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Course Structure

Teaching and Learning

General Programme Architecture

Since 2012-13, new entrants and continuing students are expected to follow a set of modules and seminars which form an integral part of the Sociology PhD Programme. The programme combines in-depth social scientific methodological training with transferrable and generic skills tailored to the needs of Sociology graduates. It consists of the following core components:
The confirmation of continuation on the PhD register process shall normally be arranged within the first year of registration extended by a further year for PhD students on the part-time register. The process forms an essential part of the student’s learning experience. Students who wish to continue on the PhD register need to have completed (1) the social research methods module and (2) the PhD Skills Suite. They should have regularly attended (3) the Sociology research seminar series. They are also required to (4) actively participate (by presentation) at the annual PhD-Day which is a one- to two-day workshop for PhD students to present their research progress, usually held after Hilary Term.
Since PhD in Sociology is part of Trinity’s structured PhD programme, all PhD students incoming from September 2018 have to take the mandatory module “Research Integrity and Impact in an Open Scholarship Era – Mandatory Moduleprior to their confirmation. The module is available online through Blackboard and should take 5-7 hours to complete. Assessment is done by MCQ and students can repeat the test multiple times if needed. Visit the Graduate Studies pages and the Postgraduate Research Handbook (find the links above under “Structured PhD at Trinity College Dublin”). Successful module participation yields 5 ECTS.
It is the responsibility of the PhD student and his/her supervisor to familiarise themselves with the School of Social Sciences and Philosophy's Ethnics Policy and with the requirements and guidelines for a structured PhD at Trinity College as well as the college-wide postgraduate research student handbook. Research students should discuss possible ethical implications of their research plans as early as possible and supervisors are obliged to advise research students about potential ethical issues in the early stages of the postgraduate trajectory. Students can apply at any stage in their first year, but the process must be completed by the time of the confirmation interview in June. There can of course be additional ethical approval applications in subsequent phases of research. The research ethics checklist needs to be signed off by the Departmental ethics officer, Dr Peter Muhlau ( to assess the need for a certificate of ethical approval by the School.

First-year Report

In addition, students need to submit a first-year report (6,000-8,000 words). The format of the report may vary according to the nature of the research but as a general guide it is suggested to include
(1) an introductory section stating your research aims, critically reviewing existing literature to inform the formulation and specification of your research question(s);
(2) a theoretical and/or conceptual section which includes a discussion of how theoretical or conceptual aspects informed your project;
(3) a section on methodology which discusses the design, access and sampling, data collection tools, data analysis technique(s) as well as ethical issues, [including confirmation of ethics release];
(4) a timetable; and
(5) a bibliography.
Five copies should be submitted to the Sociology Department Office before the end of the first year (for students who entered in September that is before end of August) and before the confirmation interview. The confirmation interview takes place after the first twelve months and at latest the first eighteen months of registration. The department of Sociology holds confirmation interviews in September of the following year for students who started in September. Students with compelling reasons may petition via their supervisor, who will consult with the Departmental Graduate Director and Head of Department, to have their confirmation review postponed.

First-year Confirmation Interview

The student shall be invited to attend a PhD first-year confirmation interview. The PhD confirmation panel for each student is appointed by the Departmental Graduate Director (as nominee of the School’s Director of Teaching and Learning (Postgraduate) and shall consist of at least two Department members drawn only from staff eligible to supervise, as follows: The Departmental Graduate Director and a second member of the Department with acknowledged expertise in the subject area of the student’s research (or in a cognate field). The Departmental Graduate Director makes the final decision about membership of the PhD confirmation panel in consultation with the supervisor and will endeavour to consider the student’s opinion. The Supervisor shall not be a member of the PhD confirmation panel, but it is expected that the Supervisor (and Co-Supervisor) would be present at the interview. The supervisor’s attendance at the interview ensures that he or she is aware of the panel’s critique of the student’s work. Written feedback shall be provided to the student by the Departmental Graduate Director within one week following the interview. The recommendation of the panel shall be one of the following:
(a) continuation on the PhD,
(b) continuation on the PhD register after some minor changes have been made to the report,
(c) continuation on the PhD not recommended at this time: a new report to be written and confirmation interview to be held again as soon as possible thereafter,
(d) a recommendation to change to the general Masters register and submit a Masters (MLitt) thesis, or
(e) not to continue as a postgraduate research student.
A student may appeal the result of a PhD confirmation interview. This appeal will be brought in the first instance, to the appropriate sub-committee of the School Executive Committee. A further appeal may be directed to the Dean of Graduate Studies.

Continuation on the PhD Register

Students in their second or higher years will return a Progress Report Form to the Departmental Graduate Director twice a year. These reports summarise the progress and research-related activities in the last 6 or 12 months (whichever is relevant), evaluate the actual progress with the projected progress, outline the proposed programme for the next 6 to 12 months, and outline any difficulties experienced. Students should discuss the progress report with their supervisors. Reports need to be signed by both the supervisor and the student.
At the end of each semester the department will conduct a twice-yearly general review of the progress of each research student. Any advice and recommendations of the supervisor, Departmental Graduate Director, and/or other staff will be communicated directly to each student concerned. The content of the progress reports will have a particular bearing upon the Department’s attitude to any request for an extension of the deadline for submission of the thesis and continuation beyond year 4.

Note that this Departmental Progress Review is different from and in addition to the Progress Review of Graduate Studies Office.

Thesis Committee

All students incoming from September 2019 will embark on their PhD under the new ‘thesis committee’ model. The role of thesis committee is, exclusively, to evaluate, monitor and advise on academic progress. The role of the thesis committee is entirely academic but, importantly, it is not a supervisory body.
The thesis committee consist of the principal supervisor (and any co-supervisor) and two other members. A student is expected to actively suggest members to be on his or her thesis committee. The normal college rules on eligibility for supervision do not apply for the selection of the two additional committee members: Full-time staff, staff on part-time contracts, senior post-docs, staff from cognate disciplines and appropriate external representatives, are all appropriate to be appointed. However, the department has final discretion on appointability.
The committee should be appointed no later than two months after the student’s initial registration and the student should be informed as to who is on his or her thesis committee. The identity of the members of each student’s thesis committee should be conveyed to the Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies.
The thesis-committee model plans several meetings between students and committee.

  1. Before the end of the student’s first and third year on register , the non-supervisor members of the Committee should meet with the student in the absence of the supervisor. In advance of the meeting, the student should submit his or her completed annual progress report to the members of the committee outlining both her or his academic progress during the year, and also any academic concerns that [s]he might have. The report should also be filled out by the Principal Supervisor prior to being sent to the thesis committee. The report will form the basis of the discussions at the meeting, the purpose of which is to discuss academic progress made during the year and, where appropriate, to advise the student.
  2. In the second year of the student’s registration, the committee should act, in the normal way, as the student’s confirmation panel.
  1. In the fourth year, on the request of the student, the committee should meet with the student once per semester to discuss and advise on academic progress. Depending on the student’s wishes this might be either in the presence or the absence of the principal supervisor.

See the college calendar for more details on the role and procedure of the thesis committee.