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Do I need a research proposal already when contacting potential supervisor for phd?

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Why bother with a post grad? Are they even worth it? Have your say! 26-10-2016
    • Thread Starter

    I've been reading a lot of advice on contacting a potential phd supervisor. I've pretty much gathered so far that I should keep the first email short, showing interest in their research. Now the question I have is this: will they ask me for my research plan?
    At the moment all I really know is that I want to do a particle physics phd, possibly somewhere more along the lines of detector design. But apart from that I'm very open to doing my research on any topic.
    I've seen some people say you should mention your desired topic of research in your first email. I've seen someone else say that they like it when a student has no research topic in mind but instead asks the professor if they might have any projects for which they are seeking graduate students.
    I don't want to be in the position where I contact a supervisor, and they write back asking for my proposal because I don't have one!
    Any advice?
    • Thread Starter

    I've just thought of another question. Would they ask for a CV? If yes how would I write one? I've just finished my 3rd year of my MSci Physics w/ Particle Physics and Cosmology and will be starting my 4th year (the masters year) in october. But because of this I have nothing to write on my CV other than the course I'm doing now. I've had no internships, and no research experience, and hence nothing published. I don't even know what my final year project will be yet. We had to choose 5 from a given list and we won't find out which one we got until the start of term.
    Unfortunately I can't wait till then to contact some potential supervisors, as I'm planning on applying to some Japanese universities most of which have application deadlines in Nov/Dec.

    Making first contact with a potential supervisor before applying is key. Keep it short, introduce yourself, a bit about your background, your interest in their area of work and why you want to do a PhD. They may ask you for your ideas or may tell you they have projects already so go from there. Be prepared to be flexible with ideas and writing a proposal together because they are the experts and know what is PhD material and what isn't. Supervisors may not take kindly to someone forcing ideas on them or trying to steer a proposal away from the supervisors core interests but this is your PhD so you have to find a balance. It's a good idea to have a CV no matter what's on it. Your careers service and personal adviser/tutors should be able to help with this.

    It may be different in sciences but for my law PhD applications I pre-prepared a full research proposal that was about 2000 words and then identified potential supervisors whose research it fell under. I then emailed them with the proposal attached saying they may be interest in it blah blah. The few who asked me to consider other angles to fit what they do I just said no thanks and moved on. I was lucky and found a couple of people very interested in the project in its current form and helped me iron out the methodology and objectives rather than change the focus.

    CV wise I needed a CV for the formal application to the uni but supervisors weren't massively interested in seeing it beforehand. One did and when I met with her she had it in front of her. It was good actually because she is good friends with the head of school at one of my previous universities so the CV helped make that connection.

    Then when you apply for the actual PhD programme there is usually a box that says proposed supervisor and a box to tick if you've spoken to them prior to the application.
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