The difference between studies and research

  • Thread starter Amentia
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  • #1

I will probably apply to PhD positions where I have no background and I wonder what to do. My first question is: for each project that seems interesting, should I read hundreds of pages to make sure I really like and understand the project? This would take a very long time, and for the reasons I detail below I would not be 100% sure to enjoy the project.

I would like to talk about the problem of choosing a field of research when one has only an academic background and no previous experience through internships for example.

What I would like to know is the following: can we make sure that a field of research will fit our expectations?

For example, I like quantum mechanics and I got good grades, how can I know if I will like doing research in this field and if I will be able to achieve good results. If we look at theory, perhaps I can apply the perturbative treatment that I learned at school but how can I know if I will be skilled to develop new approaches, new perturbatives treatments in front of new problems? I could ask the same questions for an experimental project, it is even worse because the teaching of quantum mechanics is usually theoretical and we do not have lots of laboratory sessions.

So I hope everyone understand my question, which comes from the fact that some people say that they are disappointed by the actual research work on a topic that fascinated them during their studies. How can one avoid that situation?

Answers and Replies

  • #2
These questions are very hard to answer as only you know yourself, your abilities and your interests. It pays to do some research beforehand like reading papers and talking with the profs that are doing the research.

As I understand the process, you're not going to be thrown into a research project and then left to drown. Your adviser is expected to guide you initially and meet with you to asses your progress. In addition your adviser may suggest some additional courses or independent study on some topic to better prepare you for your research. After you're prepped then it's up to you to do the research, write up your results and defend it before your adviser and then defend it before your committee.

Perhaps you can list the topics of research that you're interested in and write down the pros and cons for each topic, score them based on what they mean to you and then do research for each in the order they scored and from there make an informed decision.

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