What to expect from your PhD

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Hear from our postgraduate researchers and academics about their experience in the Institute for Transport Studies. Watching in China? Watch this video on YouKu

To complete a postgraduate research programme, you’ll need to be dedicated and passionate about your area of study. But it’ll be well worth it. Being a doctoral student is challenging, but incredibly rewarding.

How long does it take to do a PhD?

To do a PhD, you’ll usually need to dedicate 3 years full-time or 5 years part-time, during which you’ll be generating new knowledge and considering that new information in relation to existing information. You’ll carry out a programme of research under the supervision of a primary supervisor and one or more co-supervisors, have the chance to strengthen your research skills and knowledge, and develop a really wide range of qualities. Whether you want to develop your career in industry or in academia, a PhD programme can help you to get where you want to be.

Choosing your research topic

If you’ve already got a research area in mind, you can first explore our research areas to decide if your area of interest is a good fit with our departments. If you find a match, simply contact the academic for that area to discuss your research idea in more detail. If you don’t have a specific research area in mind, you could browse the PhD opportunities we’re currently offering, and see if you can find a PhD project that interests you.

Undertaking a research degree is both enormously challenging and rewarding which is why you must choose a research topic you are passionate about.

Taught courses

Your supervisor or School may require you to attend taught courses as part of your research degrees training plan. These could be either undergraduate or Masters level, or can be more specific to your training needs. You will discuss these requirements with your supervisor and the module leader, and add details of these to your annual training plan.

What a typical full-time PhD looks like

Year 1

When you apply, you will be assigned a supervisor who will provide guidance and support throughout your PhD. Your supervisor will be an expert in their field and will become your most important contact. They will be on hand to help you from day one - agreeing a research project that is original and feasible and advising you on all aspects of the research and thesis preparation.

Prior to or soon after you register at the University, you will attend a School Induction event to welcome you to the School and to provide an opportunity for you to network with other Postgraduate Researchers in the School. You will be encouraged to undertake online modules introducing you to the support you can expect to receive whilst while doing your research at Leeds. 

Within one month of starting your degree, you will be required to complete a training plan with your supervisor. This training plan will be tailored to reflect the skills that you already possess, the demands of your research degree project, and future employment.

You will be admitted as a ‘Provisional PhD’ in the first instance. Within 12 months of your start date, you will need to undergo a transfer assessment to full ‘PhD’; this involves submitting a written report and having a formal oral examination with appointed examiners. Sucessful completion enables progression into the remaining years.

You will do a first presentation of your research at the School’s spring PGR conference and attend the annual Universities Transport Study Group conference.

Year 2

In your second year of research, you will be expected to consolidate the work undertaken so far and deepen your understanding of your chosen research area.  You should be gaining results and outcomes for the thesis you will submit at the end of year 3.

You will have opportunities to attend and present at conferences and research events. This will allow you to meet and network with colleagues and peers, not only from across the University but also from the wider academic community at national and international events. You will have opportunities to hear about the latest research happening in your specialism and to present and share your own research findings.

At the end of year 2, an annual progress review takes place which involves submitting a written piece of work and a time plan for completion of the research degree. You will then hold a meeting with the full supervision panel to review progress. 

Year 3

At the end of your research, you will prepare a thesis (of up to 100,000 words), which describes your research and your original contribution to knowledge; the thesis is assessed by an oral examination (viva voce). During your research, you will be expected to give seminars and write papers for scientific journals and conferences.

We offer an alternative style of doctoral thesis known as the ‘PhD by publication’ route, which encourages candidates to publish and to include their publications as, or within, their final submission. This model of thesis can only be submitted where the supervisory team supports this format of submission and is satisfied it is appropriate and meets the protocol in place for that Faculty.

Throughout your time at Leeds, you will have access to a broad programme of skills training and professional development. This will help you complete your research effectively and to keep you at the leading edge of developments in learning and teaching, innovation, enterprise and knowledge transfer to help you succeed in your future employment.