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Postgraduate Research in the School of English

Supervised Research Degrees in the School of English

The School of English also offers two research degrees: the MLitt and the PhD. Further information can be found below.

For most matters regarding the application procedure, the Graduate Studies Office should be able to provide answers. Inquiries that address matters specific to the School of English may be addressed to the Director of Postgraduate Teaching and Learning: Dr Philip Coleman (

The School of English is internationally recognised as excellent in both teaching and research. In recent years, we have been the leading academic department in Ireland in the QS subject rankings and one of the top English departments in Europe. The School is fortunate to have the use of Trinity’s legal deposit library (entitled since 1801 to a copy of every book published in Ireland and the UK) of over 5 million books. Moreover, Trinity has wonderful resources in its Early Printed Books, Manuscript, and Digitised collections, which facilitate its research environment.

There are typically around seventy research students in the School of English, working on a wide range of topics and employing diverse critical and theoretical methodologies. The School, as might be expected, has a particularly high profile in Irish literature in English, but other specific areas of research strength include: Medieval Literature; Renaissance and Early Modern Literature; Print Culture; 18th- century drama and prose; 19th-century poetry and prose; 20th-century fiction and drama; Cultural Studies; the Gothic; American poetry and prose; Contemporary poetry; Post-colonial literatures; Children’s Literature; and Popular Literature.

As a graduate student at Trinity, you can undertake research either for a Master's Degree (M Litt), or for the PhD. Both involve a minimum period of research working closely with a supervisor and the writing of a dissertation. The dissertation is supposed to be a significant work of original criticism and research. Normally the MLitt takes two years and the dissertation should not exceed 60,000 words; the PhD takes up to four years and the dissertation should not exceed 100,000 words. All students on the PhD register must, after a suitable period of research (typically 18 months), present materials to be considered by a committee in the School of English who will determine if the candidate may be confirmed on the PhD register. The Trinity College PhD is a structured doctoral programme and all students must also choose from a  selection of modules to satisfy these requirements. These modules are usually completed in the first 18 months (see below for more detail). However, the thesis remains the primary element of the PhD and the degree is awarded only after the thesis has been successfully examined through a viva voce examination.

The School has a strong commitment to postgraduates teaching Freshman (first and second year undergraduate) tutorials, and this is seen as important experience for those who plan an academic career. Relevant teaching training is provided within the School and also through Trinity College’s Centre for Academic Practice and eLearning. Research students do not usually teach during their first year of registration.


If you are interested in applying to do research here, go to for general details on how to apply. You do not apply directly to the School; instead, all applications are made through the Graduate Studies Office. You should consult the list of staff research interests and contact the member of staff whose interests seem most relevant to your proposed area of research.

It is advisable to develop a proposal in consultation with the relevant staff member. A PhD proposal should be around 2000-3000 words: it normally includes an overview indicating the contribution to scholarship the proposed project will make in relation to the existing critical literature; a chapter by chapter outline; a statement on methodology; and a short preliminary bibliography. Acceptance depends on several criteria: your undergraduate degree (normally at least a II.1 honours degree is required), the viability and originality of your research proposal, and supporting academic references. Note that the demand for research places in English is very high, and that sometimes very good candidates have to be turned down because of the unavailability of staff to supervise in that area.

The College require that all prospective research students submit the following documents: transcripts; degree certificates; a CV; proof of English competency (if English is not your native language); a research proposal; and references (2). The School of English further requires that all applicants submit a writing sample (approximately 5000 words). Applicants are reminded that no application may be considered until all documents are submitted, including both references.

Structured PhD Programme in the School of English

The School of English provides doctoral training through provision of a structured programme of research and study. The core component of a structured PhD programme is the advancement of knowledge through original research. Through conducting research, engaging in associated research-related activities and attending courses our PhD students are supported in their development of a range of skills that meet the needs of an employment market both within and outside academia. The high quality research experience, training and outputs are consistent with international norms and best practice.

The structured PhD programme, in support of the original research activity, includes the following elements:

A formalised integrated programme of education, training and personal and professional development activities.

