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School of English and Drama

Making an Application

Making an Application

This page explains how to create an application for a PhD and gives advice about what it should contain. Please follow the guidelines closely.

  • Completing the Application Form
  • The Research Proposal
  • The Statement of Purpose
  • Referees

Completing the Application Form

To apply for a PhD, you need to:

  • complete the online application form (available on the central Queen Mary website). Where you are asked to specify your research group, please put classical, medieval, early modern, eighteenth-century, Romanticism, nineteenth-century, modern or postcolonial
  • write a full research proposal (maximum 2000 words, including a 200 word non-technical summary) and a statement of purpose (maximum 600 words). For further details on these, see below
  • supply a current academic CV
  • enclose two references, which should be by academics familiar with your recent work in literary studies wherever possible
  • supply your degree certificate and university transcripts
  • give your IELTS scores (if applicable)

Research Proposal

This 2000-word proposal should outline the project you wish to undertake, explaining its scope, development, and how you will bring it to successful completion within the time limit. The proposal should cover the following areas:

  • A non-technical summary of your research (maximum 200 words)
  • A concise description of the project. What is the topic you propose to investigate?
  • Research context. What scholarship is relevant to your inquiry and how do you situate your own project in relation to it?
  • Research questions. What are the key research questions your inquiry aims to address?
  • Research methods. How do you intend to address your research questions?
  • What is the repertoire of core material – critical, historical, archival etc. – which you intend to examine in the thesis? What is the rationale for the selection of this material? How do you envisage structuring the thesis?
  • What possible opportunities do you see for disseminating your research to academic audiences during your PhD programme?
  • In what ways might your research might be relevant outside academia (if this is applicable to your proposed research)?
  • 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 Queen Mary studentship covers a three-year period (a LAHP studentship covers 3.5 years)
  • Bibliography (not included in the word count). Identify texts, resources, archives etc. that are central to your investigation

Many potential supervisors are willing to read a final draft of your proposal, but only if you are able to send it well in advance of submitting the final application.

Statement of Purpose

This 600-word statement should be used to provide information, which is not necessarily contained in your Research Proposal. This can include:

  • previous academic and other experience relevant to your proposed research
  • why you wish to undertake your research at Queen Mary, what local resources you will draw on, and how your project will fit with the research interests of the Department and your potential supervisor(s)
  • what research training and professional preparation you have already received, and what further training you think you will need to complete the doctorate
  • what ethical issues (if any) need to be considered in undertaking the research


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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