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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. 

For most matters regarding the application procedure, the Graduate Studies Office should be able to provide answers. You will find the relevant contact details here:

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, the School has 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 or, in some cases, supervisors, 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 in the School of English at Trinity College Dublin, 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 2,000-3,000 words. This 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 of the proposed dissertation; a statement on methodology; and a short preliminary bibliography (listing 30-50 items of primary and secondary literature). 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.

Trinity College Dublin requires 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 two academic references. The School of English further requires that all applicants submit a writing sample (approximately 5,000 words). Applicants are reminded that no application may be considered until all documents are submitted, including both references.

Applicants should note that that the demand for research places in the School of English at Trinity College Dublin 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.

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 supervisor. For students in their third and fourth years, sessions are offered on preparing for the international academic job market.

  • 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) to guarantee the development of discipline-specific knowledge, research skills and generic / transferable skills.

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

Two current postgraduate students serve as representatives for the broader graduate community in the School of English (excluding MPhil students, who have their own class representatives for each taught programme). The current TA (Teaching Assistant) representative is Joana Blanquer, and she represents the interests of postgraduate students who are also working in the School as TAs. James Hussey is the postgraduate representative for PhD students. Joana and James attend School committee meetings where they can raise and respond to issues concerning TAs and postgraduates. They also liaise with individual TAs and postgraduates and host occasional TA and PG meetings. Joana also maintains the TA office in room 316, 3-4 Foster Place. The TA and PG representatives strive to maintain a strong, supportive and cohesive postgraduate and TA community. Joana can be contacted directly at James can be contacted at


There are a number of funding opportunities available to incoming research students, but it must be acknowledged that these are scarce and highly competitive. In recent years, however, students in the School of English have found the following sources useful:

Ussher Awards

Students of the School of English have generally been very successful in attracting funding from the Ussher Awards. These Awards are granted to exceptionally well-qualified candidates of outstanding promise intending and permitted to register on year one for a higher degree of PhD in the University of Dublin. They are open to competition by graduates of any nationality, for research in any branch of learning in the College (subject to availability of resources and competent supervision in the chosen area). The Awards are for a three-year period of research on the PhD register. They cover annual fees and provide maintenance of approx. €16,000 per annum. There are six Ussher Awards in every academic year. Three are allocated to successful applicants in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, two in the Faculty of Engineering, Mathematics and Science, and one to a successful applicant in the Faculty of Health Sciences.

New entrants to the research register are not required to complete a separate Award application form. A section on the research application form must be completed in order to be considered for an Award. Nominations are assessed after 1st May and late nominations may be considered if places are still available after this date. Candidates are informed of the outcome of their application from June.

Irish Research Council

The IRC runs an annual competition for doctoral students. These awards are the most substantial funding available to PhD candidates. Students should note that awards are regularly made to applicants who have previously been unsuccessful. The competition is advertised usually in the autumn of every year. Students should keep an eye on the IRC website: The Trinity Long Room Hub runs information session related to this competition.

Local Authority (Higher Education) Grants

Grant holders who completea primary degree course may have the grant renewed in order to undertake a full-time postgraduate course. The grant, which covers fees and possibly a contribution to subsistence, may be renewed in subsequent years but is limited to one postgraduate degree of diploma course for each student.

A mature candidate (23 years of age on 1 January of year of entry to postgraduate study) may be eligible for a Local Authority grant on the basis of parents' income if ordinarily resident with parents or on the basis of own income if resident away from home. Details of income limits for eligibility are available from Local Authorities (Higher Education Service).

More information may be found here:

Provost’s Postgraduate Scholarship Awards

These awards, which will come into effect in the 2018-19 academic year, are made to individual members of academic staff who serve as Principle Investigators (PIs) on projects for which funding is provided to hire full-time postgraduate researchers. Students interested in discussing specific research projects, for which members of the School of English might serve as suitable PIs, should contact individual staff members where appropriate. A full listing of the School’s staff members and their research interests is given here:

Further advice:

The Higher Education Authority offers advice on funding on its website:

Staff-Student Seminar Series

The School of English runs a seminar series throughout the academic year that provides a forum for postgraduate students, visiting scholars and staff to present their work in progress. The School recognises the importance of providing students with an opportunity to hone their presentation skills as part of their professional development. In 2017-18 these seminars are coordinated by Alexander Jones and Julia O’Connell. These seminars provide a forum for staff and research students to meet in a social and professional space.

In 2017-18, seminars will be held every other Tuesday during term, commencing on Tuesday the 26th of September. For further information, please follow these links: 

Queries about the seminar series can be addressed to Alexander and Julia at:

Further information is also available here:

Research Student Procedures 2017-18

Research Student Procedures 2017-18