Wildean99
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To what extent does your masters work feed into your PhD? How important is it, in the case of a taught masters, to find a programme that has modules which feed into your overall research interests or is it just about doing this through the dissertation?

Just as some background, I'm in a bit of a difficult situation, whereby I have an offer from one institution for a course (that has recently provided module guides/reading lists) and all of the modules that I was interested in (and were why I applied) and fit within my research interests, have been cut for this year. On the other hand, I am on the waiting list for another course which fits perfectly with my interests (as well as the staff interests) but there is no guarantee of getting a place this year. I am considering taking a year out to work and hopefully get some more money together to help with the costs. During this time, I could also reapply to the institution that I am on the waiting list for and defer my other offer in case the modules are better suited to my interests there next year. However, I don't know whether this is the right decision and whether it would be better to just go with the place I have an offer for as I can pursue my own interests through the dissertation component (which makes up half of the overall mark and workload). This is also for English Literature so any advice from those within this field or other relevant fields would be really helpful!
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threeportdrift
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(Original post by Wildean99)
To what extent does your masters work feed into your PhD? How important is it, in the case of a taught masters, to find a programme that has modules which feed into your overall research interests or is it just about doing this through the dissertation?

Just as some background, I'm in a bit of a difficult situation, whereby I have an offer from one institution for a course (that has recently provided module guides/reading lists) and all of the modules that I was interested in (and were why I applied) and fit within my research interests, have been cut for this year. On the other hand, I am on the waiting list for another course which fits perfectly with my interests (as well as the staff interests) but there is no guarantee of getting a place this year. I am considering taking a year out to work and hopefully get some more money together to help with the costs. During this time, I could also reapply to the institution that I am on the waiting list for and defer my other offer in case the modules are better suited to my interests there next year. However, I don't know whether this is the right decision and whether it would be better to just go with the place I have an offer for as I can pursue my own interests through the dissertation component (which makes up half of the overall mark and workload). This is also for English Literature so any advice from those within this field or other relevant fields would be really helpful!
For sciences it's probably quite key that you have Masters level experience of techniques, equipment, the maths etc. For English, not so important at all, because it's about learning approaches, analytical techniques etc. My Masters in IR had some similarities to my PhD, they were both about when/why humanitarian intervention should happen, but there were no other links in terms of countries, examples etc. The first wasn't a factual foundation for the second, it was just a proof of research skills, writing, organisation etc.
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Wildean99
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For sciences it's probably quite key that you have Masters level experience of techniques, equipment, the maths etc. For English, not so important at all, because it's about learning approaches, analytical techniques etc. My Masters in IR had some similarities to my PhD, they were both about when/why humanitarian intervention should happen, but there were no other links in terms of countries, examples etc. The first wasn't a factual foundation for the second, it was just a proof of research skills, writing, organisation etc.
Thank you for your response. This is very helpful. In your opinion then, would you say it's worth doing a course even if it's not as closely related to what you want to pursue at PhD, or is it still best to pursue a degree that you're most interested in? Also, did you stay at the same institution for your PhD as your masters and were there any particular advantages to this?
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Thank you for your response. This is very helpful. In your opinion then, would you say it's worth doing a course even if it's not as closely related to what you want to pursue at PhD, or is it still best to pursue a degree that you're most interested in? Also, did you stay at the same institution for your PhD as your masters and were there any particular advantages to this?
Pursue the degree you are most interested in as you will likely get a better grade and therefore be more competitive for funding.

However, more practical to factor in is that in something like English, you will almost certainly need to take a year out to make a competitive application for PhD funding, after your Masters. It's the difference between applying with one term of Master's evidence versus the whole year with final grades and references based on a full year's work. That might mean you'd prefer not to take a gap between undergrad and a Masters.

I stayed at the same institution. The advantage was that they had a much more detailed idea of the likelihood of me completing the PhD, rather than take a risk on someone they didn't know nearly as well from somewhere else.
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Keele Postgraduate
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To what extent does your masters work feed into your PhD? How important is it, in the case of a taught masters, to find a programme that has modules which feed into your overall research interests or is it just about doing this through the dissertation?

