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Applying to study for a PhD in psychology
Applying to study for a PhD in psychology

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6 Preparation for an interview

The PhD application process is likely to involve you in a number of interviews, ranging from an informal chat on the phone to a formal process with a full panel of interviewers. You are strongly recommended to practise for all of these, with someone else or just by rehearsing alone, speaking aloud.

First, practise summarising your proposed project. If you become a PhD student, you will be frequently asked what your research is about and why it interests you so you need to develop some fluent and succinct answers, even though these will change as the project develops. As a guide, look back to the asterisked questions in Activity 3 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

Next, practise answering the following questions. Even if these are not exactly what an interviewer asks, your prepared answers will probably cover most of the ground.

  • Why do you want to do a PhD?
  • What will your proposed research contribute to psychology?
  • How does your previous study (and work) prepare you for it? (This is your opportunity to explain why you are the right person to conduct the research you are proposing.)
  • Where do you envisage this PhD taking you in the future? (It’s perfectly acceptable to give alternative answers e.g. maybe an academic career and maybe one in industry.)
  • What is the relationship between your proposed data and topic? For example, what are you assuming that the participants’ talk can tell us about their experience?
  • What problems might arise with your proposed data collection (e.g. because of the pandemic) and how will you respond to them? (In particular, if you are planning research with participants, it is important to be aware of potential access problems. Will you be able to recruit the people you want?)
  • What are the limitations of this research? (All research has a selected focus and approach: it’s doing some things but not others. This is an invitation to say what you won’t be doing.)
  • What do you think will be the challenges of PhD study? (This is your opportunity to demonstrate that you understand what will be involved.)