Advertisement
Boards are fundraising to help the people of Ukraine via the Red Cross at this horrific time. Please donate and share if you can, you will find the link here. Many thanks.

PhD FAQs

  • 27-05-2008 7:59am
    #1
    Registered Users Posts: 1,510 ✭✭✭ randomname2005


    Hi all,
    this post is intended as an FAQ for people starting, in the middle of, and finishing a PHD. I am hoping that people like myself who have finished PhDs in various areas can combine our knowledge.

    The following is a list of questions I came up with and some answers - some people will be better able to answer some of them that I am!

    R



    Q1: How should I choose my supervisor and college?

    Q2: How should I choose my research topic?

    Q3: Is it a good idea to stay in the college where I did my undergraduate work, or should I change?

    This is a very difficult question to answer. It can be good to stay because you know the ways that the college works, and what will be expect of you. However, you may find that moving to another college opens up a whole host of other experiences to you.

    When deciding on a college, the most important factors should probably be the reputation of your supervisor and your interest in the research topic.

    Q4: I have been working for a few years and I want to get back into college - is this a good idea and what barriers will I face?

    Q5: I hate my supervisor - what's going wrong?

    I was at a talk hosted by my department once where the speaker said that it was not normal to go through your entire PhD course without hating your supervisor. You should hate him/her at some stage but if this has been the case from the start then something is probably wrong.

    Q6: What is required to get a PHD/Research Masters?

    Q7: The task seems insurmountable, where do I start?

    Q8: What happens if my initial proposal changes?

    Q9: It doesn't seem to be working, should I change my proposal?

    Q10: What is an appropriate level of supervision? I don't know if I am working on my own too much or too little.

    Q11: Writing up - are there any tips or suggestions?

    Q12: (this should be moved up close to Q2 or Q3) Is the size of the research group relevant or important?


«13

Comments

  • Hosted Moderators Posts: 7,485 ✭✭✭ Red Alert


    Stickied! We'll figure out the best way to keep this thread organized as we along.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 13,160 banshee_bones


    Do you happen to know - in general- is it possible to defer a Masters or is it up to the particular college or the department within the college? If they do let you defer under what conditions is it granted?

    I havent been accepted yet but I imagine I will be hearing back withing the next few weeks and something has come up which will mean I more than likely wont be able to start til September 2010.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 5,288 pow wow


    Do you happen to know - in general- is it possible to defer a Masters or is it up to the particular college or the department within the college? If they do let you defer under what conditions is it granted?

    I havent been accepted yet but I imagine I will be hearing back withing the next few weeks and something has come up which will mean I more than likely wont be able to start til September 2010.

    Is there any reason to think you wouldn't get in if you just reapplied next year? I deferred at UL last year but I don't hear of it happening too often (mostly they'll just say reapply next year!).

    Edit: This should probably have a thread of its own...


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,060 Sapsorrow


    Hiya I'm a fourth yr nutritional science student and today I got offered a research masters from one of my lecturers. I have afew questions if anyone can help me out!

    Is 1 year standard for a research masters? (I would be joining a pre-existing project in the dept)

    Can I keep my maintenance grant for a research rather than taught masters?

    Do colleges generally offer any sort of financial support (apart from scholarships) to research students? I know some students in the department are getting paid a bit but not very much.

    Would a research masters help my career prospects in most fields or is it only going to help me get jobs in research/industry? Is an employer going to look at my CV and just think of a Msc thats good and rather than think that research skills aren't particularly relevant compared to what I might get from a taught masters in say public health etc..? I understand that this might depend on the type of job but say I wanted to work as a consultant or advisor etc..

    Thanks in advance! :)


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,060 Sapsorrow


    pow wow wrote: »
    Is there any reason to think you wouldn't get in if you just reapplied next year? I deferred at UL last year but I don't hear of it happening too often (mostly they'll just say reapply next year!).

    Edit: This should probably have a thread of its own...

    Sorry mod just spotted this, feel free to delete my post


  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 727 prettygurrly


    Q1: How should I choose my supervisor and college?
    good question...i responded to an advert but before I committed myself to anything I found a contact in the college and asked them to ask around about my future supervisor. My co-supervisor also came highly recommended. I'm in Trinity which has one of the best research reputations in the world but if it wasn't Trinity I would have looked at how many papers are produced by the department you're going to join and what sort of journals.

    Q2: How should I choose my research topic?
    Try to expand on something that you have looked at before. For me, as it was already decided it was easy as it followed on my from my MSc in a similar area.

