How hard can this be?

If you are thinking of applying for any form of post-graduate study – and don’t want to make the same mistakes as me – focus.

I knew the question I wanted to research – or, at least, I thought I did….

A tip: the University of Portsmouth website suggests having an informal chat. Do it! I was anxious they may not think my idea worthy or even dismiss it out of hand. Instead, I received some excellent support and encouragement, although I was given a lot to think about too. Following an email I sent to Dr. Lai, we had a very constructive discussion and she helped me to focus on what I was really asking.

I threw myself into this. Time (and money) was spent purchasing and reading numerous books and articles related to the subject I want to research; namely coaching supervision in organisations.

Some of you may have noticed my first two mistakes –

(1) Thinking I knew the question I wanted to research. That tends to change and develop as you write your proposal. I soon found that it’s anticipated your question will change during your research;¬†although it is good to have a starting point.

(2) ‘reading numerous books’. Read peer-reviewed journals, as they have credibility and are well referenced. Searching for relevant journals will also help you identify whether anyone has already researched your question.

The next challenge is to write your proposal in such a way as it grabs the interest of potential supervisors. Here I received great counsel – balance proving you know your subject and how it will add to knowledge, whilst still ‘talking to Granny’. At first, this was a bit abstract for me, but I quickly learned that my proposal would be read by academics, who may not know my subject. Therefore, imagine you are talking to your Granny (even if only hypothetically) about your research. Would she know what you’re talking about or would her eyes glaze over.

If it’s the latter, then so will the initial academic reader. At the same time, they will know if everything in your proposal has been properly researched and explained.

Once you’ve submitted it, if it is accepted, you’ll be invited for an interview. Remember the old adage ‘be prepared’. Just because your proposal is good does not mean the interview is a given – it is not! I read and re-read my proposal, my application and took note of any online tips too – and I was so glad I did. It was a constructive, but challenging process and getting through this and receiving an offer made me feel like I’d earned my PhD already.

However, now the hard work begins….

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