Hi! I’ve already submitted my proposal, applying for a PhD in the social sciences and I have my interview scheduled for next month. As the date of the interview seems to be close, I seem to be getting progressively more nervous about it. At this rate I’ll be a nervous wreck on the day of the interview! I spend all of time thinking about what kind of questions I will be asked during the interview and how I could be as prepared as possible for them. Even though I know that is not possible, but I think I’m feeling this nervous this I haven’t gone through the application process before (this is my first time applying for a PhD). My research proposal is based on the study of the experiences of violence of members belonging to the Dalit community in certain regions of India. But I find myself worrying about things like whether my research topic is too broad and that I should’ve narrowed it down, what if the interviewers pick on that or point out other loopholes in my proposal? I’m afraid that I will be stumped and will have nothing to say if a question catches me off guard. That will be so embarrassing!
I know that I should be prepared to deal with questions like why did I pick this topic? What is my five year career plan and post PhD plans otherwise. Other than these what are some other questions that I should be prepared with? And can anyone who has gone through this before offer some tips on how I could deal with the pre-interview anxiety too?
I think it will be kind of difficult to estimate every question that you will be asked during the interview, at best you can narrow down certain themes around which you can expect to be questioned. I will mention the ones that I think that you are likely to encounter.
Tell us something about yourself. Why do you think doing a PhD is important for you at this stage of your career? You could also be asked questions about the existing literature in the field, your level of familiarity with the research already done in the area. This could then lead up to questions about the originality of your research and what contributions it aims to make in the field, etcetera. Also you could be questioned about why you have chosen to apply to the concerned department or university for your study, and why you think you will be able to pursue your research well there.
I’m sure there are a lot more themes that you could be questioned about, but this is all I can think of right now.Hope this helps!
Like Sonali said it will be difficult to guess each and every question that you could encounter during the interview, so instead of focusing your preparation thinking about the questions that you could be asked I would recommend spending that time familiarizing yourself with all aspects of your proposal, and the existing literature in the field that your research is based on. Nevertheless here are some questions (apart from the ones listed by Sonali) that I could come up with-
Are you familiar with the supervisor’s present and past research and academic work? How do you think it is related to the study that you are proposing to undertake? Have you undertaken any research in your Bachelor’s and Master’s that leads up the present study that you’re proposing? (and other questions about the relevance of this previous research work). Apart from this you should expect to be questioned pretty well on your proposal. All the best for your interview!
Apart from being thoroughly prepared with detailed and lucid answers to all the questions that that the interviewing panel poses, I would also recommend having some relevant questions prepared for the panel itself or the supervisor you are applying to research under. This is what happened with me at the interview for one particular university, when the interview was nearing the end one of the panelists asked me if I had any questions for them, and I had nothing to say! I hadn’t prepared any questions to ask the panelists or the supervisor I was applying to and couldn’t think of anything at that instant. The silence that followed made me feel sort of foolish and ill-prepared, even though the rest of the interview had gone well. So don’t make the same mistake that I did and have some good questions prepared for them beforehand.
Thank you for your suggestions everyone! They were a great help, I do feel a lot better prepared than I did before going through the responses. I have another quick question, should I be prepared to be questioned about the previous research work in detail? In my case the previous research work that I did during my Masters isn’t really connected with my PhD research proposal, so do I still need to be prepared thoroughly with it? Or just cursory details about the previous work will suffice since it doesn’t have much connection with the study I’m proposing.
In that case I think you needn’t spend a lot of time going over your graduate research work. I don’t see why you will be questioned a lot about it if it isn’t related to your PhD proposal. However if you are well prepared otherwise and have time to spare, you can go through the previous research work in order to be prepared for the off chance that any of the interviewers thinks that it is related to your proposed PhD study, and decides to quiz you about it.