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Improve my PhD - Arts & Humanities


The Faculty or Arts & Humanities is piloting a new development opportunity for early stage (pre-upgrade) PGR students that aims to help maximise the potential of your doctoral research project.

You will receive feedback from a panel of experienced academics with a wide range of intellectual interests and expertise, with the aim of generating additional dimensions of intellectual value for your existing project design.

Find out more and sign up to participate below.

The deadline for sign ups is 12 April 2021.

Outline & Rationale

The same Ph.D. topic, exploiting the same set of source materials to explore the same basic intellectual problem, can be done more and less well.  Even Ph.D. theses that pass without corrections can still be missing opportunities to maximise the thoroughness with which all the intellectual potential of their topic has been exploited.  Additional methodologies can add extra layers to an analysis, exposure to different strands of scholarly literature can reframe an argument so that it addresses the interests of wider scholarly audiences.  These kinds of expansion in project design won’t make the difference between pass and failure, but they can make the difference between a good and a really excellent Ph.D, that has exploited its topic to the absolute maximum and which consequently most effectively showcases the intellectual potential of the student.

To help doctoral students and supervisors maximise the potential of their projects, the Centre for Doctoral Studies and Faculty of Arts & Humanities are proposing a pilot scheme this year pairing an initial group of twelve students with a panel of experienced academics with a wide range of intellectual interests and expertise.  The students will have the opportunity discuss their projects with members of this panel, with the aim of generating some additional dimensions of intellectual value added to their existing project designs. 

The ideal moment for this kind of extra intellectual input is towards the beginning of the upgrade process, when students are conceptualising their project for a broader audience beyond their primary supervisor.  We see this initiative as an exciting addition to the upgrade process, which, if judged successful, can be rolled out generally to first year PhD students, pre-upgrade - as an attractive extra dimension to the College’s general offer to all doctoral students in the Arts and Humanities.

How does the pilot scheme work and who is eligible?

  • Each participating student will be invited to discuss their project with a panel in an online meeting on 6 or 7 May 2021.
  • The scheme will be open on a first come, first served basis to twelve first- and second-year Ph.D. students. The initiative is only open to students who have not completed their Upgrade assessment.
  • All the participating students should be present for every panel session, so that they can learn from discussions and panel feedback received by their peers.  You will also be able to participate more actively via the chat.
  • The panel will consist of between six and nine academics, with widely varying intellectual interests and areas of expertise.
  • You will provide a 750 word summary of you project by 28 April, detailing its driving research questions, main primary sources, and most important methodologies & frames of scholarly reference, with a view to explaining exactly where its intellectual value added is going to lie.
  • Your summary will be read by at least three members of the panel to provide the basis of an informal, in-depth conversation, where the other panel members can join in, and the student audience can ask questions.

How do I sign up?

If you would like to participate in this pilot scheme, please complete the following Expression of Interest Form by Monday 12 April.

Expression of interest form

We will notify you if you’ve succeeded in obtaining a place in the pilot, and next steps, by Wednesday 14 April. You will be required to submit a 750 summary of your current PhD proposal by 28 April. The panel sessions will take place on 6 and 7 May 2021 via MS Teams

Outcomes and evaluation

The overall aim is to provide students with a relaxed and intellectually stimulating format which will allow them to take a step back and think again about the design of their Ph.Ds from the widest of intellectual perspectives. Because of the very particular problems that Covid is posing for Arts & Humanities research this year, the conversations will also provide a further opportunity to think about particular projects might be adapted to cope best with current conditions.

Feedback from each actual and implicit participant in the pilot scheme (students, panel members, supervisors) will be used to evaluate its effectiveness, with a view to rolling it out in subsequent years to entire cohorts of first year Ph.D. students.

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