Seeking Your Advice For Applying PhD in 2020 Watch

smithpoon
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Hello! I am from Hong Kong. I got a BA degree in Social Policy with a 2:1 in 2013 with a Master degree in Global Political Economy in 2017. Originally I did not have a clear idea for a PhD, but during the process on making the term-end assignment for a Master course (About Disability Studies in China), I studied a lot of info. about it, I not only got a decent grade for this course, but also have a clearer idea on pursuing research on this topic.

However, I did not immediately go for a try because I want to make it very clear if I should go for it, after 2 years of thinking. I decided to go for it in 2020 and started drafting my detailed PhD proposal and making contacts to possible supervisors (About Disability Studies in China). Till now, I got replied from 3 of them that they want to make further discussions on my proposed topic and advised me to make formal application and I do so. They are:

a. Dr. Sarah Dauncey from University of Nottingham (It was recommended by a Professor in Oxford, she has sufficient experience on Chinese Studies, including the field on Disability Studies),

b. Dr. Angharad Beckett form University of Leeds (She leads the University's Centre for Disability Studies)

c. Prof. Alan Walker from The University of Sheffield (The most distinguish one among the threes, indeed he said he is willing to supervise me. He has a close connection to my alma mater, and he supervised lots of students from where I live, but I think he is not really specialized on my proposed topic, may he is a specialist on Gerontology)

So what should I do now, when two of them wants to make further discussion about my topic as they are experienced, but a more distinguish one already showed his interest to supervise while he is not really fitting my interest? Should I told the rest that Prof. Walker is willing to supervise me? Please advice.
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PhoenixFortune
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(Original post by smithpoon)
Hello! I am from Hong Kong. I got a BA degree in Social Policy with a 2:1 in 2013 with a Master degree in Global Political Economy in 2017. Originally I did not have a clear idea for a PhD, but during the process on making the term-end assignment for a Master course (About Disability Studies in China), I studied a lot of info. about it, I not only got a decent grade for this course, but also have a clearer idea on pursuing research on this topic.

However, I did not immediately go for a try because I want to make it very clear if I should go for it, after 2 years of thinking. I decided to go for it in 2020 and started drafting my detailed PhD proposal and making contacts to possible supervisors (About Disability Studies in China). Till now, I got replied from 3 of them that they want to make further discussions on my proposed topic and advised me to make formal application and I do so. They are:

a. Dr. Sarah Dauncey from University of Nottingham (It was recommended by a Professor in Oxford, she has sufficient experience on Chinese Studies, including the field on Disability Studies),

b. Dr. Angharad Beckett form University of Leeds (She leads the University's Centre for Disability Studies)

c. Prof. Alan Walker from The University of Sheffield (The most distinguish one among the threes, indeed he said he is willing to supervise me. He has a close connection to my alma mater, and he supervised lots of students from where I live, but I think he is not really specialized on my proposed topic, may he is a specialist on Gerontology)

So what should I do now, when two of them wants to make further discussion about my topic as they are experienced, but a more distinguish one already showed his interest to supervise while he is not really fitting my interest? Should I told the rest that Prof. Walker is willing to supervise me? Please advice.
Have you spoken to these academics on Skype/on the telephone? You need to think about which one will be able to support you, and whether your personalities fit will be a key factor. You can get a better idea of what someone is like when speaking in real time than in text form.

It doesn't matter how prestigious someone is if they aren't the kind of supervisor you want; do you want someone who leaves you to it, or someone who checks up on your progress regularly? Do you want someone who is positive or someone who gives more blunt criticism? You can ask them what their mentoring style is, and see if you can contact current/past PhD students in those departments to get a clearer take on how they really supervise.
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smithpoon
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(Original post by PhoenixFortune)
Have you spoken to these academics on Skype/on the telephone? You need to think about which one will be able to support you, and whether your personalities fit will be a key factor. You can get a better idea of what someone is like when speaking in real time than in text form.

