Please find the PhD handbooks below, along with answers to our most commonly asked questions. The "Current PhD Students Handbook" details information for current pre-2017 students. The "2017 PhD Students Handbook" details information for incoming students starting September 2017.

College of Social Sciences and Law PhD Handbook 2018-19| SPIRe 2018-19 PhD Student Handbook Addendum|

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All students are required to undergo assessment in order to move from Stage 1 to Stage 2 of the PhD programme. Stage 1 is an initial period of advanced education, training and research. Stage 2 is largely dedicated to carrying out a body of original, publishable research required for the award of a PhD. In order to transfer to Stage 2 students are assessed by a Transfer Assessment Panel (TAP) who make a decision as to whether a student has made sufficient progress towards completion of the PhD research. The TAP will be convened by the School and will contain at least three members of academic staff; however, it will not include supervisor(s). At the discretion of the School, a supervisor may be present in a purely observational capacity. Stage Transfer Assessment will take place between months 12-18 of the initial date of registration (full-time) or months 18-27 (part-time).

In order to progress to Stage 2 of the PhD programme, SPIRe students must have:

  • Completed 40 credits of taught modules at the time of assessment, including all core modules, with a B average grade across modules undertaken. If students do not meet this requirement and the DSP agree that this should not be an impediment to transfer, the DSP must provide written notification to the TAP providing justification for same.

The following documents must be submitted to TAP

  • One piece of substantive written work which will comprise either a draft chapter or a draft paper. For those who apply to the Irish Research Council (IRC) for a grant (see below), a copy of the grant application will suffice as one of the two pieces.
  • An updated research proposal/work plan briefly stating the core research problem, relevant research questions, and research strategy, and including a detailed chapter structure and work plan (for as far as not covered by the inclusion of an IRC application). For those who apply to the Irish Research Council (IRC) for a grant (see below), a copy of the grant application will satisfy for this component and a short additional memo explaining thesis structure and planning will suffice
  • A copy of the student’s latest transcript.
  • A formal written recommendation from the Supervisor based on the advice of the DSP.

The School's Transfer Assessment Panel will, after careful review of the the documentation and a meeting with the candidate, make one of the following recommendations to the College Graduate School Board:

  • Resubmission of revised materials at a later date, with a time line agreed between the DSP and the TAP.
  • Transfer to Stage 2 of the PhD program.
  • Transfer to another graduate program, utilizing, where possible and where appropriate, the credits accumulated.
  • Termination of the registration with a certificate for any modules for which credit has been awarded.

The recommendation will have to be formally agreed by the GSB and any proposed transfer to another program will have to be agreed with that program. Students will be notified shortly hereafter of the outcome. If the recommendation is to progress to Stage 2, you will progress to the next phase of your PhD. If the recommendation is other than for progression to Stage 2, the options recommended by the assessment panel, and the potential for re-presenting to the assessment panel sitting, will be discussed with your DSP. Students have the right to appeal a decision of the TAP. For more information on the appeals process, go to

PhD Modules: Semester One, 2018-19

UCD term starts 10 September, 2018


POL 50070 Quantitative Methods I (CORE)
Assoc. Prof. Jos Elkink
Mondays: 1pm to 2pm and 3pm to 4pm
UCD L143 Sutherland from 1pm to 2pm and G317 Newman from 3pm to 4pm
10 credits

POL 50200 Qualitative Research Methods (CORE)
Dr Eva Wegner
Wednesdays: 10am-12pm
UCD, Newman Building, Room G316
10 credits

PhD Modules: Semester Two, 2018-19

UCD term starts 21 January, 2018

GSHS 50080 Social Science Methodology (CORE)

Thursdays: 2pm-4pm
First Lecture: 24th January 2018
UCD, to be confirmed
10 credits


Additional Modules

The College of Social Sciences and Law Graduate School offers a range of additional modules for PhD students. Click here to access these modules.

Module Registration

To enrol to modules, students should complete the module registration form, obtain the signature of their principal supervisor, and confirm that a place is available on the module. Submit the completed form to the Social Sciences and Law Graduate School Office (D111 Newman Building) within 2 weeks of the start of the module. A student cannot be retrospectively registered to a module, so please complete the form in a timely manner.

Module Registration Form 2017-18

Auditing Modules

Students enrolled to any graduate programme at University College Dublin have the opportunity to enrol to a module for Audit from within the list of modules offered by the University. A student may audit a module if they wish to attend the module but not gain any credits for the module. This means that they do not receive a grade for the module, but the module will appear on the student’s transcript as having been audited.

