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New Field for PhD


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I'll be applying to PhD topics this year, but am thinking I'll apply in a different field than my MA work has been.  I've actually done two MAs, one in history in which I looked at relationships between British women and Aboriginals in Canada in the 1830s, the other in interdisciplinary humanities, and my thesis looks at the relationship between food and colonialism.  I am (obviously) still interested in this field, but I think I want to move to 20th century political history.  


I know some people who have changed fields between MA and PhD, but having done two MAs in colonialism, conference presentations, and working on editing a paper for publication in the field, would the sudden fairly major jump in fields lower my chances of successful applications?  I feel like it would not necessarily impact admissions chances too much, but major scholarships look at experience in the field, so I'm wondering about that.


Anyway, I'd appreciate any thoughts on this!

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You're in a different field but my Master's is in Emergency Management and my PhD is in Communication.  People switch fields all the time.  As long as you can clearly elaborate as to why you're making the switch and how your previous studies will help you in your new interest you should be fine. (I even switched areas of communication after I was in my program and when I was worried about it the graduate liaison said that this type of thing happens all the time).

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Simply make the intellectual connection from your MA work to what you want to explore in your PhD work.  Why go from 19th to 20th century- what's the connection?  And why do you want to explore more of the 20th century part?

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  • 3 weeks later...

In your application, it will be important for you to be able to explain why/how your interests have shifted.


As others have said, it's not an insurmountable transition, and, if you can coherently explain why/how it happened, it probably wouldn't even put a dent in your application.


To offer some perspective, I'd estimate that 25-35% of my cohort did their undergraduate studies in disciplines other than history -- we have a few anthropologists, a few media studies people, and even a creative writer. It's not quite the same as the leap you're taking, but it should convey the fact that adcomms are generally open to people studying new things, so long as (again) they can explain how these new interests developed.

Edited by thedig13
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