Jump to content
  • 0
Adelaide9216

How independant are you expected to be a the Ph.D. level?

Question

I am asking this, because I am writing my research proposal for Ph.D. applications along with my future supervisor, and I feel hesitant to ask for help or clarification by fear of being seen as not suited for a Ph.D. program...My sense is that at the Ph.D. level, you are supposed to show that you can be an independant scholar even though you're still a student, right? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

3 answers to this question

Recommended Posts

  • 1
2 hours ago, Adelaide9216 said:

I am asking this, because I am writing my research proposal for Ph.D. applications along with my future supervisor, and I feel hesitant to ask for help or clarification by fear of being seen as not suited for a Ph.D. program...My sense is that at the Ph.D. level, you are supposed to show that you can be an independant scholar even though you're still a student, right? 

Yes, you're supposed to develop into an independent scholar by the end of your PhD. But if you were already a fully formed independent scholar, you wouldn't need the PhD training, would you? The difference between your undergraduate degree and your graduate education won't be in that you're suddenly expected to know everything. It'll be in how you go about asking questions and finding out the answers to things you don't know. You'll still have some coursework that will allow you to learn some subject matters in a guided way, but often you'll discover that have to teach yourself what you need to know from here on out. That means identifying what you don't know (crucial first step!) and then what to read/teach yourself to fill the gap. One of the best ways to do that is to *ask around*! This is one of the things your advisor is there for. It's perfectly fine to say you're not familiar (enough) with X. But now, instead of expecting someone to just teach you what X is, you might instead want to ask for some main sources to read to get up to speed, and do the reading yourself. That's what being independent means in this context: not knowing everything, but learning how to develop the tools you need to do your work -- which often means precisely saying that you don't know something and asking for pointers for where to go from there.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

Though I'm not in graduate school yet I'll say what has been discussed with me and how I applied.

Graduate schools and Ph.D. programs are to teach you how to be thoughtful and how to independently develop research questions and answer them yourself. Naturally this does require some level of independence in completing assignments, papers, etc in a timely manner but so do many aspects of your career. In terms of asking for help with applications that's absolutely appropriate! Your supervisor isn't there to judge you they're there to help you highlight and discover your own voice. In the beginning especially they are likely to expect that you will have more questions and as you gain experience in the program that you'll naturally begin to answer them on your own, and ask for their help after exhausting other resources.

When I wrote my research statements I started out with a bullet point list of things I thought would be interesting. For each I then bulleted ways I could approach the question, resources I would need presently, and background information i would need to gather. I then took this list to one of my current advisors who gave suggestions and led me to my more solidified research proposal which I was able to use in applying to graduate school. After I compiled the entire statement I went back for more advice and was told I had focused too much in one spot and not enough in another. All this clarification is what I believe helped me compile the most thorough proposal I could have, and was a statement that many of my interviewers/PIs were able to reference and ask deeper questions about.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

Yes and No. I think you're there to develop independent thoughts and thinking - however you're not expected to be able to do this from day 1. In the end, you're there to LEARN. Advice I have had from both current students and staff is not to be afraid to ask - you're there to learn! And you can also learn from eachother.

Most advisors seem to have a habit to let you join some projects first to get an idea of how things go. Having worked with multiple people - I've had people tell me to just come in when the data is there and others who wanted to discuss anything and everything. However, the further along in your PhD you are, the more independent you are expected to be of course. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.