As soon as you receive your letter of offer from the university, you should contact (1) the English Postgraduate Coordinator (Research) to let the Department know on what date you intend to commence your candidature; and (2) your supervisor to arrange a first meeting. (If you are taking up an APA or UPA you should also inform the Research Training division of the Research and Scholarships Office of your date of commencement so that they can initiate payment.)
At the beginning of both semesters incoming postgraduate students are welcomed to the university. These events are organised by the office of the Dean of Graduate Studies. The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the individual departments within the faculty contribute to the programme. Students will be advised of the details regarding the Welcome on enrolment and it is strongly recommended that you make every effort to attend. Information on these events can also be found on the University and Faculty homepage in the weeks leading up to the beginning of the semester.
You should make contact with the English Postgraduate Coordinator (Research) as soon as possible for additional information.
The First Year Postgraduate Research Seminars
As indicated above, you are required in the first year of candidature to attend the First Year Postgraduate Research Seminars held on Tuesday nights between 5pm and 7pm in the Rogers Room (Woolley Building, Room N397). In first semester these seminars cover various practical, methodological and critical aspects of academic research and postgraduate life. In second semester, you are required to give a 20-minute paper to the seminar in which you outline your research project and its progress or present a particular aspect of your project. Your supervisor will attend the seminar at which you present your paper, if possible, and you should consult her or him in the preparation of your paper.
The Advanced Postgraduate Research Seminars
After your first year, you are encouraged to attend a set of fortnightly postgraduate research seminars designed to provide a forum for the discussion and dissemination of information that is of particular relevance to researchers at the early stage of their careers. These seminars will be a mix of presentations; invited speakers leading discussion on topics relevant to postgraduates at the later stage of their career; and forums for workshopping material for publication. Topics will include thesis editing and revision; managing and participating in academic communities; writing, submitting, editing and publishing articles in refereed journals; writing book proposals and approaching publishers; life after the PhD (including postdoctoral proposals and applications); and so on. Attendance at these seminars is not compulsory, though because part of the motivation is to cover material relevant to everyone’s research and career we expect all our senior postgraduates to attend unless their research or career keeps them away. Early Career Researchers are also encouraged to attend.
The Departmental Research Seminars
The English department holds a series of weekly seminars in the Rogers Room (Woolley N397) at which papers are presented by staff, visiting academics, and advanced research postgraduates. The Departmental Research Seminars offer an excellent opportunity to develop your own academic range and confidence as you get to know other students and staff in the department and develop a greater sense of belonging to a lively academic community. As a member of the seminar you will become more aware of the variety of research being carried out in the department and in the discipline. Postgraduates offering a paper will find this a friendly and constructive forum.
Critical Literature Review and First Chapter
All students are required to write a comprehensive research plan and a review of the critical literature pertaining to their topic of 7500-10,000 words, to be submitted to the Postgraduate Co-ordinator by the end of their first semester (by the November interviews for part time students or by the end of December for students commencing in the middle of the year). The Co-ordinator will then pass them on to individual supervisors who will either judge them acceptable or return them for revision. All students must submit a draft of their first chapter or equivalent to their supervisor by the end of their second semester of candidature. These two elements, amounting to 15-20,000 words in total, along with attendance at the seminar, are formal requirements for progression. The first year of your candidature is a probation year and the department and your supervisor will look upon it as such.
A number of academic refereed journals are edited by members or past members of the department (please see the departmental homepage for up-to-date information):
- Philament (an online journal of postgraduate scholarship)
- Sydney Studies in English
Philament is a free online journal of postgraduate scholarship in the fields of cultural studies and the literary arts, edited and published by students from the University of Sydney, but with interdisciplinary and intercampus links. It is designed as a conduit for uninhibited academic debate, critical discussion, and creative expression over a broad range of topics within the literary arts and cultural studies and accepts submissions in the form of long and short articles, reviews, fictional work, and visual or multimedia experiments. All academic articles are refereed by scholars with substantial knowledge of the relevant field. The Philament editorial collective is comprised of postgraduate students from the Department of English at the University of Sydney and all incoming students are encouraged to become involved.
