I completed my first degree (BSc (Hons) Software Engineering 1st Class) in the UK.
I considered going on to take a PhD but brining up a family and family health issues prevented me, so I spent 9 years in industry and now find myself reconsidering this option.
After one disastrous PhD Research Studentship interview I now get the impression I should be much better read, ALREADY. However I have no income 'at present' and am not a student or connected to a University.
Finding my way around the range of professional bodies of which you can be a member or web databases that provide access to journals and the range of journals available, I am beginning to get the impression this could be very expensive.
How many journals ought one to subscribe to? Is there a way to reduce the cost, or is this just a fact of life? Seems you can buy individual papers, but this looks like it may be more expensive. Some annual subscription descriptions seem (to me at least) ambiguous, e.g. am I just paying for a bi monthly paper journal or absolutely everything in the digital library as a one off payment? etc...
In case it is relevant, my field is Software Engineering.
Have you spoken to the librarian at your last university to see what options are available to you? As an alumni student you would still get access to reading materials. I use my ex uni library and it only costs £10 for 5 years (think it is 5 years). Anyway it's cheap.
Just give them a call (try and speak to the subject librarian in your field) and see what they can do/suggest for you before forking out money is the best I can suggest.
If you live near (or visit) London you could join the British Library. This might be worth it for a first investigation of the various journals before you fork out any money to subscribe. It's free to join but you need to have a research purpose - I would imagine that background PhD research would count. Check out their website for more details and give them a call if you're making a special journey. Some stuff takes a few weeks to be delivered. It sounds like it could be a good start for your research - and if you live nearby you wouldn't have to subscribe to anything.
Don't do it! You really don't need to be taking out subscriptions at this stage (if ever!)
As I understand it, your reason for wanting to take out subscriptions is because you perceive that your interview would have gone better had you been better read. Did you actually receive specific feedback that said that? You might be misreading the situation - perhaps the interview went well from their point of view but there was another candidate who just happened to be better. I would definitely recommend getting feedback if you think there might be something you might improve on for a future interview.
But back to the original question. You don't need to be an expert on a topic in order to apply for a PhD. Becoming an expert is what happens *during* the PhD. To make a good application you need to have a feel for the key issues in that area, where the thinking is currently at etc. But you could probably get a feel for this from a handful of review articles and a book, plus reading some free abstracts. Reading a few papers by your interviewers never harms. But definitely don't go subscribing to loads of journals at this stage - as soon as you become a PhD student, vast swathes of literature will be free for you to access.
With regard to the Open University - it might not be a bad idea at all to investigate one of their course. Firstly it would give you student status and the associated benefits, but also it might help you develop your confidence, particularly if you've been out of academia for a while. Plus a module or two on your CV surely wouldn't do any harm.
Good luck with your applications.
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