Applying for a PhD @ Edinburgh – Research Proposals and Supervisors – Frequently Asked Questions

EDINBURGH UNIVERSITYIn November the IAD hosted on-campus and online panel discussions about applying for a PhD. This gave Taught Masters students the opportunity to ask staff questions about the PhD application process at the University of Edinburgh.

Representatives from Admissions, EUSA, International Office and the Scholarship Office were there to answer questions and give advice to students.

This blog will cover some of the questions raised during these panel sessions

1. Tips on writing a proposal?

When writing your PhD proposal, start working on your draft as early as possible. Research the topic you want to study, this will help you to plan out your ideas as you begin writing the proposal. Ask others to look at your proposal, get their opinion and ask your colleagues for feedback. They are likely to spot gaps, ask questions which potential supervisors may also raise. Be as precise and clear as you can in writing your proposal. The clearer your proposal can be, the easier it will be for a potential supervisor to understand what your want to research and why.

2. How do you choose a supervisor?

When applying for a PhD, you need to first find a research topic of potential interest and then look at choosing a potential supervisor to guide you through the next three years – this is crucial. Your supervisor will be your advisor on both a personal and professional level.  Your supervisor will be there for you to discuss any issues regarding your research and direct you in other areas that may be of benefit to you. Moreover, by the end of the PhD, you will become an expert in your area of research.When choosing a supervisor consider the following points to help you decide:

  • Look at the publications they have written.
  • Talk to other students in the department; try to get a feel for the department/research group or lab you would potentially be working in for the next three years.
  • If you have the opportunity, try to arrange a short meeting with the potential supervisor to discuss your interests and research proposal.  If this cannot be done face-to-face, try to arrange a telephone conversation or email chat.
  • Keep in mind when you are thinking about doing a PhD to find out what is expected of you, why you want to do this PhD? By talking to other PhD students, this will also help you answer questions such as are you ready to do your PhD right now or whether you would prefer to take a gap year first.

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