If you are planning to start a PhD research programme it’s not just the university or the postgraduate research school you will be choosing but your supervisor as well. The process of choosing is a two-way one because the supervisor will also be choosing which researchers and which research proposals they want to be involved with and which ones they feel will be successful and original.
Finding the right PhD supervisor may make a big difference to how successful you are in your research project – without a good supervisor it could feel like a lonely and frustrating time. It’s really important to have someone to turn to at key moments on your journey.
Make sure your supervisor is a good fit academically, and is interested and enthusiastic about the project you are proposing. It is worth trying to find a supervisor who you fill have positive relations with and this means trying to meet with them beforehand. Remember also that your supervisor will probably be your primary referee when looking for jobs once your research is complete.
So – the question is, Do I write my proposal and then find a supervisor who is likely to be interested in it or do I find the supervisor and then write a proposal that matches their academic speciality?
I would suggest that this depends on how flexible you are about which university you will join. If there are several universities you are interested in, then I would start with the proposal and then seek out the most appropriate supervisor. If you are set on one particular programme at one university then you may want to select one or two potential supervisors and aim your proposal at them.
By the way this does not necessarily mean writing a proposal on precisely the same specialism as that of the supervisor, but making it related in some way would probably increase your chances of success.
Confused – need help choosing your programme and or supervisor? Why not use our supervisor finder service.