Robert MacIntosh, head of the School of Social Sciences at Heriot-Watt University and Kevin O'Gorman, professor of management and business history and director of internationalisation share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD below.
|Choosing the right doctoral programme means asking a lot of questions before you embark on your studies|
Take your time
A doctorate is for life not just for Christmas, so avoid making rash commitments in the heat of the moment.
Don’t rush into it, but if you've been thinking about it for some time there is probably more to it than just the desire to be called doctor.
The idea of doing a PhD might have sneaked up on you or it might have been loitering with intent for a while.
One way or another you need to figure out how to move from "thinking about it" to "doing something about it". It’s not that difficult, but it not necessarily obvious because you'll need to understand how academics think.
Choose your quest
Choose a topic that genuinely fascinates you. This will sustain you in the bleak mid-winter of your doctoral quest.
Your doctorate has to be like a quest. It should be about something that you really, really want to figure out. That might seem straightforward but most people without a doctorate struggle to articulate their quest in a way that would get them a doctorate. Typically, applicants paint their quests with far too broad a brush. Something like :"I want to do a doctorate in strategy" or "I want to study social inclusion" can be simultaneously true yet woefully inadequate as a starting point for a doctoral proposal.
Doctorates are awarded on the basis of contributing something new to our existing knowledge base. Given that we have been researching and producing doctorates in management for decades and in the social sciences more generally for a lot longer, such novelty usually comes in modestly-sized packages. You’ll have to do some research in order to figure out what to research.
Try before you buy
Take multiple doctoral topics out for a first date then choose wisely. It’s a lifetime commitment.
Even if you don’t have access to a university’s library database, the wonders of GoogleScholar should allow you to dip into the literature and browse published research on the topic of your quest. Do this for four or five variants of your potential topic. Make sure to check that the academic version of your noble quest still intrigues you and that heavy research articles on the topic don’t bore you to tears.
Mind the gap
Having chosen a broad area, identify a specific gap that is not yet fully explored in the literature.
To pass your doctorate you will need to contribute new knowledge about your chosen topic. That means you need to be able to establish what is usually referred to as "a gap in the literature" -. something that has not yet been researched. You need to be able to articulate what previous studies have shown and use this as the means of pointing toward things that are not yet known. Helpfully, academic papers often conclude with a call for further research on something or other. This might be a useful starting point.
However, you shouldn't rely on others to solve your problem. Whenever you read anything - an article, a book, a chapter or a thesis - write out your own summary of what they've told you and what you still don't know.
Finding Your PhD: How to Choose the Right Doctorate Degree by
Things to consider when choosing the appropriate doctorate degree for yourself and ensure that your time and efforts are well invested. ...
#GradSchool101 - Choosing the Right Program
Source: Times Higher Education, UNIVERSITY HERALD and Idealist Channel (YouTube)