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Question for postgrad students/academics: when did you decide on your area of specialization?

(13 Posts)
Molesworth Sat 06-Jun-09 19:56:58

Just that really - at what point did you decide which area you'd like to focus on/research? Was it something that became apparent while you were an undergraduate?

Molesworth Sun 07-Jun-09 17:19:58


Poledra Sun 07-Jun-09 17:23:02

Hi Molesworth. I have a science PhD, and I chose my PhD based on the part of my undergrad course I enjoyed the most. I felt that this would make it easier to get into the literature etc. And I did enjoy my PhD (not the writing up part - only a loon enjoys writing up grin).

It doesn't mean you're set in stone though - I work in a different therapy area to that in which I trained (though I'd still love to go back to my original area).


Kathyis6incheshigh Sun 07-Jun-09 17:27:01

When I was an undergrad I didn't really know, it was when I was doing my Masters and found an area I was sufficiently excited by to want to do my PhD on it. (Though actually it related to the best essays I had written as an undergraduate, too.)

Acinonyx Mon 08-Jun-09 10:16:52

I changed from a science subject to a sciencey part of humanities via a masters but there was a gap of 19 years in between! My PhD topic arose out of a paper I read during my masters on a topic not actually taught. I had several quite different topics in mind - but that was the one my supervisor liked.

Molesworth Mon 08-Jun-09 11:47:28

Thanks all for your replies. I was asking partly out of nosiness curiosity and partly because I'm nearing the end of my degree and thinking about what to do next. I'm studying sociology with the OU, but, owing to the modular way OU degrees are structured, I feel that my studies so far have been rather unfocused (the OU only offer two 'pure' sociology modules) and therefore I'm not really sure what area I want to concentrate on at Masters level. Because postgrad study is so expensive, I can't afford to make a mistake in my choice of subject area if I'm self funding, otherwise it seems that if I want to apply for a funded place I'd need to do a Research Masters followed by a PhD. If I went down that road, surely I'd need to have a particular subject area in mind from the outset? I'm interested in the sociology of education, but this hasn't been covered in my undergraduate studies at all. I should add that I'm planning to continue my studies at a brick university, not the OU. Any advice would be much appreciated!

FairLadyRantALot Mon 08-Jun-09 13:05:24

hmm...not in this situation yet (only a first years OT student)....and of course wiht studying for a vocational degree ( I think that is what they are caled...should know really, lol)....I suppose roughly I know what sort of work I will be doing afterwards...however, OT will give me such varying career opportunities and within the course we only have 3 practical, am hoping I can get afterwards, Rotational Job in order to gain more practical experience in some different areas and that should than hopefully lead to me knowing which particular area I want to specialise in, and that will than decide, if I do my Masters, lol, which sort of route I am taking...

I think, otehrwise, I would see which area of study will give me the best scope within the workforce and also , of course, what I find the most interesting....

which sort of career are you envisaging? That might help you decide?
Best of luck anyways...

Acinonyx Mon 08-Jun-09 13:27:05

If you can afford it, I found the masters really hlped to formulate my research interests - even my actual PhD topic was not taught at all. Although I had a masters research project I completely started again with a PhD. I self-funded the masters than got PhD funding. I definitley would not have been able to get a masters plus phD funded place straight off. The competition for that kind of funding is extremeley tough.

If I couldn't have got PhD funding I was considering going part-time and working. A PhD is a long road and you do need to be reasonably sure about your choice of topic, although there is usueally some scope for alterations.

Molesworth Mon 08-Jun-09 14:37:58

FLRAL - I don't have a specific career goal in mind tbh. I'm 41 and frankly I'm studying for my own interest/satisfaction, although I rather like the idea of teaching with the OU (the money is crap, but tutoring one course would just about cover the cost of part-time postgrad study @ approx £3500 a year). Best of luck with your studies too

Acinonyx - thanks for your input too. I realise that competition is hot for funding, so I'm working on the assumption I'll be self-funding and that a taught Masters is the way to go. Just starting this thread has helped to crystallize some thoughts about the whole thing. I'm going to put more time into investigating the literature on the topics that interest me the most (and the Masters courses available in those areas) and take it from there.

FairLadyRantALot Mon 08-Jun-09 20:25:51

well...than go for something that you are just generally find very interesting, I suppose...

sunnylabsmum Tue 09-Jun-09 12:56:58

the ou offers its tutors the chance to do a course for free...i think there are some limits on the money, but it could help you alot. I have done a professional doctorate (EdD ) which i have self funded as I self funded my masters too.

Good luck

clemette Tue 09-Jun-09 13:07:23

My Masters also helped me. I did a general history degree and found a particular topic of interest, I then specilaised in Modern Social History for my masters and did my dissertation on the topic I had identified as an undergraduate. My PhD thesis was then based on that. But I did find the formulation process a bit frustrating because I needed to think on a much smaller scale than I had originally thought.

Molesworth Tue 09-Jun-09 14:23:15

Sunnylabsmum - I didn't know that the OU allow their tutors to do a free course; this could be extremely helpful!

Clemette, thank you too - there are a couple of areas I'd like to go into in greater depth, so I will look at relevant taught Masters. It sounds like this is the route most people take, which is what I wanted to know when I started this thread, really.

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