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Research Topic For Grad School


red4tribe

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Hi all,

 

I will be graduating from undergrad in May. I plan to start applying to grad schools within the next month or two for the Fall of 2014 semester. I'll be applying straight for the PHD program where I am able to.

 

So my real question here is, at what point in time do you need to specifically have a topic you want to research? I have a number of different ideas in my head, I know I want to do something with Early America(1750-1790) but I am yet to settle on a specific topic that I would do my thesis on when the time comes. At what point in time do you think that I should have a topic? Should I already have one?

 

 

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Hi all,

 

I will be graduating from undergrad in May. I plan to start applying to grad schools within the next month or two for the Fall of 2014 semester. I'll be applying straight for the PHD program where I am able to.

 

So my real question here is, at what point in time do you need to specifically have a topic you want to research? I have a number of different ideas in my head, I know I want to do something with Early America(1750-1790) but I am yet to settle on a specific topic that I would do my thesis on when the time comes. At what point in time do you think that I should have a topic? Should I already have one?

 

Yes, you should probably have one.

 

If this is something you actually want to do, I would take some time off and go see the world. Apply in a few years.

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Hi all,

 

I will be graduating from undergrad in May. I plan to start applying to grad schools within the next month or two for the Fall of 2014 semester. I'll be applying straight for the PHD program where I am able to.

 

So my real question here is, at what point in time do you need to specifically have a topic you want to research? I have a number of different ideas in my head, I know I want to do something with Early America(1750-1790) but I am yet to settle on a specific topic that I would do my thesis on when the time comes. At what point in time do you think that I should have a topic? Should I already have one?

 

Your research interests can and probably will shift when you're in school, but it's incredibly important to have a specific topic in mind for your statement of purpose. The SOP is, IMO, the most influential part of your application packet. Schools want to see that you're interested in something unique, as well as something that meshes well with their faculty (since your advisor will need to similar research interests). If you are not specific as to your interests, and can't name exactly who you want to work with and why, you shouldn't apply yet.

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Your research interests can and probably will shift when you're in school, but it's incredibly important to have a specific topic in mind for your statement of purpose. The SOP is, IMO, the most influential part of your application packet. Schools want to see that you're interested in something unique, as well as something that meshes well with their faculty (since your advisor will need to similar research interests). If you are not specific as to your interests, and can't name exactly who you want to work with and why, you shouldn't apply yet.

 

On top of this, schools want to see that you can conceive of complex projects and ask incisive questions - that you can think like a historian, not an undergrad.

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I respectfully disagree with the view that one needs to know the specific topic of one's dissertation when one is an aspiring graduate student. A dissertation is a work that creates new knowledge and advances the historiographical debate over a topic.

Unless one has been well trained and mentored as an undergraduate, I don't think one can come remotely close to defining a specific topic.

That is to say you could, maybe even should know the area and interval you would like to study (e.g. American war planning during the Eisenhower administration) but you may want to hold off before naming the specific aspects of those plans until you've had the opportunity to do directed reading and research as a graduate student.

My $0.02.

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I respectfully disagree with the view that one needs to know the specific topic of one's dissertation when one is an aspiring graduate student. A dissertation is a work that creates new knowledge and advances the historiographical debate over a topic.

Unless one has been well trained and mentored as an undergraduate, I don't think one can come remotely close to defining a specific topic.

That is to say you could, maybe even should know the area and interval you would like to study (e.g. American war planning during the Eisenhower administration) but you may want to hold off before naming the specific aspects of those plans until you've had the opportunity to do directed reading and research as a graduate student.

My $0.02.

 

I don't think we disagree with our answers so much as on what the OP is asking. I think (s)he needs to be more specific than they are, and I understood "thesis" - possibly incorrectly - in the context of a senior project rather than as a diss. 

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The others are correct that you need a general idea of your interests, if not a specific topic. It's perfectly acceptable to say "My interests lie in the intersection of race and class formation in colonial America" (to just choose a bunch of random words). That's nowhere near a dissertation topic, but it is a signal that your interests (hopefully) align with the particular faculty at the school you're applying to.

 

If you'd like, feel free to send me a personal message (I also study early America) and I'd be happy to talk with you more in depth about defining and refining your interests in a way that would suit admissions committees and potential advisors.

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