PhD students undertake original research via a structured PhD which promotes the development of in-depth knowledge of their field of study, research skills, critical analysis and communication skills. Any skills gaps that may be identified are addressed by the availability to formal training.  Professional development is facilitated through the student’s participation in seminars, workshops and conferences at national and international level. PhD students are expected to undertake taught modules during their PhD (a minimum of 10 ECTS and a maximum 30 ECTS within the first 18 months of enrolment). A number of modules from the Schools of English, History & Humanities, and Languages, Literatures & Cultural Studies are designated as open to PhD students from all three Schools. Students can enrol for modules in consultation with their advisor. For students in their third and fourth years we offer sessions on preparing for the international academic job market.

The development of discipline-specific knowledge, research skills and generic / transferable skills.

The School of English convenes a mandatory 5 ECTS Postgraduate Research Methods Seminar for students on the PhD register. As well as providing a welcoming environment and an opportunity to meet other students in different areas, this module covers: i) Orientation to the research programme in the School of English; ii) Library resources; iii) Presentation of work, both written and oral; iv) Development of proposals for conferences, funding, post-doctoral positions etc.; v) Textual editing. Trinity College offers a range of modules to develop generic and transferable skills through the Innovation Academy (innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership); Centre for Academic Practice and eLearning (personal effectiveness, teaching skills), Library (information literacy) and Careers Advisory Service (career management). The School of English strongly encourages all PhD students to take the Centre for Academic Practice and eLearning’s teaching and supporting learning module (5 ECTS).

Declared outcomes and graduate attributes in line with national and international best practice.

The School offers a doctoral training programme in accordance with the learning outcomes expected of a research doctorate (Level 10, National Framework of Qualifications), as specified in the Calendar Part 2 (1.27.4) and the IUQB guidelines for Good Practice in the Organisation of PhD Programmes in Irish Higher Education (2009) and the IUA Irish Universities’ PhD Graduate Skills document which has identified the following skills as relevant to PhD student education: research skills and awareness; ethics and social understanding; communication skills; personal effectiveness; team-working and leadership; career management ; entrepreneurship and innovation.

Supervision by a principal supervisor(s)

Trinity College has a policy for eligibility to supervise research students (Calendar Part 2, 2.9). All students are appointed a primary supervisor and may also have a co-supervisor and/or adjunct supervisor and/or supervisory panel. 

Progress to completion is formally monitored against published criteria and supported by formal institutional arrangements in line with national and international best practice.

PhD students undergo a formal annual progress review as well as a robust panel review to confirm continuation on the PhD register within the first 18-24 months of registration. The final examination of the thesis involves the appointment of two examiners, at least one of whom is external to Trinity College and an internationally recognised expert in the research area of the thesis. PhD examiners are approved by the Dean of Graduate Studies.

Appropriate placements, rotations and assignments across wide sectors of the economy are encouraged for inclusion as part of the structured PhD programme.

PhD students are eligible to participate in the Innovation Academy ( which provides access to industry-mentored projects as part of the Opportunity Recognition module.

Representation for Research Students and Postgraduates

The current TA (Teaching Assistant) representative, Joana Blanquer, represents the interests of teaching assistants and postgraduates. She attends School committee meetings where she raises and responds to issues concerning TAs and postgraduates. She also liaises with individual TAs and postgraduates, hosts TA meetings, and maintains the TA office in room 316, 3-4 Foster Place. Most importantly, she strives to maintain a strong, supportive and cohesive postgraduate and TA community. Joana can be contacted directly at


PhD students are automatically considered for a number of School, Faculty, and College-level awards on an annual basis. The School’s students also have an excellent record of being awarded Irish Research Council scholarships. There are also funding sources to support conference travel and research trips. For further information on funding, please contact the Director of Post Graduate Teaching and Learning.

Staff-Student Seminar Series

Staff and research students present papers at seminars held once a week during the semester. These seminars provide a forum for staff and research students to meet in a social and professional space. The School recognises the importance of providing students with an opportunity to hone their presentation skills as part of their professional development.