Advice re: Approaching a PhD Supervisor

posted
07-Jul-20, 22:07
Avatar for a_bone_to_pick
posted about 1 month ago
Hi guys, I'm a clinical doctor in training trying to arrange a PhD in order to progress in my field of practice.

Many people working in my field take up a PhD, typically informally organised within a department/team they know (as opposed to applying for an advertised position). I've approached a supervisor who works in the field I'm interested in, but I'm finding the whole process a bit overwhelming and I'm not sure if my expectations are off or if theirs are.

Essentially I don't have a huge amount of research experience. I did an undergraduate dissertation, I've been an author on one published paper, and that's it. I emailed this supervisor and we arranged a video conversation. She rattled off a few bits and pieces that need done in the department/nationally/internationally, but not really a project and not really a clear 'question' to be answered. She stressed that I need to have a question to answer for my PhD, but I really don't know what I'm meant to be doing there. I don't know enough to know what's unanswered, what's answerable in a PhD with my time/resources, and what's worth answering. She gave me some people to speak to within the university regarding applying for grants, but I still don't really understand what I'm meant to do. I was hoping she'd give me some guidance on what sort of things are worth doing, maybe a few new papers demonstrating the current limits of knowledge in the field and direction research is going (as well as pitfalls/groups just about to publish etc). I don't know loads about the latest research in field, but I'm interested in it and thought that was par for the course with a PhD.

Is it normal to feel this out of depth? Where should I go from here?
posted
08-Jul-20, 11:02
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 1 month ago
Hi!
It'd be totally fine to say to her what you've said here :
Quote From a_bone_to_pick:
I was hoping she'd give me some guidance on what sort of things are worth doing, maybe a few new papers demonstrating the current limits of knowledge in the field and direction research is going (as well as pitfalls/groups just about to publish etc). I don't know loads about the latest research in field, but I'm interested in it


So, some supervisors have a project idea that they want a student to do. Some students come up with their own. If you would prefer the former then it might be a good idea to ask around the department and find a supervisor like this. The one you've already spoken with could potentially be a cosupervisor. Or, if you are OK with the former, then it'll be a case of you coming up with an idea and discussing that with her. She should be able to give you some guidance on reading and developing your idea. But yeh, you need to establish what specific things you might be interested in doing, read up a little more on them, and see what things might be interesting and novel to address.

Re the grants part. That's a separate issue really. And I remember how confusing that was at the time. Basically yes if you do this, you need to check out what she's sent you and apply for funding. If you do the other thing I suggested above, where the supervisor has a project and is looking for a student, they often have already identified the grant or award, and they put you and the project forward for the funding (so it is supervisor led rather than student led - you still attend the interviews etc but you apply to the supervisor in the first instance and then you go from there together). Not sure if I've explained this well but hope it helps.
posted
10-Jul-20, 16:52
edited about 14 seconds later
Avatar for a_bone_to_pick
posted about 1 month ago
thanks so much for your reply. It's good to know what I'm asking is not wholly unreasonable. Some people just seem so *sure* about what they're doing. I found a recent review article on my topic of choice, so I might flick through that then email my supervisor back with my opinion and direction i want to take things

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