Applying for PhD study

This page explains how to apply for a standard PhD in the Information School, using your own research project. Once you have received your offer you can use it to apply for competitive funding (where you compete with other offer-holders to gain a scholarship).

There is often a different process for pre-funded projects, where you apply to a project which already has funding attached. To find out more see our scholarships page.

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1. Check that you meet the entrance requirements

Academic requirements

A strong master's degree (or be working towards master's degree at the time of application), with an overall grade of 60% from a UK institution (or equivalent from an overseas university). Also, a minimum of 60% in your masters research project/dissertation.

English requirements

A degree completed within the last 5 years from a country classed as 'majority English speaking' by UK Visas and Immigration.


An appropriate English language qualification completed within the last 2 years that meets our minimum entry requirements. In most cases, students take the IELTS test - our IELTS requirements are in the table below.

IELTS overall score 6.5
Listening 6.0


Speaking 6.0
Writing 6.0

Details of other English qualifications recognised by the University can be found on the English language requirements webpage.

2. Write a research proposal

Your research proposal is perhaps the most important part of your application. It is a piece of written work around 2,000 words long which explains:

  • Why your proposed research is interesting and significant
  • How your research relates to existing research in your field
  • Your specific aims and objectives
  • The methods you intend to use, and why they are suitable
  • A timetable for the completion of your research

Your research proposal will be used to determine your suitability for PhD research, and to decide whether you are a good fit with potential supervisors in the School.

Please note that your research proposal will be checked using plagiarism-detection software. Please follow academic conventions for quotations and cite your sources thoroughly.

Find out more about how to write a good research proposal:

Research proposal

If you are struggling to think of a research topic see our list of suggested PhD topics:

PhD topics

3. Find a supervisor

A key aspect of doing a PhD is developing a productive relationship with a supervisor. Ideally building rapport should start from a very early stage, and it is a good idea to contact a potential supervisor before formally applying.

Your supervisor should be someone whose research interests match your own. To find a potential supervisor, you should read through the list of supervisors in the School and identify those whose research overlaps with your own, whether thematically or methodologically.

List of supervisors in the School

Approaching a prospective supervisor

Introduce yourself by email, providing information about yourself and your research topic. Be specific - if possible, send them your research proposal and your CV.

Do not send emails indiscriminately to many members of staff. If the first person you approach is not available to supervise your project, they will forward your email to other members of staff.

Please note:

There is no guarantee the supervisor you want will be available or willing to supervise your project. If your proposed supervisor is interested, this does not guarantee an offer will be made, as your application is still subject to admissions checks.

4. Apply online

To apply for a PhD at the Information School you must complete an online application form.

You will need to include:

  • Two academic references.  These should be written and signed on official letter-headed paper by academic staff at institutions where you have studied previously. If you have been out of education for the last two years, you may supply one academic reference, along with one from your current employer.
  • Evidence of your qualifications, including academic transcripts (see 1. Check that you meet the entrance requirements)
  • Evidence of an appropriate English language qualification (see 1. Check that you meet the entrance requirements)

Applications which are submitted without these documents cannot be processed.

When should you apply?

We welcome applications at any time, but recommend that you apply at least 3 months before your planned start date.

When can you start?

The academic year for PhD study commences on 1 October, and we strongly advise that you start on this date. If you request to start on a different date, you will be asked to justify your request.

5. What happens next?

You will receive an email confirming receipt of your application, and will be kept informed of any developments throughout the application process.

  1. Your application will be checked to ensure you meet the entrance criteria, and that all the required documents are attached

  2. Your research proposal will be checked using plagiarism-detection software

  3. If you have suggested supervisors, your application will be sent to them for review. If you have not suggested any supervisors, your application will be sent to the PGR Director to identify potential supervisors

  4. The proposed supervisors may request revisions to your research proposal. You will be given 3 weeks to make these changes

  5. Once two supervisors have given feedback, are interested in supervising your project, and are happy with your proposal, you will be invited to interview

  6. If the interview is successful you will receive an offer of a place


We aim to deal with all applications promptly. A decision is usually made on applications within 2 months. We advise applicants to submit their PhD application at least 3 months prior to their proposed start date.


Once you have received an offer you can use it to apply for PhD funding. The University of Sheffield scholarship competition closes in January each year, but there are a wide range of other funding opportunities available. See the links below for details.

University of Sheffield research scholarships page

Information School scholarships page

List of alternative funding sources for postgraduate study

If you have any queries regarding the application procedure, please email

Please note: there may be costs additional to your tuition incurred during your PhD study, depending on your project and field of work. Examples of additional costs may include travel and accomodation for fieldwork, or conference fees. Please speak to your potential supervisor if you have any questions about this.

Click here to find out about PhD tuition fees

* Please note that successful applicants will be informed from October 2019.