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School of English and Drama

Applying for a PhD

We welcome applications from those wishing to join the Drama department’s vibrant intellectual community.

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To help us advise you as effectively as possible, we encourage prospective applicants to make their initial enquiry by completing SED PhD Enquiry Form 2019 Drama [DOC 37KB] and emailing it to the Director of Graduate Studies for Drama, Professor Nicholas Ridout. He will advise you on your project and answer any queries you might have about pursuing doctoral research in Drama at Queen Mary. 

Prospective applicants who have already developed full research proposals presented in accordance with our guidelines and who have consulted our staff pages to identify potential supervisors are also encouraged to contact Professor Nicholas Ridout with their proposals for advice in advance of making a formal application. Details about the information to include with your application can be found below.

Entry Requirements

Your previous academic qualifications and other relevant experience will be taken into account when your application is assessed. While each application is assessed on its merits, applicants are normally expected to hold a good undergraduate degree (a solid 2.1 or above) and a master’s degree (usually with an average of 65 or above, preferably with elements of distinction) in fields related to your proposed area of PhD research. 

We understand that you may not have completed your master’s degree at the time of application, in which case we will consider results available at that point. Applicants without master’s-level qualifications (completed or in progress) are not normally considered for admission to the PhD programme. In certain cases this requirement may be waived in accordance with College regulations, but only under exceptional circumstances.

Making an Application

To make an application you must complete Queen Mary's central postgraduate application form.

You will need to include:

All complete applications received by the advertised deadline will be considered for all funding opportunities for which they are eligible (visit our funding page for further details).

Writing Your Research Proposal

How long should my proposal be?

2000 words (maximum, excluding timescale and bibliography)

What should the proposal include?

The proposal should include any information that an academic reader with no prior knowledge of the project would need in order to assess its potential to make an original contribution to performance research.

The proposal should include the following subheadings, and may include a consideration of the questions and notes given under each:

  • Project description
    What is the topic you propose to investigate? What are your case studies? What is your argument? If you are undertaking archival research, which archives are relevant to your project?
  • Research questions
    What are the key research questions your inquiry aims to address? 3-5 questions are typical. You may include sub-questions if you find this useful.
  • Research context
    Name key critics and bodies of scholarship that are relevant to your project and position your own inquiry in relation to them. How does your project engage existing bodies of work? This should include scholarship in theatre and performance studies, as well as scholarship from other disciplines as appropriate. How does your project seek to make an original and significant contribution to knowledge? How does your project seek to do something different to the existing critical literature?
  • Methodology
  • How do you intend to address your research questions (e.g. ethnography, materialist approaches, practice-based research)? What is your rationale for using these methodologies? Are there additional research methods you seek to employ, such as interviewing, archival research, the collection of empirical data, etc?
  • Scope
    What is the repertoire of core material – artistic, critical, historical, or otherwise – which you intend to examine in the thesis? Specify the historical, geographical and other scopes as relevant to your project. What is the rationale for your selection and exclusion of case studies and/or contexts? Is your selection representative, diverse, and inclusive in terms of gender, sexuality, race and nationality?
  • Timescale(not included in the word count)
    How will you plan the project such that it is completed within 3 years of full-time study or 5 years of part-time study? (College maximums are 4 years of full-time study and 7 years of part-time study). Note: a full-time studentship covers a three-year period.
  • Bibliography(not included in the word count)
    Identify texts, performances, resources, archives etc. that are central to your investigation, including any scholars and texts referenced in the proposal.


Will you look at a draft proposal?

Yes, but it is important that the proposal be the result of your own independent work: the ability to conceive a thesis project and articulate the proposal clearly is a central part of the PhD application process. You are welcome to send a single, complete draft of your proposal for our review (ideally well in advance of submitting the final application).

Can I meet with a prospective supervisor or the Director of Graduate Studies?

Yes. It is typically more useful to meet with a member of staff after you have submitted a completed Enquiry Form, including a detailed precis of your proposed topic and information about your qualifications. We may ask you to submit the form before we invite you to meet with us to discuss your research.

Can I apply to do a PhD part-time?


What is the required word count of a PhD thesis?

A written doctoral thesis is a minimum of 80,000 words and a maximum of 100,000 words.

Do you support practice-based research proposals?

Yes. Students may carry out practice-based research to generate material for one or more case studies in the course of writing a PhD thesis. Practice may include but is not limited to performance, applied theatre and facilitation, curating, and other approaches.

Students who submit a combination of a written thesis and practice do so on the understanding that the material is submitted concurrently and examined as an integrated whole. Practice must be submitted using a form of retainable documentation.

Should I discuss my approach to practice-based research in my proposal?

Yes. The role and nature of practice in research depends on each individual project and its critical aims. If you intend to pursue your project through methodologies that include practice, please ensure that the research imperatives driving this practice are clearly accounted for in your proposal. Why is practice a relevant and necessary methodology? Being an artist or being experienced in the use of a relevant practice is typically not sufficient as a rationale for its selection.

Reflection on one’s own practice usually achieves greater critical efficacy when it accounts for a broader repertoire of related practice as well. If you intend to include your own performance work among your case studies, how would you situate it in the context of other bodies of performance work? Identify any material requirements your practice would involve (e.g. space, technical equipment, access to particular people or organisations).

Can I undertake a PhD by practice that doesn’t include a written submission?


What is the word count for a practice-based PhD?

Students may submit documentation of practice alongside the written thesis and request a reduction in the overall word count. There is no fixed ration of written content and practical outcomes. The balance between the written and practical components of the submission is determined by the needs of the project in negotiation with the primary supervisor/s.

I’m an artist. Can I write a PhD thesis about my work?

For a number of our PhD students, their past and ongoing bodies of performance practice may productively inform their thesis research. In most cases, though, this practice is neither the main case study within the thesis nor the sole mode through which research is conducted and findings articulated. 

Statement of Purpose

Your Statement of Purpose (one side, A4 - 500 words max) should include your name and proposed thesis title and address the following areas:

  • Preparation: your previous academic or other experience relevant to the proposed research
  • Place: why you wish to undertake this research at Queen Mary (consider how your project fits with the Department and prospective supervisor's/supervisors' research interests)
  • Training: your previous research or professional training and what further research training you think you will need to complete a PhD
  • Ethics: ethical issues you will need to consider in undertaking this research (e.g. interviewing, audience research). All research involving human subjects will need approval from Queen Mary’s Research Ethics Committee (successful applicants will be required to seek approval once they begin their PhD programme.


When selecting referees for your application, please choose those who can testify to your preparedness to undertake PhD research. In most cases this means academic staff with whom you have studied previously. Where relevant, referees from outside the university may be appropriate, but they should still be able to speak effectively to your potential to undertake research at a doctoral level.

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