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Hi everyone :D
 
I'd like to ask your advice in this superb forum, regarding my hesitation between two specializations in PhD (I'm currently searching for fully-funded PhD programs outside of Egypt! & my Master's was in the field of political science).
 
Generally, I have determined my future research agenda that I will focus on my whole life... & it involves two directions which I will try to interconnect:
 
1) Researching the impact of expanding children's knowledge paradigm (specifically children dis-attached from stable socialization - preferably in conflict areas, if I'd be able to get funding to go there) through the lens of Big History on their value & identity formation.
 
2) Researching human cultural evolution within Big History, specifically change of cultural values & identity, & their future directions.
 
I realize that for my PhD, I must focus on one topic/direction only. So I figured that (since I plan to specialize in both tracks in the future), I must focus my PhD on the one that needs more training than the other (to make efficient use of the PhD-provided time & training).
 
So I wonder if anyone knows which of these two directions needs more training? I speculate that the first direction needs training in anthropological & ethnographic research & psychological analysis... while the second direction needs training in mathematical modeling & analysis & cliodynamics... which would you think needs more essential training for the time being, while I can postpone the other to catch up with more easily in post-doc?
 
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Well, the methodologies are:

1) For studying children's values, the methodology will be ethnographic. I expect it to utilize anthropology & psychological analysis, while I teach the children & examine their value formation.

2) For studying human cultural evolution, the methodology will be different, because it's an examination of the spatially & temporally extensive evolution of human cultural values throughout history & across various regions & cultures. This would be rather in the field of cliodynamics, & will utilize evolution theory & mathematical modeling for socio-historical processes.

So the first one is intensive, & the second is extensive... What I'm not sure about is which path needs more training, so I can devote my PhD time for, while postponing the other for later (after PhD)?

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 While long-term thinking is good, you should also consider the likelihood of reaching your most immediate goal, which is acceptance to a fully-funded PhD program in the United States. Not to be a total party pooper, but what you've written thus far does not inspire confidence that you understand what is required to gain acceptance to these highly selective programs.

First, PhD programs -- at least in the U.S. context, with which I am more familiar -- do not take students and train them from scratch. That is, if you don't already have training in statistics and mathematical modeling, it is difficult to imagine a program accepting you to pursue #2. Likewise for #1 if you have no significant research experience using or engaging with ethnographic theories and methods. If I were you, I would choose the research agenda for which you are already most likely to be successful in the short-to-medium range term. 

Second, rather than thinking about just a bounded research topic, it might also behoove you to think about disciplinary constraints and training. That is, PhD programs also seek to mold you into a disciplinarian -- i.e. a political scientist, anthropologist, sociologist, historian, etc. To be accepted into a PhD program, you must be able to explain your project in the language and norms of the discipline that you enter. I encourage you to stay away from "Big History" and "cliodynamics" in your SOP, as these are still decidedly outside of mainstream academia. 

Topic #1 seems to be most immediately legible IMO, though you should also think more specifically about the population you want to specialize in (i.e. what area of the world?). For Topic #2, you might want to look through the literature on world systems theory or browse the leadership of the Political Economy of the World-System section of the American Sociological Association, as those scholars might be more sympathetic to a project such as yours. 

 

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Thank you hj for your important advice & recommendations to me...

Yes, indeed I realize the immense difficulty in the two projects I want to work with. So I will try as much as I can to find ways to tailor my application papers to the programs' needs, as well as search for most relevant programs (if I don't get accepted to the directly-related programs). I will seek to also email professors & programs' managers to ask them how likely I may get accepted with my background.

I didn't mention that my Master's research was on "political cultural change", so wanting to complete my PhD within cultural values, albeit intersecting with other disciplines (e.g. psychology, evolution theory), & using other different methodologies to expand my experiences, is not very irrelevant to my background. I will also try to focus on multi- or inter-disciplinary PhD programs that may have bigger flexibility in approving candidates from different backgrounds! :)

About the children's project (studying their value formation), I already put in my proposal that I'd do it in Iraq, with refugee children there. But I have to add that I'm flexible, 'cause they may have no travel funding, so I can do it with groups of children where the PhD program is. Or do you think this is also not feasible?

As for applying for Big History, Evolution Theory, World Systems Theory (as you appreciatedly recommended), Cliodynamics, etc., I realize it's a new emerging field. But I'm getting opposite advice in that, some say because of this, it would be un-realistic & very hard to find a fully-funded PhD program for; while others say that this is actually a good thing, because getting a PhD & specializing in a new field that not many people specialize in, would benefit my future career & research so much!

Of course, while searching for programs, I don't limit myself to America only, because I realize that finding a fully-funded PhD abroad is difficult, so I'm expanding the net that I cast: I search for programs all over the world, so as not to limit my chances...

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Hey nushi,

Based on how different your methodologies would be for these projects, I would suggest rethinking your methodology. If you want to use qualitative for some research and quantitative for other projects, that will probably be easier if you look for a mixed-methods program and create a study that incorporates both trajectories.

What I've found as someone with an anthropological background who wants to study digital communities and communication: it can be exceedingly difficult to find a project that's the right fit when there's one (if that) prof interested in digital communities. I actually had a great anth professor say they'd love to work with me, but there is literally no one else in the department interested in the topic so there was no point in applying. It's just not widely adopted yet within anth. Instead, I'll be applying mainly to Comm programs where digital research is widespread and accepted. However, one of the things you can do to bridge the gap between the "too new" methods is to create a project that is 1. mixed-methods and 2. incorporates both the new methods and well-founded and accepted methods to lead to more robust findings.

For my intended research, one of the things I'm doing is a mixed-methods approach that situates the contemporary situation within the larger context of historical communication changes. This allows me to take a past, present, future approach to the project that I feel will make the work stronger and more applicable to future researchers. 

 

Sorry if any of this doesn't make sense. I was typing this during a voice chat meeting and am not sure if it messed with the way I was typing.

 

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Thank you green eyed trombonist for your valuable advice :) I will sure look into your perspective while searching for programs. I'm now inclined to search & apply to both kinds of programs, & whatever comes to me is good.

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