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    I'm considering a PhD and wondered if anyone knows what the benefits are of going down the 'structured' route rather than the traditional route?

    The one I'm looking at is four years long, sort of a 2+2 scenario where the first two years are taught, and the final two are spent on the thesis. Work on the thesis takes place over the whole four years, but there are six taught modules per year for the first two years - all in methods type subjects.

    The course is called PhD Social Science. My field is politics and it's listed as one of the research areas that would suit this PhD. I've just finished a taught MA so the extra year with this PhD isn't floating my boat.

    Assuming a regular PhD takes three years (best case scenario ), it's an extra year of time and fees to go down the structured route. I can't find anywhere what the purpose of the difference is - is one aimed more at future researchers rather than future teachers etc?

    I've emailed the course director with more general queries about funding but he hasn't responded :rolleyes: I wouldn't hold out much hope of him responding if I asked why someone would pick the structured programme...

    Thanks for any info.
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    (Original post by Tarts_n_Vicars)
    I'm considering a PhD and wondered if anyone knows what the benefits are of going down the 'structured' route rather than the traditional route?

    The one I'm looking at is four years long, sort of a 2+2 scenario where the first two years are taught, and the final two are spent on the thesis. Work on the thesis takes place over the whole four years, but there are six taught modules per year for the first two years - all in methods type subjects.

    The course is called PhD Social Science. My field is politics and it's listed as one of the research areas that would suit this PhD. I've just finished a taught MA so the extra year with this PhD isn't floating my boat.

    Assuming a regular PhD takes three years (best case scenario ), it's an extra year of time and fees to go down the structured route. I can't find anywhere what the purpose of the difference is - is one aimed more at future researchers rather than future teachers etc?

    I've emailed the course director with more general queries about funding but he hasn't responded :rolleyes: I wouldn't hold out much hope of him responding if I asked why someone would pick the structured programme...

    Thanks for any info.
    I think they are basically meant to allow people to apply to ESRC (1+3) funding. I've applied to a few programmes in this case (also in politics)
    I guess the good thing is you get that extra year of training, and you can train in areas specifically required for your research.

    BTW, you should check if you are eligible for ESCR 1+3 funding (for these programmes) if you already have an MA!
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    Thanks for the reply.

    The course I'm looking at is in Ireland which makes a difference with the funding I think. The university I'm looking into feels increasingly unhelpful (I almost did my MA there but the lack of interest/knowledge at the open day made me cross it right off my list!). They're having an open day this week so I'm going to visit, but I have a feeling it will be as bad as the one I went to a couple of years ago

    The reason I was kind of attracted to the structured programme is that there's more opportunity (it would seem anyway) to research around your subject as well as in it. I don't know if that's true of a regular PhD though, and no-one will help me out. Now that I've graduated from my masters my university doesn't want to know but at least my undergrad supervisor is trying to help me out with my questions by email

    I have all these questions that would sound silly to any potential supervisor I'm sure!
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    I know there is this sort of programme in England, but it is called an integrated PhD (IPhD); I am applying for a IPhD in English language and linguistics at Newcastle University, who suggest that the structure provides 'full and rounded training at graduate level for postgraduates seeking the PhD qualification, especially for those wishing to teach English language and/or linguistics at university level'. It does not take any longer doing a IPhD compared to a traditional masters and PhD route in humanities so there is no difference; personally, I see a lot of benefits doing this rather than a normal PhD.
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    As a social science student, I have to ask, what on earth makes it necessary for a taught course on research methodology to take two years rather than one? :eyeball: I'm even already highly suspicious of masters programmes devoted solely to research methodology because I had a paper on this last year and really cannot see how they can problematise it that much. Sounds like sheer torture to be honest. Also why would you do two years of the rubbish thing and then take a year away from the time you have to focus purely on your own research? I suppose they're just stretching a one year taught course over two years so that you have time to do your PhD research on the side... These are just my initial reactions. I have to say the idea doesn't appeal to me that much, but then I am somebody who hates research methodology and is only prioritising taking modules in it because of wanting to pursue a research career, lol. :p:
    (Original post by Tarts_n_Vicars)
    The reason I was kind of attracted to the structured programme is that there's more opportunity (it would seem anyway) to research around your subject as well as in it. I don't know if that's true of a regular PhD though, and no-one will help me out.
    Um I don't exactly know what you mean by this? How do you envision this greater opportunity panning out? To start with, how do you think of PhDs? From talking to many postgrads I get the impression that while a supervisor can certainly place constraints on what direction you take, if your funding depends on them and they're a particularly strong character and you're not, for instance, then things could be limited. However, for the most part I think that you have unlimited opportunity to research 'around' your subject. Particularly if you're on the Politics or Sociology side rather than Psychology and scientific research which is different. Doing a PhD on a particular issue basically entails putting all the time in to read everything that has been done in that field (or within the confines you make for yourself if the field is too big) but also everything you feel is relevant, potentially relevant or useful to that field. So if you're interested in one particular empirical issue and find you hate the theoretical approach that almost everyone has applied to it, then that would be a perfect chance to do some theoretical research to target it in a unique way. There really are no constraints

    Research methodology, on the other hand, is boring as hell and fairly constraining. If the taught courses are all based on methodology then I don't think you're going to be fluttering around reading that many different things.
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    Thanks for the replies

    Craghyrax - I meant with the Methods classes that they're usually taught using a broad subject base to illustrate the theories. So, I'd be exposed to different areas rather than sitting with my supervisor for 3 years bashing out my PhD masterpiece.

