PhD The Early Process, Application and Interview advice Watch

epoch
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Hello,

PhD advise seems to be a common thread amongst the TSR postgrad community. This thread provides an insight into the early and later PhD application process.

Warning! This is not a definative guide by is aimed to be added to with other peoples advise.


Mod edit: this post has also been added to the TSR wiki, and expanded upon. It can be found at: PhD Courses: Tips and Advice for Making your Application. Many thanks to Epoch for his hard work!


Reasons for doing a PhD

Everyone has thier own reasons for doing a PhD but serveral things are considered a must

1) Commitment and an eye for detail
2) Intelligence (not merely high grades but a willingness to learn etc)
3) Independance
4)Aspiration
5) Passion for your subject

Keep these in your mind during the application process and interviews!

Applying for a PhD

First things first think about what you want to do, the subject your intrested in and make a list of ideas. A good person to seek early is your supervisor if still at uni. They should stear you in the right direction and give you sound advise. But be warned some academics an be out to curtail your plans before you start and are best ignored!

Ok now to start looking for your subject area. A great place to start is

www.findaphd.com

This list all current phd courses in all subjects and is a great place to see whos offering what. Then start looking for department specific websites this is where there are detailed PhD listings. Remember PhD details will be released at different times so contact the postgraduate admissions tutor.

Fear not! if your subject of choice is not there then contact the academic staff directly with your C.V and a letter detailing you situation and intrests. This is a good way to get first hand advise and also a way of testing the water some what regarding your credentials

At this point make sure you know the funding situation of the PhD as this will dictate much of the application process. You can be awarded a PhD place with no funding which is very difficult to pursue.

As a rule in house school scholarships are very hard to get so projects which are specifically funded are worth finding.

The C.V

Now you have found your course or have a contact in the department of your choosing sit down and get that C.V in order. For PhD places an academic C.V is often needed. This is a posh term for a detailed subject break down of your undergrad and postgrad (if any) degrees so far. Include any relevant experience relating to the project and do not be afriad to tailor a C.V for an individual PhD. It helps to be affilitated with a academic society as this shows that you are serious and implies that you are well read (May be!).
This keeps cropping up in discussions and I would like to help provide a guide line about what to expect as I have been through a few already!

Good C.V links
http://www.prospects.ac.uk/downloads...%20version.pdf

http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/h...ntro/apply/cv/

http://www.jobs.ac.uk/careers/articl...Where_to_Start

Coverng letter and Online applications

The covering letter may not be asked for as of the variety of submission processes that each university may imply. Make it concise why have you chose this PhD and what makes it suited to your skills. Do not try to answer the question just outline why you want this place and your qualifications and where you currently study/work.

Online applications are slightly more difficult in that more specific details need to be employed. However if you have a good C.V then it becomes easier to fill in. Personal statements for PhD need to be academically focused as well as social.

DONT forget your references

Remember to ask academic staff which know you and are not just associated with the subject. From this they want to know whether you are hard working, commited and shown intrest in the subject before. Pick your references carefully as they have possibly the most say in the early PhD selection process

The research proposal
This is where I need help and addition advise would be greatly accepted! I did not have write a long one alot of science subjects do not need one at all but arts most likely do. Consultation with the supervisior of the PhD is paramount in my experience.

Now you wait and hope for the dreaded interview.............

The Interview
This is not a definative guide and it would be good for other people to contrbute there experiences and opinions on the matter

The "formal" interview and Interview styles

The interview can take two different paths the first often an informal chat with the supervisior where the project is discussed generally

The second is usually a board of people usually 3 to 5 which ask questions. As far as I know Oxbridge is different in this respect they seem to have a series individual interviews.

What to expect

The first question in most interviews seems to be "Why do you want to do a PhD and what has brought you to this position so far ?"

What follows is a series of questions that is designed to test your knowlegde of the basic aspects of the programme. What it entails and what contibution is expected. The project supervisor will want to know specifics the other will want to see how you delt with the question.

During my interview they seemed to want to see my past work, e.g dissertation etc. but they would never ask directly. It is a good idea to have the work prepared and key places marked. Make sure you know the work in depth and be prepared to ask answer any questions on it.

Usually if the PhD involves a studentship or is funded by an outside body they will have a representative. They will assess how you present youself and will probably want to hear how the project is likely to benefit the company or the University.

The interview panel want you to express a wider knowledge. It is key you have read reccomended references and understood them as it will just help your case. Also find out what is cutting edge at the moment and bring with you or make a typed sheet with problems you might want to tackle during the PhD

Remember that you do not want to answer the PhD title but you are aware of lines of evidence that you might want to pursue.

Presentations

Be confident and speak fluently. Made the audience know you are confident (even though you might not feel like it)

Focus on your research unless asked not to and relate this to the project. Essentially what can you bring to the table?

Have it practiced and timed. Draw together on a concluding slide and expect questions

You and yourself!

At the interview they want to see that your motivated to do the project and prepared.

Be confident and don't be afriad to say "I don't know".

Wear something smart. I know some places are not to fussy but it never harmed any one to look smart on interview

Try not to be nervous!


Again each institution has its own style and i would like to open a thread to disscuss the possiblities.

