Image of Sociological Studies students in the PhD room

Applying for a PhD

A PhD is an independent piece of research and writing that presents an original contribution to existing knowledge within a given discipline. The thesis is usually around 80,000 words and is written over three years.  The key feature of the PhD is that it is yours: the topic, planning, motivation, and thinking come from you. You will usually be allocated two supervisors who will facilitate your progress throughout the PhD. The PhD will be the most challenging type of academic work you have ever done but it should also be the most rewarding.

We offer PhD study on a full and part-time basis. The full-time PhD programme runs over three years and part-time runs over six years.

Guide to submitting your PhD application

The Department of Sociological Studies receives a large number of PhD applications every year. The following guidelines have been written in order to help you submit a high quality application that is targeted to the research strengths of staff within the Department.

In order to consider your application for a PhD we require you to submit two documents: a supporting statement and a research proposal.

Supporting statement
Your supporting statement will help us to reach a decision on your application. You should address the following questions (around 1,000 words):

  • Why did you choose to apply to the Department of Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield?
  • How you will support yourself financially whilst completing the PhD?
  • How does your proposal fit the broad research interests and expertise of staff within the Department. Often a proposal will need minor adaptation to fall within an area of staff expertise. In order to improve your chances of success it is worthwhile reviewing the academic profile of the various staff in the Department before you submit an application. Details of the research interests of our academic staff can be found here or and on their individual staff web pages, or explore our research pages.

Research proposal
Applications for admission to a research degree cannot be dealt with unless they contain a proposal.  Please add your research proposal within the 'Supporting Documents' section of the Postgraduate Applications Online System. See our guidance on developing your research proposal.

Application process

Taking up a place as a research student is a two stage process. The first stage is to seek admission to the department of your choice; the second stage is to obtain financial support for your graduate programme.

All applicants are given every assistance in seeking financial support and the possibilities will be discussed with you as part of the admissions process.

You can find out more about the stages of the application process through the links below:

We will usually arrange to meet with you to discuss your application, either in person, by telephone or online.

Should you have any queries regarding your application please contact Our aim is to deal with your application promptly, although most applications are considered by at least two members of staff and the process can take up to three weeks in total. Again, you can contact us at any time if you want to know the progress of your application.