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I have been doing teaching work in my field (i.e., language/linguistics) for several years while at the same time conducting and publishing research (I am from a developing country). All of these projects have been collaborative, with two being conducted alongside two different professors. Now, I feel I am ready to apply for a PhD but one of the professors, who is also abroad, is keen on doing a couple of more projects with me. I am concerned and ambivalent about this for two reasons:

  1. The first project we did together was relevant to my research interests/expertise and my role/contribution was clear there. But, the new projects are at best tangentially relevant to my interests and future research area. I am worried that conducting research on such topics could mean (to a potential PhD supervisor or graduate admissions committee) that I am somehow intellectually disorganized or still undecided about my main interests.

  2. Relatedly, I am concerned that reporting even more collaborations on my CV at this stage may put off potential PhD supervisors who may become suspicious of my commitment to their program or think my attention will be divided.

Is there any validity to these concerns? Or, am I just passing up on a good opportunity to expand my research profile?

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I don't see any problem with adding additional collaborative projects, but make sure you can finish something and aren't stretching yourself so thin that you make no progress.

There's nothing wrong with exploring research interests, if anything, it's a benefit. But you also want to show you have some follow-through. It's completely different to have started 10 different things and finished none of them than if you've completed some projects and also tested the waters on others.

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It is hard to see how doing research, especially collaborative research, could be a bad thing. If someone (and there may be a few) would mark you down for that then you probably don't want to work with them in any case.

However, an advisor would probably want some commitment from you that you will focus on the research you do with them. That is natural. But even then, it is useful for a student to have interests beyond their dissertation in order to give their mind a rest when blocks appear. Changing your focus can be a good thing if it doesn't become overwhelming.

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