PhD Student Information Guide
Postgraduate Research Student Programme
Welcome to the SOAS School of Law!
SOAS Postgraduate Research Handbook
All postgraduate research students should read this Handbook carefully. It contains information on SOAS policies and services, the Code of Practice for research degrees (updated August 2012), and provides most of the information you need about registration and status (study leave, interruption, continuation, maintenance). It also presents sample forms for upgrading, entry to the MPhil/PhD exam and practical information such as ways to format your thesis.
Please always consult the SOAS Postgraduate Research Student Handbook first in case of any query you may have on your research studies. You should have received a copy of the Handbook at registration.
In addition there is the Code of Practice for Research Degrees (August 2012) which sets down the basic requirements and expectations of the PhD programme at SOAS. Note in particular pages 5-8 in the hard copy (pp.4-7 in the electronic version) where the programme requirements are set out.
University of London PhD regulations
These regulations are as important as the SOAS regulations and should be the object of all your attention.
POSTGRADUATE TUTOR (RESEARCH)
Professor Philippe Cullet: room 226; email firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 020 7898 4651. Office hours: Wednesday, 3:00pm-5:00pm.
POSTGRADUATE RESEARCH TRAINING SEMINAR CONVENOR
Dr Samia Bano: room 238; email email@example.com; phone: 020 7898 4668; Office hours: Thursdays 11am-1pm
SCHOOL OF LAW POSTGRADUATE RESEARCH STUDENT SEMINAR SERIES CONVENOR
Dr Brenna Bhandar: room 541; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Room R201: The contact person for postgraduate students is Catherine Farinhas-Gray, email@example.com, phone: 020 7898 4413.
- R301 on the third floor of the ‘research block’ is available for research students, with computers, printing facilities, desk space and lockers. Your ID will be automatically activated for this room.
- Besides, there is a Doctoral School at 53 Gordon Square which is a space entirely devoted to PhD students at SOAS.
FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR SOAS SCHOOL OF LAW STUDENTS
Financial Support For Hardship
Thanks to the generosity of Professor William Ballantyne, the School of Law has funds available for the support of students in serious financial difficulties.
The amounts available are, of course, limited, and in the present environment there are not many students who do not feel the need for a little extra. Therefore monies from the Fund are only disbursed to those who are in really pressing need and who cannot finance their degree in other ways, such as working part-time, obtaining grants, and so on.
In other words, the fund is a last resort for students who are truly in great need. It is important that this scarce resource not be wasted; therefore disbursements will only be made to diligent students who are considered likely to benefit from it. Given the wide variety of problems which arise it is not possible, nor is it desirable, to lay down any more detailed criteria than these.
Applications should be made to the Research Tutor, Philippe Cullet (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the form of an email outlining why you are applying for the funds, what you'd like to use the funds for, and how much you would like to apply for. Your supervisor will also be asked to write a statement making a recommendation on the application. The application will then be considered by a panel within the School of Law and you may be asked in for an interview before a decision is made.
SOAS Awards for Fieldwork
51 fieldwork awards of up to £779 each are available to provide financial support for SOAS postgraduate research students undertaking approved PhD fieldwork abroad. Fieldwork awards are not renewable.
Competition for these awards is very intense and candidates and referees are encouraged to be as precise as possible in making their case for support.
The awards do not cover conference attendance. Please note that the awards are administered by the Scholarships Office, Registry, SOAS (and not by the School of Law). Email: email@example.com.
31 October 2013 – for students leaving for fieldwork from 1 January 2014 to 31 June 2014 inclusive.
18 April 2014 – for students leaving for fieldwork from 1 July 2014 to 31 December 2014 inclusive.
SUBSTANTIVE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE FIRST YEAR
During the course of your first year, you are required to attend the School of Law’s Postgraduate Research Training Seminar.
These sessions will assist you in getting started: specifically, they will assist you in the tasks you have to accomplish in your first year: write a methodology paper, a theory paper, a draft research plan, go through a formal upgrading presentation and finally hand in a full research plan just before the end of the third term. The research plan comprises and integrated document based on your methodology paper, your research paper, your working dissertation abstract, working table of contents, working bibliography and work schedule. It acts as a step towards your first complete thesis chapter and allows you to create a single piece of work based on the year’s component exercises. Further information on these plans is given below.
All first-year postgraduate research students must hand in a paper approximately 2,500 words in length outlining the methodology by which they propose to conduct their research by the end of the first term.
- This methodology paper should provide:
A survey and analysis of the types of source material the research student expects to use in her or his dissertation work, and an explanation of the manner in which the use of such materials will permit the exploration of the questions and themes to be addressed in his or her research;
- A characterisation and exploration of the principal methodological issues likely to arise in relation to the research student's thesis topic.
