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The UCD structured PhD programmes allows students achieve the best possible experience of graduate research and training.  Making a substantial and original contribution to knowledge, normally leading to peer-reviewed publications remains the core objective of doctoral studies.  A research degree is based primarily on a research project, usually proposed and developed by the student, who undertakes their research under the upervision of a supervisor and a Doctoral Panel.

A PhD typically takes 4 years full-time and 6 years part time to complete.  The examination for the degree is based on a description of the candidates research written up as a dissertation and defended in a viva voce (orla examination).  The Institute offers expert supervision in all major areas of American Studies  (do we add particular topics eg American Politics and Foreign Policy, American Literature and Culture, Media and Conflict, Irish and US Relations)

As part of the structured PhD programme the College of Arts and Humanities require all incoming PhD students to obtain at least 30 credits in addition to the dissertation before a PhD will be awarded.  Twenty credits may generally be awarded for prior learning (taught MA or equivalent), subject to the approval of the Graduate School Board of the College of Arts and Humanities.  The selection of the remaining 10 credits should be discussed with your supervisor.  Students are also required to undergo assessment of the progress in the dissertation (a Transfer Panel) 12-18 months after beginning their studies.  The Transfer Panel will decide whether the student can progress from stage 1 of the PhD programme to stage 2.  Details of both aspects of the PhD are given below.

Please note that PhD applications are now accepted to start in September, January and May each year.


In general applicants for the PhD must hold a BA and MA or equivalent qualifications, with a distinguished record of academic achievement.  However, there are no automatic criteria which make students eligible for a research degree.  The Institute takes all elements of the application into account  with close attention  given to the quality of the applicants’ application form, research proposal,  their referees recommendations and their academic record.  Applications from students without evidence of a completed postgraduate degree can only be considered in exceptional circumstances . Such applications will be considered on a case-by case basis.

It is advisable to contact the Institute in advance of submitting an application as it may be beneficial in shaping your research proposal and to identify a suitable supervisor in advance.


In addition to completing the online application form, student’s will be asked to upload the following documents:

  • A research proposal (4-5 pages).  The proposal should provide a provisional title for the thesis, explain the central idea, question, or problem you wish to research and justify the choice material you intend to study.  You should also give an indication of how you expect your research to contribute to knowledge on your choice topic and in wider fields of study.  You should explain what methodologies will be used in the course of your research.
  • A provisional bibliography of major scholarly publications in the subject you wish to research- the bibliography should provide a comprehensive list of the major publications on the topic you wish to research, or in the general area of your research.  This should indicate that you have conducted a preliminary survey of existing research and understand how your research might build upon existing research and scholarship.
  • A proposed schedule for completing your research and dissertation within four years.  This might be divided into years or semesters.
  • Copy of official transcripts of your academic qualifications
  • Copy of passport or birth certificate
  • If English is not your first language you are required to produce and IELTS certificate to a standard of 8 or equivalent ????
  • Two academic references supporting your application
  • Copy of any additional qualifications or evidence of any expertise, which may be advantageous to your studies.

The Institute reserves the right to request a Skype interview with applicants and the right to request a sample of your written work.

On acceptance of a place on the programme you will be required to submit hard copies of all documents for inspection.

Closing Date – there is no closing date.  If your application is accepted, your studies can begin in September, January or May.

Progress in the Dissertation: Transferring from Stage 1 to Stage 2 (this could be written as a word documents and linked to instead of been on this page?) 


What does Stage 1 mean?

Stage one of the PhD programme is a probationary period.  During this time they will work with their supervisor and their Doctoral Studies Panel (DSP).  The Doctoral Studies Panel is appointed for you early in your first year.  and is made up your supervisor(s) and two other members of staff.  The panel will meet with the student at least once per year to discuss the student’s progress and any other issues the student may wish to consider. The purpose of the DSP is to enhance the supervisor-student relationship, to monitor student progress during the course of your doctoral studies and to provide advice and support for the student and the supervisor.

At the end of  stage 1 (within 12-18 months of starting) students will be assessed by a Transfer Assessment Panel to demonstrate that they have made sufficient progress in stage 1 to complete their research at the required standard, usually within four years of commencing their studies.  The TAP is made up of the doctoral studies panel and one other member of staff. The supervisor does not sit on the TAP. The student will submit a 10,000 word research piece (usually a chapter) to the panel for examination.  The supervisor will submit a report on the student’s progress.  The panel will then convene to interview the student, discussing both the research piece and the student’s programme, and his/her plans for completion of the project.  The panel will then make a recommendation to the Graduate School of Arts and Humanities as to whether:

(a) the student’s progress is satisfactory, and the student should be allowed to progress to stage 2

(b) the student’s progress is not yet sufficient to progress to stage 2 and the student should be given the chance to submit their work for further assessment after another 5-6 months

(c) the student should be required to exit the programme.

Please note: this is a university assessment, progress is not automatic or guaranteed.

Please note: Students are subject to further assessment at stage 2, if insufficient progress is made. ????? Potential outcomes are as listed above.