Your doctorate journey starts here!

Published: 02 July 2020 Your doctorate journey starts here!

If you have ever considered undertaking a PhD or professional doctorate but are not sure where to begin, then make a solid start by watching UKIO Online 2020’s latest session Doctoral Den Supervision: Notes to help you navigate the path.

It draws on real life experiences of university supervisors, as well as radiographers who have successfully completed doctoral qualifications.

The 1 July session, hosted by Rachel Harris, the SCoR’s professional and education manager and research lead, heard from Karen Knapp, associate professor in musculoskeletal imaging, University of Exeter and Professor Heidi Probst, professor of radiotherapy and oncology, Sheffield Hallam University, who talked about what supervisors are looking for in prospective doctoral students.

Dr Julie Woodley, senior lecturer, University of the West of England and Dr Helen McNair, lead research radiographer and HEE/NIHR senior clinical lecturer, Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and Institute of Cancer Research, offered advice on the qualities that students should be looking for in their supervisors and academic institutions.

Key take-aways: What supervisors look for

  • Choose an area of research about which you are passionate
  • Have you the motivation to sustain a project for up to seven years?
  • A masters degree is not essential but can be beneficial
  • A good first degree (first or 2:1)
  • Clinical experience can be an advantage, especially if research is clinically based
  • Each student and project is judged individually, not just on qualifications
  • Consider carefully whether full or part time study is right for you
  • Research your funding opportunities beforehand

“Doctoral research is a huge thing to undertake but doing it and gaining the qualification is a fantastic achievement and one well worth doing. The driving force of that passion will help you to succeed through the challenges,” Heidi said.

Key take-aways: What should students look for?

  • Choose a supervisor who excites you
  • Find a supervisor who will provide day-to day-input, constructive criticism, and guidance along the path
  • Could you work with them over the next four or five years? They will become your educator, sponsor, counsellor, director, coach; your guide throughout your PhD journey
  • Are they going to be there for the duration of the PhD? It can be quite disrupting if you have to change halfway through
  • Look at their area of expertise; is it right for your project?
  • Have they published? Research their published work.
  • Research their work. Check out presentations such as Ted Talks and on Youtube
  • Have they supervised before?

Other topics discussed during the session included how to find funding for a project; the difference between a PhD and a professional doctorate; whether a student should have previous research experience; how a student might find the best institution for them; how to be realistic about the amount of time it is going to take, what the university will expect time-wise and how you will find a work/life balance; finding support amongst other PhD student groups; and what to do once you have completed your PhD or professional doctorate.

“Remember, a doctorate is the start of a research journey. ­What will you do next?” Rachel said.

If you need advice or to find out more about studying for a PhD or professional doctorate, and how you might acquire funding, email Rachel Harris. Online resources include:

Watch the Doctorate Den and access other UKIO Online 2020 presentations.