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School of Politics and International Relations

Choosing a Project and Supervisor

Students in stair in the graduate center

PhDs in the School of Politics and International Relations fall into two categories:

  1. projects initiated and developed by the applicant, in consultation with a supervisor in the School
  2. projects on a specific topic chosen by the School (these often have funding attached

1) Self-initiated projects: this could be on any topic within politics and/or international relations, broadly defined. However, please note that we can only provide supervision on subject areas in which we have specific expertise. Therefore, you should carefully consider whether your project fits with the research interests of the School. The School’s research interests fall broadly into the areas indicated below. Individual staff profiles can be accessed on the School staff pages:

Comparative Politics

The School’s research in comparative politics spans a broad range of issues related to political parties and movements, elections and political institutions, political economy and public policy. Our wide-ranging regional expertise spans the globe and makes us highly distinctive in the UK: research in this area focuses on Britain and the EU, as well as sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the US. Staff working in this group conduct theoretical and empirical research on forms of political organisation and struggle, multi-level governance and regulation, and political economy and state formation. They often combine comparative methodologies with concepts and theories drawn from international relations, international political economy, international historical sociology and development.

International Relations

The School’s international relations (IR) scholars work within a critical, historical-sociological tradition, drawing on radical political economy, political theory and political geography. Staff incorporate post- and de-colonial perspectives, as well as the lenses of gender and class, to interrogate dominant themes, research methods and forms of representation within the field. Our expertise in this area covers critical approaches to IR theory, the study of conflict, mobility and security, and political economy. Research transcends the comparative politics/IR divide by investigating the interrelations between the international and national, particularly with respect to state formation, conflict, security and development.

Political Theory

The School’s approach to political theory engages with a wide range of questions and perspectives. It coheres around common interests in critical theoretical traditions, the application of theoretical ideas in political life, and a blurring of the distinction between domestic and international political theory. Staff have research interests in postcolonialism, democratic theory, global ethics, the history of political thought, feminist philosophy, Marxist theory, radical politics and theories of identity and representation. Our critical research supports theoretically informed scholarship across the School, helping to create connections between political theory and other research themes.

Once you have identified a potential supervisor, you should make contact via email to establish whether your research is something they can supervise. When contacting a potential supervisor, please ensure you include:

  • A short-version research proposal. The short-version research proposal sets out what you intend to do during your degree and establishes your research in relation to other work in the field. The proposal should be maximum 1,000 words long and include an indicative bibliography (not included in the word count).
  • Your CV.

More information about the structure of your research proposal can be found in the ‘How to draft a research proposal’ below.

If the supervisor is able to take your project on and is happy with your proposal they will encourage you to make a formal application (please note that this recognition from a supervisor does not guarantee that your application will be successful) including a full-length research proposal between 2,000 and 3,000 words long.

2) Specific projects: from time to time, we advertise places for PhDs on a specific topic. These usually have funding attached and are sometimes connected to larger research projects being undertaken in the School by one or more members of staff. Funding can come from a number of sources, but is normally from one of the UK Research Councils or through Queen Mary’s own Principal’s Studentships scheme. Funding usually covers tuition fees and provides a generous living allowance for up to three years. When applying for these places, applicants are asked to create a research proposal based on a project or topic description, and to contact the member of members of staff named in the project description.

Details of specific projects currently available in the School are here. Funded places are also advertised nationally.

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