So I have been musing for a while now – probably about five years – about what exactly should be the focus of my PhD. I’ve pared it back to something to do with victimology, procedural justice, human rights, applied criminology, neuroplasticity and trauma recovery. So you can see I am pretty focused.
I have spoken to lots of people about my (non-existent) PhD thesis, including some potential supervisors who have been unavailable for various reasons (looming retirement, short-term employment contract, allied but not aligned expertise).
In my travels, I have been told I should write a two-page summary of what I will study, really get started with the whole thing, and then lure a principal supervisor with said document. But, there seems to be a fundamental flaw in this approach. Surely, I need to prepare a thesis proposal in line with my supervisor’s passion and experience, rather than preparing the document and then searching nationally (I briefly dabbled with the idea of the University of Glasgow, but it’s quite expensive being an Australian and all) for the best person for the job. When I did do a two-page plan, the academic I approached indicated it wasn’t really his area of expertise.
That got me thinking: exactly how many applied victimologists are there in Australia who can supervise a PhD? Because, it’s not just what they know; it’s also about who they are. I am looking for someone who I can have a laugh with. Someone tough and smart – but decent. Someone established – and older than me (and the window between my age and retirement is getting smaller the longer I mull this over!) Someone who lives in a city I will likely visit regularly. Isn’t this a good place to start?
I guess what I’m wondering is: which comes first the chicken or the egg? Is it the thesis topic or the supervisor?