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Posted Oct. 20, 2014

Figuring Out Your Postgrad Research Interests

It can be really intimidating talking to other postgraduates about their research interests when you haven't worked out what yours are yet! Many people on masters courses already know their goals for their thesis, but don't worry if you don't. After all, the point of doing further study is to figure that out. But how best to start?
Work Out What Modules You've Enjoyed
Did you have any favourite modules? What did you enjoy best about them - was it a particular topic, the general area of study or maybe just a particular author? Narrowing this down is a great way to start. Of course, it can be tricky since you may find you like a lot of things! Rather than just going with which module you liked best, look at what aspects you liked and see if there are any common threads. For instane, if you're a theology student you may find that you liked studying the early church but also some later writing too. It may turn out that the common ingredient in these areas is that they're influenced by Plato - and that's your interest.
Chat To Your Tutors
It can be tricky to know what's out there - after all, what you've been taught is just a tiny section of a subject. If there's an area you're interested in, but haven't seen much in the way of, talk to your tutors about it. They should be able to point you to some books on the area, and maybe recommend other people to talk to about it. Don't be afraid to approach something new or unusual, as finding your niche is important.
Don't Be Afraid Of Change
Many people start their research topic with one question in mind but finish up writing about another. You're not permanently locked in to particular aspects, especially on a PhD course. After all, if you knew what you wanted to write from the beginning, it wouldn't be research! Sure, you can't quite jump ship to a whole new area but if something catches your eye along the way, it's not off-limits.
Read Around
Finally, take advantage of being in a university with access to academic resources! Read around anything that vaguely interests you to help you make your decision. Obviously, this needs balancing with the work you have to do but it's a great opportunity to grow and to find out what it is you really want from your studies.
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