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What inspired your research agenda topic for you dissertations? I'm currently applying for a Phd programs and just curious to about how most people decide on a precise area or topic to focus on during their Phd matriculation. Do most people know the topics they want to explore during the application process or do most people narrow down their ideas after the first year in the program?

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I haven't officially started my program yet, but I knew what area i wanted to focus on during my application process. I was able to communicate this general area within one sentence and break it down into several topics I am interested in. I was inspired by experiences with classmates and those I tutored as well as my personal background.

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It's a little bit of both. You should have a general area identified when you're applying, but many (most?) graduate students continue to refine and evolve their interests during graduate school - and beyond. You kind of have to, as the resources and opportunities at your disposal only become more clear after you've begun and have met your PI, seen what ongoing projects are happening in your area, learn more about the scientific conversation in your field, etc.

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