PhD’s are about compromise (on so many levels)

PhD’s are obviously on the brain today, as here’s another post on them.

Even before you start, most students have to learn compromise.

That question that you have your heart set on researching as the topic of your PhD?

Fraid to say, unlikely to happen. Not if you want funding.

You might really want to do a PhD on a certain question, but maybe you are geographically restricted. There’s one black mark against your heart’s desire straight away. Only if you are very lucky will you find someone willing to supervise it at the place you want to go to.

Is there ANYONE in the country who could supervise it? That specific question? Another black mark.

You are probably going to have to compromise. But there is a good reason. One of the main reasons that students fail viva’s is because their supervisor wasn’t an expert on your topic. This means that there may be fatal flaws in your methodology that neither of you knew about. There may be a related area that neither of you know about.

You HAVE to compromise to get the expertise. So, when you finally find someone who will supervise, at a convenient university, there needs to be some tooing and froing over what your potential supervisor feels comfortable supervising. Supervisors regularly use PhD students to study something related to their main topic of expertise, so they will be slightly out of their comfort zone, but not by much. So, don’t have your heart set on a specific person or university as it could lead to disaster.

Of course, even if all these things pan out, can you get funding? In this climate, you’ll be lucky. Research Councils want impact, not theory, and most University studentships have gone the same way. It is the death knell to theoretical research.

There are some people who will just take any PhD available so long as it has funding. This is deeply unfair. If you aren’t passionate about it, why study it for 3-4 years? You’ll get bored and drop out. There maybe someone who would have loved to study that topic and their sheer passion for the subject would have carried them through the inevitably black periods.

So, compromise. You learn it early.


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