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Name: John
PhD discipline: Classics
Area(s) of work: University teaching; information technology
Year of graduation: 2002
Date of Interview: 17/06/2008

John - PhD topic
John describes how he came to decide on his thesis topic.

Can you tell me a little bit about what you did as your PhD thesis?

My PhD thesis was in the discipline of classics and in Greek literature and it was on suicide in ancient Rome and how that connected with theories of the self that were prevalent at the time. 

What brought you to the stage of doing that particular PhD on suicide? 

I don't have any good rationale for it actually, it was partly bad planning on my part. I was a very devoted undergraduate student, I was very keen on the subject of classics and history generally. I hadn't really mapped out what I was going to do after my undergraduate degree and then my university came through with the funding, I hadn't even applied for it, they just decided to give it to me. It was something that made sense at the time.

The topic wrote itself actually simply because I had been reading a lot of material just generally in classics and I had noticed that suicide was something that happened all the time but it was never explained and it was very, very strange. I read it and I thought that this is the craziest looking thing I've seen. I just couldn't find anything written on it. I was hoping to write my undergraduate dissertation on it but found in fact because there was just nothing written on it. I didn't really know where to start for my dissertation and so I decided I had to leave it for later. And so when PhD funding came through I thought that this is something that is actually quite interesting to me; it is something that I have been vaguely thinking about and so it seemed quite natural to jump in. I think a lot of people go through the process of having a hard time winnowing their thesis subject down but I was quite different in that respect in that I knew absolutely what I wanted to do once I had started it. I hadn't planned out getting to do a PhD but what I was going to do, once I got there, was quite clear.