School of Psychology

PhD by research


A PhD is the basic entry point into academic research and teaching. It is also a wonderful opportunity to conduct a substantial world class research project of your own over a period of three years. The School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham offers an ideal academic environment for pursuing a higher degree by research, either full-time or part-time. Postgraduate students undertake an extended programme of experimental research in psychology with two members of our academic staff as supervisors (one primary supervisor and one secondary supervisor). The PhD culminates in the submission of a PhD thesis describing the work you have undertaken. 

A PhD typically lasts either 3 or 4 years, and can take a variety of formats depending upon doctoral programme followed. All programmes allocate 3 years for individual doctoral-level research projects but each route has tailored taught and training components.

  • Candidates who are self-funding or who are funded through schemes limited to 3 years of financial support will generally be offered a 3 year PhD programme.
  • Candidates funded through the Midlands Graduate School ESRC DTC will generally follow a 1 year MSc in Social Science Research Methods followed by 3 years as a PhD student (1+3). However, candidates who already have this or an equivalent qualification or part of the qualification may be offered a 3 year or 3.5 year programme.
  • Candidates who are on the MGS ESRC DTC Digital Society pathway will be on a 4 year programme.
  • Candidates who enter through the BBSRC DTP are offered a 4 year PhD programme.

Potential supervisors can advise on what options would suit you best.

Although the PhD degree is assessed mainly by research (in the form of a written thesis and viva voce examination), in each case progression also involves satisfactory completion of taught courses. This requires attendance at research training modules, provided both within the School and through the Graduate School. This formal training element is designed not only to provide students with the necessary skills in research, but also to equip them with transferable skills in writing, oral presentation and the use of information technology. The formal training element can be tailored to the needs of individual students.

There are currently about 10-15 students registering for research degrees in the School each year, providing the opportunities for cross fertilisation of ideas and peer to peer support that arise naturally in a large cohort of doctoral candidates. To promote the research atmosphere there are two Psychology Research Seminars each week (one for talks given by researchers from Nottingham, and one for talks by visiting external speakers), and there are additional research seminars and reading groups arranged by individual research groups.

As well as conducting world-class research, PhD students are encouraged to disseminate their findings in journal articles and conference presentations. Towards the end of their first year of research PhD students present their findings and future plans at a Postgraduate Poster Evening. In the second year of research PhD students give a 20 minute talk at the Postgraduate Conference. In their final year of research PhD students give a 30 minute talk about their research findings as part of the School’s internal Research Seminar Series. Funding is also available for PhD students to present their research at national and international conferences over the course of their studies.

PhD students are members of the Student-Staff Consultative Committee and may attend the unreserved part of School Meetings. Within the School, the weekly Psychology Research Seminars include a social element, and the PG representatives organise regular social events for postgraduate students. There are also (depending on numbers) School football and cricket teams which postgraduates are encouraged to join. In addition, the University has an active Postgraduate Association, which organises a range of additional social and sporting activities.

Click for more details on how to applyfinding a supervisor and PhD fees and funding.

Research Facilities

There are first class lab facilities and equipment available for research, supported by well-staffed mechanical and electrical workshops and by other technical and administrative services. There are dedicated laboratories for human communication, human-computer interaction, social interaction and child development and an extensive library of test materials. There is an observation studio with a one-way mirror, a dedicated system for motion capture used in behaviour analysis, a multiple video camera rig for facial behaviour analysis, and a wide selection of eye-tracking equipment. In addition, there is a full-motion driving simulator and an anechoic chamber for hearing research. The School has several laboratories for work on the physiological, psychophysical and computational investigation of the visual system. There are dedicated experimental labs for research in neuroscience, fitted with EEG and TMS facilities. Doctoral candidates in psychology can also gain access to the world class facilities for brain imaging (7T fMRI and MEG) at the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre in the University. The School also has access to laboratories for the study of animal behaviour through the physiological laboratories located in the University Biomedical Services Unit in the Queen's Medical Centre. Behavioural laboratories are equipped with state of the art skinner box and maze environments.

The School maintains a network of Apple Macs and Windows based PCs, with access to file servers, laser printers, and the campus wide University computing network. All are preloaded with standard software such as MS Office, scientific software such as SPSS and more advanced scientific packages such as Matlab, R and Labview. The School is the home of PsychoPy a world-leading open source tool for designing and running psychology experiments. The campus contains a number of dedicated libraries, with recently refurbished spaces and extensive current catalogues. These include the George Green Science Library, the Greenfield Medical Library, the Djanogly Learning Resource Centre and the Hallward Social Science library. 

School of Psychology

University Park
The University of Nottingham
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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