The written paper is to be produced in triplicate, with one copy for your supervisor, one for the second supervisor and one for the third supervisor.
Deadline: Friday, 13 December 2013
By the end of the second term, all first-year postgraduate research students must hand in a theory paper approximately 5,000 words long outlining the principal theoretical and substantive issues to be addressed in her or his thesis. This paper should include a critical examination of the existing secondary literature (literature review) and the development of legal (and, any relevant related) scholarship that has the closest connection to your topic of dissertation research. Detailed comments on the paper are provided by the student's supervisor.
The written paper is to be produced in triplicate, with one copy for your supervisor, one for the second supervisor and one for the third supervisor.
Deadline: Friday, 21 March 2014
Significance of papers
The papers to be written on methodology and theory/substance during the first two terms are extremely important. These papers will often prove useful in the student's writing of the introductory and concluding chapters to her or his dissertation. Moreover, and perhaps most significantly, they form the basis of the full research plan that must be submitted for consideration of upgrading from MPhil to PhD status.
All first-year postgraduate research students must submit to his/her Supervisory Committee (via their supervisor, the Faculty Student Support Team or the Postgraduate Tutor (Research)), three copies of her/his full research plan, one for each member of her or his Supervisory Committee. The final research plan should be spiral bound unless supervisors specifically request only soft copies.
The research plan should be in the form of a single integrated document including:
- A true copy of your original research proposal;
- A revised and integrated version of the methodology and theory paper
- A draft table of contents and a chapter by chapter outline of the intended dissertation;
- A draft dissertation abstract;
- A preliminary bibliography; and
- Where applicable a clear statement of the fieldwork and writing schedule according to which the student intends to complete her or his research.
Deadline for submission of draft research plan: Monday, 15 May 2014
The submission of the draft Research Plan to your Supervisory Committee ensures that they can effectively comment on it during your upgrading presentation.
Students may be asked to revise their draft research plans at the upgrading presentation. No student will be formally upgraded unless she or he has had her or his full research plan approved.
PRESENTATIONS ON PAPERS AND UPGRADING PRESENTATION
Presentation on methodology and research papers
During the second part of the first term, you will have to make a presentation on your abstract and thesis outline and the methodology paper (already completed) and during the second part of the second term on your on-going work for the theory paper.
Your upgrading presentation will take place in the third term. This takes place in the presence of your full Supervisory Committee, which will normally consist of your supervisor, the second supervisor and the third supervisor. The upgrading presentation provides you with an opportunity to present your draft Research Plan to your Supervisory Committee. You then have an opportunity to take into account the comments that may have been made during your upgrading presentation before you submit your final Research Plan.
The process of upgrading – that is, upgrading your registration from MPhil to PhD – takes place at the end of the first year of study (or part time equivalent) and involves all members of the student's Supervisory Committee in the assessment of the student's work to date – specifically, the potential of the work to be developed into a PhD thesis of University of London standard. It is based on your full Research Plan as explained above, and your presentation of that plan to the research writing workshop in the presence of your Supervisory Committee. Students who are not upgraded in accordance with this process will not be eligible to proceed to submission of a PhD thesis, although they may proceed to submit for an MPhil at the end of two years of full-time registration or part-time equivalent.
Note for part-time students
For part-time students, the deadlines for submission of the methodology and theory papers and the research plan are in the part-time equivalent: that is, the full research plan must be submitted by 1st June in the second year of part time registration; or alternatively two weeks before the last day of the sixth term of registration.
FIRST YEAR POSTGRADUATE RESEARCH TRAINING SEMINAR
The First Year Postgraduate Research Training Seminar will be held on Thursdays 15.00-17.00 in Room 4426 (Main building), in accordance with a schedule to be finalised after the start of term.
First term: first year postgraduate research students only
The first meeting of the term will take place on Thursday 3 October 2013.
Please bring with you two copies of the research proposal you submitted with your application; one of these will be left with the seminar convenor.
The finalised schedule for the first term will be available at the first meeting. The seminar will cover the main issues facing research students in law both from the perspective of undertaking a PhD and as regards the nature of the learning environment. Its main aim is to offer new students the chance to assess the methodological requirements of structuring and completing their PhD through an analysis of its component parts and through active participation in the discussion of their own projects and the issues they are facing.
In addition a number of seminars will be devoted to a discussion of significant issues of legal research methodology that may be of general concern to the types of research projects that SOAS students are currently undertaking. In particular, given the nature of SOAS PhD topics, issues of comparative and international legal methodology and issues of legal pluralism will be addressed, as will the relationship between scientific methodology in the social sciences and how far this is of relevance to law. We shall also consider the issues related to qualitative field research methods including issues of research ethics and the use of interviews, surveys and participant observation.
