How to Apply

Applicants should be aware of the very high expectations of the Faculty of Arts and Social Science PhD program. The School advises that prospective students with an Honours degree awarded in the second class or a Master’s degree without a thesis component should consult the Postgraduate Research Coordinator of the relevant department before making an application.


Students interested in applying for Postgraduate Research at the University should consult the following pages.

Domestic Applicants

International Research Students

Feel free to approach the Postgraduate Research coordinator regarding your proposal or any policy that is unclear. But please read the available information on this page first.

Because postgraduate students are based in a Department, choosing the right Department is important.

A Note on Protocol: We will endeavour to reply to your email within a week. Because of the volume of messages received email communication should be formal, thoughtfully structured, and expressed in a high standard of English. Keep in mind that your correspondence may be viewed by third parties in the Department or Faculty. Informal and disorganised emails, emails that have not been proof-read, or emails that contain requests for information already contained on this page, cannot be guaranteed a response.

To apply for a Scholarship please refer to Research office Postgraduate Research Scholarships page.


Part of developing your application will be working up a research proposal of approximately 3,000 words. Please note this is a longer proposal than required by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. This is a very useful document to clarify your own thoughts about your intended project and is useful for members of staff to judge their suitability to your project.

Why is a proposal so important? The proposal is the main document upon which the Department judges your application. We know that your project will probably change somewhat, but we are looking for a 'fit' between your capabilities as a researcher, our disciplinary focus, and the research expertise of our supervisors. If by chance your application is not successful it is usually because this 'fit' could not be achieved. If this 'fit' is not achievable it may mean another Department or Institution will make a better choice.

The proposal should be written to a high standard of academic English, at a level expected of a potential PhD candidate. The project should reflect a sound research design (your method and what you plan to do should be consistent with your argument and conceptual framework). The project should be a project in the media and communications area.

In the case of country or region specific topics, as a department we still expect proposals to demonstrate an awareness of broader work in the specific field or discipline or paradigm you are working on. If your approach is inter-disciplinary this is especially important. An example: if your proposed topic is 'The Internet in Country X', and there is little literature on this topic in that country, you should still explore what has been written about approaches to the study of the Internet, and possible approaches you can draw on. While we do not discourage applications on country or region specific issues or problems, we also seek to provide an intellectual and disciplinary research training that enhances our fields of study.

Format of a Proposal:
The University of Sydney's Learning Centre provides valuable advice and assistance, producing a detailed document on Writing a Thesis Proposal.

For our purposes a document addressing the following headings (derived from the above work) will suffice:

  • Title/Introduction of Research Area
  • Teasing out Question/Problem and Why it is important/Significance
  • Argument/Thesis to be made or explored
  • Disciplinary-Interdisciplinary context
  • Conceptual Framework/ Description of Relevant Literature
  • Methodological aspects and issues
    Projected Draft Timeline for Research (usually to be completed in 3-3.5 years)
  • Trial Table of Contents
  • Short List of Works Cited

Contacting Individual Academic Staff

Individual Media and Communications staff can be contacted directly regarding proposals. You should usually have a firm idea of content and approach before you do this. As a courtesy we ask that you advise the Postgraduate Research Coordinator that you have contacted a particular member of staff.

Contacting staff is not the same as being appointed a supervisor. The decision regarding supervision and associate supervision is made by the department, taking into account workloads and the existing number of students that staff member may have. Your initial approach will be in terms of advice only. This advice can assist in achieving that 'fit' mentioned above. If you approach a member of staff regarding a proposal that is clearly not in their area of expertise please do not be offended if they decline to comment.

Because of the amount of work involved you should be considerate in asking staff to read draft proposals. If you are showing your proposal to more than one member of staff, or more than one department you must explain and declare this.

If you are having problems finding an appropriate supervisor for your project can we suggest that you consult the 'Research Supervisors Connect' Database . The list of Postgraduate Research Contacts for each department is also useful.

The Role of the Media and Communications Postgraduate Research Coordinator

The Postgraduate Research Coordinator is a member of academic staff who is delegated by the Chair of Department to ensure that the Department meets its obligations to students and to administrative processes. This member of staff is your contact with the department, and is available to give administrative and academic advice on how to handle your candidature. Please ask for assistance on matters that cannot be dealt with by your supervisor. For applicants they are an important point of contact with the department. For current research students they are a point of contact for matters to do with annual reviews, submission and policy.

Note that all forms requiring Chair of Department signature can usually be signed by the coordinator, who is the Chair's representative.

Professional Doctorates

The Doctor of Arts and Doctor of Social Sciences are professional doctorate degrees which allow candidates to pursue a higher degree of rigorous scholarship as well as advance their professional practice. The distinction between the two is drawn on method use in the research and approach.

This option is ideal for professionals seeking to understand and research key issues and developments in their area, or to analyse and unpack an aspect of their own professional practice.

Professional Doctorates are primarily designed for professionals to upgrade their qualifications and to focus on issues pertaining to their profession. To be eligible you must have a minimum of three years recent, full time employment or professional experience in a relevant field, and prior study of at least Bachelor degree with substantial portfolio of published work in a relevant field, or beyond.

Candidates interested in an academic career should consider the relative merits of a Doctor of Arts and a Master of Philosophy of Doctor of Philosophy which involves less coursework and a larger thesis. The admission requirements for the MPhil and PhD are different to the Doctor of Arts and an 'upgrade' is not automatic. A separate application is required to change degrees.

The course structure is typically 1/3 coursework and 2/3 research comprised of: 1 core unit of study plus 4 electives, plus thesis of 50,000 words. The thesis is very often focused on a particular professional issue or problem, or an aspect of your professional practice.

We are also interested in inquiries regarding non-traditional forms of thesis, relating to literary journalism for example, and can supply our policy on request.