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Tuesday, 5 May 2020 at 7:30pm
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Thread: How defined should a pre-defined PhD be?

05-May-20, 19:48
by argh101
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posted about 3 weeks ago
I am 7 months into a funded PhD and it was a pre-defined PhD in history and library studies. As I increasingly work through the initial application, I find that the questions posed and many of the suggestions offered are not possible. Every time I follow an avenue or question suggested I find that there are serious logistical, training or ethical issues that mean it is not feasible. When I raise issues to my supervisors, they say to keep reading and that I will find my way. I am wondering if I am unreasonable for expecting there to have been a level of guidance and a research agenda already in place before starting? I even find that some fundamental goals of the PhD have already been done by other staff members (unpublished so didn't see this when researching before applying). I understand that all PhD's need to be made unique and this takes time, a level of uncertainty and hard work- but you are always exploring uncertainty within limits. This PhD has started to span around 5 different disciplines with regards to avenues, all with incredibly specific needs so I don't know where to go. I feel like I am being asked to create a brand new topic, but that this is not what I signed up for. When I ask my supervisors what they envisaged for the project or what they think is feasible, they don't have a clear answer and I am told 'that the PhD is my own'.

I just wondered, is this me being unreasonable? Is this normal for pre-defined projects or am I within my rights to raise an issue that I did not expect this lack of structure? I feel like no PhD would even be accepted when it has no research agenda, let alone 7 months in with no clear questions, methods or goals. Given that this is a funded PhD I also feel really trapped and confused about quitting as I don't know what the financial repercussions would be.

Thanks for any help.
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