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Applying for RA positions instead of role requiring PhD...
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There is someone (different department) at my uni who keeps bouncing between RA roles and her self-funded Ph.D. The department keeps getting grants for medium length research projects but can't justify a post-doc or someone full time. So she usually does 6-12 months of RA work to fund her research for 2-6 months full-time before the next RA role comes along. She seems to enjoy it and gets her name on soooo many papers.

So, I would say there is no stigma of doing RA work as long as you are good enough to show potential to do actual research.

Supervision of one master student gone bad
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I can feel your pain, I got landed with a summer student with a weeks notice and told "to use him". Like no guidance or forewarning and lots of expectation. Considering all my equipment was broken this summer he has had a fun few months reading. Though he at least he doesn't have to write a thesis.

It is unfair for them to expect you supervise a master's student by yourself. It can be hard to be critical of work if you have followed the progression through all the drafts, you became emotionally attached. Take it as experience and next time you can try to think more objectively about it. It is your first time "supervising" someone and you are only human. It will get easier as you do it more like everything in life.

It also sounds like you are perfect to be a PhD supervisor now. You are good at telling students their thesis is awesome, for them to fail a viva because of your bad advice. Literally half the supervisors on this forum are like that, so you are comparing yourself to too high of a standard.

Poster Software
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Hi Guys,

Usually, I use powerpoint to make my posters because it was easy. But recently a friend recommended Inkscape (it is a knock-off version of illustrator) because you could make betterlooking posters. His posters look amazing but the Inkscape is very different

So I was just wondering what software do you use to make posters? Or are we all boring powerpoint users?

What a phD thesis is
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I think it depends the subject about what constitutes a thesis

You say you want to do a detailed then general analysis. Does that mean you have a detailed discussion of your results, then talk about how it fits in the field (lit review) and possible future work? I have never seen a future work section in a thesis but the rest can definitely be included if you structure it right, but your supervisor will know more.

My take on a PhD thesis is that is like a craftsman's masterpiece that he does to end his apprenticeship. Where you show that you can look at the field, find an unanswered question, break it down into simpler questions, do several chapters of research, then try and conclude it by saying that you have answered the question. In the end, it should be a body of work that shows off all the skills you have developed to become an independent researcher.

PS: I am still in my first year and haven't started my thesis, so I am probs not the best

Is it okay to expect advisor(s) to offer a word of condolence?
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Hi karmah,

Again, sorry to hear about your loss. The last few months must have been hard. Though academics can be socially useless and sometimes don't know what to say. By not saying anything they might be trying to avoid there own social awkwardness. Are they saying negative? Like making comments about being away? If they are just ignoring it and trying to give you some space/privacy.

However, they should at least ask how you are doing.

Good enough grades for funded PhD
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Agree with chantedsnicker that is possible with a 2:1 but it depends on the competition. Your average looks good with only 2 modules bringing you down which isn't too bad.

It also depends on the field you are going into, if the PhD is close to one of your high scoring modules or your thesis, you still have an excellent chance. Apart from grades (which are important) they want to see a passion for your field and possibly relevant skills/experience. If you can show them you have a good chance.

co-authoring yes or no
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Go for it!

Some want to collaborate with you, that is a good sign that people think you are good enough to publish. The more you publish, the easier it will be. Don't hesitate because you think you will fail or because you want to have the perfect paper on your own work, you would just be delaying the inevitable.

Though is this a stand-alone more ap or is he/she is trying to piggyback off your work? If it is the latter I understand your hesitation and giving away authorship when you are close to doing it solo, is hard.

Last chance to complete my Master's dissertation (Political science)
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hi cowsandbeef,

It is very doable and don't give up hope. Chantedsnicker has some very good advice. To get over anxiety, I w focus on achieving a good grade, on what I can achieve and not the possibility of failure. You get no-where if you just procrastinate.

Sometimes, what I do when I am having trouble getting started is that I just write in plain non-scientific English. I force myself to keep writing a simple flowing argument with minimal proofreading (I only fix spelling mistakes) until I have finished. I usually get 1000-2000 words of what is pure utter garbage but when I come back to it the next day I have something. It will be useless but you can look at and see what you need you need to do to fix. As you will have a basic argument with a semi-flowing structure and you can then edit it until it is better. It isn't efficient but it can sometimes overcome writer's block.

Goodluck! You can do it!

Applying Phd with mediocre Masters with Dissertation + conference paper
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Quote From pm133:

People can get PhD positions with a 2:1 and I agree you need to show some other skills or abilities but most crucially you need to hope someone with a 1st doesn't also apply for that post. If that happens, your application is as good as dead unless you are physically related to the supervisor or can persuade them to take a bribe. I think it is very important that people with lower grades understand that.

I would agree that if everything was equal bar grades the person with a first wins. And that you need to really need to show something

The point of a PhD is to become capable of doing independent research and academic grades are not the ultimatum holy grade for assessing capability to become a good researcher. You can have good grades because you work very hard, know the very well course well but do not have any initiative or scientific curiosity. You can also get good grades while having no concept of experimental design which is crucial is some science/engineering PhDs. You can get good grades but have zero passion or interest in the topic you are applying for. There are a lot of other variables that affect PhD success and assuming that grades are absolute is reckless. As the interviewers should be looking for well-rounded applicants.

