PhD in Women's Studies

To be eligible for consideration to enter on a programme of study and research for the Degree of PhD, a candidate must have obtained a standard of at least Second Class Honours, Grade I, in an approved primary degree.  It is increasingly the case that applicants for a PhD will have completed an MA prior to embarking on PhD research.


In the case of a PhD in Women's Studies, applicants should normally hold, or expect to hold, an Honours Masters degree in Women's Studies, or an appropriate subject.


Applications for PhD programmes are accepted throughout the year. Prospective students are advised to complete their applications at least three months in advance of their desired start date as all applications go through three different stages of approval - Department, Faculty and Inter Faculty Graduate Studies Board. The three start dates during the year are January, April and October.

See the PAC website for further information on the application process

Two things are vitally important when considering applying to undertake doctoral research: your supervisor and your research proposal.


Before making an application, we advise you to consult the research profiles of our staff and contact a staff member who has expertise in the area in which you are interested and who may be willing to act as your supervisor.

You may also contact Dr Maeve O'Riordan at with preliminary enquiries and for information on what we require students to consider when working on a PhD proposal.

Students are advised to consult with the relevant supervisor / Head of Programme to discuss their proposed area of research prior to making an application through the Postgraduate Applications Centre.


The Proposal

In the case of the research programmes offered through the College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences, a research proposal (1,500 words approx) must be included with the Postgraduate Studies Application Form.


Women's Studies is an interdiscipliary-research area so the approach to specific proposals will vary and should be discussed with a potential supervisor before applications are submitted. 


What kinds of things might applicants include in a proposal?

NB: the brief guidelines below may not be appropriate for all applicants as they draw on Social Science guidelines.

We emphasise that it is necessary to discuss a proposal with a potential supervisor at an early stage and agree a format specific to the applicant's subject.

The guidelines do, however, provide some indication of the level of preparation candidates are required to undertake before submitting a research proposal.



1. It is useful to provide a working title (perhaps with a sub-title) that provides an indication of the depth and scope of the proposed research.

2. A brief introduction (abstract) explaining the research topic, why you consider it suitable for your research, what gap your research may fill and what it may achieve.

3. The justification / rationale: a section in which you lay out the rationale for focusing on your proposed topic, why such research is necessary and what benefits your research might bring (in some projects this might refer to benefits in terms of policy and practice).

4. The scope / limits of your research: will it focus within a specific timeframe, on a specific region, on a specific group (different issues arise for  social science based, literary and historical research) etc.? What are its boundaries? 

5. Aims: a brief summary of your intended research direction.

6. Objectives: a clear and succinct statement of specific intended outcomes, such as assessment of / contribution to a debate (the focus will vary depending on your subject). It may include reference to theoretical and methodological aims and objectives.

 7. The literature: contextualise your research by providing a brief history of your subject with reference to the key literature. Your reading of this material may already suggest potential research questions. Indicate how your research may contribute to literature on the issue.

8. Are there key theories or concepts that will inform your research? Explain their appropriateness and how you may use them.

 9. Methodologies: What is covered will vary depending on your approach (social science, literary. historical) - it may involve a summary of your research design, data collection etc. Will you use qualitative and/or quantitative methods etc.? Why were some methods selected and others rejected.  (For some research broader issues may arise, including ethical concerns, access to data and the participation of organisations or individuals in the research process.)

10. Ethical issues: acknowledge ethical concerns and how they may be addressed. (Discuss with your potential supervisor whether your proposal may have to be considered by an ethics committee.)

 11. Projected timescale: A broad plan indicating a proposed timeframe for completing the research (broken into manageable and realistic segments - perhaps corresponding with thesis chapters). This is useful to the candidate, the potential supervisor and the committee considering the proposal. 

 12. Resources: be realistic about issues like equipment, travel to view special collections in specific libraries etc.

 13. Check references cited and include a bibliography that contains both works cited in the proposal and additional works you know are relvant.

14. Consider whether any further relevant material should be added.


Candidates normally pursue research for a period of three years
full-time from the date of first registration for the programme.
For more information see the Graduate Studies webpage 

Further Information:

If you wish to discuss the process of applying to enter the PhD in Women's Studies programme contact:
Dr Sandra McAvoy. E:
 T:0035 21 4903654
By post: Women's Studies, 4 Perrott Avenue c/o Tyrconnell, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland. 

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