Just as some background, I'm in a bit of a difficult situation, whereby I have an offer from one institution for a course (that has recently provided module guides/reading lists) and all of the modules that I was interested in (and were why I applied) and fit within my research interests, have been cut for this year. On the other hand, I am on the waiting list for another course which fits perfectly with my interests (as well as the staff interests) but there is no guarantee of getting a place this year. I am considering taking a year out to work and hopefully get some more money together to help with the costs. During this time, I could also reapply to the institution that I am on the waiting list for and defer my other offer in case the modules are better suited to my interests there next year. However, I don't know whether this is the right decision and whether it would be better to just go with the place I have an offer for as I can pursue my own interests through the dissertation component (which makes up half of the overall mark and workload). This is also for English Literature so any advice from those within this field or other relevant fields would be really helpful!
Hi Wildean99,

I'd agree with threeportdrift that ensuring your course develops you wider research and literary critical/analytical - and that is interesting to you - is more important than experience in specific modules - certainly for English Literature anyway.

I'm now in the second year of my PhD in English Literature at Keele and, during my MA year, I didn't do any specific modules on my PhD specialism (which is eighteenth-century medievalism). However my MA year included two dedicated research skills modules (which included topics such as applying for funding, archival skills training, writing for academic journals, book history, the role of humanities with the university, interdisciplinary research, digital humanities etc), plus a number of modules that developed my critical analysis skills and deepened my knowledge of literary theory and its application, all of which has been helpful both in applying for and completing my PhD.

There were also opportunities during my MA year to engage in additional research training, conference organisation, external and internal presentation of my research, and relevant work experience - all of which fed into my (successful) application for PhD funding. This allowed me to go straight from my MA to my PhD - although that did mean developing a PhD proposal and writing a lengthy funding application alongside studying for my MA, which is not for the faint-hearted! I should also say I took a lengthy (11 year) gap between my BA and my MA, so I'd had time to build additional skills and hone my research interests during that period, which helped with my PhD application process.

My MA dissertation project was also directly related to my PhD research - not wholly the same but it was on eighteenth-century medievalism, albeit with a different focus to my PhD in terms of specific thematic and textual content - and I had the support of a supervisor who was a specialist in eighteenth-century literature and culture (and who has gone on to be one of my PhD supervisors). So whilst I didn't study my specialism on specific modules during my MA, I did complete an extensive piece of writing within that specialism and could demonstrate prior work in that field - and knowledge of the literature and current research within the field - for my PhD application.

So whilst I don't think it's essential for you to have specific modules on your specialism, I do think it's important that you can write your thesis on something that both interests you and that is related to (or at least adjacent to) the literary specialism/field that you might like to eventually undertake your PhD in - and to have a member of staff who would be able to supervise you in that regard. As threeportdrift has said, its also important to pursue the course you are interested in - you'll have a much better chance of succeeding in your MA (and in your PhD application) if you are interested in what you're studying, feel engaged with the course, and feel supported by the staff and research culture of the university you're based at.

Hope that helps!

Amy Louise
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My masters was totally geared to my prospective PhD, but the dept just let me do that by messing about with assessment questions and markers. I did everything on an aspect of Indian thought

I dunno how many depts give you that level of freedom
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Wildean99
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Hi Wildean99,

I'd agree with threeportdrift that ensuring your course develops you wider research and literary critical/analytical - and that is interesting to you - is more important than experience in specific modules - certainly for English Literature anyway.

I'm now in the second year of my PhD in English Literature at Keele and, during my MA year, I didn't do any specific modules on my PhD specialism (which is eighteenth-century medievalism). However my MA year included two dedicated research skills modules (which included topics such as applying for funding, archival skills training, writing for academic journals, book history, the role of humanities with the university, interdisciplinary research, digital humanities etc), plus a number of modules that developed my critical analysis skills and deepened my knowledge of literary theory and its application, all of which has been helpful both in applying for and completing my PhD.

There were also opportunities during my MA year to engage in additional research training, conference organisation, external and internal presentation of my research, and relevant work experience - all of which fed into my (successful) application for PhD funding. This allowed me to go straight from my MA to my PhD - although that did mean developing a PhD proposal and writing a lengthy funding application alongside studying for my MA, which is not for the faint-hearted! I should also say I took a lengthy (11 year) gap between my BA and my MA, so I'd had time to build additional skills and hone my research interests during that period, which helped with my PhD application process.