It doesn't matter how prestigious someone is if they aren't the kind of supervisor you want; do you want someone who leaves you to it, or someone who checks up on your progress regularly? Do you want someone who is positive or someone who gives more blunt criticism? You can ask them what their mentoring style is, and see if you can contact current/past PhD students in those departments to get a clearer take on how they really supervise.
Should I tell this news to the rest? For me I prefer a supervisor who he/she have sufficient knowledge on my proposed topic, regardless of his/her fame
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Helloworld_95
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I wouldn't necessarily discount someone because they're not specialised in your topic, a lot of doing a PhD is about independent learning so in many cases it's not necessary to have a supervisor who is intimately familiar with your topic. I think it's good for your mental health to have someone to talk about it with, but it's not necessary. Plenty of supervisors will also use PhD students to help them branch into and teach them about the topic. When you're in that situation as a PhD student you learn very quickly how to be a good researcher but you do have to be able to cope with failing a lot, but that is (or should be) part of doing a PhD.

Looking at their profiles, Dr. Dauncey seems to be the most closely related however her work seems to focus on the image of disability so you'll need to decide if you're ok being pulled towards that, and it also doesn't look like she has supervised any PhD students to completion, or potentially at all. Sometimes that's a good thing because new lecturers are often very motivated and can better emphasise with you, but it can be a bad thing too if they don't know what they're doing. Dr. Beckett seems a bit dodgy, someone whose has supervised that many PhD students should not be first author on pretty much anything, and her students don't appear to have any publications, even those with Beckett's name on it. She also seems to be more focused on disability in general and I wonder how much help she would actually be for disability in China specifically. Professor Walker seems to be able to graduate PhD students in pretty much any area however he's not as good at publishing papers outside of ageing related topics.
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smithpoon
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(Original post by Helloworld_95)
I wouldn't necessarily discount someone because they're not specialised in your topic, a lot of doing a PhD is about independent learning so in many cases it's not necessary to have a supervisor who is intimately familiar with your topic. I think it's good for your mental health to have someone to talk about it with, but it's not necessary. Plenty of supervisors will also use PhD students to help them branch into and teach them about the topic. When you're in that situation as a PhD student you learn very quickly how to be a good researcher but you do have to be able to cope with failing a lot, but that is (or should be) part of doing a PhD.

Looking at their profiles, Dr. Dauncey seems to be the most closely related however her work seems to focus on the image of disability so you'll need to decide if you're ok being pulled towards that, and it also doesn't look like she has supervised any PhD students to completion, or potentially at all. Sometimes that's a good thing because new lecturers are often very motivated and can better emphasise with you, but it can be a bad thing too if they don't know what they're doing. Dr. Beckett seems a bit dodgy, someone whose has supervised that many PhD students should not be first author on pretty much anything, and her students don't appear to have any publications, even those with Beckett's name on it. She also seems to be more focused on disability in general and I wonder how much help she would actually be for disability in China specifically. Professor Walker seems to be able to graduate PhD students in pretty much any area however he's not as good at publishing papers outside of ageing related topics.
Indeed I placed Nottingham as first preferred choice, than Sheffield, and Leeds the last. I also applied the PhD in Disability Studies at Bristol, but they required applicants not to approach possible supervisors itself, but just make the application with the proposal.

Indeed I make the same questions when I approaching my referees to seek their advice, they both advise me to approach those who have sufficient knowledge and experience on my proposed study. I know PhD is not as same as undergraduate and taught postgraduate one that I have to make most of my time on my own, but you need a certain level of guidance and recommendations from the supervisor.
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smithpoon
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(Original post by PhoenixFortune)
Have you spoken to these academics on Skype/on the telephone? You need to think about which one will be able to support you, and whether your personalities fit will be a key factor. You can get a better idea of what someone is like when speaking in real time than in text form.

It doesn't matter how prestigious someone is if they aren't the kind of supervisor you want; do you want someone who leaves you to it, or someone who checks up on your progress regularly? Do you want someone who is positive or someone who gives more blunt criticism? You can ask them what their mentoring style is, and see if you can contact current/past PhD students in those departments to get a clearer take on how they really supervise.
Their replies said there are plenty of time for discussion, are they thinking there's not the right time for a direct call?
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Helloworld_95
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(Original post by smithpoon)
Indeed I placed Nottingham as first preferred choice, than Sheffield, and Leeds the last. I also applied the PhD in Disability Studies at Bristol, but they required applicants not to approach possible supervisors itself, but just make the application with the proposal.

