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How to choose research interest


randy92
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How did you choose your main research interest?

I mean, I have a thing that is very ineteresting for me: relations with Russia. But will it sound foolish for people who will check my SoP? Is it good for dissertation topic? Share your experience

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In ecology, I first chose my focal organisms, which I decided to be plants. Then I chose topics that I found interesting in my coursework, or in the lab that I intern in: herbivory, community interactions, and biodiversity. Then I chose a habitat that I have loved since I was a child watching documentaries on T.V.: the tropics.

 

So, my research interests are causes of high biodiversity in the tropics, and how community interactions and herbivory affect said biodiversity.

 

I think for relations with Russia, you should be a little more specific, and maybe touch on how relationships with Russia influence a particular issue. That's just my two cents, but I'm not in political science.

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In ecology, I first chose my focal organisms, which I decided to be plants. Then I chose topics that I found interesting in my coursework, or in the lab that I intern in: herbivory, community interactions, and biodiversity. Then I chose a habitat that I have loved since I was a child watching documentaries on T.V.: the tropics.

 

So, my research interests are causes of high biodiversity in the tropics, and how community interactions and herbivory affect said biodiversity.

 

I think for relations with Russia, you should be a little more specific, and maybe touch on how relationships with Russia influence a particular issue. That's just my two cents, but I'm not in political science.

thank you very much! now it's much more clear. well, I actually have no idea what issue to choose because I feel like it will be meaningless (no value in my resarch). I need to think about it

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Relation with russia is a common trap (at least you can see lots of people quoting "Sino-US relationship" as their research interests).

In my opinion, SoP ought to be more specific, and you should elaborate what tool kits you have to finish the study. Methodology is most crucial, regardless of what regional interests you might have.

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Relation with russia is a common trap (at least you can see lots of people quoting "Sino-US relationship" as their research interests).

In my opinion, SoP ought to be more specific, and you should elaborate what tool kits you have to finish the study. Methodology is most crucial, regardless of what regional interests you might have.

What methodology can be?

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ok, nevermind, I'll google it. I know what it is, I just need to think it over. So, tell me if I'm wrong: I have to choose 1 event that concern the U.S. and Russia and to put a question about it, for ex. "How event X influenced on relationships...", then choose methodology that I will use and discribe the research process. Right?

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I'm of a slightly different perspective than the previous posters (or maybe i misunderstood what they were saying).

 

For your research interest, and your SOP, the most important thing is that you send clear signals to the AdComs regarding your goal with the PhD. They want to see that you have thought through a particular subject, that you're able to critique current research and/or pose original ideas that can be part of your research agenda. In my own case, I believe that I was too vague with specifying exactly what I wanted to do research on and what type of questions that interest me. Being clear and straightforward is more likely to aid than hurt your application.

 

I believe that the way in which people arrive at "their" research interest(s) is difficult to describe, mainly because most people probably have different ways of doing that. Now, I'm not going to tell you to always pick the research interest that interests you the most. If no one else is doing research on it, or paying attention to that topic, you might have a problem finding a good fit and eventually to get hired at the end of your PhD. That said, you still need to be interested/fascinated in what you end up studying. If you completely lack any passion for your subject it's going to be incredibly hard to crank out a dissertation and stay focused in graduate school.

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I'm of a slightly different perspective than the previous posters (or maybe i misunderstood what they were saying).

 

For your research interest, and your SOP, the most important thing is that you send clear signals to the AdComs regarding your goal with the PhD. They want to see that you have thought through a particular subject, that you're able to critique current research and/or pose original ideas that can be part of your research agenda. In my own case, I believe that I was too vague with specifying exactly what I wanted to do research on and what type of questions that interest me. Being clear and straightforward is more likely to aid than hurt your application.

 

I believe that the way in which people arrive at "their" research interest(s) is difficult to describe, mainly because most people probably have different ways of doing that. Now, I'm not going to tell you to always pick the research interest that interests you the most. If no one else is doing research on it, or paying attention to that topic, you might have a problem finding a good fit and eventually to get hired at the end of your PhD. That said, you still need to be interested/fascinated in what you end up studying. If you completely lack any passion for your subject it's going to be incredibly hard to crank out a dissertation and stay focused in graduate school.

btw, what if no one in faculty have my own interest in international relations? I mean for instance, 3 professors specialize on international relations, but no one has interest in relationships with Russia. is it ok?

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btw, what if no one in faculty have my own interest in international relations? I mean for instance, 3 professors specialize on international relations, but no one has interest in relationships with Russia. is it ok?

You're talking about a program that you would apply to, right?

 

In the scenario you describe, I'd look for other programs.

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You're talking about a program that you would apply to, right?

 

In the scenario you describe, I'd look for other programs.

