Deciding the general direction of the research

By their very definition, PhD studies are seeking to untangle complex ideas and produce original thoughts on the subject matter, which is backed-up by a thorough examination of the evidence available. For this reason, deciding what the research student is actually seeking after is normally rather broad at first. When they start-out and get asked the question, “So, what is your PhD about?” the typical student will give a rather hesitant, half-page explanation. Ask this question again when they are on the point of completing the PhD and the reply is likely to be a very concise and quite specific, single sentence. The process of systematic research casts its net widely, then refines and re-focusses subsequent investigations to reinforce, or challenge, previous ideas and insights. Seeing the process as a little piece of a much larger, complex mosaic of ideas can be helpful, but a bit daunting.

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