OWL logo
General WritingResearch and CitationTeaching and TutoringSubject-Specific WritingJob Search WritingESL
OWL at Purdue Logo

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/). When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice at bottom.

It's Here: A new look for the Purdue OWL!

The new version of the Purdue OWL is available at https://owl.purdue.edu/. Worry not! Our navigation menu and content will remain largely the same. In 10 days, we will be discontinuing owl.english.purdue.edu and you will be automatically redirected to the new site.

Researching Programs: Profiling Your Research Interests


This section details what to look for in a graduate program--both on a personal and professional level. Personally, you need to consider location, community, campus culture, and other non-academic issues that will affect your happiness. Professionally, you need to figure out your research interest, map the field, research the faculty you’ll be working with, understand your funding package, calculate work requirements, and analyze research resources.   

Contributors:Adryan Glasgow
Last Edited: 2018-03-27 02:09:19

Another piece of the graduate school application puzzle, and of picking the right schools/programs for you, is knowing your own research interests. It's important to have a grasp of your own research interests and to be able to talk about them with others in some meaningful way. One way to do this is to create a profile of your own research interests. 

Profiling Research Interests

One's research interests are generally a combination of two factors: what is studied (subject and data) and how it is studied (methodology and theory). As an undergraduate, choosing the right subject is often enough. In choosing a graduate program, however, you need to recognize that some theoretical approaches and methodologies will interest you more than others. You want to choose a program that is not only knowledgeable in your chosen field, but also one that is invested in the theories and methodologies that allow you to ask the questions you think are most important. For example, almost any English literature program will have a scholar who specializes in Shakespeare. However, Shakespearean scholars might be interested in the ways Shakespeare treats gender and sexuality, or in the ways that Shakespeare treats issues of class. Some scholars see Shakespeare as an insightful social critic and will explore topics that are still relevant to our world today. Others will see him as the product of a specific historic time and place and will therefore research his biography and the politics of Edwardian England.

Most journals are partial to some methodologies over others. That means that you need to read articles from different journals, not just articles on different topics. You also want to look for special editions, which will help you see the many sub-fields that develop in every topic.

As you read, keep a columned list of scholars’ names and key terms from your readings. It might also be helpful to keep track of some of the following questions:

Also keep a look out for controversies. They may not always be obvious, but the more you read, the more you'll see lines being drawn and authors picking sides. Understanding the state of the field, and knowing where particular scholars fall, can give you some idea about the attitudes that a particular graduate program might hold towards possibly contentious issues in a field of study. However, keep in mind that programs often have many faculty members, some with disparate opinions.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.