Indeed I make the same questions when I approaching my referees to seek their advice, they both advise me to approach those who have sufficient knowledge and experience on my proposed study. I know PhD is not as same as undergraduate and taught postgraduate one that I have to make most of my time on my own, but you need a certain level of guidance and recommendations from the supervisor.
I'd say the Bristol method is the best to be honest, writing a proposal is really good experience as a researcher.

The HK approach to PhDs is quite different to the UK approach as you are much more dependent soon your supervisor in HK so it's difficult to say that their advice extends to UK universities.

Given that you're going to be paying a lot of money for the opportunity, I would be choosing someone who is a safe bet to graduate you rather than necessarily the person closest to your research.
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PhoenixFortune
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(Original post by smithpoon)
Their replies said there are plenty of time for discussion, are they thinking there's not the right time for a direct call?
It's your PhD, so it's up to you. Asking for a Skype call would show enthusiasm though, and also help you more quickly discount academics who you don't think are a good fit for you.
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smithpoon
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(Original post by PhoenixFortune)
It's your PhD, so it's up to you. Asking for a Skype call would show enthusiasm though, and also help you more quickly discount academics who you don't think are a good fit for you.
Leeds and Bristol are clear: Admission process will be processed by the department, they will contact me if they are going to consider me. There's no need to make personal contact with proposed supervisor. When I approached Dr. Beckett personally, she advised me to make official application and approach the admission tutor instead of her.
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smithpoon
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(Original post by Helloworld_95)
I wouldn't necessarily discount someone because they're not specialised in your topic, a lot of doing a PhD is about independent learning so in many cases it's not necessary to have a supervisor who is intimately familiar with your topic. I think it's good for your mental health to have someone to talk about it with, but it's not necessary. Plenty of supervisors will also use PhD students to help them branch into and teach them about the topic. When you're in that situation as a PhD student you learn very quickly how to be a good researcher but you do have to be able to cope with failing a lot, but that is (or should be) part of doing a PhD.

Looking at their profiles, Dr. Dauncey seems to be the most closely related however her work seems to focus on the image of disability so you'll need to decide if you're ok being pulled towards that, and it also doesn't look like she has supervised any PhD students to completion, or potentially at all. Sometimes that's a good thing because new lecturers are often very motivated and can better emphasise with you, but it can be a bad thing too if they don't know what they're doing. Dr. Beckett seems a bit dodgy, someone whose has supervised that many PhD students should not be first author on pretty much anything, and her students don't appear to have any publications, even those with Beckett's name on it. She also seems to be more focused on disability in general and I wonder how much help she would actually be for disability in China specifically. Professor Walker seems to be able to graduate PhD students in pretty much any area however he's not as good at publishing papers outside of ageing related topics.
Indeed Prof. Walker not only supervised a lot of students from Hong Kong, he served visiting scholars and received honourary degrees from several universities, including one of my alma mater. He was also appointed by the government as a member for a committee to review the research outputs on funded institutions. Maybe that's the reason why he agree to supervise me.
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threeportdrift
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(Original post by smithpoon)
.........
You need to apply to all 3 universities and see where you get an offer. There's no decision to make before then. If they are happy to keep discussing your proposal then fine, but in the meantime, admissions are being made and they might accept their 2-3 new PhD students.

Your decision making process might be quite different if only 1 and 2 give you offers, or if only 2 and 3 etc. And then there's funding to mix in.
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smithpoon
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(Original post by threeportdrift)
You need to apply to all 3 universities and see where you get an offer. There's no decision to make before then. If they are happy to keep discussing your proposal then fine, but in the meantime, admissions are being made and they might accept their 2-3 new PhD students.

Your decision making process might be quite different if only 1 and 2 give you offers, or if only 2 and 3 etc. And then there's funding to mix in.
I made formal applications to all universities I mentioned. Also I will start look for the finance issue to fund my PhD studies if I am being admitted for 2020
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