    Q3: Is it a good idea to stay in the college where I did my undergraduate work, or should I change?
    I know some people stay in the same university but for me this is my third and the number of contacts I have because I've been to a few is amazing. Unless the programme is amazing and you really want to work with the super, spread your wings and see what's out there. Settling into a new place takes a couple of months but eventually you'll feel like you were always attending that university.

    Q4: I have been working for a few years and I want to get back into college - is this a good idea and what barriers will I face?
    I was working for 2 years and went back. The hardest thing was writing again. With perserverance and making use of the uni's facilities (TCD has a mature student programme etc.) you will find your feet again. If you love what you're doing, reading journals again will become easy. I think confidence is the hardest thing to get back though. You've spent years probably doing the same thing but now you have to diversify and be able to time manage (MSc was the hardest year of my life) but it will come back to you.

    Q5: I hate my supervisor - what's going wrong?
    I agree with previous poster. If you dont like him from the start then you never will probably. Not good when it's someone you need to bounce ideas off. My supers are both men and very similar to each other. I know I'll have my ups and downs but as people I like them. I can get a little paranoid sometimes that I may have pissed them off which is difficult to overcome. I haven't been this close to management before as in industry the lines are very clear.

    Q6: What is required to get a PHD/Research Masters?
    A lot of hard work, and such commitment you'll think having children is easy. work weekends, late at night, answer emails when you've come in from the pub etc. BUT you also get to do things you would never do in a job usually. conferences abroad, poster presentations, talks and courses in various skillsets that you often get funding for.
    The PhD itself is about 80,000 words and needs to be your own work. A little difficult if your proposal was already decided for you but I feel now I'm more autonomous than I was and my writing is what I want to write about not what i've been asked to write about.
    The viva is going to be nightmarish but like every exam, i'll get through it.

    Q7: The task seems insurmountable, where do I start?
    I think of it like a big block of rock than you're shaping into something. Every day do a bit. Before you know it there'll be a month gone and you'll have achieved somethings on your list. Have a general outline of what should be done by when. Again I had this done for me by the proposers but it helps to know where you should be aiming at. I'm doing a field based PhD so every month I have fieldwork on top of the writing and organising and analysing that I have to do.

    Q8: What happens if my initial proposal changes?
    Your PhD will change, particularly when you get results and they point you in a different direction. This is a question that should be discussed with your super, no one else.

    Q9: It doesn't seem to be working, should I change my proposal?
    Again a super is the best person to discuss this with.

    Q10: What is an appropriate level of supervision? I don't know if I am working on my own too much or too little.
    I ask myself this all the time. I'm an autonomous person and I know what targets I have. If I went into a meeting with my super which only happens every few months and hadn't achieved what they wanted and what I hoped I'd have to be able to give a reason. If you cant give a reason you may have to ask your super to give you more stringent timelines to get you back on the straight and narrow. I doubt this is unusual, every student is different and as my super says it's his job to make sure that i progress and my work is at a high standard. obviously i have to work as hard as him, he's not doing it for me but if you're struggling they should have the experience to help you through.

    Q11: Writing up - are there any tips or suggestions?
    bite size chunks again. write a bit. aim your lit review to particular sections rather than one massive huge thing to be completed. try to be critical and ask questions. what's the point of your phd if you wont find something new? read other phds in your same genre to get an idea of language and layout. and read as much as you possibly can.

    Q12: (this should be moved up close to Q2 or Q3) Is the size of the research group relevant or important?
    you know what...my best friend told me that I shouldn't choose phd that didn't have a research group as you can get lost if you are working on your own (science wise). my group consists of a couple of phd students who are doing completely different things to me and are spread around the country so they're good for having a gripe to but with regards to asking them questions that doesn't happen. my post doc is great and my supers have been great, but for me I ask myself a question and then I try to find out for myself. if i'm really stuck i might ask another group i've joined called GLEON who are specialists in lakes and encourage questions. what i'm trying to say is a lack of a research group is not the worst thing in the world. there are other societies and groups you can join for some contact and to bounce ideas if you need to.


  • Registered Users Posts: 666 constantg


    Q. Am I out of my mind hoping to bring a PhD in under the usual four years?


  • Registered Users Posts: 727 prettygurrly


    depends what your phd is on! when you're talking about 4 years you must be referring to a phd with a high fieldwork workload? as all the other phds that i've come into contact have been only 3 years. one of my friends unluckily has fieldwork but still only has 3 years. however she wouldn't be doing as much as me as i lose about 3 days every month on fieldwork which will increase as i get into quality analysis of my equipment so quite a lot to fit in.
    having said all that, there are people that teach labs at the same time as their phd so...

    what are you planning to do? your supervisor should have an idea of what you should achieve by when which is obviously reviewed as you go....


