How did you come up with the idea for your PhD?


Just wondering how any of you decided on a topic for your PhD? If you did your PhD directly after a masters or first degree, was the topic something that you became interested in over the course of your previous studies? Was it an obvious decision, or did you have to really think about & investigate possible subject areas? And did you come up with the idea alone or did you have help from tutors/ lecturers? Sorry for the barrage of questions - I have just finished the first year of my bachelors degree, know I want to go on to do a PhD but have no idea where to begin deciding on a subject. Thanks!


The FIRST year of your bachelors degree?


Eager beaver!

You're thinking about it too early - drop the subject for at least another year.


Actually I don't think there's anything wrong with thinking about it now: your degree will fly by.

I applied for a PhD where the big question was already set: but I'm now thinking about getting funding for postdoc work. I have an idea based on a mixture of an outside interest and my current research. Write down every idea you have and see if you can set suitable research questions for each.


I would personally think somewhere in year 3. When you have a better grasp of your subject, what you know better what you actually might enjoy doing, and whether doing a PhD is actually achievable (ability wise).


What area are you in?

Instead of worrying about a PhD question, spend more time immersing yourself in your subject. Read, go to events, meet people, talk to people.


that's good advice - maybe concentrate on where you are now and build up knowledge and contacts and work on what your 3rd year dissertation may be about, (or project etc). Certainly before worrying too much about the PhD - for a start you could 'sort out' a topic but then realise something in a year's time as part of your course and totally change your mind.

Good luck with it though and keep your sense of ambition.



Everybody has given you some really good advice here, I would suggest using your dissertation or project as a test for your PhD research question / topic. What I mean by this is using your dissertation / project to articulate and test the problem, thus providing the foundation for further and more detailed research (the PhD), whilst also justifying the need for the study.


I dont want to be rude but i dont see that you can be sure you want to do a phd in the first year of uni! its a major commitment not just another course.

Think about it later maybe in your last year when you may have had some research experience with a dissertation although being a supervisor I never advise going straight from a BSc to a phd - the latter is far more of a job and it helps if you have work experience and can show you are keen in that particular field not just looking for the next thing to do. I favour taking on people in this position as they are usually more committed and not expecting it to be similar to a BSc (which it certainly isnt).

Having said that the majority of well-funded projects advertised come with a basic question or area of research that a department or external funder is interested in knowing. There are not many phds which are thought up entirely by the student. If you do have an idea you can apply for funding yourself but unless you are under the wing of a supervisor (e.g. for your BSc diss) then it might be very tough. Finish your degree, and in your last year think about it and then identify an area you wish to work in and contact potential supervisors to see if they have projects in a similar vein or spare money (!) and an interest in it. Most phd questions change markedly throughout the 3-4years of study so it is a general premise you need first adn proof of your research capabilities.


If you can identify an area that you're especially interested in, you can ask the lecturer concerned to apply for a Nuffield summer research grant. Currently we have an undergrad student (between 2nd and 3rd year) spending 6 weeks learning research techniques in our lab.