To all the prospective PhD students who contact me about positions
Please consider the below before contacting me about a PhD position:
1) DO NOT spam thousands of profs
2) Brainstorm topic areas you’re interested in
3) Make a short list of profs in those areas – check if I am actually working with the areas you are interested in
4) Read some of their papers …
5) Email them one at a time:
a) say what you read and why you liked it (be specific)
b) explain how you might extend their work
c) describe your qualifications
d) ask if they have funded positions available, and
e) if they’re open to a more detailed proposal
Also: be aware that in many European countries faculty cannot simply “make” a PhD or post doc position even if a student is promising. All positions are openly announced so when there is no announcement it rarely pays to mail profs. The onus is on you, the interested, to know this and check, not blindly mail people. On the upside the announced positions are paid and you are employed during your project.
For more on the Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence PhD program, go to: http://www.iggi.org.uk
Writing a PhD research proposal in Computer Science
There is a lot of good advice on the web on how to write a good CS research proposal, including:
- Discussion on Ph.D. thesis proposals in Computing Science – H. C. Lauer, Newcastle University
- Writing a research proposal for applying for a Ph.D. in Computer Science – Hayo Thielecke, University of Birmingham
- Writing a Good PhD Research Proposal – FindAPhD.com
Common issues in research proposals I have received over the last few years include:
- Lack of hypothesis/evaluation plan: Some proposals suggest developing a piece of software or a methodology without explaining the problem it is meant to solve or presenting a convincing evaluation plan. In your proposal you should try to clearly answer the following questions.
- Problem: Which specific problem will the proposed software/methodology solve?
- Why this problem: Why is this problem important? Has it been identified as a problem by other researchers? Would solving it address a gap in the state-of-the-art of scientific knowledge?
- Solution: Is there any previous work on solving this problem in the literature? If so, what are its limitations that you wish to address in this work? How is your proposed solution better? Why is this the best solution possible given the contraints of a PhD?
- Evaluation: Once you have developed the software/methodology you are proposing, how will you evaluate that it actually solves the problem it targets?
- Resources: What resources are required for your evaluation? (e.g. if you are planning to develop a methodology that needs to be evaluated by software practitioners, how are you going to get hold of them?)
- Too broad/narrow: While a PhD is all about doing novel research and choosing your own path, you should keep in mind that it is a 3/4-year undertaking and that a non-negligible proportion of this time will be spent on reviewing literature, writing reports, papers etc. You may also have a number of requirements tied to a scholarship, such as teaching. An ambition to e.g. “simplify the development of cloud-based applications” is obviously unrealistic if you are referring to every possible type of cloud-based application. Of course on the flip side there are proposals with very limited ambition (e.g. a trivial extension of the applicant’s BSc/MSc thesis).
Before you start writing your proposal, it is usually a good idea to contact me first so that we can discuss whether the topic you have in mind is in line with my research interests. Please read about my interests first to make sure there is alignment. If you don’t have a specific topic in mind, but want to work in my areas of interest, I am happy to suggest a few topics that are aligned with my current research. In your introductory e-mail, please
- state whether you have a specific research topic (or a broader area of interest) in mind
- attach copies of your CV and transcripts
- briefly explain how you plan to fund your PhD studies (i.e. are you applying for / have you already secured a scholarship? do you require funding?)
The typical duration of a PhD is 3-4 years. Being in a world-leading position in the fields of data science and HCI means that the team I work with will be able to help you select a cutting-edge topic for your PhD project so that you can engage in productive and fruitful research from the first year of the programme. In fact, many of our PhD students start publishing novel results from as early as the first year of their project.
For the University of York, please have a look at this page for information regarding available University/Department scholarships/funding. When additional scholarships are available (e.g. from funded research projects in which I am an investigator), they will be announced in Twitter (@andersdrachen).