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School of Social and Political Science: Graduate school


How to Apply

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The application deadline for this programme is 6 July 2020.

Welcome! We are delighted that you are considering PhD Research in Sociology here at Edinburgh. All the generic information on the more formal process of applying may be found here.

This page is about the subject specific aspect of your application and, in particular, your proposal. Please note, that the proposal needs to offer a reasonably developed idea of the research you wish to carry out. We recognise that ideas change and people develop their research designs over the course of a PhD, but what we are looking for is a familiarity with key literature, researchable questions and a feasible research design. It makes sense to send a draft of your proposal to the PG Convenor or to prospective supervisors *before* you apply. Many rejected applications are turned down because we are not in a position to offer expert supervision - contacting us in advance means that you can start to communicate with potential supervisors at an early stage. For a list of staff profiles and research interests, please see


The first step towards enrolling on a PhD is to write a research proposal detailing the areas/issues that you are interested in and the research you propose to carry out. Please note that the research proposal should be no longer than 3 typed A4 pages in Times New Roman font size 12. Longer proposals may be rejected at the admissions stage. Please organise your proposal under the following headings, all of which should be used, although in an order which best fits your particular topic.

* Provide a broad introductory statement explaining what your proposed research topic is and why it is important.
* Outline the key theory and research on the topic and how your proposed research relates to it. This needs to show that you are aware of the existing literature.
* Discuss what themes, issues and research questions the proposed research will explore.
* Comment on what specific method or methods you will use if your research topic involves substantive research. If yours is a theoretical topic, discuss what documentary methods you will use to review and analyse the sources you will be working with.
* Indicate the ethical issues that arise from your research (ethics can be interpreted in a broad sense as well as, for example, issues concerning matters of consent and confidentiality)
* Provide a timetable covering the period of your research, including research training (unless you already hold an recognised research training Masters or MRes) and also the various periods of writing up your thesis. If you will be carrying out fieldwork overseas, provide details of what this will entail and how it fits into the timetable.
* Indicate how you expect your research to be useful, and to whom.

As mentioned above, it makes sense to send a draft proposal to the PG Advisor for Admissions ( or to prospective supervisors for comments before applying to the University more formally. At that stage we will be able to offer advice and guidance and comment on our suitability in terms of supervision.

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