7 Tips for Applying for a Research Degree

7 Tips for Applying for a Research Degree


Hello, my name is James Arvanitakis and
I’m the Dean of Graduate Research here at Western Sydney University. This is a short video to tell you about
applying for a PhD or Master of Research. We get lots of enquiries about what’s the best way to apply, so we
thought we’d put this video together to talk about what should you do, and we’ve got seven tips we’re going to
put together for you. The first tip is to do some serious
research, some internet research. You should really research the
institution and possibly the supervisor that you want to work with. There is no point just sort of sitting
there and picking any institution randomly, you should really identify who
you want to work with and at which institution. The second point is to start putting your
ideas on paper. What you should do is actually sit down and put together three
or four paragraphs about your research interest, a little bit about yourself and
also why you want to work at that institution or that specific supervisor.
That is, you should be saying “look I’ve done this reading, I understand what you
work on and this is how I’m related to it”. This is a little bit about me and this
is my broad research area. Putting together something like that actually
shows that you’re serious and really interested in the topic that you picked. Ok, the third thing is once you have
this written down is to actually then send an email or contact your supervisor
or your potential supervisor. Now, don’t send a generic email. I get dozens of emails
every month saying “Dear sir, can you supervise me?” Most of those
emails you basically delete. Every now and again I get an email that says
“Dear Professor Arvanitakis, I’ve read this paper that you’ve written
and it fits in with this research interest of mine and I want you to supervise me
to undertake this topic”. It’s a very clear email, it specifically describes what the
student wants to do and why they want to work with me. That is a really powerful thing and
actually will separate you from other people who are looking at applying for a
PhD. The fourth thing: so you sent the email, now follow up. Follow up with a phone
call or another email. What you want to do is you actually want
to organise a time to speak to your potential supervisor or at this
university, we actually have Higher Degree Research Directors. You’re going to make a time
to have a bit of a chat. It’s almost like an interview. In a way they’ll be interviewing you but you should also be interviewing them.
Make sure that you’re comfortable talking to them. Make sure that you’re comfortable with the
way that they’re talking to you and the board approach that they’re willing to
take. So begin a conversation. This dialogue is
really important in actually knowing that you’re going to the right place and
then beginning the process of applying for a PhD. The fifth thing: so you’ve identified a possible
supervisor you’ve now written down some of your
ideas. The fifth thing is actually to go in with a really good idea of your research
interest and your research area. One of the things that often happens is
we get emails that says “Oh what do you think I should research?” That is not a
way to approach research, especially within the Australian context. What you
need to do is actually know what you want to research, discuss it with your
potential supervisor and then begin to refine it. This is a really important thing about
actually going into a PhD or a Master of Research project with a clear idea and a
clear direction and it’ll definitely help you in the long run. So number six. This is probably the most
boring piece of advice I can give you and it’s not particularly interesting,
but you would be surprised at how often we get incomplete paperwork. So advice number six is make sure you
fill in all the forms properly and provide all the information required. Often, when you’ve got say one hundred and
twenty applications for say ten scholarships, those people who don’t
actually fill in the stuff properly often will get looked over. So make sure you you fill in the forms
properly, provide all the information you can access, and if you can’t access something, let
people know when you can access it and when you can get it to them. Point seven,
and this may sound weird at the beginning of your PhD or your research project, but start
thinking about your career. We know now that only about 50% of students who complete their PhD go on to become academics. The
other 50% go in to other areas such as policy work, working for
non-government organisations including things like the United Nations or
private research and entrepreneurship exercises. So it might seem a long way
away but just be prepared and be flexible for a changing work environment.
And that’s the other thing about your PhD, it doesn’t guarantee you a certain
location. It’s a great journey but where you end up really will be up to you. So, good luck in your application.
I hope you apply at Western Sydney University, but if not, wherever you apply good luck and I hope you do really well.

11 Replies to “7 Tips for Applying for a Research Degree

  1. Omg, if someone asks a supervisor what they should be researching then they should not pursuing a Ph.D. and I would think, given such a question, that potential applicant is likely young and inexperienced.

  2. I got call from the supervisor that he wants to assess my writing skills and he gave me a new topic and I submitted it.but it's more than 2 weeks now,he hasn't responded yet.wat should I do

  3. Thanks James so wish you were in the UK as the supervisors here seem very sensitive when you ask them direct questions about working relationships, authorship etc

  4. Hie professor; you are the best! I am currently pursuing a Masters Degree in the field of Management Science and Engineering in China, and I have published 2 academic papers on International Journals. I am now working on my other papers and at the same time preparing to present at the International Conferences. I am also pretty sure that I will graduate with a first class Masters Degree. I obtained an Upper Second Class Bachelors Honours Degree in Human Resources Management, from Zimbabwe. You have actually inspired me to consider applying for my PhD at WSU. I have been taking notes from most of your advises shared through a number of your videos. Everything is really organised! I will be delighted to be part of your PhD candidates. Given this information, do you believe I stand a chance to be admited?

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