My MA dissertation project was also directly related to my PhD research - not wholly the same but it was on eighteenth-century medievalism, albeit with a different focus to my PhD in terms of specific thematic and textual content - and I had the support of a supervisor who was a specialist in eighteenth-century literature and culture (and who has gone on to be one of my PhD supervisors). So whilst I didn't study my specialism on specific modules during my MA, I did complete an extensive piece of writing within that specialism and could demonstrate prior work in that field - and knowledge of the literature and current research within the field - for my PhD application.

So whilst I don't think it's essential for you to have specific modules on your specialism, I do think it's important that you can write your thesis on something that both interests you and that is related to (or at least adjacent to) the literary specialism/field that you might like to eventually undertake your PhD in - and to have a member of staff who would be able to supervise you in that regard. As threeportdrift has said, its also important to pursue the course you are interested in - you'll have a much better chance of succeeding in your MA (and in your PhD application) if you are interested in what you're studying, feel engaged with the course, and feel supported by the staff and research culture of the university you're based at.

Hope that helps!

Amy Louise
Thank you for your extensive reply, this is really helpful to know and very informative. If you don't mind, I have a couple of follow-up questions on some of the information that you have provided. Firstly, in terms of your MA did you do any modules that were related to your specialism or were they entirely separate. To elaborate a bit more on the information I initially provided, my interests are in nineteenth-century literature, particularly surrounding the topics of gender, sexuality and age, however I am also interested in representations of temporality, crime and class, to name but a few. Where the institution I applied to had several modules covering these different interests, now there won't be any running this year and only a few which touch upon the nineteenth-century, with none being exclusively about this time period. There are also limited crossovers thematically and so the course doesn't really allow for me to learn more about these topics across different time periods. Whilst the dissertation will allow for more freedom to explore this and I have been reassured that there will be nineteenth-century specialists available, I am concerned that this is such a big time and money commitment, for a course that doesn't fit my interests when I am on a waiting list for one that does perfectly. On top of that, it would be really helpful to spend some time working and saving up money because postgraduate study would be difficult to afford this year for me. I also would be able to defer my place and then hopefully be in a better financial position to pursue either this masters or reapply for the other, and in that case will be better positioned for wherever or whatever I do. As it stands, however, I'm not particularly encouraged by the modules offered this year and so these might change in the meantime.

Either way, do you think that it would still be worth going for the masters this year where the modules aren't as suited to my interests, or is it worth taking sometime away from academics? I appreciate though that this is a deeply personal decision but any advice or thoughts on the matter are incredibly helpful! Especially because I don't know many people beyond my lecturers that have gone through the process, and even fewer who have recently and so any insight into this is invaluable for me (including your response in particular!).
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Wildean99
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My masters was totally geared to my prospective PhD, but the dept just let me do that by messing about with assessment questions and markers. I did everything on an aspect of Indian thought

I dunno how many depts give you that level of freedom
Thank you for your reply! Was this in a course related to English Literature or within the Humanities? Also, if you don't mind, could you expand a bit on how your masters was geared to your prospective PhD and to what extent this was a benefit to you in the application process (especially in terms of funding, if you applied for it)?
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Wildean99
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(Original post by threeportdrift)
Pursue the degree you are most interested in as you will likely get a better grade and therefore be more competitive for funding.

However, more practical to factor in is that in something like English, you will almost certainly need to take a year out to make a competitive application for PhD funding, after your Masters. It's the difference between applying with one term of Master's evidence versus the whole year with final grades and references based on a full year's work. That might mean you'd prefer not to take a gap between undergrad and a Masters.