  • Registered Users Posts: 666 constantg


    depends what your phd is on! when you're talking about 4 years you must be referring to a phd with a high fieldwork workload? as all the other phds that i've come into contact have been only 3 years. one of my friends unluckily has fieldwork but still only has 3 years. however she wouldn't be doing as much as me as i lose about 3 days every month on fieldwork which will increase as i get into quality analysis of my equipment so quite a lot to fit in.
    having said all that, there are people that teach labs at the same time as their phd so...

    what are you planning to do? your supervisor should have an idea of what you should achieve by when which is obviously reviewed as you go....


    Doing a PhD in History Part Time. Got 6 Years apparently. A Full Time PhD should take 4 I'm told. I would like to think I could rock it in 3, but that's all my research and writing 33k words a year. But I already have a decent headstart on the research I feel....


  • Registered Users Posts: 727 prettygurrly


    ah part time...and history...well as you have 6 years that means that if you were doing it full time it would only be three years which is normal for a humanities phd. i have yet to hear of anyone who has had funding for longer than 3 years for humanities, as i said in previous post i have 4 years due to fieldwork constraints. that's not to say that people dont take longer than 3 years, a lot do but they aren't funded for that time.

    em yeah i wouldn't worry about how many words you get written in a year. its not about the length its about quality and in trinity they have a guideline of 200 pages as it is which is only about 80,000 words.

    best of luck with it, you'll need some serious time management if you're working at the same time and you'll develop the skill of getting your head back into it after the break at work and your homelife as well.

    (i'm more of a scientific person so i am totally open to correction on anything i've said but all the humanities geography students in my department are doing three years)


  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 666 constantg


    think they're moving towards a standardised four year one now, based off the new structured ones.


  • Registered Users Posts: 727 prettygurrly


    ah yes...trinity is a little slow on the uptake of structured phds. dunno if i agree with the idea of structured phds to be honest.i take courses that i'm interested in but the most important thing is i think about my project all the time...you can't teach that...it is philosophy after all!


  • Registered Users Posts: 666 constantg


    ah yes...trinity is a little slow on the uptake of structured phds. dunno if i agree with the idea of structured phds to be honest.i take courses that i'm interested in but the most important thing is i think about my project all the time...you can't teach that...it is philosophy after all!

    I hear you, I mean I'm undertaking a PhD cos I've arrived at the level where I don't think I need to sit tests anymore really, or turn in casework....

    Basically that was an aspect of my life and now I've moved on!


  • Registered Users Posts: 338 ✭✭ itzme


    I posted this over in the researcher section but it seems very relevant here too. We held an internal seminar on PhDs in NCG at NUIM recently. The purpose was for the two directors of the research institutes to talk about their experiences with PhDs planning/conducting/supervising/advice/writing/viva and for some of the recent graduates to talk of their experiences while they were still fresh. It covered both science PhDs and humanities/social science. All the talks were recorded and either are as podcasts with slides or videos here http://ncg.nuim.ie/redir.php?action=events/20110325


  • Registered Users Posts: 666 constantg


    itzme wrote: »
    I posted this over in the researcher section but it seems very relevant here too. We held an internal seminar on PhDs in NCG at NUIM recently. The purpose was for the two directors of the research institutes to talk about their experiences with PhDs planning/conducting/supervising/advice/writing/viva and for some of the recent graduates to talk of their experiences while they were still fresh. It covered both science PhDs and humanities/social science. All the talks were recorded and either are as podcasts with slides or videos here http://ncg.nuim.ie/redir.php?action=events/20110325

    Have bookmarked for a look when I get back to office, thanks!


  • Users Awaiting Email Confirmation Posts: 15 ✭✭✭ kiss_my_face


    Quick question, I got accepted into UCC this coming year. Not 100% sure what to do yet as I now have a job that could last a few years. Does anyone know that if I decided on not doing it this year I could hold off doing it in a few years time without having to apply again?


  • Registered Users Posts: 13,104 ✭✭✭✭ djpbarry


    Quick question, I got accepted into UCC this coming year. Not 100% sure what to do yet as I now have a job that could last a few years. Does anyone know that if I decided on not doing it this year I could hold off doing it in a few years time without having to apply again?
    Are we talking about a PhD here? Because in that case, the answer is a firm 'no'.


  • Registered Users Posts: 48 ✭✭✭ Killbot2000


    Hi all, I thought this post might be useful. It gives advice on finding a PhD

    http://www.ecoevoblog.com/2013/04/12/finding-a-phd/


  • Registered Users Posts: 23,263 ✭✭✭✭ Tom Dunne




  • Registered Users Posts: 727 prettygurrly


    djpbarry wrote: »
    Are we talking about a PhD here? Because in that case, the answer is a firm 'no'.

