Selecting Area of Research in a Doctoral Program

By Dr.Humayun Bakht

In today’s world, continuous research is taken as crucial for new developments to face challenges meet in day to day living. A PhD program is often considered as a collection of miles stones assisting individuals in transforming novel thoughts into a practical productive form.  Most of the doctoral candidates at an initial level are often not explored to the directions they should be taking to choose a potential research area. Thus, they spend time readings different areas and at last ended up with no selection. It can be argued that research interest is normally taken as a part of admission application process. It is quite right, however, good numbers of students are found switching their research areas then the one mentioned at the application time. It is due to not knowing research procedures or methods before they join either Master of Philosophy (MPhil) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs of studies. With the passage of time when they conduct some literature surveys or attend research seminars, they discover new areas which could be taken as their own area of interest.

I have noted number of different reasons to that, some of these could be their motivation to have the highest possible degree with a demanding research area and to have some thing which pays back their initial investment; Idea is not bad only if it works.  In the current economic situations importance of securing a position cannot be denied.  However, work is needed to be done to turn this dream into a reality which is in one way or the other related with the selection of an effective research domain.

There is one of many possibilities available for any one who is confused or not cleared with their research area. If some one does not know what to do as a part of a research one must collate thoughts to find personal interest. Say for instance, if one is found of mobile phones but is not cleared about what type of research is being conducted in this area? A researcher can always consult with research supervisors, find some one who is already engaged in a similar or related research or read relevant survey papers. By the way, Survey papers are always the first and a good option to gather initial information about an area of interest. In some cases, departments or schools already have a pre-defined projects, Thus if you are appointed to work on it, you have no other choice except to take it as a final research area.

In between, I must mention here some thing for those who join a PhD program after a Master. If you know your intentions of continuing with a PhD, please try to link dissertation project with potential area of research of a future PhD program.  In addition the sooner you learn academic writing the better. In this context, it is a good idea to get MSc dissertation project findings published. Many of the students who otherwise work on some good projects pay very less attention to it. In-fact publications before hand can help in number of ways. I can also see you directly being admitted into a PhD rather then MPhil leadings towards PhD. Let say, a doctoral candidate do not want to keep up with the same area as dissertation project, even then having published material can make one a more suitable person specially in places where funded projects are available.

Funded projects are assigned to research led academic institutions by various private and governmental bodies. Such projects are advertised and are opened for both individuals and institutions to place a bid for. Some time organizations themselves contact institutions having research expertise closely related to proposed projects. In either case, both research and expenses involved play a crucial role in deciding whom to assign the project. Similarly, universities or academic institutions can always thought about potential projects. These potential projects can then be used to get funding from governmental and non governmental organizations. It is some thing good if a doctoral candidate can acquire experiences of obtaining project funding or bringing funded projects. These experiences increase job prospects and can make one an outstanding candidate for a potential position.

This article is a reflection of Dr. Bakht forth coming book ‘Road Map to Phd” for book contents view please visits You can send research related queries to