Preparing a PhD Project

When applying for admission to a PhD degree programme at the Faculty of Arts, you need to write a project description. You must also meet certain formal requirements.

The most important part of the application for admission to a PhD degree programme at the Faculty of Arts is your own project description. The project description explains the research project you propose to conduct as a PhD student in some detail.

On this page you can read more about presenting your idea for a PhD project and about expanding and using your network in the application process to get valuable feedback on early drafts of the application.

Requirements and programmes

The Graduate School of Arts offers two degree programmes. It might interest you that one of the programmes is aimed at students who have not yet completed a Master’s degree.

In the video below, an international PhD student explains why she thinks it is so important to be informed about the faculty’s PhD degree structure before applying.

 

The content of this page was written by Charlotte Albrechtsen, Centre for Teaching Development and Digital Media, Arts, Aarhus University, and Tine Wirenfeldt Jensen.

Presenting your idea for a PhD project

The project description is the main part of the application. This is where you present your own idea for the PhD project you propose to undertake.

The requirements for the content of the project description may vary. Read the call for applications carefully to find out if any special requirements for the project description are mentioned.

Most project descriptions, however, should meet a number of general requirements or guidelines.

The core of the project description

The core of the project description is your own idea for a PhD dissertation. In the video below, two international PhD students express their views on the importance of having a great idea. The idea must of course be closely related to previous research in the field.

The project description must be easy to understand, also for non-specialists, as the application is likely to be evaluated by committee members from a variety of subject areas.

The typical content of a PhD project description within the humanities at Danish universities is presented in the slides below.

 

AU Studypedia offers several writing tools that may help you in the process of writing your project description. On the page Writing your academic paper you'll find tools to:

  • Kick-start your writing by using the Free Writing exercise.

  • Explore your idea for a thesis statement with the Cubing technique.

  • Integrate your thoughts about the research question with theory, method and sources by using the tool Scribo.

Meeting the requirements

"Our starting point for assessing a PhD proposal is the assessment procedure in the application guidelines. Be sure to meet the requirements stated" (Monica Carlsson, Head of the PhD Programme in Didactics, Arts, Aarhus University).

Read the application guidelines carefully. The content varies somewhat depending on which kind of general programme you apply for. Also, please note that the project description should not exceed a certain number of characters.

If your application fails to meet the formal requirements, it will not be accepted. In the video below, an international PhD student shares his experience of the formal requirements for PhD applications.

 

The content of this page was written by Charlotte Albrechtsen, Centre for Teaching Development and Digital Media, Arts, Aarhus University, and Tine Wirenfeldt Jensen.

The importance of networking and feedback

Use – and expand – your network before applying for the PhD to get valuable feedback on early drafts of the application.

One of the most important steps you can take when applying for a PhD at the Faculty of Arts is to reach out to potential supervisors before you hand in your application. This will serve two purposes: you will expand your international network in the field you wish to do research in, and, perhaps most importantly, you may obtain invaluable feedback on a draft of your project description.

Getting feedback from a local academic within your field should be viewed as a key step in the application process, and will provide you with knowledge of what is expected in your discipline that you cannot obtain in any other way.

 

Initial contact

You might take a look at the university’s website to find professors or assistant professors who work in your field. Then contact them with a brief initial description of your project and ask them if they can provide feedback or possibly refer you to one of their colleagues.

Make sure to do this early on in the process as most professors are very busy and cannot be expected to respond at short notice

 

"Become a part of the community"

Jacob Wamberg is former Head of the PhD Programme in Art, Literature and Cultural Studies and has many years of experience assessing PhD proposals. He stresses the importance of networking and getting feedback on your research idea and early drafts of your application before applying:

If you want to apply for a PhD scholarship at Aarhus University, the best advice I can give is to enrol in one of the university’s degree programmes. Become a part of the local academic community, expand your network. You will get an impression of what is going on and who is who.

If you are unable to come here and study before applying for a PhD, contact the department – preferably a potential main supervisor. In any case, you should try talking to a researcher in your area and ask for feedback on your drafts for the project description.

Contacting the department in question before applying helps clarify whether the project you are proposing is in line with the research carried out there.

 

From a student's perspective

In the video below, an international student at the Faculty of Arts talks about his own experience of the importance of contacting the relevant department in advance.

Feedback from your fellow students and peers who are not specialists in the subject area may also be valuable – for instance, to ensure the clarity of your proposal. AU Studypedia has a guide for giving and receiving feedback on the page Group Work & Feedback.

 

The content of this page was written by Charlotte Albrechtsen, Centre for Teaching Development and Digital Media, Arts, Aarhus University, and Tine Wirenfeldt Jensen.


Useful links:

Websites about academic skills:

  • Purdue University Online Writing Lab. Find information on how to research and write with correct grammar and style. Includes detailed style guides for different referencing systems.

  • How-To-Study An American site for lower level students from elementary school to college with easy to understand tips in both English and Spanish.

  • Study Guides and Strategies. Besides information about reading, writing, researching, studying and managing projects, this American site has tips for memorizing and concentrating.

Literature about academic skills:


The content of this page was edited by the editorial team at Centre for Teaching Development and Digital Media.