!!!!Sorry about the poor spelling!!!!
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Kitty Pimms
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(Original post by epoch)
x
Good post This should be on the wiki, really. Can you roll it into this article?

http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/wiki...ur_application

I've written an article on thesis proposals (see sig) that I was planning on putting in there at some point, so if you enter this post, I can fiddle with it for formatting, spelling etc and add the proposal section. That would be great
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rmn002
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(Original post by epoch)

The C.V
Do you know if Postgraduate courses want a specific Academic CV (like in the examples) over a standard CV with emphasis on academic things for Masters applications?
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apotoftea
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Very few postgrad courses require academic CVs anyway
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epoch
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(Original post by rmn002)
Do you know if Postgraduate courses want a specific Academic CV (like in the examples) over a standard CV with emphasis on academic things for Masters applications?
few need an academic C.V but it seems relevant for a PhD. It helps in the early stage of contacting the postgrad admissions tutor. In my experience it shows that you are serious... but again its sometimes not needed and will be specified in the application if needed
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_Ravi_
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...
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TheHoff
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Thought I would drag this thread up as I have a few PhD interviews coming up in the next few weeks.

Obviously wearing something smart is the best plan. But do you think a suit is a bit ott? Particularly as the weather is a bit spicy at the moment. Or would you just go for smart trousers/jeans and a smart shirt?

I'm a bit unsure and would appreciate some advice from someone who's been through all this already. Many thanks.
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epoch
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my person prefrance would be a suit you can still take the jacket off! I know some people that have turned up to interviews in jeans etc.

But imo jeans are a no no especially if your PhD is industry funded...

This thread has been amagamated into the wikipedia article with a link in another post
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TheHoff
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Ok cheers. I think I will wear a suit as the PhDs are industry funded. Ta
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Kitty Pimms
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(Original post by epoch)
my person prefrance would be a suit you can still take the jacket off! I know some people that have turned up to interviews in jeans etc.

But imo jeans are a no no especially if your PhD is industry funded...

This thread has been amagamated into the wikipedia article with a link in another post
I've added a link to the OP. Thanks again for all the hard work
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LLB Kevin
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(Original post by TheHoff)
Thought I would drag this thread up as I have a few PhD interviews coming up in the next few weeks.

Obviously wearing something smart is the best plan. But do you think a suit is a bit ott? Particularly as the weather is a bit spicy at the moment. Or would you just go for smart trousers/jeans and a smart shirt?

I'm a bit unsure and would appreciate some advice from someone who's been through all this already. Many thanks.
I went for smart jeans, black t-shirt and comfy black shoes, and nobody seemed to mind
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PerkinWarbeck
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Any advice regarding postgraduate interviews (I've just been invited to an interview for an MPhil programme i've applied for).
I have problems with articulating myself confidently, and a lack of confidence in general. E.g. poor eye-contact, a stutter when under pressure.

I fear that this interview will bring out the above, and consequently lead to rejection.

Are postgraduate interviews 'high pressure' environments?
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tigermoth99
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I found mine was less stressful than some of the ones for my undergraduate degree. Don't worry about being nervous, just be yourself and take your time when answering the questions.
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Cirsium
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(Original post by PerkinWarbeck)
Any advice regarding postgraduate interviews (I've just been invited to an interview for an MPhil programme i've applied for).
I have problems with articulating myself confidently, and a lack of confidence in general. E.g. poor eye-contact, a stutter when under pressure.

I fear that this interview will bring out the above, and consequently lead to rejection.

Are postgraduate interviews 'high pressure' environments?
Varies massively by institution. My one at Bristol was like a really nice friendly chat that I actually quite enjoyed; one of my ones at York was again really fun because it had been so long since I'd discussed my research with anyone. On the other hand, my other one at York was horrible - I went into complete AS mode, unable to make eye contact and by the end completely scratching at my arms In general, panel interviews and interviews where you're applying for a studentship (e.g. where one department can fund 4 PhDs, so they make 20 offers but only the best get the funding) will be more high pressure than one with a potential supervisor, or where you're self funding.
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PerkinWarbeck
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(Original post by Bekaboo)
Varies massively by institution. My one at Bristol was like a really nice friendly chat that I actually quite enjoyed; one of my ones at York was again really fun because it had been so long since I'd discussed my research with anyone. On the other hand, my other one at York was horrible - I went into complete AS mode, unable to make eye contact and by the end completely scratching at my arms In general, panel interviews and interviews where you're applying for a studentship (e.g. where one department can fund 4 PhDs, so they make 20 offers but only the best get the funding) will be more high pressure than one with a potential supervisor, or where you're self funding.
Many thanks.
It just so happens that my interview is at Bristol, within the history department.
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FeelingForSnow
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Do all PhD's do interviews. i have received an email from Aberdeen saying that my application has been considered and I should receive a letter within 3 weeks - but i haven't had an invitation for interview. Does that mean I havent got a place?
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apotoftea
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(Original post by FeelingForSnow)
Do all PhD's do interviews. i have received an email from Aberdeen saying that my application has been considered and I should receive a letter within 3 weeks - but i haven't had an invitation for interview. Does that mean I havent got a place?
PhD interviews are in the minority and tend to be linked to funding or studentships AFAIK.

So I wouldn't worry just yet
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FeelingForSnow
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Thanks!
I think thats exactly what I wanted to hear.
That calms a bit :yes:
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RadioElectric
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(Original post by apotoftea)
PhD interviews are in the minority and tend to be linked to funding or studentships AFAIK.

So I wouldn't worry just yet
Within the life sciences I've never known the application process for a PhD position to not involve an interview.

(Original post by FeelingForSnow)
x
Could you be finding out in three weeks whether you've made it through to the interview stage? That sounds sensible in terms of my experience of PhD applications (and that of my friends).

I had a look at your profile to try and see what area you would be applying in. I didn't find out anything relevant, but I will say your LastFM box has informed me of your excellent taste in music.
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apotoftea
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(Original post by RadioElectric)
Within the life sciences I've never known the application process for a PhD position to not involve an interview.
Within the Arts, interviews are very few and far between.
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