If you’re thinking of doing a PhD you may be wondering where to start. Follow our five steps and you should be well on the way to finding yourself on the right course in the right university.
1.) Choose the right master’s
If you’re not already on a master’s course, it’s worth looking around and choosing a master’s which is likely to lead you onto a PhD in the subject area you are most interested in. When researching master’s courses, have a look at the areas of specialism offered by the department – are there academics there working on projects in areas of interest to you? What are the current PhD students researching? Does the university offer many studentships annually? How highly is the quality of the research at the university in your subject area rated by the latest Research Assessment Exercise? All of these factors will determine the suitability and quality of courses on offer.
2.) Choose the right department/academic
Once you are on your master’s course, you may then begin to get an idea of the area you would like to pursue further research in. Once this is established, you can then start to look for suitable departments to apply to. If you have chosen your master’s degree with a view to moving on to PhD study at the same university, this step will be relatively straightforward. However, if you decide to look elsewhere, you will need to make sure that someone in the department covers your area/s of study. University department websites normally have information on staff, their research interests and published work.
3.) Research any available studentships
Studentships are funded opportunities focused on specific subject areas or research projects, so it’s worth looking to see if there are any that are suited to your line of study. Studentships are normally advertised on university department websites as and when they come up, so it’s important to keep a constant eye out for them. However, if you don’t want to trawl through scores of university websites every day there are a number of different places where they are advertised inlcuding www.jobs.ac.uk/phd
4.) Get your application right
Once you have a clear idea of what you want to investigate you will either need to put together a research proposal or, in the case of applying for an advertised studentship, you will need to show in your application a clear understanding of the research to be undertaken and your suitability to undertake it. Applicants usually contact the department and/or academic as a first port of call to discuss this before taking their application further. Certain qualifications such as an upper second-class degree may a minimum requirement. Speakers of English as a foreign language are also expected to achieve IELTS or TOEFL scores specified by the university.
5.) Look for funding
If you have applied for a studentship you will probably already have funding in place; however, if your course is only part-funded or not funded at all, you will either have to be self-funding or apply to a sponsor or charitable organisation.
Most sources of PhD funding will require you to have been accepted onto a course before you can apply.