I stayed at the same institution. The advantage was that they had a much more detailed idea of the likelihood of me completing the PhD, rather than take a risk on someone they didn't know nearly as well from somewhere else.
Thank you for all of your help! I also had thought about the short time that I'd have to apply to a PhD if going directly into it after masters study. My plans as they stand would be to attempt to apply then to have experience of the application process so that by the time the next year comes around, I would be able to make a better application. I don't mind taking more time out if need be but I'd rather be in academia than working. That being said, I come from a relatively low-income background and so any financial help with funding and supporting myself that I can get from working would be incredibly helpful. It's also helpful to know the advantages of staying at the same institution, which would be my hope also. Thank you again for your help!
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(Original post by Wildean99)
Thank you for your reply! Was this in a course related to English Literature or within the Humanities? Also, if you don't mind, could you expand a bit on how your masters was geared to your prospective PhD and to what extent this was a benefit to you in the application process (especially in terms of funding, if you applied for it)?
Philosophy, so some crossover.

We could choose our own questions for assessment, which was good. But in principle it had to be related to the research interests of whomever was convening each module (given they'd be marking it etc). I was bored by that prospect so instead asked if, for example, the module was broadly epistemology-based, I could do mine on a Buddhist or Hindu epistemological thinker instead - still related, but would require marking not by the convener, but by the department's expert in Indian philosophy

They all let me do this

I received AHRC funding, and a big part of it was that I could show consistent and yet deep, varied interest in a specialist area, viz. Indian philosophy

My BA and MA dissertations followed on from one another and led directly to the PhD question, too - the AHRC also liked that because the implication is that you are already almost an expert, and their funding will take you over the line. I also addressed very current controversies, which helped
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(Original post by Wildean99)
To what extent does your masters work feed into your PhD? How important is it, in the case of a taught masters, to find a programme that has modules which feed into your overall research interests or is it just about doing this through the dissertation?

Just as some background, I'm in a bit of a difficult situation, whereby I have an offer from one institution for a course (that has recently provided module guides/reading lists) and all of the modules that I was interested in (and were why I applied) and fit within my research interests, have been cut for this year. On the other hand, I am on the waiting list for another course which fits perfectly with my interests (as well as the staff interests) but there is no guarantee of getting a place this year. I am considering taking a year out to work and hopefully get some more money together to help with the costs. During this time, I could also reapply to the institution that I am on the waiting list for and defer my other offer in case the modules are better suited to my interests there next year. However, I don't know whether this is the right decision and whether it would be better to just go with the place I have an offer for as I can pursue my own interests through the dissertation component (which makes up half of the overall mark and workload). This is also for English Literature so any advice from those within this field or other relevant fields would be really helpful!
Wildean99
hello! I am just finishing off my MSc and I am looking at PhD study. My background is in Psychology. I think it is wise to gradually go up the ladder of qualifications and do a Masters before a PhD. It is not necessarily about the subject knowledge, it is the skills acquired to do your own research from using methods from that area. In Psychology we use something called SPSS which I had no idea how to use before starting studying

Marc
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Wildean99
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(Original post by gjd800)
Philosophy, so some crossover.

We could choose our own questions for assessment, which was good. But in principle it had to be related to the research interests of whomever was convening each module (given they'd be marking it etc). I was bored by that prospect so instead asked if, for example, the module was broadly epistemology-based, I could do mine on a Buddhist or Hindu epistemological thinker instead - still related, but would require marking not by the convener, but by the department's expert in Indian philosophy

They all let me do this

I received AHRC funding, and a big part of it was that I could show consistent and yet deep, varied interest in a specialist area, viz. Indian philosophy

My BA and MA dissertations followed on from one another and led directly to the PhD question, too - the AHRC also liked that because the implication is that you are already almost an expert, and their funding will take you over the line. I also addressed very current controversies, which helped
Thank you - this is really helpful to know! Do you think it would have made as much of a difference if your BA dissertation was on a different but similar topic? In terms of your research freedom when it came to assessments, I imagine that in my case, the modules are so unrelated from my research interests that it would be hard to stretch it that far to be within the parameters of the module, let alone to be allowed to do so.

