centuries ago. It behooves us to make it clear to the New World that humanity is very much the same everywhere, and that unless our teaching and administrative programmes are lightened, we can not be productive in any real sense of the word."
 "This sort of extra work is called Service, and is highly approved by almost all administrations. The notion that research, undertaken alone in the quiet of one's study, can be just as real Service, usually does not receive recognition until the student's task is finished and published, thereby acquiring a certain advertising value."
 "Another has gotten into a University deanship, and thus has sold himself to the devil of administration, as somebody recently put it."
 "The college library does not contain sufficient materials for profitable historical research; the local Masonic library has some, but most material available would necessarily require a considerable amount of time and money, both of which are lacking."
 "The nearest centre for me is four to five hours by train, but one of my colleagues has found material in his line within two hours' travel."
"Nearest place where work can be done is 77 miles away."
 "One of the great needs is a fund for travelling by American scholars to the libraries in the different parts of the United States as well as to Europe. I merely observe that the instructor in history in a small college can not excuse his relinquishment of research entirely by the smallness and inadequacy of his library. Often his own lack of vision is responsible also." See note 3.
 "There is a feeling of indifference towards subjects for research of a local nature. Professor Turner's insistence on the importance of local history, and the work of our state historical society, taken together, have done much to change this sentiment, but not enough to destroy it entirely. Graduate students clamor for subjects of 'national importance'. Some faculty members are always planning to write on the Monroe Doctrine, or some other over-worked subject which sounds big."
"I have the impression that your committee might do much to emphasize the importance of small jobs which are reasonably complete in themselves, but are part of a larger scheme towards which the individual may work. A good research programme on the part of the American Historical Association would, I am sure, be of help to many of the isolated workers."
 "Ah, here you have the big thing. If we could be even reasonably certain that the results of our investigations could be published otherwise than at our own expense, the output would be enormously increased."
"This is one of the outstanding causes of low production. Several men of my acquaintance have stated to me that there was no use in writing because they would have to pay for publication after the work was done."
 "In my own case, one of the strongest incentives for beginning a new study came from having an earlier one published."
"Probably the rebuffs received by the newly created Ph.D. when he seeks a publisher for his thesis cause him to become so discouraged that he has no heart for further research."
 "It is easier to get popular stuff published than scientific. The middleman can get his work published when the scholar can not. The trouble here is not with the publishers but with the public."
 "Yes, we ought to print in paper bindings only."
 "If these students were left to themselves and expected to publish something in later life the results would be horrifying. Instead of expecting every person with a Ph.D. degree to produce we should, I think, confer a distinguished service medal on such of them as do not produce. It is better in the long run for historical science and for the reputation of our gild." See note 39.
 "I am willing to make any sacrifice necessary to do this, but can not see that I have the right in the face of my small salary, $3000 (which in Chicago would equal $3600), to ask my wife to sacrifice ordinary social pleasures to which she has a right, house furnishings that are not extravagant, the convenience and pleasure of having a car, the freedom from doing the family washing and scrubbing. Neither is it right to my children to use her time in that manner and to have me use nearly all my time for history, and to deprive them of protection in case of my death."
 "To breed thinkers, not to stuff a man with knowledge, but to teach him how to discover and to use knowledge."
 "The general system of American education brings in students to the graduate schools less well prepared than those of European countries. Therefore we have the deadening and the discouraging after-effects upon the doctor of philosophy: 1, of having to be taught in the university what he should have learned in the college, or in the college what he should have learned in the secondary school; 2, of having to be guided, directed, urged, pampered, nursed as it were all the way along, from aid in the discovery to help in the use of materials; 3, of having his dissertation in manuscript, in galley, in page form, and in book form read, revised, or otherwise amended by the 'professor in charge'; and 4, of knowing that, not he alone, but the university and the professors may be judged in accordance with the merits or demerits of the performance. Too often is it apt to be the case, therefore, that, as a means of shielding the university and the professor from adverse criticism, because of the rivalry among American institutions of higher learning, the work of the candidate is in considerable part the handiwork of the professor. Artificially propagated, our doctors of philosophy in history, as in other fields of learning, increase in numbers but not in intellectual productivity."
