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Research Programmes – Ph.D. and M.Litt

Research Programmes – Ph.D. and M.Litt


The School of Law at Trinity College is strongly committed to maintaining and further developing its reputation for rigorous legal scholarship and research, both in a national and international context, through our postgraduate research degrees.

Programme Overview

The School of Law has a reputation for excellence in terms of research supervision. We offer two postgraduate research degrees, the M.Litt (Master in Letters) and the Ph.D. (Doctor in Philosophy).

We have a vibrant population of approximately 40 postgraduate research students who are engaged in research across a wide range of law subjects. Each student is guided in his or her research by an academic supervisor who has expertise in the relevant research area. A central dedicated shared workspace is exclusively available for a limited full-time postgraduate research students which is adjoined by a seminar room.


A Ph.D. normally takes between 3-4 years of full-time research and writing to complete, subject to satisfactory progress being demonstrated annually via Annual Progress reports (Year 1 and 3), the confirmation interview (year 2) and viva-voce examination (year 4). Students must also complete the mandatory Postgraduate Legal Research module (10 ECTS) and Research Integrity module (5 ECTS).

The M.Litt. degree generally takes between 1-2 years of full-time research, subject to satisfactory progress being demonstrated via Annual Progress reports (Year 1) and final examination.

If you seek admission to the Ph.D or M.Litt register, please consult the Admissions page and "Writing A Research Proposal for Legal Postgraduate Research at The School of Law" guidelines. You may also wish to consult the full-time academic staff listing for further information on potential supervisors.

Research Module

This module is designed to introduce you to postgraduate legal research. The covid pandemic reminded us of the vital role that universities play in addressing the problems of society. This is as true of legal research as it is of scientific or medical research. Through the work that you do over the next few years, you will start to make your contribution to knowledge. In a sense, your time on the PhD programme involves a transition from being knowledge-consumers to knowledge-producers. The production of knowledge is far more difficult than its consumption. The role of this module is to help you make that transition.

The fact that you have been admitted to the postgraduate research degree programme is testament to your established skills in legal research and writing. Nevertheless, most likely you have not taken on a project of such length and complexity before. The Law School provides a very supportive intellectual environment here that will help you develop the skills to complete your PhD successfully. Your supervisors, all leadings experts in the fields that you have chosen, will be your primary guides. You will also learn hugely from one another: from simply chatting to one another, reading and commenting on work, offering advice and assistance, participating at research seminars, and so on. New knowledge happens through discussion, debate, and disagreement. Take every opportunity that you can to engage with others about their work; in return they will engage with you about yours. This module is designed to complement and enable those other relationships of support.

On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:

  • Formulate a research question;
  • Identify the type of claim that their thesis will make and the type of method necessary to support that claim;
  • Articulate in detail the substantive objectives of their research;
  • Demonstrate effective legal research skills in coursework including the use of electronic resources;
  • Demonstrate advanced legal writing skills in coursework;
  • Present research findings in oral and written form to a peer audience.
  • Complete the IRCHSS funding application process;
  • Establish a system for the management of references.

Teaching: 1-2 hours of lectures per week during the first semester.

Assessment: The module will be assessed on a pass/fail basis with three components. You must pass each component. You will see that the assessments largely involve the ability to write and talk about your research

  • 1. IRC application
  • 2. Class participation component
  • 3. Oral presentation of your research topic

Lecturer: Dr David Prendergast

Seminar Series

A series of research seminars is organised each year at the School of Law. Attendance is open to all Postgraduate research students as well as to Law School academic staff. These seminars are an invaluable way to learn how academics present their work and will also provide you with an opportunity to engage with cutting edge scholarship. Participation will also enhance students’ academic and social experience at the Law School. Further information will be provided throughout the academic year.

Postgraduate students will also be invited to guest lectures, forums and seminars within the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and Long Room Hub throughout the year.

LERU European Exchange Programme

To enrich their doctoral studies experience and to facilitate the international mobility of Ph.D candidates, Ph.D candidates at the School of Law are fortunate to have the possibility of spending part of their doctoral studies abroad. The School of Law, Trinity College Dublin has joined with a number of select partner universities of law faculties within the prestigious League of European Research Universities to offer an exchange scheme. The exchange scheme is aimed specifically at permitting Ph.D. candidates to spend up to eight weeks abroad at certain partner LERU institution within Europe.

We are unable to accept applications from visiting postgraduate research students outside of the LERU European Exchange Programme. However, postgraduate students from other universities can apply to access the University's Library.