Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some FAQs about PhD study at the Information School.

What are the main things I need to put in my research proposal?

You should provide several things in your research proposal, which you can read about on our Research proposal page. These include:

  • a good, engaging and descriptive title
  • a clear aim for your project
  • objectives/research questions
  • an explanation of why yours is an interesting and worthwhile topic to research
  • a literature review
  • a detailed justification of the methodological approach, including research design and data collection and analysis methods.
  • a plan of your research project

It is not easy to write this unaided! Do get in touch with a member of staff to discuss your ideas.

Are there any core taught modules on a PhD programme?

In the UK a PhD is primarily based on completing a research-based project. However, there are taught modules which you can attend to help you gain the skills and knowledge you will need for your research. You will be required to attend modules on ethics and on discipline-specific skills, and you can choose to attend additional modules as part of the Social Sciences Doctoral Development Programme.

Should I speak to a potential supervisor before submitting my application?

Yes, it is recommended that you speak to a member of staff about your research ideas and proposal. You can find our list of supervisors here and our research groups here.

We also provide a list of suggested PhD topics to help you write a proposal that is in line with the Information School’s staff expertise and research interests. The list of topics can be found here.

Can I apply if I don't meet your English language requirements?

If you are no more than 0.5 IELTS points from meeting our mininimum requirement (6.5 overall, 6 in each component), we may be able to make you a conditional offer of a place.

You will need to meet the entrance requirement and provide proof in the form of an IELTS certificate, before you can start your PhD.

Can I apply if I haven't finished my masters degree yet?

Yes, you can. You should upload a copy of your most recent degree transcript to your application. This should show the results for any modules that you have already completed.

Any offer we make will be conditional on you achieving a merit, with a minimum of 60 in the dissertation.

Can I do a PhD without moving to Sheffield?

If you are an international candidate then you can apply to study as a Remote Location student, on either a full-time or part-time programme of study. Please make it clear in your application that you intend to be “majority off-campus”, and include an additional document outlining:

  • Where the Remote Location site is, and what facilities are available there
  • What access you will have to resources like libraries, computing, and other research facilities
  • What your training needs are
  • Whether permission will be granted to allow the Sheffield supervisors access to the Remote Location site

There is no programme of study which allows UK students to do their PhD off-campus. However, it is possible to apply for special permission to study away from Sheffield. Candidates who wish to do this should submit an application using the usual online application form, indicating that they wish to study away from the University.

How long will it take to process my application?

We process applications as quickly as possible. If your application meets our entry requirements, it is assessed by the PGR Director and any supervisors you have specified. You may then be invited to interview. If successful, you will be made an offer. This process varies in length as each case is different, but it is usually under three months from application to offer.

When can I start my study?

The Information School operates cohort start dates for its PhD programme. The two possible dates from which you can choose to start your PhD studies at are 1st October and 1st April. Please consider these two dates and take the review time into consideration when developing and submitting your application.

I am studying at another university but I would like to spend some time studying at the information school - is this possible?

Yes, students studying a PhD elsewhere can study here as a visiting research student. You will need to apply online, and you will need to meet the same entrance requirements as other PhD students. You will also need to have or obtain a valid visa.

Find out more on our visiting students page.

I have a questions about my visa

The University of Sheffield has a dedicated visas and immigration team. Their website contains detailed information and guidance on applying for a Tier 4 visa, short term student visas, CAS numbers, and more.

Student visas and immigration

If you are unable to find the answers you need on the webpages, you can contact the visas and immigration team directly by emailing or calling 0114 222 9679.

Are there any additional costs incurred during PhD study other than tuition fees?

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.

If you have any questions that aren't answered here, please email