Hi Nige, when you say struggling to put together a proposal, do you have a topic in mind generally? What is your area of interest and what aspects of this area do you feel strongly about? You could spend some time in reading about this topic in order to see where there may be 'gaps' or thinly researched areas of interest that warrant further exploration. This might assist with the general topic or area. Usually on a proposal, you need to come up with between 1-3 general questions to address about your area and then the PhD becomes a process of exploring and refining these, through a proposed pattern of research or data collecting project.
EG: General topic in area of interest= How do collaborative learning teams help to inform teacher practice in the visual arts?
Specific areas to narrow down=visual arts in schools=visual arts in secondary schools=visual arts in stage 6 visual arts studies.
Groups of teachers=all teachers?....Senior school certificate teachers...
What do I mean by collaborative learning teams?----voluntary teams, school faculty teams??
How am I going to collect data? Survey, interviews, focus groups, reports?
What literature do I need to start reading around this? (Looking for key players in the area-who are they? What are they saying)?
What methodology do I think I will use-statistical data? Reports and policies? Qualitative data-interviews and observations??
Once you have some idea around these areas (note it is all still pretty sketchy and much of it is just questioning and rough ideas), you have an idea about what to read and you can begin to do some preliminary reading around the area and come up with a general proposal.
This is just one method or example. There would be many others and other ways as well. If you can, go to your nearest university library and find some literature on how to write a PhD. These books will have much material on formulating proposals that you can use to apply to different institutions. The institutions will often allocate a supervisor based on your proposal and area of interest. Good luck with it all.
Thanks for the replies. I am an ex-lawyer and interested in the business model of professional service firms.
I have put together a draft proposal and I have found a business school lecturer who is kindly trying to help me get the proposal correct.
I sent hom the draft - but he says that it is presneted more in consultancy mode and that I need to think 'in PhD mode'. Not sure what that means.
He has also said that he would want he would 'like to see is a research question that engages more directly with the literature and some existing body of theory'.
I am somewhat lost and confused!
It would help if I could find someone who has prepared a proposal or indeed who has a PhD which is in the area I am looking to research. I have searched the web but not found anyone as yet!
I certainly wouldn't see your age as any kind of factor to worry about. Lots of people in my Uni do PhD's in 40's and 50's and do very well.
Your work experience likely means you have great time management/productivity skills and also a wealth of knowledge that will be invaluable to you.
However, most I know who were coming back to education after a long break, did a masters first. One of these people was in 50's and also changing fields entirely from her previous employment. So obviously she had to do a masters. She did very well, completed on time and got some publications. Another older student I knew, also did very well, again finishing on time and getting publications. her situation was different in that she came back to education as a mature student and did both undergrad and PhD in her late 40's. I'm not sure if she did a masters but she went straight from undergrad to PhD.
I am in my 30's and did both undergrad and PhD in 30's. I didn't do a masters and found I was lacking in research skills at the start. I was very good on theory, just lacked some essential research training. I caught up on it - but it took time and I often regretted not doing research orientated masters first.
A good masters will get you back in study mode, provide you invaluable research skills and even can assist with making contacts and coming up with feasible research plans. You could make you masters research project as a start to your PhD project.
You will probably also be a lot more likely to get funding for your PhD if you have a masters with research project and decent GPA from it.
I'm not saying its essential to do the masters, but I feel my PhD would have been shorter if I had done a masters. So I didn't actually gain any time from not doing one. that was just my experience,.
Many thanks for the replies. I have a Masters which is in Business Administration and completed in 1994.
I have submitted some applications for research and will see what comes back - likely all rejections as I just can't get to grips with the difference between consultancy and research!!
Thanks again everyone.
Whilst I have three Drs/Profs at different UK universities saying that my proposal is consultancy based and not PhD material, I now have an interview with another University next week - and I sent that University the exact same proposal.
Work that one out!!
Good luck bignige, I hope you get it. I was reading this post as I am in the same position, how could I contribute to PHD when no research exists in the area I want. BTW read up on the sci-hub hub, it made me more frustrated to try and find an area in research to fit my solution.
That is interesting Treeoflife and somewhat along my train of thought - moreover that the Uni that I am being interviewed by want the money! I am being interviewed by a Law Professor whose experience is (as one would expect, all around The Law - yet my 'proposal' is all about the practice of law - ie: use of technology in the legal profession - which is more appropriate for a business school - organisational management, business models etc.
So, I find it strange that I am being interviewed by someone who writes on criminology etc!
Reading between the lines, the email invitation to interview seems to be a formality and that I will be offered a place.
So, the big question is - if I am only being accepted to make up numbers or for financial reasons, and if my proposal is not a suitable PhD proposal (and more akin to a consultancy document as 2/3 academics have suggested) - would I be wise to start the PhD (which will take years in part-time mode)?
Could it be the case that the supervisor will help me mould and evolve the consultancy document to become a valid PhD proposal?
I am confused now and IF I am offered a place I really don't know what to do!!
Many many PhD students are only accepted because they come with funding. Some of these are good students and some are truly awful with no background in their PhD topic at all.
Once someone accepts you as a student, it's in their interest to help you pass your PhD because the department has pass rates it needs to meet in order to secure future funding. Normally, supervisors know how to improve your proposal without too much thought required and will help you to do this. There's always the odd cases of those that don't though, which always makes it very difficult for the student obviously, because they are left to work it out on their own, but I think this is the minority.
I would take it if you are offered it - work to the assumption that they want to develop it with you.
Thanks again Treeoflife. I will post the outcome of the interview on here - it is on Monday 16/10.
I spoke today with a Prof and he gave me some really useful guidance.
I have been struggling to access (without paying!) papers etc - but he pointed me to SSRN which seems to allow downloads of full papers without the requirement to register, or pay.
How do other people on here access papers etc?
Is there anywhere one can access PhD proposals or completed theses?
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