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English PhD FAQs

See below for some of our more frequently asked questions regarding our English PhD:

What qualifications are required of me in order to apply for a research degree in English Studies at Brunel?

As to qualifications entry with an MA degree In English is usually unproblematic, but is extremely unlikely we would accept a graduate with only a Bachelor’s degree. Only in the most exceptional cases would the English Department consider such applicants. Additionally, non-native speakers (unless they possess other relevant UK qualification or undertaken using the English Language at high level) should have achieved a minimum score of 6.5 in an IELTS test.

Usually applicants will have a background in studying literature at undergraduate degree or masters level, but we can consider other graduates from related fields across the Arts and Humanities and the Social Sciences, but they will need to demonstrate their relevant skills either in interview or by submitting a piece of writing.

How do I find a supervisor from Brunel’s staff? 

An applicant will need to work out if their interests coincide with those of any staff member(s) in order to identify a potential main supervisor and you can do so by looking at the expertise of the various English tutors on our department staff profiles webpage before preparing a detailed proposal in a relevant area.

What about applied linguistics or English Language? 

No. At present we do not offer supervision in either applied linguistics or English Language. Our staff does not undertake research in these areas. Our Education Department might do so, but you would need to contact them yourself directly.

How do I prepare a research proposal for a research degree in English Studies?

As far as which research project you might decide to undertake, you need to work out what you would like to focus on potentially, after which you should undertake some preliminary reading (primary, literary-critical, and other theoretical sources), then write your research proposal with a bibliography citing the sources consulted. After doing so, you are ready to apply formally.

So to reiterate, you may well need to undertake preliminary research in a relevant literary area before further contact any of our staff, unless you want to confirm an area you have in mind is relevant to their interests. Remember, if you want to study for a PhD this is all good practice, and not wasted effort. However good your idea is for a research degree, it is the applicant who must do some research into their own ideas and they should not expect staff at Brunel to do so on their behalf. Some of our tutors may be prepared to work with you on this process, but this is a matter for their choice, and they simply may be too busy at certain times even to contemplate doing so.

What exactly does such a research proposal look like, what is required in one?

Well, such a proposal would hopefully include some idea of the following:

  • A detailed account of the area to be considered (at the very least set out in general terms);
  • An outline of the methodology, that is the approach of your inquiry, some examples of which among the many possibilities might include the following (some potentially in combination): close reading; textual analysis; the application of psychoanalytic theories of certain expert(s) to literary texts; historical contextualization;
  • An indication of any relevant literature (both primary and secondary sources) that the applicant intends to read and considers relevant, stating exactly why;
  • Provide also a detail outline of the specific structural approach that might be taken, such as suggested chapters, with texts and key concepts to be used in each and so forth (we realize this will most likely change during the course of study, but it’s best to start somewhere).

The above is indicative but not prescriptive, since there is no exact template, as each proposal will vary according to both the topic and your approach, and the sources being drawn upon. Being able to do all of the above well is actually a good indicator that you might be a suitable applicant for a research degree. If you find it all too much effort and a real struggle, then it may be you are not yet quite ready for such a step.

When can I apply and when do I start my research degree?

You can start at any time if accepted, not just the beginning of the academic year, so apply when it suits you, but do follow the advice above, and check that you have the required qualifications (usually a successfully completed BA and MA; plus a successful IELTS test for most non-native speakers).

Are there any classes that will be part of my degree?

There are no formal classes, but there is an initial induction and period of training offered in September by the Graduate School. Additionally some research students may be required or allowed to audit some of the classes offered on our MA degrees, but without the requirement to formally submit any written work as part of the research degree. However, you first need to be accepted before any of this really becomes an issue.

So what do I do for the research degree if accepted?

You will produce a thesis (dissertation) of 80,000 – 100,000 words, divided into chapters (appropriate to the topic). This will entail a huge amount of reading, thinking, discussions during supervisions with your tutors, making notes from all of these elements, drafting chapters or sections of chapters, and finally writing up your thesis. Your supervisors will offer feedback on your drafts, and advise what further research is required. A student may well offer conference and seminar papers, and may even publish articles while developing their work. Each student is different; each develops at a different pace. Listening carefully to your tutor, following their guidance and working hard really are key elements!

What about research training that you offer?  Do you offer any?

Yes, naturally. First of all, see the answer to the question above. Additionally, let us stress that throughout your time at Brunel, you have access to the Graduate School’s ‘Researcher Development Programme’ – a really wide variety of on-going skills-based training opportunities specifically designed for our research students. There are other informal training opportunities, such as an element of research training which is included first in your supervisions in terms of specific advice and the kinds of tasks set for you to undertake such as using databases and catalogues, and second the annual graduate-led School of Arts conference in which you can take part, plus third in periodic in-house School of Arts workshops concerning research supervision.

OK, that done, what are my chances of being accepted?

That will depend entirely upon a range of factors including the quality of your existing qualifications, the rigour and persuasiveness of your proposal, the level of interest from a potential supervisor, and our overall assessment of your skills and potential in terms of completing a research degree successfully. Good luck with your applications. But do remember such a research degree is a big commitment, so it is best to be sure you feel ready to start one.