    You're right though - two years of Methods?! Uggggh! A quarter of my MA modules were on Methods and it was tough getting out of bed in the morning! I guess I'm drawn to the course because I haven't firmed up my research idea yet (the PhD is only a maybe) and this course seems to allow you a bit of wiggle room with your subject. The blurb from their website says "The programme offers a training programme that equips graduates with theoretical, policy analysis and applied research skills to doctoral level commensurate with highest international standards. The programme provides generic social science research skills training in addition to specialist disciplinary training and research specialisation within a general research agenda that focuses on globalisation, the state, civil society and active citizenship".

    That said, trying to get any info from them is like getting blood from a stone so again, it's most definitely a maybe at this stage!
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    (Original post by Tarts_n_Vicars)
    So, I'd be exposed to different areas rather than sitting with my supervisor for 3 years bashing out my PhD masterpiece.
    You need at least 3 years to write a decent thesis. I suspect what they aren't telling you is the number of people who don't write up within the specified funding time limit (usually 1 year after the end of your funding).
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    (Original post by ChemistBoy)
    You need at least 3 years to write a decent thesis. I suspect what they aren't telling you is the number of people who don't write up within the specified funding time limit (usually 1 year after the end of your funding).
    The length of the thesis is smaller (40,000-60,000 words) to compensate for the shorter time you spend writing it, and you spend some of the second year preparing/thinking about it too. I do not doubt your suggestion, though.
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    (Original post by Tarts_n_Vicars)
    Thanks for the replies

    Craghyrax - I meant with the Methods classes that they're usually taught using a broad subject base to illustrate the theories. So, I'd be exposed to different areas rather than sitting with my supervisor for 3 years bashing out my PhD masterpiece.

    You're right though - two years of Methods?! Uggggh! A quarter of my MA modules were on Methods and it was tough getting out of bed in the morning! I guess I'm drawn to the course because I haven't firmed up my research idea yet (the PhD is only a maybe) and this course seems to allow you a bit of wiggle room with your subject. The blurb from their website says "The programme offers a training programme that equips graduates with theoretical, policy analysis and applied research skills to doctoral level commensurate with highest international standards. The programme provides generic social science research skills training in addition to specialist disciplinary training and research specialisation within a general research agenda that focuses on globalisation, the state, civil society and active citizenship".

    That said, trying to get any info from them is like getting blood from a stone so again, it's most definitely a maybe at this stage!
    To be honest with you, I think that most people aren't 100% about what they want to do either and many people alter their plans once they start with the guidance of their supervisor and department. Just pick an area to pursue and what exactly you do in that area can move. As I understand it, few people do exactly what they say in their research proposal in the end. All I'm saying is that it may not be as cast in stone as you're worrying about.

    There are lots of MScs around which offer that kind of breadth above, letting you do some subject modules and some methodology ones. The only difference is that most department course pages offer much clearer detail than that. Just because they don't say much doesn't mean it might not be just as closed and set as courses elsewhere.
    If you're not sure what you want to do on your PhD then I don't think the solution is to do another broad course in addition to the Masters you're already busy with. The problem isn't going to go away. You'll have to face the decision someday and probably on your own. I would recommend just narrowing down two or three possibilities and doing some extended reading for each of these in your spare time before you decide about PhD applications. Also heed Chemist Boy's points.

    Also if getting info from a University is like drawing blood from a stone, then maybe you should take that as a bad reflection of that University. You want a department that's going to be good at communicating the information you need to know.
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    The thesis is 'not to exceed' 80,000 words which seems on a par with what would be expected on a regular PhD. As I said I'm fairly sure there is no funding (beyond the Irish government funding that covers fees + grant of approx £3,000 per year), though the uni concerned has yet to grace me with a response on that particular subject...or anything else :rolleyes:

    Subject wise my interests have evolved over the course of my undergrad and postgrad - European history to European politics to International politics (thanks to my year abroad!) to post-conflict political systems but my masters dissertation was on none of the above because my supervisor 'left' and no-one else in the department could supervise my initial subject. At the moment my research interests would be a mish-mash of the above but formulating one question or topic out of all that proves difficult.

    I'm heading over to the open day tomorrow to see if they are as helpful as they were when I went a couple of years ago. I suspect they will be delightfully so. Thankfully I have a job so am not under pressure to go right into a PhD. Another year out might be exactly what I need!
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    (Original post by evantej)
    The length of the thesis is smaller (40,000-60,000 words) to compensate for the shorter time you spend writing it, and you spend some of the second year preparing/thinking about it too. I do not doubt your suggestion, though.
    To be honest I find this a bit unacceptable. A PhD is all about the thesis, it is all about you producing a piece of original work that is sufficient to be judged a significant contribution to an area of research - being taught stuff is what should happen before you attempt a PhD or if it occurs during it is merely there to support you in conducting your research not as part of a defined course of study.

    Most PhDs with 3 years of funded research time are pushing this definition already, so cutting it down to an MPhil sized thesis (of course this is just a proxy for actual content - which is what is important) and claiming that because you did an extra year of directed study it deserves the award of a PhD doesn't sit well with me at all. I did three years of full-time research to gain my PhD, if I had done only two then my thesis would have had significantly less content in it and therefore it is clear to me that the two things can't be of the same level.

    PhDs used to take much longer before funding reform came up with the idea of the 3 year PhD and condensing that further risks losing the distinction between Doctoral and Master level qualifications.
 
 
 

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