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PhD Research

What is a PhD?

A PhD is a substantial piece of original scholarship for which the research and writing-up can reasonably be expected the be completed in three years. At MML there is a normal word limit of 80,000 words (including footnotes and appendices but excluding bibliography). The thesis should represent a significant contribution to learning through the discovery of new knowledge or through the connection of previously unrelated facts, or the devlopment of new theory, revision of older views or some combination of these. In writing the thesis you are expected to take account of previously published work on the subject and the thesis should be clearly and accurately written, paying due attention to English style and grammar. Candidates for the PhD in Cambridge are guided by a supervisor, though they will normally also discuss their work with a number of other experts in their field.

Non-native speakers of English should ensure that their work is checked by a native speaker, preferably with some subject knowledge. Supervisors cannot be expected to correct poor English but of course may give advice on questions of English writing.

PhD study at Cambridge is intellectually demanding and should be undertaken only by those who have the necessary level of attainment and motivation to pursue research or advanced study at the highest level of scholarship. In addition, graduate students in Cambridge are expected to have the capacity, and enthusiasm, for organising their own research and to work largely on their own initiative.

Candidates for the PhD are guided by a supervisor and offered a programme of professional development. Details of the graduate training available can be found here

PhD students are expected to begin their research at the beginning of the academic year, 1 October, although for Linguistics students it may be possible to begin in January if prior arrangement with the Department has been made. Students must normally have completed all the requirements of any previous courses before commencing their studies at Cambridge. Graduate students are generally in residence continuously throughout the year (apart possibly from short breaks taken in the periods between terms). Residing in the University, for research students, means living within a distance of 10 miles from the centre of Cambridge.

PhD students might reasonably expect to see their supervisor fortnightly or at least 3 times a term. The length of a supervision may vary, depending on the stage a student is at, and on the nature of the written work, if any, to be discussed. As a rule, however, such meetings generally last between 30 and 60 minutes.