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Anyone else applying for a PhD? Support thread?

(19 Posts)
UptheChimney Thu 26-Sep-13 19:30:51

I have just finished and it has been a horrible experience, which I wouldn't wish on anyone. The fact that it is almost entirely useless unless I want to lecture, keep researching or teach in schools has made that feeling worse

That's very sad to read, Ehhn I did a PhD in History and loved every back-aching minute of it. But I'm wondering why you did it, if you don't want to lecture or keep researching? That's why I did my PhD and what I do now.

What was it that made your experience so horrible? If you did it again, what would you do differently? What would your advice be to people starting out?

FWIW, I don't think there's so much difference between a work/industry related phd and a purely academic one -- they are all examined by the same 3 broad criteria (original contribution to knowledge, deep & broad knowledge of field, publishable). And generating new knowledge and new ideas is just that in English lit, biomedical sciences, or astrophysics is still generating new knowledge!

Ehhn Thu 26-Sep-13 00:54:53

I think there is massive difference between doing a work/industry related phd and a purely academic one (mine was a phd in English literature ie purely academic compared to say research in genetics, language acquisition or marketing - a selection of the PhDs my friends have done). I have just finished and it has been a horrible experience, which I wouldn't wish on anyone. The fact that it is almost entirely useless unless I want to lecture, keep researching or teach in schools has made that feeling worse.

I envy the people whose PhDs have advanced humanity and/or their career!

Also didn't help that I too felt a total fraud the whole way through... Now that would make interesting research- why women in particular suffer that feeling!

LaFataTurchina Thu 26-Sep-13 00:34:56

thosearemyminstrels - I'm looking at childhood studies/sociology departments so very similar to you. We can fret together!

other websites you can look at are findaphd. com and prospects. ac. uk

Personally the bit that I'm most freaked out about is the writing initial emails to potential supervisors. I worry that whatever I write will be awkward and cringy.

MariscallRoad Fri 13-Sep-13 21:29:31

thosearemyminstrels try to apply for a PhD. There is no age limit, PhD students have various ages and many hold jobs. Not all are financed by an employer. What you need is to read a lot about the subject you wish to do research on. Try and find theses on the subject you would like to do on the British Library website and many are available on line. Your thesis must be an original one. Try to speak to any academic you knew from MA if poss and see if they recommend any specific place for your interest or any particular tutor. If this is not feasible try the websites of universities to see what is required for admission to MPhil/PhD and speak to the relevant departmentsto see what they recomend Read around your subject a lot smile.

MariscallRoad Fri 13-Sep-13 21:05:32

LaFataTurchina It is worth applying for PhD. I was in the same situation years ago. After time at work I did an MA and then I applied for MPhil and finally I got the PhD. I found it great experience. I knew others in in my profession who for did the same. Have you decided on the subjects and supervisors? Do quite a lot of reading around the subject you want to study. It is very good you have the motivation smile

UptheChimney Wed 11-Sep-13 17:33:15

Here's an edited version of something posted in another thread here about PhDs:

For your proposal, you should try to outline your project with reference to the following points:

* the gap in the field that you have identified. A PhD has to be an original contribution to knowledge -- so how you will develop an original contribution to knowledge in your field?
* the sorts of research questions you'd like to explore through your research;
* the methods you propose to use to do this;
* the body of data you will use to answer your research questions;
* what is your current knowledge of relevant archives, or other sorts of access to original source materials? Is there adequate information/data/archive etc to do your work? Do you have the basic tools ie you won't be accepted for a PhD in, say, Russian literature, if you don't have near to native speaking Russian. And so on.

I don't think any department would expect you to have definitive answers to these questions, but you need to show you know enough to get yourself to Doctoral level in three years (5/6 years part-time). The days of taking years & years to do a PhD are over.

thosearemyminstrels Wed 11-Sep-13 15:18:48

Upthechimney, thank you. Sorry, my first post may have appeared a little glib - of course appreciate that the search and application is my own, but the info about topic/team is just what I was looking for. Many thanks.

UptheChimney Tue 10-Sep-13 21:42:24

OK, thosearemyminstrels if you want funding for a PHD is where some funded studentships are advertised. Also the Guardian on a Tuesday, and the Times Higher.

But the season for funded PhD studentships is pretty much past, especially those through the Research Councils. You'll be applying for an October 2014 start, and you need to start thinking seriously about the institution , topic and supervisor by the end of this calendar year.

And yes, you REALLY should be looking at universities' websites. PhD applicants are expected to be pretty proactive. Each university will have a section on its home page about postgraduate admissions. But it's not a mass operation like that of undergrad admissions. You'll need to apply on an individual basis, to an individual researcher or research team or department.

