Research Degrees (MPhil/PhD) in Global Studies SOAS University of London
Mode of Attendance: Full-time or Part-time
The CISD welcomes applications from prospective MPhil/PhD students wishing to undertake multi-disciplinary research in areas of global studies that relate to the research interests of Centre members and the Centre’s research programmes.
The specific focus of this research programme is twofold: thematically, the programme addresses the analysis of contemporary globalisation processes and of the political, economic, social and cultural relationships and structures that define and shape these processes. Rather than, for example, the study of inter-state or inter-nation relations and agreements that is the traditional domain of International Studies, the core focus of this programme is on the study of the nature and evolution of contemporary globalisation itself and on globally shared issues, from a theoretical as well as a policy perspective. Methodologically, the programme promotes the multi-disciplinary analysis of contemporary globalisation processes. Research topics and projects will analyse the role of, and interchanges between, people, institutions, organisations and states in shaping globalisation dynamics through the prism of (at least) two of the following academic disciplines: International Studies and Politics, Law, Economics, Management Studies, Development Studies, History, Media and Communication Studies.
Student support is at the heart of CISD’s activities. Research Degree students are fully supported by their primary and secondary supervisors and the Centre’s Research Tutor, currently Centre Director Dr Dan Plesch. Students are encouraged to attend and present at the Centre’s research seminars.
Methodologies and research methods training programme
In general, an agreed programme of research training should normally be completed during the first year of study (if full-time), or over the first two years (if part-time). All students are required to undertake and successfully complete their research training prior to formal upgrade from MPhil to PhD which must take place by May/June of the first year (full-time) or May/June of the second year (part-time).
Upon registration, the Centre research tutor, in consultation with the lead (and where appropriate the adjunct) supervisor, will provide a research method training schedule for each research student. This will make use of existing research methods training courses, primarily in the Faculty of Law & Social Sciences (except for the Department of Politics and International Studies and the Department of Development Studies), on a case-by-case basis (at the discretion of the relevant departments), and where aspects of specialised disciplinary research method training (e.g. legal methods, the use of specific (e.g. economic) databases, historical source materials, fieldwork in specific regions/developing countries) are of particular relevance to a research topic.
All CISD MPhil/PhD students will be asked to attend a specialised module on research methods for Global Studies at the CISD. This one-term course is designed to complement and support social science method training at SOAS by addressing three core aspects of challenges posed by research in the area of global studies: (1) Global Studies as an emerging discipline: Methodological and epistemological frameworks for the analysis of emerging global structures of power and knowledge - their limitations and possibilities, the role of new forms of collaboration and the challenges of participatory public decision-making in a transnational and/or global context; (2) The challenge of multi-disciplinary research: How ‘generic’ is the methodological foundations of the ‘social sciences’?, comparative discussion of different (disciplinary) perspectives on explanation and causality in the social sciences, core implications for the design of multi-disciplinary research projects; (3) Global Studies as an applied social science: case studies vs. aggregate data analysis in the analysis of globalisation processes and global concerns, tools of qualitative and quantitative data analysis, measurement and conceptual issues for trans- and cross-national empirical analysis. A second (one-term) research module at the CISD will focus on more generic training in the philosophy and method of social sciences. This will be organised around 2-3 examples of research projects in the area of global studies to illustrate both generic as well as specific methodological challenges arising for multi-disciplinary research situated at the interface between transnational and international processes and structures, in terms of conceptual as well as empirical analysis. This part of the research method training at the CISD may be replaced and/or complemented by specialised training in other departments (as above), where appropriate, and/or by an eventually evolving cross-departmental ‘core’ of generic social science methods teaching at the School.
At the end of term 2, first year MPhil/PhD students in the Global Studies programme will be asked to present their research projects in an informal seminar to Centre staff and students. The objective is to allow first year students, prior to submitting their upgrade paper, to discuss theoretical and empirical issues in devising their research project and design amongst peers.
Throughout their degree, the Centre’s research seminar series, at which Centre staff and advanced research students present research in progress for discussion, provides students with an opportunity to study and discuss methodological issues and concerns.
In the first week of Term 3, Year 1, students submit a core chapter & research proposal (of about 10,000 words), typically including the following elements: 1) Research rationale and context of proposed research; 2) Main research questions; 3) Literature review; 4) Theoretical and methodological framework & considerations; 5) Proposed research methods; 6) Ethical issues (where applicable); 7) Outlining structure of PhD dissertation; 8) Schedule of research and writing; 9) Bibliography. Adjustments to one or more of these sections, including additions or deletions where appropriate, are possible by prior arrangement between the students and lead supervisors.
This upgrade proposal is assessed by the student’s research committee, based on a 20-30 minute oral presentation, followed by a discussion, also open to other staff and student members of the Centre. On successful completion of the extended proposal, students are formally upgraded to PhD and proceed to the second year. (If the assessors consider there to be shortcomings in the upgrade proposal, students will be asked to revise it to their satisfaction before the upgrade to PhD status can be confirmed.) Students are not normally permitted to proceed to the second year until the upgrade process has been completed. It would not be expected that students make more than one oral presentation if this is also a requirement of the specific training programme.
Students studying part-time take the MPhil training seminar in the first year and write the Core Chapter & Research Proposal (see above) in the second year. The length of time for field or research and material collection, and writing up, is adjusted accordingly.
The first year of the programme involves research training seminars and advanced courses. At the same time, students work with their lead supervisor, in consultation with the adjunct supervisor, to develop a detailed research proposal, undertake the first stages of research and write some draft sections to outline the main arguments of the thesis. At the heart of the training is the research methods training programme. It is designed to provide the analytical tools required by students for gaining an advanced understanding of recent developments in the lead disciplines central to their research project and in the specific challenges and opportunities posed by their engagement with research into emerging global structures, processes and issues and for carrying out high-level research. Students on the PhD programme may also attend individual courses from MA/MSc Programmes to strengthen competence in a specific subject. By the end of the third academic term, students are expected to have completed their upgrade chapter.
In their second year, full-time students carry out detailed research which usually includes gathering and processing data. Some research for this purpose may be carried out overseas if required. During the year students write draft chapters of their thesis and discuss them with their lead supervisor and, where appropriate, also discuss specific aspects of their research with their adjunct supervisor.
Full-time students for the PhD would complete their research and write a final draft or near-final draft of their thesis.
Any work at this stage normally involves redrafting chapters of the thesis to achieve the standards of publications. The examination must normally be completed in this year. The examination is by assessment of the thesis and an oral examination (viva voce) concerning the thesis and the research upon which it is based.
The information on the programme page reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session.
English Language Requirements
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