I am a web developer reasonably proficient in PHP and front-end development. I had completed my Masters (by coursework) more than 6 years ago and have been working as a web developer. My Masters' grades weren't very good (pass in average with few distinctions and credits). When I did my Masters, rather than focusing in one area, I was pretty much experimenting with different subjects such as natural language processing, multimedia, visual info processing, distributed programming, etc 'cause I wasn't too sure what direction to take.

I contacted few research supervisors after completing my Masters but didn't hear anything positive from them. Then I pretty much gave up and started pursuing career and moved into web development.

I am not sure how to go into research now and whether it is even possible for me. How do I prepare myself?

  • What was your masters in?
    – William
    Jun 28, 2017 at 22:46

3 Answers 3


Here are a few suggestions (not necessarily in this order):

  1. Read up on the latest research in your area(s) of expertise and interest.

  2. Narrow the research interests down to a few and make contact with the academics involved - make contact with them, asking good questions about their research.

  3. Contact the admissions offices of your selected universities, explain the situation truthfully - put an emphasis on the experience you have gained through your employment, which is now an area of expertise, despite your masters going in many directions.

  4. In your readings, you should be able to find an area that is in need of more research, where something new can be contributed.

Remember, your situation is different than it was when you completed your Masters, you have several years of specialised work experience behind you now.

Good luck.


One thing you don't mention, and I'm quite confused about, is what your PhD would actually be in. Web development and php, while important and valuable skills, do not prepare you for any sort of research I can think of.

On top of this, 6+ years is a long time to have been out of a field. Natural language processing, visual info processing and distributed programming have moved on tremendously in that time. Unless you've been doing something day to day which keeps you up to date with the cutting edge, you're going to be very behind.

On the other hand...

Research isn't about getting grades - it's about being able to publish work that is useful to others. When you applied before, all people had to judge your potential to achieve this was your (average) grades. Now though, you've been out in the wild for a few years doing stuff. If you can present things you've done which will convince a potential supervisor that you can come up with novel solutions of a quality high enough to get into a journal, then you've got a shot at it. My (wild) guess would be you should aim for a lab that does applied stuff rather than theoretical stuff, where your prior day to day coding experience might shine through.


As an aside, have you considered applying to get chartered status in your field rather than a doctorate? It's challenging to get so generally highly thought of (this varies country to country and profession to profession though) and more closely based on industrial experience. If you have six years of that under your belt, along with a relevant masters degree, then you may be well on the way already. The yearly fees once you have it can be expensive, but worth checking out if you haven't already.


In your situation would do the following:

  1. Learn assembly thoroughly.
  2. Learn theory of computation thoroughly.
  3. Learn algorithms thoroughly.
  4. Explore specializations (read papers).

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