Humanities PhD Skills and Expertise

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The BiblioTech Program at Stanford University promotes the relevance of a doctorate degree in a humanities discipline to professional sectors beyond academe. Stanford humanities Ph.D.s are professionals whose work embodies the essence of innovation. Intellectual entrepreneurs, they are distinguished in their ability to think broadly, flexibly, and outside the box. Highly trained, skilled, and creative humanities Ph.D.s bring their skills, expertise, and thought leadership to a rapidly changing private sector. The BiblioTech Program serves to bridge the gap between doctoral studies in the humanities and private-sector careers.

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Why the Ph.D.?

A Ph.D. in a humanities discipline is a professional degree. Professional pathways for humanities Ph.D.s have changed dramatically in the last few decades. Approximately 50% of humanities Ph.D.s work outside of academia where many hold leadership roles.

Stanford humanities Ph.D.s work on interdisciplinary projects across the university that combine knowledge, imagination, research, analysis, and technology. They acquire a nuanced understanding of the complex cultural, linguistic, geo-political, economic, and artistic influences that shape today’s world. 

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Stanford University prepares its graduates to be leaders in finding solutions for the large-scale, complex problems of the 21st century. Leaders of the 21st century must think critically, communicate effectively in a complicated world, and be comfortable in global settings. Stanford humanities Ph.D.s excel in these areas.

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The hallmark of each Stanford humanities department is excellence. Doctoral students' knowledge and deep understanding of their field and related fields are of the highest caliber. Finding solutions to today's problems requires a firm grounding in knowledge, a deep understanding of the broader context, and the ability to combine that knowledge with imagination to create a better future.

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Skills: Tools for Solving Today's Problems


  • Word skill
  • Mastery of one or more foreign languages and cultures
  • Ability to communicate to different audiences
  • Ability to synthesize information and present it in comprehensible ways
  • Persuasive communication
  • Intercultural communication
  • Presentational skills
  • Influence
  • People skills


  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Intellectual entrepreneurs -- focus on contributing original research to a given field
  • Confidence to draw conclusions from incomplete and imperfect information
  • Strategic and critical thinking
  • Lateral thinking -- ability to envision many different scenarios
  • Contextualization: understanding of the broader contexts (cultural, ethical, historical, linguistic, social, etc.) in which they are working
  • Ability to ask the right questions and find solutions
  • Qualitative and critical analysis
  • Argumentative rigor
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Teaching skills
  • Research skills
  • Meaning creation
  • Narrative creation
  • Aesthetic and interpretive inquiry
  • Creatively analytical
  • Attitude for learning
  • Self-reliant
  • Resilient
  • Empathy


  • Organizational effectiveness
  • Self-directed -- ability to work independently
  • Discipline and persistence
  • Connoisseurship
  • Comfort with complexity
  • Discernment
  • Knowledge capital -- breadth and depth
  • Perseverance
  • Ability to collaborate and work on teams
  • Immersive learners
  • Efficient researchers
  • Curious and creative
  • Novelty inventors
  • Imagination
  • Ability to live with uncertainty
  • Trained in innovation
  • Aesthetic reasoning
  • Strategic adaptability


  • Project management
  • Team management


  • Stanford is a pioneer in the development and integration of educational technologies. Stanford humanities Ph.D.s incorporate technology into their research and into the classrooms of the courses they teach.
  • CourseWork is Stanford University's learning management system. Graduate student instructors use CourseWork to set up course web sites that display announcements, course materials, syllabus, schedule, online assignments and quizzes, a discussion forum for students, and a grade book. Instructors use CourseWork to organize complex, web-based materials, and link them to web communication tools.
  • In general, humanities doctoral students are technologically proficient in word processing software, AdobeAcrobat Pro, Excel, PowerPoint, social media platforms.
  • Specialized technological expertise varies by student and discipline. Examples include, but are not limited to:
    • Students working on Stanford websites use Drupal.
    • Doctoral students in Linguistics use a vast array of technologies, including:
      • On-line corpora of text and speech, with accompanying search tools.
      • Taggers and parsers to do automatic annotation of large bodies of text.
      • Scripting languages (especially Perl and Python) for the manipulation of strings.
      • Statistical software (principally R) for the analysis of data.
      • Speech analysis software, particularly Praat.
      • High quality audio recorders for fieldwork.
      • Typographical and graphical software (mostly LaTeX macro packages) for displaying non-standard characters and diagrams of various sorts.
    • Doctoral students in Music may incorporate Java, C++, SuperCollider, ChucK, HTML,  MaxMSP, and Processing.
    • Doctoral students working in the Digital Humanities incorporate a vast array of  technologies into their work, including MongoDB, Protovis, JavaScript, ArcGIS,  Flash/Flex, PHP, Python, MySQL, and R. For a more comprehensive list of tools, please  visit
    • Art students and others use technologies related to graphic design and photography. 

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