Students must seek the permission of the relevant Module Co-ordinator in order to do this, as well as the Programme Co-ordinator for the programme in which the student is enrolled. To audit a module, please complete the relevant details below, obtain the signature of the Module Co-ordinator and Programme Co-ordinator, and submit the completed form to the Social Sciences and Law Graduate School Office (D111 Newman Building) prior to the deadline. It is very important to update your Graduate School Office if you withdraw from a module in order to keep records up-to-date. Any changes to registration can only be done up to SIX weeks after commencement of term.

Audit Module Registration Form 2017-18

In addition to your supervisor, your School will appoint a Doctoral Studies Panel (DSP) within three months of the date of initial registration. For Master’s students, a Masters Studies Panel (RMP) will be appointed within the same timeframe. Typically, DSP members are nominated by the School in consultation with the supervisor. It normally comprises of the supervisor(s), two advisors (one of which will act as the panel Chair) and the student. The purpose of the DSP is to support and enhance the supervisor-student relationship, to monitor progress during the course of the doctoral studies, and to provide advice and support both to the student and the supervisor. One of the nominated advisors will have academic expertise relevant to the student’s research work and also have experience in supervising doctoral students.

The DSP should have its first meeting within six months of the student’s initial registration in order to review the student’s research and professional development plan (RPDP). At least one additional meeting should be held in the first year of the student’s registration. Thereafter, it is recommended that students should have two DSP meetings per academic year. Students should be pro-active in arranging such meetings in conjunction with their supervisor. The student, or another member of the DSP, may convene a meeting of the panel at any stage if it is considered desirable or necessary to address any relevant issue(s) that may arise.

Meeting reports Records of the DSP meetings are maintained as part of the Research and Professional Development Plan (RPDP). Students should complete the Doctoral Studies Panel Meeting Record Report after each DSP meeting, which should be signed by all DSP members. Schools should ensure that RPDP records are maintained centrally by a designated administrator within the School. It is strongly recommended that the key recommendations of DSP meetings are recorded. In most cases the report should be brief but, where there are issues relating to student performance/progress, the report should document the weaknesses/issues raised and recommendations for improvement. If there is a serious issue with student performance raised at a DSP meeting, the School Head of Graduate Studies or PhD programme coordinator should be notified.

Doctoral Studies Panel Meeting Record (Word)

Graduate Research and Innovations Fund

Research students are actively encouraged to take part in national and international professional associations, to present their work as soon as possible at conferences, and eventually to seek to publish their work in high-quality academic outlets. Your supervisor will advise you in these matters.

To enable you to present your work at conferences, or to acquire further professional training, you may apply to the competitive College of Social Sciences and Law’ Graduate Research and Innovations Fund (GRIF). At least two calls for applications under the GRIF are made each year (October and April) for grants of between €100 and €1000. More information can be found on the CSSL website:

UCD Seed Funding

UCD has a funding scheme available that is open to staff and research students to apply for relatively small grants, for example attendance at a conference or other dissemination costs. Procedures change year-on-year, but further details can be found here:

SPIRe Research Committee Fund

SPIRe has a very limited amount of money available to fund participation by its own postgraduate research students and postdoctoral researchers in Irish and international conferences and summer schools each year.

The amount of the grant is up to €250 for any single request and includes travel, accommodation, registration fees and subsistence. Applications will be reviewed tri-annually by the UCD SPIRe Research Committee and funding calls will be communicated via the SPIRe e-mail ListServ. 

SPIRe Research Committee Fund Guidelines

SPIRe Research Committee Fund Application Form

Research and professional development planning is an integral part of the structured PhD programme. The purpose of such planning is to ensure that your work is clearly focused on achieving your research and professional development goals. This will play a major part in informing the trajectory of your PhD research, and in your training and development as a researcher. There are three main components to the RPDP:

  • The Research Plan – This provides the student with a clear research focus and a coherent research plan.
  • The Professional Development Plan – This enables the student to identify the skills important to their research and career.
  • The Doctoral Studies Panel Meeting Record – A mandatory outcome of the DSP meetings will be a formal record of the student’s research and professional plans and progress to date. This will also inform the transfer assessment.