Also, with respect to your funding, how much would you say it was important that your interests are varied, or is it more about the depth of the experience of that specific research area?
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Wildean99
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Wildean99
hello! I am just finishing off my MSc and I am looking at PhD study. My background is in Psychology. I think it is wise to gradually go up the ladder of qualifications and do a Masters before a PhD. It is not necessarily about the subject knowledge, it is the skills acquired to do your own research from using methods from that area. In Psychology we use something called SPSS which I had no idea how to use before starting studying

Marc
Arden University Student Ambassador
Thank you for your response. In terms of the work that you are currently completing for your MSc, is it directly or closely related to what you want to pursue at PhD level? Back when you were applying for your MSc, what were your priorities and did the course you ended up taking fulfil all of these? Are there any things that you wished that you'd known then or would say to someone in my position in terms of looking forward to PhD study after doing a masters? Also, do you intend to stay at the same institution for your PhD and if so, why, and if not, why not?
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gjd800
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Thank you - this is really helpful to know! Do you think it would have made as much of a difference if your BA dissertation was on a different but similar topic? In terms of your research freedom when it came to assessments, I imagine that in my case, the modules are so unrelated from my research interests that it would be hard to stretch it that far to be within the parameters of the module, let alone to be allowed to do so.

Also, with respect to your funding, how much would you say it was important that your interests are varied, or is it more about the depth of the experience of that specific research area?
I can't really speak to that which didn't happen, so I just don't know. But the Departmental committee that presented our applications told me this stuff after the fact, and it was a theme for other AHRC recipients before and after

They k ow you aren't a one-trick pony in virtue of you having completed a load of stuff at BA and then the compulsory training elements of the MA etc. They are usually gambling on you finishing a specific project in a highly specialised area, so breadth of research interests is quite secondary and can come later
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Wildean99
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I can't really speak to that which didn't happen, so I just don't know. But the Departmental committee that presented our applications told me this stuff after the fact, and it was a theme for other AHRC recipients before and after

They k ow you aren't a one-trick pony in virtue of you having completed a load of stuff at BA and then the compulsory training elements of the MA etc. They are usually gambling on you finishing a specific project in a highly specialised area, so breadth of research interests is quite secondary and can come later
Okay great, thank you again for another informative response. If you don't mind, I have a couple of follow-up questions. Back when you were applying for your MA, what were your priorities and did the course you ended up taking fulfil all of these? Are there any things that you wished that you'd known then or would say to someone in my position in terms of looking forward to PhD study after doing a masters?
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Okay great, thank you again for another informative response. If you don't mind, I have a couple of follow-up questions. Back when you were applying for your MA, what were your priorities and did the course you ended up taking fulfil all of these? Are there any things that you wished that you'd known then or would say to someone in my position in terms of looking forward to PhD study after doing a masters?
Honestly, my priorities were to get it done in order to facilitate a PhD. I only did it to improve my chances of that, but it was a good year and I enjoyed it

I think the PhD can be a culture shock so my biggest thing is be aware and ready yourself. A lot depends on your supervisor, but I wrote nothing at all for 2 years which seemed insane at the time. I spent 2 years learning languages and reading very widely and only narrowed down to write towards the summer of year 2

Again, supervisor-dependent, there's nobody chasing you for deadlines so you must be aware of that and set your own

It can be really isolating so get involved wherever you can. I was the only person doing Indian philosophy and languages, so my cohort didn't have a clue about my stuff whereas I understood theirs. Stay involved, talk about your research as often as you can cope with

Teach as soon as you get the opportunity. It makes you think in new ways and for me was a great testing ground for ideas

Otherwise just enjoy the masters, honestly. No point doing it if you don't love it, so make sure you take time to enjoy your work now, continue that in the PhD
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Thank you for your extensive reply, this is really helpful to know and very informative. If you don't mind, I have a couple of follow-up questions on some of the information that you have provided. Firstly, in terms of your MA did you do any modules that were related to your specialism or were they entirely separate. To elaborate a bit more on the information I initially provided, my interests are in nineteenth-century literature, particularly surrounding the topics of gender, sexuality and age, however I am also interested in representations of temporality, crime and class, to name but a few. Where the institution I applied to had several modules covering these different interests, now there won't be any running this year and only a few which touch upon the nineteenth-century, with none being exclusively about this time period. There are also limited crossovers thematically and so the course doesn't really allow for me to learn more about these topics across different time periods. Whilst the dissertation will allow for more freedom to explore this and I have been reassured that there will be nineteenth-century specialists available, I am concerned that this is such a big time and money commitment, for a course that doesn't fit my interests when I am on a waiting list for one that does perfectly. On top of that, it would be really helpful to spend some time working and saving up money because postgraduate study would be difficult to afford this year for me. I also would be able to defer my place and then hopefully be in a better financial position to pursue either this masters or reapply for the other, and in that case will be better positioned for wherever or whatever I do. As it stands, however, I'm not particularly encouraged by the modules offered this year and so these might change in the meantime.

