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QuestioningTheQuestion

Starting a PhD in the Fall, How to indicate breadth in research?

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Hello,

I'm not sure how normal it is for new PhD students to feel sudden anxiety/uncertainty/self-doubt starting their first year (I suspect it is), but I thought I'd ask about my particular situation. I really am so excited and grateful for this opportunity, but looking ahead to job market prospects I can't help but have some questions (about research strategy).

I received 3 program offers to distinct yet related programs (Communication Studies, Film/Media/Visual Studies, and American Studies). I have a Master's Degree in English, and ultimately chose to purse the Visual Media PhD based on the advice of a former advisor who knows me and my work quite well. It's definitely the best fit based on the number of people in the department I could work with (there are about 4 as opposed to 1-2 in the Comm program offer I decided not to take). It's also probably the right fit based on my strengths/interests which are more humanities based.

I'm committed to my decision, but I can't help but wonder if it's possible to still pursue jobs in the Communication Studies field, considering there is greater program breadth/methods and training in straight-up Comm programs (in social sciences & humanities, rather than primarily just humanities/cultural studies, as I'm pursuing). I keep telling myself I'm not interested in teaching Organizational/Strategic/Health Communications (more quantitative sub-fields) anyways , and that perhaps I can still pursue jobs in Communications/Media Studies departments down the road, provided I tailor my interests appropriately to extend beyond just film to also look at digital studies, global media, etc.

Would it help at all for me to take a Comm elective in quantitative methods, or would this be super random and out of place? Or, should I just go hard on the humanities focus on and not worry about the path not taken?

Also, does anyone know if those trained in primarily the humanities tradition & cultural studies have a realistic chance of competing for a Communications job that seeks candidates with a focus on critical media studies and qualitative methods? I've seen a few postings that indicate interest in applicants from closely related fields (which I believe film/visual media studies is), but I'm just not sure. I'm basically wondering about the strengths and challenges of pursuing a more interdisciplinary degree program, and about how broad my interests can (or should) be to give me the most breadth possible later when going on the job market.

Perhaps it is a strength that I could theoretically apply to Film/Media/English departments as well as Comm departments, but I'm not sure if I'm being naive or idealistic, or overextending myself to try to tailor my research in a way that could fit job prospects in both fields (Comm and Film/English). I'd also really like to talk to my department about this, but I'm not sure how welcome said questioning would be from a new student (I don't want to reveal how insecure I am on my first day lol).

Any thoughts/advice/suggestions would be most appreciated! 

 

Edited by QuestioningTheQuestion

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1 hour ago, QuestioningTheQuestion said:

Would it help at all for me to take a Comm elective in quantitative methods, or would this be super random and out of place? Or, should I just go hard on the humanities focus on and not worry about the path not taken?

Also, does anyone know if those trained in primarily the humanities tradition & cultural studies have a realistic chance of competing for a Communications job that seeks candidates with a focus on critical media studies and qualitative methods?

It's impossible to say what skills and experiences will make job applicants more competitive years from now, not the least because the growing capabilities of AI- and ASI- driven technology may revolutionize how data are processed and analyzed. 

However, what you can do is to do research on the backgrounds of individuals who have positions similar to what you see yourself doing in the future and also keep looking at job descriptions for positions currently available. If you find that quantitative methods-type skills are commonly held and sought, you may want to to focus your efforts there. But again, you could find yourself learning skills that have a limited shelf life.

Another alternative that you might consider is developing other skillsets that might make you a more competitive applicant. 

What ever path you decide to travel, IMO, you'd do well to avoid the "path not taken" looks over your shoulder. They can be debilitating. (Or so I've heard.)

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It's very common to feel sudden anxiety and I think that rises as you get closer to the first day, so you're in good company!

I had a similar conundrum to you when I first entered graduate school. I was getting a PhD in an interdisciplinary social sciences field, but I really wanted to teach in the discipline I got my bachelor's degree in (which my PhD research was focused on). I spent a ton of time and energy trying to figure out the best course of action.

I don't know much about communications specifically, as that's not my field. But what I have absorbed is that interdisciplinary fields tend to be less precious about the exact kind of PhD that you got and more concerned about what you do research on and what you can teach. This also varies a lot by the university. I've noticed communications departments are all over the place: some are professional programs that focus on the technical aspects of communication (and really are more focused on media, like radio/tv/film); some focus on corporate communications in business; others are far broader and take a more humanistic approach to communication, including elements of visual culture as well. Some departments basically include media studies too.

Whether or not it would be helpful to take the elective depends a lot. I don't think one random class would qualify you to teach quant methods, so it won't be useful in that regard. However, if you were interested in mixed-methods research or incorporating quant research into your research - or even just using that as a stepping stone into more depth in the area - it could be useful. IMO, though, your plans to expand your research to look at digital studies and global media is probably going to be more beneficial to your career plans than a single quant methods class, especially if you don't plan to do any quant research.

Your second question, I think, depends on the orientation of the department. Some folks, when they say "qualitative methods," are referring specifically to things like interviews, focus groups, ethnography, etc. Others mean it more expansively and include the kind of scholarship humanists do. You'd basically have to evaluate each department to get a sense of what they mean when they're looking for candidates that focus on those areas.

Also, I don't think this is insecurity at all. You should definitely talk to your department about it! You can bring it up with your adviser once you've established a relationship.

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