The last few weeks have been spent perusing journal abstracts and any freely available papers I could get my hands on in an attempt to formulate a decent Phd topic in order to apply for a studentship at the University of Hertfordshire. The main problem I have had is paring down my million and one ideas and areas of interest into one decent question that has enough literature out there to avoid ‘tracks in the snow’ type issues.
The initial ‘boiled down’ idea which seemed promising based on a couple of abstracts I found was to do with a percieved difference in the critical success factor of BME students between online and offline learning – sadly when I managed to obtain an athens login to actually check my assumptions it turned out the actual papers said nothing of the sort – so scratch that!
After arranging to meet with Theo to ask specifically about his current work, I ended up sat in the humanities department office chatting with 5 or 6 lovely folk about their ongoing Phd work and my past experience and interests. Several times I was advised to work from an experience perspective for now as I can always migrate more towards my less understood areas of academic interest when I’ve done enough reading to justify it; apparently for the application process I merely need to show that I’m a good candidate who can structure a proposal that the department can resource and supervise. They actually EXPECT you to change focus at least slightly in the first 8 months as you start immersing yourself in the literature of your chosen field.
This is encouraging. While not extensive, my experience in projects conducting participatory action research is recent and fairly varied, I’ve presented several times at UK conferences about these projects and once at the international Blended Learning conference on my own final year project and experiences as an undergrad. This shows I can take what I’ve learned and present it to others – a Phd requirement from what I’ve heard.
The hope is that I will be accepted onto the studentship, actually put some of my ideas into action and make a difference. it’s like the ultimate dream ‘job’ for me: being paid to study and help other people academically in a place I can walk to with people I already respect and admire.
So yeah, fingers crossed and any advice re the UK Phd application process gratefully received. It’s a long shot as competition for these places will be fierce but I’m hopeful – and what’s life without hope eh?!