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Is the topic research for a post-doc position supposed to be more general than the research conducted towards a PhD degree? Or rather the opposite?

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    I think if you ask five people, you'll get six different opinions. Mine is that it doesn't have to be more specific or more general; it just has to be different. – JeffE Jul 10 '16 at 19:53
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Getting a Ph.D. is establishing that you are capable of doing a significant piece of research. A postdoc is then your opportunity to start defining the direction in which you are going to take your research, professionally.

As JeffE says, it is usually (though not always) a good idea to be doing something different in your postdoc than you were for your Ph.D. The reason for this is that otherwise you risk getting "stuck" in your little niche and never really moving beyond whatever happened to be your thesis and into the wider worlds of research.

A postdoc, then, is a chance to broaden yourself, to shift your direction (within reasonable bounds), to build momentum in a direction, and generally to start spreading your wings and leaving the nest. How exactly one does that is as varied as are the people who pursue science as their career.

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Is the topic research for a post-doc position supposed to be more general than the research conducted towards a PhD degree? Or rather the opposite?

Great answer by jakebeal, of course, but I will offer a slightly different approach to answering the question.

The postdoc has three main functions, in my opinion:

  • transition to independence

  • stepping stone to stable employment

  • opportunity to build up your publications list

It might last a year, it might last two. Because of this more limited time frame (compared with the PhD), you will probably spend less time delving deeply into the postdoc project area, perhaps because you are not working on something drastically different from your PhD area, perhaps because you (wisely) embark on something more narrowly focused (so that you can complete it in a shorter amount of time).

Therefore my answer to your question is

The topic research for a postdoc is more focused, and less general, than the research conducted towards a PhD.

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