Do you have a topic? Do you have a team, a department, a supervisor you want to work with?

You'll need a PhD proposal -- I usually ask for around 1500 words. I think I've posted in a thread in here a summary of what I ask for in my Department.

Funded PhD studentships are extremely competitive -- at least in my field, and at a research-intensive Department/Faculty/University. The people we select generally have a First Class BA, a Distinction at MA, and an excellent, robust really thought through proposal. And then we grill interview them on that project.

thosearemyminstrels Tue 10-Sep-13 17:44:37

May I join you and ask a Rookie question? Apologies in advance for ignorance, I've been asking admissions depts but told to 'look at the (bloody) (sotto voce) website. I have a BA, MA and lots of years in work. I have thought about applying for a PhD in education/social policy for a while now, but not sure how - do you apply for a PhD on, in the same way as you would apply for a job?

I am pretty old now and, I realise, pretty vague, which may not be a good starting point. I really need a friendly mentor, I think, but am at a loss at what I could offer back.

Apart from - this will make you groan in sympathy - someone said to me a short while ago, When are you going to stop hiding from the real world and get on with work?

I hit them really hard in the face with a brick.


notallytuts Sun 25-Aug-13 23:08:48

I'm considering applying for one. Just finished my undergrad this summer, applied for a PHD that looked really good on a bit of a whim (having been very anti any kind of further education before that) and was shocked to get offered it, didnt expect it at all. I turned it down as I decided the topic wasnt actually interesting enough to keep me happy for four years, and I felt I'd rushed into it hugely, but now I dont really know where to start looking, topic-wise!

TinyDiamond Sat 24-Aug-13 14:53:55

I've only just seen this thread. I am hoping to start in 2014...which I suppose is really not that far off. I have one more year of study to do on my undergrad though. Then hoping to do something like a 1+3 arrangement. If I can't do that then may possibly self fund masters then reapply for PhD positions the following year. Scary stuff. I doubt myself too. Have had a bit of a bad experience this year with everything going well in my studies then receiving a much lower grade for my final piece of work. Knocked my confidence massively.

ZombiesAteMyBigToe Fri 23-Aug-13 22:06:48

You sound pretty sorted!

What are you planning to research?

SAHM= stay at home mum.

rpt53 Fri 23-Aug-13 21:41:29

I have pootled around with 3 related ideas for 18 months now - and finally applied for a bursary at the beginning of August. Have a couple of masters and teach higher ed in an FE college - but hours are killing and I would love to do research.

What is a SAHM?

I bet you know more than you think you do!!

ZombiesAteMyBigToe Fri 23-Aug-13 11:55:38

I start one in about a month.

I met my supervisor last December and he offered me the place. Didn't believe him.

Got confirmation and official offer around April.
Didn't believe it.

Got information about induction last week.
Didn't believe it.

I still deep down inside think they are going to turn around and say 'whoops, sorry, we made a mistake. Bad luck.'

I have a taught masters in a slightly different subject, graduated ten years ago and have been a SAHM since. Not believing its going to happen is the only thing stopping me from booking a one way flight to the Arctic and hiding behind a polar bear right now.

rpt53 Fri 23-Aug-13 10:13:47

I am also trying to get a PhD off the ground - definitely have imposter syndrome! happy to share all experiences as it goes along!

Lomaamina Tue 20-Aug-13 16:16:03

Welcome to the club of sufferers from imposter syndrome. I too am an academic with a PhD with nightmares they're going to ask for it back.

There's some great advice here:

Good luck!

MagratGarlik Sun 18-Aug-13 21:49:18

I have a PhD and used to be an academic before jumping ship. Don't worry - PhDs are not as difficult as you'd think (they gave one to me ffs).

No-one will laugh at you, or your application (most academics are so ridiculously self-obsessed, the interview will probably go along the lines of academic talks about him/her self, followed by a, "so enough about me, what do you know about me?" grin).

Good luck with your MA and your applications!

kritur Sun 18-Aug-13 19:27:48

I have a PhD and work as an academic but I still think that... Don't worry, it's normal!

LaFataTurchina Sat 17-Aug-13 13:19:02


I'm just coming to the end of my MA (hand in the dissertation mid September aaah!) and am planning to start applying for PhDs as soon as we get our results back. Will hopefully start either next March or next September.

I was wondering if anyone else was in a similar boat? Also, does anyone else think 'no, I couldn't possibly apply for a PhD they'll think I'm a massive thicko and laugh at me?' grin blush

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