I personally know two other people who did PhDs with 2:1s. Both of those people did well on their final year dissertation to the extent that they continued working in those areas. One with the same supervisor at the uni while the other somehow got a paper and got a Ph.D. off that. Despite them being pretty poor undergrads with woeful grades they got through by showing aptitude in their chosen fields. Though chemical engineering in the UK may have a different standard than other courses.

The OP has a conference paper and still got a 2:1 despite working full time. I would say he has a small chance and should at least try.

Advertised PhD projects
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Depends on the funding method.

In the UK a lot of supervisors write a project title that fits their research and they get funding organized themselves for the project before advertising it. Then they are looking for a student to do that project where they are looking more at the student (Though I did this and was still asked to write a mini-proposal as part of the application). You have a bit less academic freedom but it means the money is there and usually, you have a good research question with some sort of plan.

Or you can write your own proposal and apply for funding yourself. But I don't know much about that method except it can be competitive.

Applying Phd with mediocre Masters with Dissertation + conference paper
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I really followed the general advice from the internet for writing the proposal and interview.

Though I did my research and learned everything I could about the topic. I tried to understand every intricacy of the area and knew the key authors/papers. Plus I expressed my honest opinions about what I thought about all their work (in hindsight a lot of what I said was wrong) and how I could develop on their work.

In the interview, I also explained my rough plan (with gantt chart) for what I wanted to do and I have now found that my plan matched the plan proposed in the grant application. It was scary how similar the grant application was with my application proposal, considering they only advertised the title with no helpful blurb. So I knew the sub-topic quite well at the interview stage as it genuinely interested me and had similar expectations to the supervisor. Based on that the best way might be to immerse yourself in the topic when applying because you are going to have to do it anyway if you get it.

Though as pm133 did point out I am probably not the best person to give advice.

Applying Phd with mediocre Masters with Dissertation + conference paper
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pm133, I am not saying that everyone who gets good grades is just regurgitating information and I know that a lot of people of who got good grades who did work really hard and totally deserved it. I apologise that I overgeneralized and not trying to demean people who got superb grades.

But there are people who just regurgitate information and had exam technique that inflated their grades despite them being oblivious. Grades are a good indication of how you will succeed in a PhD but you can succeed in undergrad with a completely different skill set to the one required to do well as a postgraduate. The potential supervisor should know that and is looking for the right skills/attitude as well as grades.

I didn't do much regurgitation as I was that guy that barely turned up after the first year, drank like a fish and literally rocked up to exams having barely done any work. Though I finally found a topic in my final year that actually interested me, worked my ass off and managed to impress the interviewers enough to give me a chance (and there were other applicants). I am not saying it is easy to get a PhD with a 2:1 but that is possible if you show the interviewers something else.

Applying Phd with mediocre Masters with Dissertation + conference paper
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I don't know much about US application system and I am from the UK.

I didn't get a great 2:1 and only got an okay dissertation mark (again 2:1) with no conference paper (congrats on that) and I still got a fully funded PhD. From what I have been told, is that I nailed my application essay and my interview. So it is possible.

There are academic snobs who look down on all 2:1 students but if you get to an interview make it clear that you had a full time job which prevented you fully focusing on your degree. They will most likely take that into consideration but you will need to show them something else to compensate. In most courses, you get a good grade by just regurgitating information and good exam techniques and potential supervisors know that. What they are looking for is usually someone with good basic knowledge, hard working and have a clear logical thinking (I am oversimplifying this I know). So you need to show that in your application if you want to succeed.

So yes you can get a fully funded PhD.

Unable to get into a decent PhD program - 4 years now
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Applying for a PhD can be tough and rejection is always hard. If you know want to do a PhD keep trying but there comes a point where the alternative is better and only you can decide when that is.

I don't know why you are being rejected (it could be anything) but have you asked after rejections for feedback? Did they give you anything precise? Are your references good? Have you tried collaborating with researchers anyway to get their attention/publications/reference? It sounds like you working hard to try and get your foot through the door but it might be something simple that is tripping you up. I would look at the basics again.

Though my honest first opinion is that IT is incredibly ageist. They are always after the next young superstar which means even in your late 20s you are seen as old. It might be an idea to try a few applications that have no years in it and none of your post-uni experience (keep the conference papers they are very good) so that they might think you have just graduated.


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If you cant think of ideas for your project you aren't well read in enough in the field you want to spend several years working in. Generally, when you read papers in your field you will find holes or areas that need further attention, thus giving you ideas. It is one of the reasons the US has coursework, it forces you to get an understanding of the field so that you can accurately choose a project.

Let's assume that you are well read and continue reading about your chosen fields but having trouble structuring an idea big enough for a PhD. So I am going to give an example of how to maybe come up with an idea where the field is sustainable agriculture and the methods have to involve fractal maths.

Start with a problem like sustainable agriculture, where we need to make more food with less damage to the environment. Take a point in the previous statement and elaborate, eg, how do we measure damage to the environment? We do further research into our intermediate question, eg, how we damage the environment? And we find and read about one small topic like soil erosion, which we find out is hard to measure on small scale but we can do it on a large scale. We then think how can we improve measurement techniques. Then after more reading, we come up with a hypothesis can, can you measure the bulk properties of soil and use that to find the microscopic properties of soil using fractal equations? We then do more reading to find out is it possible and if anyone else has done it, if you can answer yes and no respectively, you have a possible PhD idea.

I hope that method is clear on how to possibly form an idea. Good ideas dont appear out of nowhere and take a lot of effort to form. ie READ MORE!

PS: your two topics are very far apart and so my honest opinion is it will take a lot of work to make a connection