Either way, do you think that it would still be worth going for the masters this year where the modules aren't as suited to my interests, or is it worth taking sometime away from academics? I appreciate though that this is a deeply personal decision but any advice or thoughts on the matter are incredibly helpful! Especially because I don't know many people beyond my lecturers that have gone through the process, and even fewer who have recently and so any insight into this is invaluable for me (including your response in particular!).
No problem at all! As you say, it is a very personal decision but happy to share my own experiences if they can be of help!

Keele's current MA course structure hasn't really changed since I took it (a couple of optional modules are different as those tend to depend on staff availability) so you can actually see the modules I undertook and the course structure here: https://www.keele.ac.uk/study/postgr...urse-structure.

As you can see, there isn't really anything there that is either medieval or eighteenth-century! However I was able to complete some of my assessments on related topics. For example, my assessment for the core Criticism, Analysis and Theory module was on book history and I used Thomas Malory's Morte D'Arthur as my text of choice for that. I also opted to take the optional Work Placement in the Humanities module and arranged a semester-long placement at a local museum that specialises in the eighteenth-century writer Samuel Johnson. And, as I mentioned, my dissertation was within my specialism - I looked at the formation of English masculinity in the Arthurian narrative between 1760-1850.

Whether you have similar options to sneak in some of your specialism/interests really depends on the course you're looking at. Studying texts from other time periods and genres can be very helpful, as is building up a good solid base of knowledge across the literary canon (especially if you want to go into academia as you never know what you might end up teaching - I currently teach an undergraduate module on Shakespeare, for example!).

As an example, my MA thesis ended up using literary theories about ageing to examine masculinity - which was something I learned about whilst studying Byron's Don Juan on the Canon, Anti-Canon, Context module. I also studied The Last of the Mohicans during my MA year, and the way that was taught made me think in a different way about how the English Literature of that period might be connected to wider world events, such as the loss of the American colonies and the French Revolution - a line of thinking which is now feeding directly into my PhD work. Sometimes thinking and working outside of your specialism can be hugely productive - and can introduce you to new theories and ideas that you can then apply to your own research interests. I had no intention of looking at the afterlives of medieval literature - when I began the MA I wanted to do my thesis on a medieval text - but my MA year modules actually introduced me to the idea of medievalism and to the fact that there was a gap in the research within the eighteenth-century, as well as to how interesting the long eighteenth-century was as a period!

In terms of taking a break, personally I did find it helpful - I needed some time out after my BA to refresh and recharge (and to get my passion for studying literature back again - I loved my BA course but three years of studying is a long time and I wanted to read for fun for a bit). It ended up being a much longer break than originally planned (mainly because I went and got married and bought a house) but I do feel that, for me, the break made me a better MA (and PhD) student because not only did I know that I definitely wanted to do the MA and PhD (because I wanted to change careers into academia) but also because I was able to bring my work ethic, skills, and increased personal confidence into my postgraduate studies. And it did help that I'd been able to save up some money to support myself during my MA year - it can be a very pressured year so, whilst I did continue to work part-time, I wasn't under pressure to take lots of paid work because I had my savings.

Amy Louise
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Honestly, my priorities were to get it done in order to facilitate a PhD. I only did it to improve my chances of that, but it was a good year and I enjoyed it

I think the PhD can be a culture shock so my biggest thing is be aware and ready yourself. A lot depends on your supervisor, but I wrote nothing at all for 2 years which seemed insane at the time. I spent 2 years learning languages and reading very widely and only narrowed down to write towards the summer of year 2

Again, supervisor-dependent, there's nobody chasing you for deadlines so you must be aware of that and set your own

It can be really isolating so get involved wherever you can. I was the only person doing Indian philosophy and languages, so my cohort didn't have a clue about my stuff whereas I understood theirs. Stay involved, talk about your research as often as you can cope with

Teach as soon as you get the opportunity. It makes you think in new ways and for me was a great testing ground for ideas

Otherwise just enjoy the masters, honestly. No point doing it if you don't love it, so make sure you take time to enjoy your work now, continue that in the PhD
Thank you again! It's really helpful to hear about your experience and your advice from this. I'll keep it in mind whilst trying to make my decisions!
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Wildean99
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(Original post by Keele Postgraduate)
No problem at all! As you say, it is a very personal decision but happy to share my own experiences if they can be of help!

