Question: Is it wise to choose a PhD topic area for pragmatic reasons as opposed to awe-inspiring love for the proposed methodology?
I'm a science masters student and I've been offered the opportunity to take a PhD with an already collected data set. It would mean that I could churn out papers faster and work with a supervisor who is very ambitious and excellent at networking. He's already pushed me to collaborate with some big names in the field and I like feeling productive!
Now, the area is the one I'm interested in, however I may want to jump into experimental science after completing a PhD.... my question therefore is, is it possible to find a postdoc post in the experimental science side of my field after completing the proposed PhD? It would involve a shift in a slightly different direction within the same field.... would this be possible?
I'm not going to answer your question, being quite up front about that but for some very odd reason your post made me scowl.
Doing a PhD with a data set already collected, a PhD you can whizz through, publish easily and with a supervisor who has lined things up for you... can you spot something wrong here? Or is it just be being old fashioned in thinking you should suffer a bit.
Pragmatism may not give the love you'll need to get through.. easy or not.
Answers in an orderly manner please :-)
It may of course be the norm in some fields, in which case i shall remove all sarcasm from this post.
It's perfectly possible to shift direction. My husband's PhD was in a very formal/theoretical branch of computer science. He is now a Research Fellow in an applied area of computing, totally different, but drawing on his wider skill-base and experience as an academic researcher.
putting the ethics of already collected data aside...
It's no joke when people say PhD is the hardest thing they've ever done. Many people will get physically and/or mentally ill at some point in the process, and you still have to battle through regardless. (please don't say "oh but it won't happen to me!", because if you do, it WILL happen). It takes every single cell of your will power to get a PhD completed. Far too many late nights to care to remember, horrendous set backs, run ins with other researchers, run ins with your supervisor, etc.
So the question I would be asking is whether the topic you are being offered is something that is important enough to you that you can put up with all that and still pull yourself through it, or not. It doesn't have to be THE most important thing, it just has to be important enough that you will sacrifice almost everything to do it.
I just want to comment on the pre-collected data issue, as it seems to be causing some controversy... :-S
Personally I don't see an issue with this at all because presumably, the PhD project would be focusing on the analysis of this data and that's where the academic rigour and novel research would be generated. It's perfectly reasonable for a PhD project to pick up and carry on from another person's research (indeed, this is often how it works), as long as there is transparency over who did what.
Best wishes :-)
Ann, you took the words right out of my mouth. A good, non-lab science, example of this would be someone looking at population trends. If they're using datasets based on census results, is it wrong that they themselves didn't organise the national census? No, of course not.
As long as they're doing something novel, perhaps in terms of modelling or statistical analysis, then they're definitely making a contribution to the field in terms of producing something new, and surely that's what the point of the PhD is...
4Matt & Ann... that's exactly what I will be doing... and why I asked my question regarding whether the later shift to data collection + experimental research would be an issue!
I don't think a PhD will be easy, it seems to be a very sensitive issue in here. I just happen to think that not every PhD path leads down the road of depression and self-harm.
Really good points made below, specifically census data ... agreed.
I think it was the reference to the "already collected data" with the terms "I could churn out papers faster" with an "ambitious" and "networking" supervisor who has "already pushed me to collaborate with some big names in the field"
Clearly nothing wrong with ambition etc and in fact on reflection it was just one word - "churn" I found a challenge. It has no redeeming features with a tone of disregard and disrespect to its audience.
No depression or self harm here CoughingFit .. I'm Chuff-ed to bits with my PhD. There have been a few threads recently talking about the best times in PhD-ing, have a read if you get a chance and you'll get the other side. I guess for a lot of people, you come here when no-one at home would understand and I guess that tends to be the bad times.
I hope your PhD goes well, and please come back won't you .. I note you're a new poster.. certainly made a splash anyway ;-)
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