Before you submit an application we recommend that you refer to our Entry Requirements to make sure you are eligible to apply.
Contacting a Supervisor
Finding an appropriate supervisor who is an expert in your chosen area of research is essential to success on the RDP and is an important part of the application process.
As part of the application process we recommend that you look into those Academic Groups and individual academic members of staff who specialise in your intended area of research. This will enable you to determine whether there is a good match between your research interest and ABS.
The research interests of all members of academic staff can be found via the Academic Groups or by using the “Supervisor Search Engine” (currently under development). If there is a member of staff whose research interest matches your own, we recommend that you contact them directly with a copy of your research proposal and discuss this further with them. This will allow you to develop and strengthen your proposal and may lead to the academic offering to supervise your doctoral research. In addition to contacting a prospective supervisor you also need to submit a formal application to the RDP office. If you are successful in identifying a supervisor through this method it is essential that you indicate this on your application form. Please be advised that a formal decision on your application can only be made once the application is received and processed by the RDP office.
The usual period of full time study for the PhD is three years and for the Masters Degree is one year. Occasionally it is also possible to join the Research Degrees Programme on a part-time basis. This requires study of approximately four years for the PhD and two years for the Masters Degree. Both Programmes are available in a Distance Learning format. If you are interested in part-time study, please contact the RDP office to check if you meet the requirements for this mode of study.
For more admissions-related information and advice about how to submit completed applications, please contact the RDP Office
You should provide a brief abstract of your intended research topic. You might also refer to the way in which your own research topic fits in with the research priorities of ABS.
Theoretically demonstrate the practical importance of your research design and provide a brief but focused review of the literature. In your review, highlight what is known and what is important but not known as a motivation for your study. This section should conclude with a statement of your research objectives and potential contributions of your study.
This section should detail the theory that underpins your research and a justification of its appropriateness for the issues you intend to examine.
In this section you should demonstrate your awareness of the debates and issues raised in the relevant literature and how they inform your research problem.
This section should demonstrate preliminary ideas about design and how you intend to implement your research. You should specify and justify the approach you feel will be most appropriate.
You should demonstrate an awareness of the need for planning and provide rough timelines for your intended research.
When approaching an academic, remember to articulate your own research interests and show a willingness to further develop your proposal, as well as convincing them that your research will be in their area of expertise. Not all academic members of staff will have vacancies for doctoral researchers and whether you are taken on by the academic for supervision will depend on the quality of your proposal and how closely your proposal fits with their own research interests. Of course, the more effort you put into your proposal the greater the chances are that you will create an interest amongst our academics.
What to Avoid
All too often what would be strong applications to the RDP are let down by a weak research proposal. Some common weaknesses, and things that should be avoided, are:
Submitting a research proposal in a discipline that does not fall under any of ABS’s Academic Group subject areas.
Vague research proposals which are not grounded in the extant literature.
Failure to articulate the added value or potential contributions of the intended study.
You may find the following resources useful when writing your research proposal:
Bentley, P. (2006): The PhD Application Handbook, (Open University Press, Milton Keynes)
Philips, E. and Pugh, D. (2005): How to Get a PhD: A Handbook for Students and Their Supervisors, (Open University Press, Milton Keynes)