Keele's current MA course structure hasn't really changed since I took it (a couple of optional modules are different as those tend to depend on staff availability) so you can actually see the modules I undertook and the course structure here: https://www.keele.ac.uk/study/postgr...urse-structure.

As you can see, there isn't really anything there that is either medieval or eighteenth-century! However I was able to complete some of my assessments on related topics. For example, my assessment for the core Criticism, Analysis and Theory module was on book history and I used Thomas Malory's Morte D'Arthur as my text of choice for that. I also opted to take the optional Work Placement in the Humanities module and arranged a semester-long placement at a local museum that specialises in the eighteenth-century writer Samuel Johnson. And, as I mentioned, my dissertation was within my specialism - I looked at the formation of English masculinity in the Arthurian narrative between 1760-1850.

Whether you have similar options to sneak in some of your specialism/interests really depends on the course you're looking at. Studying texts from other time periods and genres can be very helpful, as is building up a good solid base of knowledge across the literary canon (especially if you want to go into academia as you never know what you might end up teaching - I currently teach an undergraduate module on Shakespeare, for example!).

As an example, my MA thesis ended up using literary theories about ageing to examine masculinity - which was something I learned about whilst studying Byron's Don Juan on the Canon, Anti-Canon, Context module. I also studied The Last of the Mohicans during my MA year, and the way that was taught made me think in a different way about how the English Literature of that period might be connected to wider world events, such as the loss of the American colonies and the French Revolution - a line of thinking which is now feeding directly into my PhD work. Sometimes thinking and working outside of your specialism can be hugely productive - and can introduce you to new theories and ideas that you can then apply to your own research interests. I had no intention of looking at the afterlives of medieval literature - when I began the MA I wanted to do my thesis on a medieval text - but my MA year modules actually introduced me to the idea of medievalism and to the fact that there was a gap in the research within the eighteenth-century, as well as to how interesting the long eighteenth-century was as a period!

In terms of taking a break, personally I did find it helpful - I needed some time out after my BA to refresh and recharge (and to get my passion for studying literature back again - I loved my BA course but three years of studying is a long time and I wanted to read for fun for a bit). It ended up being a much longer break than originally planned (mainly because I went and got married and bought a house) but I do feel that, for me, the break made me a better MA (and PhD) student because not only did I know that I definitely wanted to do the MA and PhD (because I wanted to change careers into academia) but also because I was able to bring my work ethic, skills, and increased personal confidence into my postgraduate studies. And it did help that I'd been able to save up some money to support myself during my MA year - it can be a very pressured year so, whilst I did continue to work part-time, I wasn't under pressure to take lots of paid work because I had my savings.

