Category Archives: Supervisor

Am I doing the right thing? Choosing my research question

I am one month into my PhD and as a perfectionist I need to remind myself that doing a PhD is a learning process. I often feel like I should know how to do research already, isn’t that why they accepted me into the program? I had to prove that I was capable of doing research to get in …

I had my first meeting with my supervisors recently and discovered that my research goals were too broad. Now I know that this is common to most PhD students, we get into research because we are passionate about a topic and want to change/understand a topic. My first feeling was that of disappointment, I thought I was on the right track, I thought that I was going to impress my supervisors with my plan and show them how amazing I was… I have to say that my supervisors were not negative about what I had done, and most of the meeting was spent discussing what options I had for methodologies and how to whittle down my research topic and I came away with a plan of how to proceed. So my disappointment was mostly that I had had this belief that my research was going to be the answer to what I believe is an issue that needs to be changed (see Does my PhD have to change the world? on the Thesis Whisperer), and post-meeting I realised that I was only going to be able to research one age group, in one sport, in one location, not for all sports around Australia.

The first thing I did was debrief with a friend who has their PhD, so they know what the process is about. This friend told me that I need to relax and remember that if I’ve gone down the wrong path that it is not wasted time, but that I have learned something; they said that if people “did” research the right way every time that there would be nothing left to research – cancer would already be cured, because the researchers would have chosen the “right” research from the first time.

So after debriefing with my friend, which made me feel better, the next thing I did was head to the library and seek out books on these new methodologies that I was not as knowledgeable about. I plan to read up on methodologies and try talking about my research with as many people as I can to see what I’m most passionate about, what I can achieve in the PhD time, and what is interesting to other people.

I know it is common for new PhD students to struggle to find the right research topic and that my issue is not new, but being the person that I am, I wonder how to try make sure that I am going in the right direction.

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Research to start research – The confusion of finding a PhD Supervisor

slider-search-for-a-supervisorRecently I have started getting organised to start my PhD in 2014. I have decided that there are a few things that require my attention in order to start off positively.

The supervisor-student relationship is very important to the success of a PhD, so firstly, I need to find supervisors who I ‘click’ with; supervisors who will be around to support me when I need it, who challenge me to keep going when I feel like an impostor, who are knowledgeable in my field, and who will direct (teach) me. Added to this, I want to attend a university that is supportive of PhD students, where I have the opportunity to lecture and tutor; where I can advance my experience in teaching, the other part of being an academic. Finally, I am debating how important the location is. I want to be around friends, and that begins limiting the locations that I am willing to move, as I have only lived in three states of Australia.

My research of potential supervisors has begun with a check through of the people I referenced in my Honours thesis. There are not that many in Australia. I then looked further and researched on the internet which Australian universities offer Sport Management degrees and therefore may have academics who research and teach in my field.

I am talking to academics, in particular my Honours supervisors, who can recommend particular people who they have met at conferences. This gives me some direct feedback on personalities, which relates directly to how I might interact with them. My Honours supervisors know me and can tell me what potential supervisors might be like as supervisors.

The next step is actually contacting potential supervisors. I have been reading blogs and information online about what to do and what not to do. This is quite a scary step for me, as I am extremely concerned about my choice. I am choosing people who I will be working with for the next three years. I am stressed about making the right decision and making the right impression.

I would love advice from people about what to look for, what their experiences have been like and, from current academics, what you are looking for – what would impress you.

In the meantime, I’ll keep doing my research!

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Filed under PhD, Research, Studying, Supervisor, University