Applying for a PhD

a PORT for Modern Languages tutorial

1 PhD Application

Applying for a PhD: preliminary reflections

Until recently an inscription in one of the oldest universities in Britain used to challenge new students with this question: 'Do I remember why I am here?'. Now the words have disappeared, but the question still applies. Enrolling on a PhD course commits you to serious study of at least three years and may affect friends and family as well. It is therefore of paramount importance that you are clear about the kind of research you intend to carry out for your PhD from the very beginning.

A well-planned application does not only increase your chance of being accepted at the department of your choice, but will also be a reference point when you feel that you are losing your way, since it deals with all the main steps and aspects that your PhD course is supposed to cover. By carefully preparing your application, you will clarify your doubts and address questions such as:

  •  Is my proposal convincing?
  •  Is my knowledge of the field of studies in which I am interested deep enough?
  •  Am I eligible to do it?
  •  Am I going to be able to meet the relevant deadlines?
  •  Do I remember why I want to be there?

Your financial position requires careful consideration. Carrying out PhD research can be a very expensive task, not only because of university fees or rent, but also because you will have to buy books, attend conferences and consult books in libraries outside your city. However, all universities annually publish a fixed number of scholarships for PhD students (usually through their Graduate Schools), just as both national and private institutions (the most important for our subject being the AHRB) offer grants. For more information on this subject read the section on Applying for grants.

If you are clear about how to finance your PhD, and your answer to each of the questions listed above is YES, you can start to fill in your application.