Amy Louise
Thank you again for another informative response. It's especially interesting to hear about your research interests because they sound very similar to mine. Towards the end of my undergraduate I was introduced to Age Studies and want to pursue this in relation to questions of sexuality and gender (particularly masculinity) through hopefully a masters and PhD. It's also really helpful to know about the ways that you tailored the courses to your interests. If you don't mind me asking, why did you end up studying at Keele when the modules seem to be relatively unrelated to your research interests? What sort of things did you prioritise when deciding where to do your masters and PhD? It's also really useful to know more about your time outside of academia and balancing work alongside your MA. Did you find that this was something most masters students did or could do or were you somewhat unique in that respect? I have been working part-time throughout my undergraduate but imagined that masters will be more intense and so financially speaking, I did not want to rely on being able to work part-time to help with funding my tuition fees and accommodation costs. I also completely understand about wanting to get the passion back for your subject by taking a break. I only finished my degree at the end of May and have been doing a lot of reading for fun and am already wanting to get back into studying to be honest. I've been doing a remote internship and it's just not be the same drive that I feel for university and so whilst interesting, it has reaffirmed for me that masters is the right path. That being said, I have not yet taken a break from education at all and so it would be interesting to see what it would be like working full-time, but I think my heart is definitely with academia.
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Keele Postgraduate
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(Original post by Wildean99)
Thank you again for another informative response. It's especially interesting to hear about your research interests because they sound very similar to mine. Towards the end of my undergraduate I was introduced to Age Studies and want to pursue this in relation to questions of sexuality and gender (particularly masculinity) through hopefully a masters and PhD. It's also really helpful to know about the ways that you tailored the courses to your interests. If you don't mind me asking, why did you end up studying at Keele when the modules seem to be relatively unrelated to your research interests? What sort of things did you prioritise when deciding where to do your masters and PhD? It's also really useful to know more about your time outside of academia and balancing work alongside your MA. Did you find that this was something most masters students did or could do or were you somewhat unique in that respect? I have been working part-time throughout my undergraduate but imagined that masters will be more intense and so financially speaking, I did not want to rely on being able to work part-time to help with funding my tuition fees and accommodation costs. I also completely understand about wanting to get the passion back for your subject by taking a break. I only finished my degree at the end of May and have been doing a lot of reading for fun and am already wanting to get back into studying to be honest. I've been doing a remote internship and it's just not be the same drive that I feel for university and so whilst interesting, it has reaffirmed for me that masters is the right path. That being said, I have not yet taken a break from education at all and so it would be interesting to see what it would be like working full-time, but I think my heart is definitely with academia.
To be honest, I initially chose Keele partly because of it's location. As a homeowner with a family, upping sticks and moving to go to university wasn't an option for me, especially as my partner would become the main income earner in the household. So I had to attend a university that was commutable. I then looked at which universities within commuting distance offered an MA in English Literature, had a course that interested me, and had a good reputation, and went to some postgraduate open afternoons.

Keele was one that I shortlisted but I couldn't make a formal open afternoon due to work so I emailed them to arrange a self-guided visit - I was really impressed with their response, and with the fact that a member of academic staff from the English department took time to meet with me and answer my questions about the course. His responses gave me the confidence that the course would meet my needs even without a specific medieval component to it - and that the course would provide me with the skills I needed to go on to further study at PhD level. During that visit to the campus, I also confirmed that I liked the feel of the place and I came away with a sense that the English department had an active and supportive research culture.

When it came to deciding whether to continue at Keele for my PhD, it was a no brainer that it would be my first choice. I find the department I'm in to be very supportive and I'd developed an excellent relationship with my MA dissertation supervisor and was keen to continue working with them for my PhD. Plus I love the campus and had made some really good friends within the postgraduate community there! To provide me with access to a medieval specialist, however, I'm co-supervised on my PhD by an academic at the University of Manchester, plus I also have access to resources from throughout the doctoral training partnership that I am funded by (the NWCDTP). So once you get to PhD level, there are options for extending your support network beyond the university that is your primary base, either by co-supervision or by partnering with external organisations such as archives and museums.

In terms of working part-time, I carried on working for my former full-time employers (an estate agency) during my MA year. I went down to a day a week, plus occasional holiday/sickness cover that could flex around my studies. Technically I had a zero hour contract but, in practice, I worked at least 8 hours a week (on a weekend) and, on occasions, up to 15 hours a week. I also worked part-time as a Student Ambassador for Keele, helping out on Open Days and doing work like this on The Student Room! Again, the contract was flexible and there was no pressure to take jobs/hours. For me, that flexibility is the key to fitting work around postgraduate study because I could work more hours when I had capacity (such as during the summer) and then reduce my hours during busy assessment periods.

Most MA and PhD students I know do work part-time (I continue to do so now, through a mixture of sessional teaching and Student Ambassador work) in at least some capacity but how much they work very much depends on their circumstances - different people manage workload differently so, for me, 15 hours is about the max I feel I can work and still devote myself to my studies. For me, having some non-PhD work to do also helps me focus when I do have the time to dedicate to my PhD (in addition to providing very useful extra income) - when I'm aware I'm losing at least a day a week to other commitments, I get my head down and really get on with my PhD work on the days that I can wholly dedicate to that!

Amy Louise
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