We will also draw upon discussions of studying law from a wide range of theoretical perspectives to explore the inter-disciplinary relationship between law, empirical research and social theory. In doing so we will critically explore the usefulness of viewing law in a wider social context to better understand the socio-legal approach to the study of law which advocates interdisciplinary research on law and legal institutions.
All first-year full time postgraduate research students are required to attend this seminar.
Part-time postgraduate research students must attend this seminar preferably in their first year, but if not then in their second year.
REFERENCE MATERIAL: In the first term, we will make use of a number of chapters in the following book:
Patrick Dunleavy, Authoring a PhD - How to Plan, Draft, Write and Finish a Doctoral Dissertation (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003) which you should purchase. It is also available in the library.
A full reading list for the course will be given out at the first meeting.
The second term will see presentations by all first-year postgraduate research students of their draft theory papers. All other postgraduate research students are strongly encouraged to attend. The schedule for second and third term presentations will be agreed during the course of the first term.
Third Term: first year postgraduate research students
The third term will be devoted to formal upgrading presentations for first year students, schedule to be agreed during the course of the second term.
Postgraduate research students are strongly encouraged to consider auditing one or more LLM/MA courses – or indeed, subject to the agreement of the particular tutor, Masters courses in other Departments – over the course of their study. This applies particularly but not only to first-year postgraduate research students who should consult with their supervisors as to whether it is felt that this would benefit their work, and if so as to choice of course. Those who have completed their first year should continue to bear in mind the advantages of auditing a course, including expanding the breadth of your legal/social science knowledge.
Given the nature of legal research at SOAS, it is highly likely that comparative law will be a relevant, if not an essential, component of your work. If this is the case you must attend, in addition to the First Year Postgraduate Research Training Seminar, Foundations of Comparative Law (15PLAC031) Term 1 Mondays 11am-1pm. Consult the Course Convenor of the Research Methods in Law course or your supervisor as to whether this requirement applies to you. Mr Foster will not provide guidance on comparative law to students who have not attended his course.
WORK SCHEDULE AFTER THE FIRST YEAR
Under the new regulations, neither your supervisors nor the School can allow you to lose track of the need to complete your dissertation in three years. Therefore, the following expectations need to be met:
Summer Vacation after Year One
Once students have gained approval of their Full Research Plan at the end of Term 3 of the First Year, they should immediately proceed with writing up Chapter One (the Introductory Chapter) and one other Chapter of their dissertation so that these may be submitted to their Supervisory Committee by the beginning of the first day of their Second Year (that is, at the end of the Summer Vacation of their first year of study) at the very latest.
In Year Two
Ordinarily, a student would then adhere to the following writing up schedule in Year Two and complete by the end of: Term 4: a third chapter; Term 5: a fourth chapter; Term 6: a fifth chapter.
Only in exceptional circumstances will the Department agree to allow a student who fails to complete five full chapters (or their equivalent -- that is, thesis text of approximately 50,000 words) by the end of Term 6 to proceed to their Third Year.
By the end of the summer vacation of the Second Year, a sixth Chapter should be written.
In Year Three
In Term 7, a seventh Chapter and then in Term 8 a final Chapter should be completed.
Term 9 is then used for reviewing the first draft, do any rewriting that is necessary, and submission of dissertation.
Students are encouraged to complete work ahead of these deadlines if at all possible -- in other words, the timings indicated are final deadlines.
Students who undertake a substantial period of fieldwork
Can do so only with the express permission of their Supervisor and subject to a satisfactory ethics review by the Faculty Research Committee where required
Students undertaking approved fieldwork may follow a modified schedule, but (1) their modified schedule must be agreed in advance with their Supervisor and the Research Tutor and (2) they should still aim to have a first draft completed by the beginning of their ninth term of registration.
Extension of Writing–up: Continuation Status
Subject to satisfactory progress and completion of a draft thesis by the end of Year Three (or part-time equivalent) students may enrol for a maximum of three terms on Extension of Writing-up (Continuation) status. Extension of Writing-up enrolment is at a significantly reduced fee from full-time or part-time enrolment and is available on the understanding that:
a) the student is at an advanced stage of writing up and requires only reduced supervision;
b) the student will complete writing up and submit the thesis for examination within three terms or by their thesis submission deadline (whichever is sooner).
Postgraduate Research Student and Research Associate Seminars
Further information concerning the Postgraduate Research Student and Research Associate Seminars will be available at the beginning of Term 1.