    Agreed...unless it's in humanities where there may be some leeway...but with the state of this country, if there's funding for it then there will be other students available to take your place...decision time!


  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 884 Dingle_berry


    What is the actual goal/deciding factor of a PhD? What decides when you are ready for your VIVA and awards you the PhD? What makes a PhD different from a DSc?

    Is it possible to do a PhD while also working in a field lie life sciences? Or does it have to be done full time in a third level institution?


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 4,348 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Tree


    It's decided between you and your supervisors (mostly your supervisors knows when you have enough work done).

    IT is possible to do a PhD parttime in life sciences, it's harder work parttime, but it can certainly be done. You would still do it in conjunction with a third level institute (someone has to award the degree at the end of the day), and you would have access to facillities you might not have in work. I know people who have done PhD's while working in hospital labs and as nurses.

    Doing a full time PhD (largely) outside an academic lab requires a very supportive workplace, and the results of your research would probably have to have significant impact on the work for the employer to allow you so much time and access to resources, but it's doable. There are a number of grants that are aimed specifically at people doing PhD's in the workplace rather than in a purely academic institution.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1 Fluff92


    So how do you go about getting funding for a PhD?


  • Registered Users Posts: 13,104 ✭✭✭✭ djpbarry


    Fluff92 wrote: »
    So how do you go about getting funding for a PhD?
    Surprised this hasn’t come up on this thread already – it’s frequently asked on this forum.

    You’ll often find that PhD positions advertised for which funding has already been secured. I would always advise anyone interested in doing a PhD to begin by looking at advertised positions. These can take the form of specific projects (for example: www.jobs.ac.uk/job/AHZ167/phd-studentship), or they might take the form of a general call for PhD applicants (for example: www.london-research-institute.org.uk/jobs-and-education/graduate-students).

    You also have the option of approaching a researcher that you’d like to work with and express your interest in pursuing a PhD with them. They may already have access to funding to support the project, or they may be prepared to help you put together a grant application.


  • Registered Users Posts: 639 omen80


    Hi,

    I know this might be a bit of a strange question but I'm just wondering how you actually apply to do a PhD? Is it a case of writing a proposal to a prospective supervisor? Does the PhD have to be advertised first?

    I graduated with a first class hons in my master's a few years ago and now I'd like to start a PhD this year, if that's not too late.
    Any help/tips welcome....

    Thanks!


  • Registered Users Posts: 47 ✭✭✭ ringthebells


    Sometimes they are advertised, otherwise you can apply to the department directly. You will probably need to get onto the prospective supervisor before this, though - that should be your first port of call. I know my uni has detailed guidelines on the process of applying for a PhD on their website, so you could check there as well.


  • Registered Users Posts: 75 ✭✭✭ idayang


    Hi,i am not sure if it‘s strange...could anyone pls let me know the real difference between a structured PhD and a traditional PhD? Many thanks!!


  • Registered Users Posts: 166 ✭✭ miss-p


    I think that structured PhDs mean you have to take 90 credits of modules throughout your whole PhD. So previously in a traditional PhD you only had to do your own research.
    Now in a structured PhD (which I think is the only type of PhD available now in most Irish universities) you have to do some 90 credits of modules. Some examples of these would be when the university will hold workshops specific for PhD students like 'how to write a paper' or something similar for some amount of credits. The other type being a module that is currently been taught in the university. That can be related to your field, but doesn't have to be. You only have to pass these modules, it doesn't matter what mark you get.


  • Registered Users Posts: 727 prettygurrly


    yep, +1

    The main problem with structured PhDs is that supervisors want you to start your research straight away yet you need to fulfill the criteria of credits and year 1 is the best year to get these out of the way. As more students are in the structured programme now than when I started I think the supers are starting to get the hang of it...but first year is pretty busy in the structured PhD...much prefer the traditional way - I've sat in on lectures in my field because I've wanted to and didn't have to sit exams, I got what I needed out of them. Instead they're now trying to force the issue, you should be doing workshops and other things like Innovation Academy because you want to, not because you have to really.

    By the way, jobs.ac.uk is advertising so many PhDs in the UK. Worth a look...


  • Advertisement
  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 4,348 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Tree


    IME you have to do between 30 and 90 credits over the PhD (rather than achieve 90 which would be fairly intense). Hopefully your uni of choice iwll have a range of modules with some being in your field and other's external to your work but providing food for thought.
    I am very happy with my structured PhD and the rotations I got to do at the beginning of it. I'd rather some more non-academic skills, but the coordinators of hte programme are very good at taking feedback so I'm sure more will be integrated into the programme.


Advertisement