Research and Professional Development Plan Download

RPDP Guidelines

College Guidelines for Professional Development

Writing a Research Plan

Doctoral Studies Panel Meeting Record Report (Word)

To produce their thesis, students should work closely with supervisor(s) to ensure that the research and presentation meets the standards expected of a doctoral thesis. Before submission, the primary supervisor is required to sign a statement that the thesis is ready for submission. If you are of the opinion that such a statement is being unreasonably withheld, you can appeal in the first instance to the relevant School Committee, the Graduate School Director and, ultimately, to the Academic Council Standing Committee on Examinations.

All theses submitted must include a statement on plagiarism in accordance with the University's policy on plagiarism. The UCD policy on plagiarism is available here.

PhD theses can only be submitted if fees are paid in full and student registration is current. For information on submitting your thesis, visit UCD Assessment:

Thesis Examination

In order to submit a thesis, all students must have transferred into Stage 2 of the structured PhD programme and have completed the mandatory 30 credits of taught modules satisfactorily. PhD theses are examined by a PhD Examination Committee comprising of an external examiner, one internal examiner and a Chair. The external examiner, who must be a recognised expert in the field, is nominated by the School, approved by the Graduate School Board and then ratified by the Academic Council Committee on Examinations (ACCE). The thesis is assessed in accordance with UCD guidelines. Particular account is taken of the following:

  • The originality of the work described and the theories developed in the thesis
  • The candidate's familiarity with the published work of other authors in related areas
  • The candidate's ability to summarise the work of other authors and to synthesise a theoretical framework within which to position the work described in the thesis
  • The methodology adopted by the candidate to address the research topic
  • Is it accurately and comprehensively described? Is it appropriate to the topic?
  • Is the candidate aware of alternative methodologies which might have been employed?
  • Is the candidate sensitive to any inherent weaknesses in the methodology?
  • Where a novel method has been developed, has it been tested and calibrated appropriately?
  • Experimental design
  • Presentation of the results of the research.
  • Are the results presented in a clear, accessible way?
  • Are tables, figures or plates, where included, adequately annotated and correctly referenced in the text?
  • Interpretation of results o Are the candidate's conclusions reasonable on the basis of the evidence presented?
  • Has the significance of the results been fully appreciated by the candidate?
  • Has the correct statistical analysis been employed (where appropriate) and justifiable conclusions arrived at?
  • Have theories formulated on the basis of the results taken into account relevant findings UCD College of Social Sciences and Law College of Social Sciences and Law Graduate School Graduate research degrees, February 2017 Page 13 published by other authors?
  • Has the candidate identified any weaknesses or gaps in the evidence brought forward?
  • The bibliography
  • Is it comprehensive and up-to-date?
  • Are references to the published literature annotated accurately and consistently in a recognised citation style?
  • Presentation of the thesis - is it free of typographical and other errors?   

Students are examined orally in a viva voce examination where they must defend their work and the resultant conclusions (in the context of the foregoing criteria). After the viva voce the report of the examiners is considered by the ACCE. Some amendments to the thesis are usually required. In the event of a recommendation by the examiners that a PhD degree should not be awarded, the student can submit a revised thesis for re-examination subject to the conditions set out by the ACCE. On submission, the revised thesis must be accompanied by a statement from your supervisor that the thesis has been revised under their supervision. Students can also appeal a decision of the ACCE to the Assessments Appeals Committee.

The submission and examination procedures for research masters theses are the same as those described above except that an oral examination is not mandatory. An oral exam can be held on the request of the Head of School or one of the examiners.

Leave of Absence 

Students who, under unforeseen circumstances, need to take time out of the programme, can apply for a leave of absence (LoA). A LoA can be for up to a maximum of one-third of the length of the programme (four semesters for full time students and six semesters for part time students) and must be sought by week six from the start of term. After this time, retrospective applications are only approved due to extenuating circumstances. In the first instance, students should contact their supervisor, School or Graduate School on the process. A student on LoA cannot be active on the programme i.e. they cannot meet with supervisor(s), attend lectures, access the library or receive grants/scholarships. However, students will continue to have access to their UCD Connect account, including email, during this time.
For more information and guidance on the leave of absence policy, and to apply online go to

Please ensure to inform the PhD Administrator if you apply for a Leave of Absence online


If you wish to withdraw from the programme please complete the online form via your SISWEB account and notify the PhD administrator

The policy and online form can be found here

Note that the deadline for withdrawal in 2017 is 20th October.