Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thinking of doing a PhD?

Well Don't!

Nah! I am just joking.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the whole process and also hated it, have been ecstatic, depressed and excited in turns and sometimes all at the same time. A PhD is never easy and is a life changing experience. Some had mental breakdowns, miscarriages, breakdown of relationships and some got pregnant (I am not joking). You develop a love-hate relationship with your supervisor and sometimes hate-hate. Only a fortunate few get supervisors that are kind, helpful and considerate.

Ups and Downs

Somehow I have become a guy to contact for prospective PhD students in the Warwick Business School and my weakness is that I always reply to their queries and several of these guys have now started their studies here at the school.  I belive in Karma and sincerely do like helping out people.

The University should actually pay me for my service.

Anyway, I find that the queries are quite similar and it's gets repetitive after a while. After replying to yet another query a couple of minutes ago, I suddenly realised that I could actually have the info up on my blogs and just point them to it. Wonder why I never thought about that.

So given below are some of the key questions to look at before you apply in order to have a better chance of getting into the WBS PhD programme (or any other phD programme for that matter).

1. Is there a gap in research?

For this you will need to read up and see what research has been done
in your area of interest and if there are any gaps in the research that has not been explored. I am not talking of merely changing the context but of gaps in theories. This can be sometimes quite difficult when you are looking at something relatively new - like blogs in my case. Some people commented that being a current topic is great because no body has done it. It is actually problematic because you don't have any or very little research evidence to fall back on to back up your research. It really helps if you are researching a topic you are really interested in because after a while you do get sick of reading about the same things again and again. Fortunately, I am a compulsive blogger and have a deep interest in social media of which, blogs form a very important part.

2. Do you have access to data or subject of study?

This is very important to prove that the research is possible. A number of grand proposals failed because the students simply didn't have access to the data they were looking for. Companies are notoriously difficult to access (naturally) unless you have contact inside.

Thus a good methodology would be required. In other words, how are you going to access and ultimately analyse the data. If you plant to do a quantitative study, it will be helpful to specify the methods and tools you are are going to use to analyse the data.

3. Do you have a prospective supervisor?

Many prospective PhD students make the mistake of applying without looking to see if there is anybody interested in their study. Sometimes a great school doesn't mean that the people are good in your subject area. For example, Warwick Business School may be way better in terms of expertise in a particular suject as compared to Cambridge or Oxford.

There is no point if you have an amazing proposal but no one in the Faculty is interested to take you up as a student. Even if someone is interested,they might not be able to take you up if they already have too many PhD students.

Have a look at the list of experts in your field and approach them directly (via email), providing a brief outline of your proposal. If they respond positively, you can then send in an extended proposal. I even had a chat with my potential supervisor over the phone before I got here.

Once you have covered all the 3 points, you can then proceed with the formal application process.

Finally, do not forget to contact the doctoral programme office in the respective schools with all your queries as well.

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