Dr. Jameson says: "I am convinced that most universities make too formidable a job of the doctoral dissertation, and that therefore a good many young men, wearied by the magnitude of the effort and disheartened by its expense, have little courage to tackle anything more. ... He can learn those arts of continuous research and methodical construction and composition, which it is of course necessary for him to learn, quite as well by producing a monograph of a hundred pages as by producing one of six or seven hundred. Often the subjects which result in these enormous tomes are really too big for a beginner; require more maturity."
Professor J. H. Robinson remarks: "After all, the requirements for the doctor's degree are not so very unlike the earlier process of education ... writing papers and taking examinations. It is not so fresh and stimulating an experience as one would wish. The doctor's dissertation is, like its forerunners, rather the end than the beginning of development. So taking a Ph.D. degree is on the whole the climax of the intellectually demoralizing process of education as, commonly understood and practised. It does of herald a new mental era. ... The moral of this is that the preparation for the doctor's degree should be re-examined with a view to finding out how the rather deadening effects of earlier scholastic experiences can be overcome and how the student can be encouraged to develop and indulge a spirit of honest curiosity. He should learn the difficulties of superior work and something of the lives of those who accomplish it. This would help him more than accumulations of technical knowledge and the carrying out of tasks set by his instructors. Whether we can some time learn how to teach others to want to learn is the fundamental question."
 A noted professor writes: "I have sometimes doubted whether, if I had had a thorough undergraduate and graduate training in my own subject (of American history), I should have found the interest and opportunity in it which I found without such special hammering."
"I am teaching because I feel that I have an aptitude for it and I know that I have a very keen interest in it. I am not 'producing', first for the reason that you suggest in your questionnaire, namely, that I haven't the time during the school year and can not afford it in the summer. The main reason however is that I have no interest in research. ... That is the whole story."
 This is Professor W. E. Dodd's analysis: "And here come the problems the ambitious young folk enter business, for that leads to what modern society calls success, the handling of vast sums of money or evidences of money. The second class or even the third class of young folk enter upon the professions, perhaps the lesser lights upon the profession of teaching. Business dulls and deadens the minds of the capable; the professions lead into high specializations (medicine, law) or into a slow broadening of the minds of the less intellectual (preaching and teaching and writing). What we have then is to take in the main the poorest material and make of it the thinking element of the country. The problem of the doctorate then resolves itself into a task of teaching weak minds to use what talents there may be. The weakness of the whole doctor's degree business is that the colleges have commercialized it and made it a teacher's degree. If it could be rescued, I would favor making the master's degree a teacher's degree."
"The demand of colleges and universities for the Ph.D. degree as prerequisite for a permanent position in the college has tended to commercialize the doctorate. ... I have lived through the period in the South when a Ph.D. as a necessity for college teaching was not dreamed of, to the time when it has become a necessity."
 "Yes, most men are not unselfish enough to engage in research that does not carry with it marked prestige. There is relatively little work done for the mere sake of the results attained. There is also little general social recognition for scholarship per se."
"Surely none is so blind as not to see the outstanding fact. American academic life is really not attuned to research; it never has been; it is less so every day."
 "The reason is that the rewards in history, as the present personnel of the profession proves, are conferred for administrative ability, personal qualities in the classroom and drawing room, and social relationship and influence. The youngest Ph.D. can see that some of the most prominent men have written little or nothing and that many men who have written a great deal seem to get nowhere, either in their universities or in the profession. Q.E.D. The important thing is not research." See note 17.
Most Ph.D.'s "prefer the human contacts with their students or with their colleagues to the isolation, steady grind, and slowness of reward which are inevitably the lot of the man who sticks to productive scholarship. In other words the average doctor of philosophy does not want to be a greasy grind all his life. He has to be till he gets his doctor's degree, and in many cases he says: 'Thank God, I have got it', and quits."
 "I personally would welcome an experiment by some university of a higher degree, requirements for which will be quite on a par with those of the Ph.D. in research but which will be primarily for the purpose of preparing a man for teaching. Such a degree I feel ought to have some training in research, but it ought to have much more training than our present Ph.D. gives in the problems and methods of teaching and the general literature which a teacher finds useful."
 See note 14.
Last Updated: May 10, 2007