Suggestions for the content of the PhD project description


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The typical content of a PhD project description within the humanities at Danish universities.

This presentation forms part of the Study Metro's guide to applying for a PhD, which can be found on
The Study Metro ( is a free online study tool that supports university students in building academic skills. It is developed and maintained by the Centre for Teaching Devlopment and Digital Media, Arts, Aarhus University, Denmark.

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Suggestions for the content of the PhD project description

  1. 1. for the content of thePhD project description within thehumanities at Danish universitiesBased on input from Professor Stig Hjarvad, former leader ofthe Danish National Research School forMedia, Communication, and Journalism, and translated fromUnni From and Nete Nørgaard Kristensen: Proces og struktur iph.d.-forløbet, Samfundslitteratur, 2005.
  2. 2. General guidelines (1)• Be clear, concise and thorough• Write so that non-specialists canunderstand the entire project description;the applications are often assessed bypersons from very different areas ofspecialisation• Emphasise the ways in which your projectis innovative in comparison to
  3. 3. General guidelines (2)• Be both ambitious and realistic:outstandingly examining only one problemis better than examining many differentthemes mediocrely• Arrange for a senior researcher within thefield to read through and comment onyour application well in advance
  4. 4. Generally, the project descriptionconsists of the following parts1. Introduction2. The project’s background3. The project’s theoretical frame4. Methods used in the project5. Work plan or schedule for the project6. Expected results7. List of
  5. 5. 1. Introduction• Title of project: specific and interesting• Initial motivation for the project:relevance, topicality, specific characteristics, etc.• Delimitation of the project:thematic, historical, geographical, institutional, etc.• What kind of project is it – filling in an empiricalblind spot, tackling a (well-defined) theoreticalproblem or something else• The thesis
  6. 6. 2. The project’s background• Previous research in the field – both inDenmark and abroad – most important works• How is this project situated in the context ofprior research• Own research within this field, if any• The social relevance of the project, if any• Relevant research environments, nationally andinternationally, into which the project can beintegrated• Association with graduate
  7. 7. 3. The project’s theoretical frame• Explanation of and reasons for the chosentheories• Epistemological choices:hermeneutics, phenomenology, cognition,
  8. 8. 4. Methods used in the project• Give a short explanation of methods you may use, forexample: quantitative/qualitative, discourseanalysis, qualitative interviews, media ethnography, survey• Short explanation of reasons behind the choice of methods– and maybe the methods you did not choose• Selection of empirical material: what is being examined, forexample groups of films, respondent groups, documents• Access to empirical material: possible access toarchives, permission for interviews, etc.• Possible ethical conditions concerning themethods/empirical material: anonymising,
  9. 9. 5. Work plan for the project (including atimetable for the 3-year period)• A clear specification of timetable for readingstages, empirical analysis, writingstages, etc.• When do you plan to participate in coursesand meet your teaching obligations?• Staying abroad: Where? Contacts?• Participation in courses: write down a few ofthe first courses where possible• Special expenses tied to the project (forexample questionnaires, travel, etc.)
  10. 10. 6. Expected Results• What are the results – in general – youexpect to obtain through this project?• In what way will they be of use for futureresearch in the field and society ingeneral?• How do you expect to communicate them?
  11. 11. 7. List of references• The literature referred to in theapplication should be listed
  12. 12. students in building academic skills