PhD Supporting Statement

Every PhD candidate at the University of Sheffield is required to submit a research proposal prior to acceptance onto the programme.

Postgraduate students writing and concentrating

Every PhD candidate at the University of Sheffield is required to submit a supporting statement prior to acceptance onto the programme. This document is vital to the success of your application.

Your application supporting statement should comprise three sections:

1. Your background. (200-250 words)

2. Your PhD Project Proposal

a. Title (10-20 words)
b. Project summary (100 words)
c. Project detail (1000 words not including references)

3. Why studying for a PhD is right for you. (400 words)

a. Why do you want to conduct this research?
b. Why are The University of Sheffield, and your prospective supervisor, ideal
for this project?

Section 1: Your background.
This section should be a maximum of 250 words
In this section, you should summarise your most significant attainments.
● You should list any qualifications (achieved and in process), specifically noting overall grades (achieved or predicted) at masters and undergraduate level.
● You can also note any work experience directly relevant to the PhD research, and any prizes/awards and other relevant achievements.

Section 2: Your PhD Proposal
This section should comprise three sections
2a. Project Title (maximum 10-20 words)
This must be brief and clear, encapsulating the central aim of the project.
2b. Project Summary (maximum 100 words)
This should briefly describe the project in such a way that someone who is not a subject
specialist can understand the topic area, the aims, and the value of the research.
2c. Project Detail (maximum 1000 words, not including the bibliography)
This should offer a clear account of your proposed PhD project. Proposals that address all of these points effectively have a higher chance of success.
● you should outline the main aims of your research, with an explanation of the central topic and your key research questions on here, you should also explain how your thesis will be an original contribution to knowledge.
● you should include a critical discussion of the most relevant existing literature, referring to the key works in the field, on here, you should explain clearly how your project will develop and extend knowledge in this area
● you should provide a proposed methodology and explain how the thesis will be organised on here you should show that your proposal offers a systematic response to the topic.
● If necessary, you should note any specifically relevant resources available at Sheffield and any additional ones that would be required
● You should provide a bibliography of any works cited

Section 3. Why studying for a PhD at the University of Sheffield is right for you

This section should be a maximum of 400 words.
3a. Why do you want to study for a PhD at the University of Sheffield? (maximum 200
● Here, you should explain what you hope to gain from your studies (for example, any specific training you need, or how PhD study helps you meet your career aspirations).

3b. Why is the School of English at the University of Sheffield ideal for this project?
(maximum 200 words)
● Here you should show how your project would contribute to the School of English research culture — such as existing research networks and external partnerships — or elsewhere at the University of Sheffield. You should also explain how your supervisor’s research interests fit with your project.

Next steps

Creative Writing PhD proposal

The proposal for the Creative Writing PhD is distinct from the proposal for other programmes. This three-year program consists of a full-scale creative project, novel, collection of short stories or poetry collection, accompanied by a 40,000-word critical project. 

The creative and critical projects should be intimately related: the creative element must be complete and potentially publishable, whilst the critical project must be a free-standing research project, with the specific research question(s), methodology, and set of primary and secondary texts for analysis. We welcome interdisciplinary, mixed media and multimedia projects, and are able to host complex projects with co-supervision from specialists in music, architecture, theatre and film.

The research proposal for this PhD should be approximately 1,500 words, outlining both the creative and critical sides of the project. The outline of the critical side of the project should be structured similarly to any research-based PhD, although the discussion of the creative side may be much more flexibly formatted.

If you are applying for funding, we will match you to a member of our creative writing team, who will then work with you to improve and refine your proposal. This will help maximise your chances of securing funding. 

Critical component

The critical component makes up 40% of your PhD and typically comprises of three chapters of 10,000 words, with 10,000 for introduction and conclusions.

In your research proposal, you should outline the research questions you will address in each chapter, how these fit into the wider project, and the texts and secondary source material that you plan to use. For example, if the overall topic is the Cold War in fiction, with a chapter that focuses on the Berlin airlift as represented in fiction, you would include:

  • A list of authors and key texts
  • The archives that might be consulted
  • The critical approach you plan to take, e.g. Adorno or feminist-materialist historiography
  • The specific research question you plan to answer, e.g. how haunted by fascism is Berlin in these texts?

Creative component 

The creative component makes up 60% of your PhD. For prose, you will be expected to produce at least 60,000 words of fiction (a full and coherent collection of stories, or a novel) although we welcome projects that range in length from 60,000 - 80,000 words. For poetry, the submission needs to be a full and potentially publishable collection (around 50 poems or equivalent).

In your proposal, you should indicate the projected themes of the novel, collection of stories or poems. You should also indicate what kinds of research the writing will entail, and give a description of the structure, with subsections, subtopics, and as full an abstract as you can - though clearly, this will be exploratory.

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