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What’s a PhD

A PhD is a postgraduate doctoral degree, awarded to students who complete an original thesis offering a significant new contribution to knowledge in their subject. PhD qualifications are available in all subjects and are normally the highest level of academic degree a person can achieve.

What does 'PhD' stand for?

PhD stands for 'Doctor of Philosophy' which is an abbreviation of the latin term, (Ph)ilosophiae (d)octor. The word 'philosophy' here refers to its original Greek meaning: philo (friend or lover of) sophia (wisdom).


The PhD research process - what's involved?

Unlike most Masters courses (or all undergraduate programmes), a PhD is a pure research degree. But that doesn’t mean you’ll just spend three years locked away in a library or laboratory. In fact, the modern PhD is a diverse and varied qualification with many different components.

Whereas the second or third year of a taught degree looks quite a lot like the first (with more modules and coursework at a higher level) a PhD moves through a series of stages.


A typical PhD normally involves:

  • Carrying out a literature review (a survey of current scholarship in your field).
  • Conducting original research and collecting your results.
  • Producing a thesis that presents your conclusions.
  • Writing up your thesis and submitting it as a dissertation.
  • Defending your thesis in an oral viva voce exam.

These stages vary a little between subjects and universities, but they tend to fall into the same sequence over the three years of a typical full-time PhD.

Applying for a PhD
You must submit a research proposal. The university you choose will have to be interested in your area of research and have staff available to supervise. It’s very different for applying for a taught masters where the entry criteria are stated and the start date is clear and you will be issued with a timetable on enrolment.

The best advice we can offer you is to look for universities active in your research area of interest. Find a research group at that university. This could only be two or more academics with a mutual research interest. Find out what they are researching and develop your proposal around their interests. Email them personally and start a dialogue. If they are interested and you get on well the whole game plan changes and you are pursuing against an open door.  Over the years I have been involved in PhDs I have seen time and time again a master’s thesis recycled as a PhD proposal. The two are miles apart. NO NOT write a proposal in your bedroom in isolation and send it off to many universities. Waste of time. Go back and read what I have said about finding a university interested in your area of research, find an academic, contact them and adapt your research to their interests.

Please don’t worry about applying as World Student Advisors offer you a free service and we will help you through all stages from applying, obtaining a visa and your enrolment.

If you have any questions, please use the Student Support Centre WhatsApp number below.

We look forward to hearing from you.

World Student Advisors
Student Support Centre
WhatsApp: +44 7756 295 943