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Overlap in degree programs


Adelaide9216
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Hello! How do you get to choose which program to apply to when your research topic falls under many disciplines? I have an idea for a research project but I do not know if it belongs in Social Work, Communications or Criminology. 

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19 minutes ago, Adelaide9216 said:

Hello! How do you get to choose which program to apply to when your research topic falls under many disciplines? I have an idea for a research project but I do not know if it belongs in Social Work, Communications or Criminology. 

Some universities have programs called "New Degrees" or something similar where you get to design your own degree.  I really have no idea how that would work in a PhD program. You would probably have to pitch the idea to different departments or try to find the one most likely to go along with it.

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In this case, what it might come down to is theoretical and methodological frameworks (which programs align best with the way you want to do your research and have a breadth of literature related to your research). This will vary by department, so a Comm program may be the best choice at one school and Criminology at another. Also, consider the resources of the programs you're looking into. It's no secret that some departments have more resources than others (both within discipline and within university) and, if finances are a factor, it might be important to know where you might get more financial support. 

Some universities will let you apply to more than one program so, if you can't choose between two programs at one school, sometimes that isn't a problem.

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^Yes, the above. You can answer many research questions from different fields; often what differs is the kind of approach that you take and the methods you use to investigate it.

It's also possible that in the same application season you may apply to multiple different kinds of programs: so at one university maybe you apply to the social work PhD whereas at another you apply for the communications PhD program, based on the professors and resources and other factors. There's nothing wrong with that as long as you have a good personal reason for each and every program you apply to.

Another pragmatic consideration, particularly if you want an academic career, is where you will teach. Although this is changing, it's often easier for people in disciplines (e.g., sociology, psychology, political science) to get jobs than it is for people with interdisciplinary PhDs (communications, social policy, etc.) The rationale is that while a communications department would hire, say, someone with a PhD in political science who studied political communication, a PhD in communication would be a hard sell in a political science department.

Most universities won't let you design your own PhD program, BUT most PhD programs are pretty flexible. A social work PhD student could easily take courses and do research with professors in criminology or communications as it suited their needs. In fact, it may be a good idea to look for universities that have strong resources in all three fields.

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I did a little bit of reading (I sometimes skim through other students that have completed their master's or doctoral thesis in my field out of curiosity and to learn the process of academic research for myself). I was very disappointed but not surprised to find out that earlier this year, a student has done a research project on the topic I was contemplating. This is someone I don't know btw. And her methods are more-so what I had in mind for a potential doctoral research.

I looked at her work, went straight to her conclusions and limitations to see if there were any gaps in research that I could explore in my own research project. Is that a good way to find new angles to a research topic that might already have been studied? Or should I choose a totally new research topic for a PhD?

 

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