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Q&A: Finding A Supervisor And Thesis Topic

Q&A: Finding a supervisor and thesis topic

I recently received the following question:

I have been trying to find a PHD topic for years and most importantly a potential supervisor who might be interested in the research area I would like to explore. Would you or anyone have some thoughts in regards to the process to follow in trying to 1) establish if the topic would qualify as a PHD research topic and 2) finding a supervisor who can help refine the topic/interested in the potential PHD research project? By the way, I have not studied for years and perhaps this is why it has been difficult for me to find answers to the above-mentioned questions

 Here’s my answer:

Dear XX,

 Thank you for reaching out to me through my blog. 

First of all, it would be important to know where your funding is coming from. If you have a scholarship to do your PhD research or are bringing in your own funding, then you have more flexibility in selecting a topic. If you are applying to a program on an available research assistant position, then your research would be more bound by the description of the project and its deliverables.

In terms of finding an advisor, you need to find a person with whom you will be able to work well for the next years – personality and working style matter here as much as your potential advisor’s professional trajectory. You may want to refer to this post on how to select an advisor. 

In terms of finding a topic that is worth a PhD: you will need to review the literature first, and carry out a literature review, before you can identify your research question. That’s the first step in outlining a PhD-worthy topic.

Hope this helps!


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