The program is Political Science, which consists of some fields. One of the field is "International relations". I'm asking, what I can choose in this field. Well, I think I'd better ask faculty itself

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If you wanna research Russia, you should have at least one faculty doing Russian/post-soviet countries, though they could also be in CP, I think. If you have a regional IR interest, it makes sense to have (at least) someone in IR who shares your substantive interests (e.g. Human Rights, Security, UN), and someone who shares your regional interests, has the language skills and connections you need. JMO, of course

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The program is Political Science, which consists of some fields. One of the field is "International relations". I'm asking, what I can choose in this field. Well, I think I'd better ask faculty itself

 

I think the person you're replying to here meant different universities. As in, find universities where the political science department has a Russian specialist or two. 

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I think the person you're replying to here meant different universities. As in, find universities where the political science department has a Russian specialist or two. 

Precisely this :)

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I think the person you're replying to here meant different universities. As in, find universities where the political science department has a Russian specialist or two. 

sounds pretty impossible. I was googling and found that it doesn't matter weather a faculty has professors with similar interests. It's more important if you have straight and coherent plan of research and significant problem. What do you think about it? Is it true?

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also I wrote to 1 university and asked about my topic. Prof. said that at first I have to be admitted and then faculty will decide what topic I should choose. But how I can be admitted if my topic is weak? He coudn't answer.

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Do you not want our help? I think three people have now told you the exact same thing, and whoever you contacted that told you that the faculty will choose your topic was spitting bull. It's true that they don't expect you to come in knowing everything, but they do expect you to have some idea, and they know that it's likely to change/evolve.

 

And no, it's not impossible to find universities with faculty focusing on Russia (in Political science), it would just require you to actually do some research yourself, which I believe should be possible. What I did is look through the top 25 unis in my subfield, and check whether they have someone on staff doing something in my substantial area of interest and in my regional area of interest. If not, they were discarded, if yes, they got onto some preliminary list that I'm then cutting down.

 

I will be ignoring this post from now on, as I feel I'm just wasting my breath, and you don't really want to hear what we're saying.

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sounds pretty impossible. I was googling and found that it doesn't matter weather a faculty has professors with similar interests. It's more important if you have straight and coherent plan of research and significant problem. What do you think about it? Is it true?

 

It's not impossible. There are a ton of departments that have people doing Russian/post-Soviet studies in one form or another. My undergrad program, all of the programs I applied to and the program I am going to have at least one person studying Russia, including IR people. 

 

Instead of googling, go to department websites and look at faculty profiles, CVs, etc. 

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also I wrote to 1 university and asked about my topic. Prof. said that at first I have to be admitted and then faculty will decide what topic I should choose. But how I can be admitted if my topic is weak? He coudn't answer.

 

 

I would stop emailing faculty if you have not truly picked a topic area. You have a little over 5 months to do research. My suggestion is to see if there are articles you like and google the author names to see where they teach.

Here is what you should do:

1) First find schools that are interested in your broader research area. For example, what about Russia are you interested in? Is it security? If so, look at schools that are good with security. 

2) Do research to see where those who specialize in Russia are at. 

I would recommend not only applying to schools that specialize in Russia, but also your broader interests. Just make sure to tie it all together in your SOP. This is what I am doing, but my research interests are more niche than "Russia." Of course, don't blame me if you don't get your desired acceptance results. Apply widely!

Edited by luckyducky
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Do you not want our help? I think three people have now told you the exact same thing, and whoever you contacted that told you that the faculty will choose your topic was spitting bull. It's true that they don't expect you to come in knowing everything, but they do expect you to have some idea, and they know that it's likely to change/evolve.

 

And no, it's not impossible to find universities with faculty focusing on Russia (in Political science), it would just require you to actually do some research yourself, which I believe should be possible. What I did is look through the top 25 unis in my subfield, and check whether they have someone on staff doing something in my substantial area of interest and in my regional area of interest. If not, they were discarded, if yes, they got onto some preliminary list that I'm then cutting down.

 

I will be ignoring this post from now on, as I feel I'm just wasting my breath, and you don't really want to hear what we're saying.

don't be so picky bro. It is not a bad thing when somebody start the topic on how to prove academic capability, especially when this forum is quiescent. 

 

Another suggestion is, try to enroll in some PhD courses and co-work with PhD students. Then you would discover scientific and methodological clues above the regional interests. Regional interests (including language skills, experience with that region) is only a small portion of tool kits in political science study, and could be a particular advantage to you. But beyond that, there is still a lot to do to make meaningful Political Science proposals.

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I have a narrow topic, i just don't want to write about it here. That's why I simply told "Relationships with Russia". 

I wrote to another prof. from another university, he told me that "there are a sufficient number of faculty in our department with knowledge of that topic for you to pursue it here" and added that he encourages me to apply.

IRToni,

Thanks for comments. I hear what are you saying. Ignore my post, don't waste your significant time.

 

This is my first experience and I want to think over everything, not to fail. 

 

 

It's not impossible. There are a ton of departments that have people doing Russian/post-Soviet studies in one form or another. My undergrad program, all of the programs I applied to and the program I am going to have at least one person studying Russia, including IR people. 

I don't think that Russian studies is a rare topic) So I agree with you. 

Anyways, I'm going to look through faculties again and take out some that have no similar interests.

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