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Hi guys, I'm a class of 2020 undergraduate from Pakistan (woman). My training/ major was English which was very post-col heavy due to the nature of the department. I haven't had any instruction in film studies or Marxism but have identified these fields as my ultimate area of interest . The program that is perhaps the dream is Duke's Literature program because it's very theory heavy with a clear Marxist bent but my problem is that A) I know it's extremely competitive B ) generally, I want more options to look at. I don't think I know how to go about research in this process. I know I'm supposed to look at individual universities, the dept of interest, and then faculty publications but I'm just overwhelmed by the number of publications, and not being whether to read entire books or just chapters? I don't know in what detail I'm supposed to know about the interests of individual dept members and I also don't know how to build my profile (considering my undergrad wasn't film and cultural studies heavy)? Also, I don't know to what extent my interests should overlap  with the department's? Is it good enough to show ability to research and a theoretical inclination or do I need to find people who specialize in Marxist theory and cultural media criticism? I know these questions show a lot of ignorance but I really have been trying to figure out this process more or less on my own and I would appreciate any help?

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(Is Duke accepting applications for Fall 2022?)

In any case, for developing options, I recommend that you start with the "low hanging fruit" so you can work backwards towards the branches of the trees you want to explore as a graduate student.

  • Find "state of the field" articles in academic journals directly related to your areas of study so you can get familiar with the main currents of debate over the last five to ten years.
  • Do some preliminary research on the academics who wrote the articles and who seem to be cited often. You may start to see patterns -- they went to the same programs and/or are influenced by the same scholars.
  • You don't necessarily need to read everything -- try to develop an eye for skimming while making note of which works you will want to circle back and study.

When assessing degrees of overlap between your interests and potential committee members, keep in mind that the objective of a doctoral program is to create new knowledge. By the time you start working on your dissertation, there's a good chance that you'll know a bit more about your specific topic than members of your committees. And even before then, it's possible that your interests will shift. (Also, rapport may not develop and you decide to work with someone else.)

Admissions committees will be looking for information that indicates an applicant's ability to do work at the graduate level. A challenge you face is finding ways to tell the story of how you got to where you are, and how that work has prepared you for an emphasis on film studies and Marxist theory that will get you where you want to go as a professional academic.

Please do not be deterred by statistics. Yes, you want to have well managed expectations when it comes to selecting potential programs. At the same time, next year an applicant will be pleasantly surprised to receive an offer of admission from Happyland University. Why can't that person be you?







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