From Undergrad to PhD; How Important are "Research Circles"?

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dsmith23
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Hi, I'm currently in the second year of my undergraduate degree. I've developed quite an interest in evolutionary psychology and have noticed that a lot of the PhD students at my university that are investigating related areas have collaborated with staff at said university throughout their PhD. In addition to this, from browsing researchgate it would seem that most studied at the same institution from ungraduate to masters to PhD; this leads me to wonder - is it advantageous when looking to persue a PhD to remain at the same institution throughout each level of education to form a sort of "research circle" of contacts? I am concerned about this as I have identified a few masters courses at other institutions that take my interest but I do not want to hinder my chances of securing a PhD position. I should clarify, however, that I am still undecided on my future career path but I would like to gather as much information as possible regardless.

If anyone has had any experience related to this or who has any advice I would be really grateful for a response, thank you.
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Justmac
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I'm currently in my first year of my masters (two years part time) and have moved from a small, unknown and lowley ranked university to King's College London. This was for two reasons, the first being that the university where I did my undergrad didn't have the course I wanted at Masters level. The second being that KCL is a russell group and well respected university. I'm already thinking about PhD's and part of the build up to that will be attending conferences, networking and publishing (hopefully) in order to aid my chances.

I don't think you have to stay at the university you did your undergraduate degree at but whether you stay or go somewhere else it will be important to build connections and try to do things that will make you standout from the next candidate
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artful_lounger
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I think perspectives might vary between subjects and individuals, but many seem to think it's a good idea to do your PhD at another university to your undergrad to get a broader perspective and experience of academia (Terence Tao has suggested for mathematicians it's also worthwhile to do your postdoc at another university as well as that).

Unless you already "have an in" with a potential PhD supervisor at your current institution (e.g. you've done dissertation/summer research projects/other work etc with them already, and they're keen on taking you on for a PhD and are a good supervisor and are relevant in their field) I don't think it's particularly important. I'm inclined to believe as above, it is probably worthwhile to do some of your graduate work at least at another university (it's not necessarily uncommon to do your UG at one uni, masters elsewhere, then return to your alma mater for your PhD), which will help you see what things are universal (or at least common) in academia/the HE sector and which things are peculiarities of your institution (and whether those are in it's favour or not).

Of course, even if you aren't already set up with a given supervisor, if you like your current institution and the area you would be living in (this is important because it's another 3-4 years for the PhD minimum and you want to make sure you're happy to live there - and it's generally a lot harder to "transfer" in a PhD than as an undergrad), then by all means stick with it. I don't think you should specifically stay there for any other reason though and I don't think there is any reason to believe staying at one institution confers any real benefit in either the long or short run.

I would note, for some areas of research, they are relatively uncommon and there are only a few departments really active in those areas. Thus it tends to be researchers in that area often come from those one or two departments, and often they may well have started their undergraduate careers there and been exposed to that area in UG teaching which may not have been present in other universities. Thus your observation that people in your area often stick in the same university might be something of a self selection matter - that they were exposed to the area as an undegraduate, and the department was actively involved in research there and might be one of only a few that is, and thus they ended up only applying there and a couple other places and decided to stay where they are. Equally, those studying elsewhere may not have been exposed to that subject area, and then been less likely to apply to masters/PhD courses in that area.
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dsmith23
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Thank you for the responses. Very helpful.
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marinade
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For Psychology it's becoming absolutely standard for the top students to do mini research projects, usually at the end of the second year. I don't know about your area of Psychology so much though. One of the things I've noticed talking to a lot of psychology students is there's a lot of info advertised by the unis themselves which people don't seem aware of. If someone goes and sees the departmental careers person or has a more pushy or clued up supervisor they seem to hear about this stuff, if they don't it doesn't become known till later, perhaps 3rd year or upon graduating.

I would not worry about it too much. Do a research project at your current uni, see what you thought of it - is that area for you, is it not for you, did you get on with the supervisor or rule things out. What did you learn from it etc.

If you go to another institution for a master's degree that gives you two perspectives as said above and two lots of circles. I can think of at least three PhD Psychology students who switched uni between the different levels.

The only person I know well that stayed at the same institution undergrad/DPhil/PhD/EngD regrets doing their doctorate there. They say they chose the wrong one (still all right and given them a career) and they should have applied for more than one elsewhere.

You'll have a lot of time to think about this as there's a lot to consider for a master's degree and a very hot debate about whether they are worth doing in Psychology. It will be the written blurb for the application for PhD funding that will require a lot of though later on.
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Notoriety
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It can be an advantage to stick with one good team, as they get to know you over several years. It can be an advantage to mix it up a bit.

Answer: it depends.
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dsmith23
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(Original post by Notoriety)
It can be an advantage to stick with one good team, as they get to know you over several years. It can be an advantage to mix it up a bit.

Answer: it depends.
Touché
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gjd800
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I stayed where I was out of practicality - the guy at the institution I was already at suited my research interests better than anybody else in the UK. Couldn't care less about broadening experiences of academia or whatever else, you'll do that if you go work in the academy.
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