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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 compulsory for students in the first year of a postgraduate research degree at the Law School. The aim of the module is to support research students in establishing a solid foundation for their research and writing. The module is conducted as a small group seminar and brings together students and members of the Law School staff for discussion on a range of themes related to legal research, such as formalities, research methods, publication and conference participation.

The module includes a consideration of the nature of postgraduate legal research with particular emphasis on its educational objectives. There are also practical sessions on the organisational elements of postgraduate research such as establishing a framework for research, formulating research questions and planning the stages of a programme of research. Additional sessions focus on the importance of legal writing at postgraduate level and on recent developments in the use of electronic research resources.

The module also incorporates a series of seminars on legal research methodologies. Individual members of the Law School staff and occasional guest lecturers lead class discussions of diverse methodologies such as legal theory, historical legal research, international and comparative perspectives, empirical work and multi-disciplinary research. A key objective of this aspect of the module is to draw on shared experiences and identify common challenges and opportunities that legal researchers encounter.

A central theme of the module is the significance of research and writing beyond the immediate context of a postgraduate research degree. Students are encouraged to reflect on the potential application of research and writing in a range of academic and professional contexts. Students are expected to engage actively in seminar discussion and to make occasional short in-class presentations in relation to their research. The assessment for the module takes the form of short written and oral assignments in which students apply ideas discussed in the module to their own research.

Programme Outcomes

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

  • Describe in detail the role of postgraduate research and writing in legal education and scholarship.
  • Articulate the substantive objectives of their research and formulate a research question.
  • Formulate a structure for their proposed research and a viable research plan.
  • Identify and debate various methodologies employed in advanced legal research.
  • Explain their chosen research methodologies and link those methodologies to their substantive research goals.
  • Engage in effective legal research including the use of electronic resources.

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

Assessment: 100% Coursework

Assessment is based on a range of short written and oral submissions. These include the production of an abstract; the formulation of research questions; an analysis of research methods; and a short oral presentation. These should all be completed and assessed during the first semester of the first year.

Lecturer: Dr Deirdre Ahern

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.