Professional Commitment and Research Culture
All candidates are expected to participate in the research culture of the department and in broader scholarly communities within and outside the University. In the department, a marker of this participation is attendance at the weekly English Research Seminars held 3-5pm on Friday afternoons in the Rogers Room during semester. This is the time when the Department as a whole gets together for exchange and debate in a convivial atmosphere. As a marker of participation in national and international scholarly communities, candidates are required to deliver a conference paper at a conference held outside the University of Sydney and/or to prepare and submit part of their research for publication to an accredited scholarly journal in the second or third year of their candidature. Postgraduates are also encouraged to attend meetings of research clusters in their area(s) of interest. Details of these meetings will be advertised at seminars, by email and on the departmental website.
Teaching in the Department
The Department of English usually requires tutorial assistance with its large undergraduate units of study and recruits from amongst its own postgraduates. All postgraduate students are notified (usually during the month or so before the beginning of each semester) and expressions of interest and CVs are solicited by the Chair of the Department. We respect the fact that the experience of teaching is an important part of academic training and, while we cannot guarantee it, endeavour to try and find teaching work for all interested postgraduate students at some stage during their candidature. You should talk it over in the first instance with your supervisor (who will be consulted by the Chair during the appointment process) and respond promptly when the call for expressions of interest goes out.
Variations of Candidature
It is possible to make variations to the status of your candidature as circumstances dictate. All changes must be discussed with your supervisor and the English Postgraduate Coordinator (Research). Application must be made in writing or using the forms available from the Coordinator, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Office, and the Faculty website.
Upgrading from MPhil to PhD
It is possible to upgrade from MPhil to PhD. This should be discussed in the first instance with your supervisor, then with the English Postgraduate Coordinator (Research), from whom you can obtain the appropriate form. You will need to present a detailed outline of the thesis demonstrating that the project has the scope of a PhD. In addition, you will need to have completed chapter drafts totalling at least 35,000 words. Applications for upgrade should normally be made before the fourth semester (full-time equivalent) of the MPhil candidature.
Changing from PhD to MPhil
It is possible to change from PhD to MPhil. This should be discussed in the first instance with your Supervisor, then with the English Postgraduate Coordinator (Research), from whom you can obtain the appropriate form.
Changing Attendance Status
It is possible to change from full-time to part-time and vice versa. This should be discussed in the first instance with your supervisor, then with the English Postgraduate Coordinator (Research), from whom you can obtain the appropriate form. (Where appropriate, you must also inform the Research and Scholarships Office of change of status.)
Suspension and Leave of Absence
If for whatever personal or academic reason you require leave from your postgraduate work you should contact your supervisor and the Postgraduate Co-ordinator (Research) and organise either leave of absence (less than a semester) or a suspension of candidature (one to two semesters). It is possible to maintain library privileges while you are suspended if you are continuing to work on your thesis during that period.
Counting Time Away and Completing Away
Every postgraduate research student must spend at least two semesters of their candidature ‘in residence’. Permission may be sought for counting part or all of the rest of the time away from the University of Sydney - including the time of the completion and submission of the thesis itself - provided (i) there are strong personal or academic reasons for your doing so; (ii) you continue to make progress with your research and your thesis; (iii) regular contact is maintained with your supervisor throughout the period you are away; and (iv) the Faculty Annual Report Forms and departmental progress reports are kept up. Again, talk to your supervisor and the English Postgraduate Coordinator (Research), who can organise the appropriate forms.
Careers after a Research Degree
Career opportunities are difficult to predict but many of our postgraduates have gone on to careers in academic research and teaching; the creative industries and information management; policy and public service. We are keen to assist our graduates as they make their plans.