Sunday, 27 August 2017

Leveling Up: How I Got a PhD Studentship.


Although I'm not on it anymore, I still managed to get a PhD studentship in under 2 months after finishing my course, so I'm going to be telling you how I managed to go from a master, to a PhD student (albeit temporarily)! In this example I will be talking about the PhD at Ulster - you can download the advert here so you know what I'm talking about.

I'm not going to lie, applying for a PhD is time consuming, energy sapping, paperwork heavy stuff. It's annoying and now that I'm applying for jobs in the field, I can say that it's very much like applying for that. A studentship is a funded PhD project, so you don't have to go through funding bodies or anything like that which is great. The downside (if you can call it that) is that the projects are pre-chosen so you don't really get to propose your own initial idea as such - but you can build on it and make it your own.



FindaPhd.com will become your best friend - a little bit like indeed.com if you're looking for work. At this point you may as well make it your homepage because it will be your most visited page from now on. I'm going to be writing this from the point of view of a poor student who is only going to be looking at funded positions, so the process may not be as accurate for self funded which I think may require some funding paperwork.

Each university will have a different way of applying, some will require you to make an account on their website and follow the steps, and some will require you to send them an email with the required paperwork. The most important thing is that you have all the paperwork prepared and ready to upload for each application. Things you should have -

  • Undergraduate certificate
  • Undergraduate transcript
  • Masters transcript (If applicable)
  • Masters certificate (If applicable) 
  • Personal statement - Have several copies that are tweaked and personalized for each application.
  • Academic CV
  • A Word document of your reference details (For those that only require an email with relevant paperwork sent to them, alternatively you can add them at the end of your academic CV)
  • References (If you have them)

Regarding your personal statement, you will need to upgrade it a little from your masters, adding in the experiences from the last year - you can find a personal statement template for a PhD application here. The major difference between the two is that your PhD application will focus much less on your undergraduate degree and any work experience prior to your undergraduate shouldn't be included unless its really relevant to the post. 

Because you will be applying for many positions (unless you are 100% sure that you have a position secured), you will have to find a way to keep track of all of them all. You can either write down the applications with the deadline dates and dates submitted on a spreadsheet or as a table in your diary, just be sure that you have it written down somewhere so you know when deadlines are and when to be expecting a response. Something I've done for my job applications (which again, is very similar) is have them down in a spreadsheet with all the relevant details necessary. Being organized is key, the last thing you want to do is show up for an interview and not remember the project because you've applied for so many different ones.


In some cases you will need to write a research proposal. You will be applying for a position on a project but they will want a proposal on how you plan on addressing the project, which is something you will have to do anyway if you do get accepted. It's very much like a plan of how you're going to do things, including a very brief literature review. Think of it like a short research paper. Generally a proposal should not be more than 2 sides of A4, and should have the following sections covered
  • Introduction - Literature Review
  • Aims - Where is there a gap in the research and what do you plan on doing within this project
  • Method - What methodology do you plan on using? Nothing is concrete, but what do you THINK will be a good way to approach this?
  • Conclusion - What do you plan on happening? What do you think the outcome will be? Why is this important?
I've included the research proposal here I sent in for Ulster with notations on how you can write yours.

Every graduation I've always matched my eyeshadow!
I hope this has been useful and helped some of you! The full list of resources for this post can be found in the resources page, including a personal statement generator (PhD edition). If you still need help the FindaPhD has lots of resources and message boards to ask questions, or you can email me! Good luck guys!

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