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PhD course structure

Undertaking a research project that spans at least three years* can be a daunting task. While not as structured as a taught postgraduate programme, the PhD is segmented into four stages, each with distinct milestones to help you monitor your progress and pursue your research at the best pace.

Year 1 | Year 2 | Year 3 | Submission and the viva


Year 1

Your first year lays the foundation for your research. You will take research training modules in autumn and spring terms. These will help you develop your research proposal, the strategy you propose to adopt, and the research questions which will guide your doctoral research. Additionally, in agreement with your supervisor, you can audit any relevant postgraduate seminars in th department from the modules on the taught MA programme.

Towards the end of the year, in May, you will submit your upgrade documents that detail your progress. These will be used to determine whether you are ready to upgrade from MPhil to a full PhD.

Year 2

Many candidates use part or all of the second year to conduct fieldwork elsewhere in the UK or abroad, digging into the heart of their research. The second year culminates with a review of your progress, as you present at the annual Doctoral Conference.

Year 3

While you should be in the habit of writing from day one, the process of tying your thesis together and finalising it for submission begins in earnest during year 3 and normally continues into the first part of year 4. The review process, as in year 2, involves presenting a new academic paper at the Doctoral Conference.

Year 4

Although you should aim to finish in year 3, realistically most students submit their thesis in year 4. The University does not normally allow an extension beyond year 4.

Submission and the viva

You should aim to submit your finished thesis in the first 6 months of your fourth year. After you submit, you will defend your thesis in front of internal and external examiners as your final assessment for the degree (the viva).

*Full-time students are registered for four years initially, the fourth year being a writing-up period not subject to fees; part-time students are initially registered for seven years, the seventh year not subject to fees.

Additional training

Additional research training and personal and professional development are available through the Department, the ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership, the Graduate School and the Library. You are also welcome to audit Masters modules, for which no assessment is required. Warwick also provides support through Student Careers & Skills to help you build your CV and enhance your employment prospects well ahead of graduation.