When did you get the idea?


hi all!

I started a PhD about 4 weeks ago. Before I started, I was told by current PhD students in my school that the first year is generally spent reading up on your topic area to get familiar with the area and to find some interesting aspect of current work that I wanted to actually 'further' through my research.

Upon starting I knew I wanted to do my research in a particular area, so at the moment I am reading broadly (and in some cases deeply) around the topic and briefly documenting areas which I find interesting and where there is some possible scope for further work.

I was curious as to how long it took for you guys (from starting the PhD) to exactly know what you were going to base your thesis/research on? Is it usually the case that people start a PhD knowing very little about exactly what they want to do? or did you guys all know exactly what you wanted to do, and are effectively just going through the motions of getting it done formally?

Is it still early days for me to be worrying that I haven't yet had that eureka moment?


rockstar i havent got a eureka moment yet. i worried a lot about not knowing my focus. my ideas and proposal is so broad and when i went for my interview, that was pointed out to me. i came back so upset thinking that i wouldnt get an offer and then i was offered a place :-) im finding now from browsing on this site and reading the posts, that seems to be the norm(?) i start in january and ive been worring when il get my eureka moment. Mmm....!


God! that was bad grammar (smack my hand). had someone at the door and clicked send without checking. what i meant to say was my proposal was so broad and my ideas were everywhere. im yet to focus the proposal and research x


I already had the idea before I started - it developed during RA work that I did the year before (not my Masters which was totally different) so I had a very clear idea when I started, plus I had to specify it on my PhD application form. I wouldn't be worried if I was you yet though. You have plenty of time to refine your idea. I just hit the ground running!


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I knew broadly what I was doing when I started, as it developed from my MA, but I looked at my original PhD proposal recently and it looked like a little fragment of what the whole thing has become since then. I spent my first year doing what you're doing, reading and researching very broadly around the area, which was great as I discovered totally new but related areas that have become very important to the development of the whole thing. If I'd had a rigid idea of what I thought I was researching then it wouldn't have developed like that, so I'm glad I was open to new ideas - other students don't seem to be, for whatever reason. I'm not sure whether it was a eureka moment, but it wasn't until I was about halfway through it (I'm part-time) that the whole thing fell into place, with my methodology, my ideas and my material gelling in a rather satisfying way. And it has been coming together much more during the whole writing up period too, as it should obviously! Odd bits and pieces I'd found over the years that I found really interesting but didn't seem to fit into the thesis and was saving for possible post-doc projects have all been fitting into place in unexpected ways, so it's been quite good really.

So I wouldn't worry about a eureka moment, just do what you're already doing as it sounds fine - it's such a long process anyway, and you're bound to have exciting discoveries along the way at some point!


imo way way way too early to be worrying! And I see it as more than a slow burn rather than a Eureka moment. Sometimes I know, sometimes I don't. it changes all the time, as you learn new stuff, refine your thinking etc. But it of course depends on the person. So long as you get there is the end. But imo 4 weeks in I knew nothing (although I probably thought I knew more)


Rockstar - try not to panic.

I applied for a named project but even now, in my second year, I'm just refining the research questions again! And no doubt before I hand in I will refine them again as it's an iterative project.



thanks guys, appreciate everyones reply.

feel reassured now :-)


thats definitely reassured me too :-)


You may never get a Eureka moment. I would best describe the process as having an idea and not totally understanding it... then something sinks in slowly and so you make some changes... then something else sinks in... so you make some more changes... lots of small moments that are not Eureka's but gradual understanding's that require patience and confidence to see you through. I was advised to have a proposal for my transfer and reminded that this is not totally set in stone until it comes to writing up...

In my opinion worrying will only cause more problems - I found it difficult to think when worried, if I get anxious I quit and leave it be. Go with the flow. PhD's are tedious at the best of times!