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PhD Application Research Statement

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After much recommendation from a friend who frequents this site often, I thought I would go ahead and post to see if any of you could help me at all. I am currently applying for the brand new Sport & Entertainment Management PhD program at the University of South Carolina for this coming fall. For a little background, I attended the University of South Carolina for both undergraduate and graduate school, with my minor being Sport & Entertainment Management in undergrad and then getting my Master's Degree in the same field in graduate school.


I have been corresponding with the head person that was brought in specifically for this program, which has been since I graduated with my Master's in May 2012. These conversations have gone very well and he told me of a few professors, which I knew from attending, that could fit well with my potential research interests. I contacted these and have found one professor who has pretty much agreed to mentor and work with me if I get into school, which I am told is a major hurdle and even more important than the academics side, according to the head of the department.


Now, I am in the process of actually applying and the application requires a Research Statement, which I've never actually done before. I've done my personal research on how to write one of course, but there are varying recommendations on them. Some say to discuss your prior research history, which I do not know if that can include research projects in classes, since I have no other experience. One professor told me that this is mostly just to show my interests in the field and that the program will obviously be the one teaching us how to go about this, since we shouldn't have much of any experience at this point, but I could never get a straight answer on if I should discuss prior research for classes in graduated school, which resulted in 50 page papers and presentations.


The actual professor that I am going to be working with, if I get in, recommended that I start by doing a literature review, but I am still not sure the best resources to use to go about that either. It's one of those cases where I have asked questions to this professor, but I don't want to bug him or anything since he is supposed to campaign on my behalf to get me into the program after I apply.


As a result, I was hoping to see if anybody that has applied for a similiar program or had to do a research statement, rather than the usual statement of purpose, had any advice for me whatsoever. I've done statement of purposes in the past, but with this being different I want to make sure I do whatever I can to make it sound right. Also, the description of the research statement from this actual application is as follows:


A one to two page Research Statement that is inclusive of your research interests and how these research interests might assist you in reaching your Career Objectives. Please discuss how the USC PhD Sport & Entertainment Management can support you in these manners (e.g. list a faculty member, research institute, etc.)


I know this got a little long winded, but I wanted to make sure I explained everything well enough. I appreciate any advice that you guys have at all.


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It's basically like two sides of a coin: what are you want to research during your Ph.D. and what you have done in the past to push you towards that direction.


You should have some idea of the research you want to do, otherwise why are you applying for a Ph.D.? (the fact that you talked to various people about your interests, tells me that you do). That doesn't mean you are ready to write a dissertation proposal on the spot, but it means what are you interested in investigating? What questions would you like to attempt to answer in your field? You should first have a general interest within your field, then it should be narrowed down to some kind of causal relationship between two variables and a set of questions pertaining to that relationship. No one is going to make you research what you stated in your application, but this task helps committees see if you know how to develop a research question in academia. 


As far as your research experience...was there not a thesis component to your masters program? That is always one place to start. Did you do any special 1 on 1 work with professors? Using projects from classes for research experience is fine as long as they fit two requirements:


1) It is a project of substantial length and depth.

2) It is actually research. IE, it has a question and goes about answering that question through some kind of methodological process. 


Lastly, don't do a literature review unless it is directly tied and consistent with your research question. A literature review helps you hash out what has been done in the field, and what works can help you shape your project and answer your question. As for how to do that, you should already know this.


Bear with me because I know next to nothing about your field...


For example...you may want to investigate how different markets for sports teams influence how management allocates resources and manages their teams. More specifically, there may be a general trend that small market teams allocate more resources towards drafting, minor league scouting, and developing their farm system so that they can field teams with players on cheap contracts that can compete with others who spend substantially more. Whereas large market teams focus more on professional scouting, executives to sign free agents, and marketing so that they can use their ability to have larger budgets towards getting good players and putting more fans in the stands.


Your question would be something like "does the size of markets affect how teams allocate resources within their organization"? Do small market teams behave substantially different when managing sports teams than large market teams? Ect., Ect.


As for a literature review, look for people who may have researched the topic or something similar. Use databases to search for articles or books. All you really need for this stage is one or a couple of good works that closely align with your question. Then backtrack, find out who they cited. Read those, find out who they cited, read those. And so on. 


Now the literature review shouldn't be exhaustive, but it should show that you know the field somewhat and know what has been written about your topic of interest. Then mould it into your statement like "such and such argue X and blah blah but I want to investigate this." Or "person X has influenced my interests." 


Hope this somewhat helps haha.

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