Research guidance

We’re continuing to support research and innovation.


Amendments to planned research

The aims of a doctoral thesis are to make an original contribution to knowledge and demonstrate that its author has gained the necessary knowledge of the discipline as well as technical ability to become an independent researcher.

With this in mind, the emphasis should always be on quality and not quantity. The limitations brought by the Covid 19 global pandemic have exacerbated the need to focus on these elements. UKRI has issued guidance advising students to adjust their projects to complete a doctoral-level qualification within the funded period.

The Quality Assurance Agency has also published guidance for students and supervisors on doctoral standards in the light of Covid-19.

Similarly, we have issued guidance indicating that it is acceptable to amend projects to suit current circumstances, even though they may be rather different to what was initially planned. The pandemic has changed ways of working throughout the globe, and adjustments to PGR projects are just a part of it. 

You will be given the option to provide information to examiners on the impact Covid has had their projects. Examiners, in turn, will be reminded of the University guidance that "judgement of the thesis should be based on what may reasonably be expected of a diligent and capable candidate after completion of the prescribed period of research and with due regard to the University’s criteria for the award of the degree".

Oral examinations

Viva voce examinations can continue to be held in a variety of formats, depending on the preference of the student and needs of all participants, although face-to-face vivas will be the expectation in most cases. All viva examinations will continue to be recorded, irrespective of their format. 

The following viva formats are permitted:

  • Face-to-face vivas – all participants are present in Sheffield
  • Remote vivas
  • Hybrid vivas – one participant attends remotely, and others are present together in Sheffield. This could be the student or an examiner. 

Read our guidance on oral examinations (vivas)

Extensions to your time limit

All students are encouraged to submit within their original time limit wherever possible. However, we recognise that this may not be possible under current circumstances and therefore time limit extension requests as a result of delays caused by the pandemic will be considered sympathetically.

You may apply for a time limit extension, in line with normal procedures, which should be made no earlier than three months prior to your time limit. Please note that a monthly extension fee is normally payable.

Holiday entitlement

You are entitled to take annual leave each year and the University's guidance follows that of the UK Research Councils, which is 30 days.

Leave of absence 

We recognise that some postgraduate research students will have additional childcare commitments or other caring responsibilities at the present time. There are a range of flexibilities which can be explored, including annual leave, changing candidature to part-time, pro-rata leave of absence. If your funder allows these flexibilities, the University will work with you to help you to balance your home and study commitments.

If, after consideration of your options and discussion with your supervisor and, where relevant, your sponsor, you would prefer to take a break from your studies, you can apply for a leave of absence from your degree.

Support – get in touch

Our extensive range of support services for students are all available online.