How to apply for a PhD
Thinking about pursuing a PhD but not sure where to start? We spoke to Chiara Condotta, ACU Senior Candidature Officer, to clear up the common misconceptions around how to choose an institution to undertake a PhD, how to find a supervisor and how to apply.
What is the first step once I decide to undertake a PhD?
“Find out which universities support the area of research you wish to pursue. Not all universities support research in all areas of knowledge. ACU’s research priorities are theology, philosophy, education and health, we support PhD candidates in those areas.”
How do I choose an institution?
“Once you have identified which universities do offer a PhD in the area of study you wish to pursue, look over their website, which will give you an idea of their mission and background, their research priorities and what support they are offering research students during candidature. Once you find the one that fits it’s time to search for a supervisor.”
How do I find a supervisor?
“Most institutions have a supervisor register, so if you are not already in contact with someone then you can look through the register to find out if there is anybody at the institution who is researching in the area of study you wish to pursue. ACU has REXR, our research expertise register. It’s also good to note that supervisors normally are not required to be at the same campus as you.
Remember that these are only potential supervisors. Although they may be willing to supervise you, this does not guarantee you will be admitted to the program or that they will be one of your supervisors. If your application for admission is successful, the university will allocate a suitably accredited supervisor to you.”
What is the process for approaching a supervisor?
“It varies from institution to institution and within each faculty of an institution. In some instances, they are happy for you to contact a potential supervisor directly, in others they prefer if you contact the Faculty Research Office. If the university is happy for you to contact a potential supervisor directly, they will supply you with contact details.”
How do I decide which supervisor is right for me?
“The real issue is to see whether your personalities will fit. That can be hard to judge but while you’re visiting potential supervisors, try to meet some of their current students as well as other colleagues. They’ll know things about supervisors that they don’t know themselves. Buy them a coffee and ask them if they enjoy being part of the research group.”
What is the role of a supervisor? Why do I need one?
“Your supervisor will be a mentor, friend, confidante, sounding board, adviser and a voice of reason. Over the course of your study they will encourage you, challenge you and help steer you towards successfully submitting your thesis.
At ACU, supervisors are given a clearly defined list of responsibilities as outlined in our Higher Degree Research Supervision Policy.”
How often will we communicate?
“This varies depending on the type of research being undertaken, what stage of the PhD the candidate is at and how the candidate and supervisor prefer to work. Normally, once a week is recommended as an absolute minimum.”
Do I need a research proposal?
“Yes. At ACU, applicants for the Doctor of Philosophy and Master of Philosophy must complete a 2000-word research proposal. You will need to describe your research problem, aims, theoretical background and hypotheses/research questions, methodology and approach, timeline and resources required. Don’t forget your bibliography/referencing section.
Applying for the Doctor of Education, Master of Education (Research), and Master of Theology (Research) is a little different. You need to complete a 250– to 500–word research proposal describing your problem, proposed methodology and resources required. Again, you need a bibliography/referencing section.
Remember to discuss your research proposal with your supervisor. They will be very helpful.”
How do I apply to ACU?
“We have outlined this process step-by-step online. After you’ve submitted your application, it’s time for us to assess it. Bear with us – there’s a lot to process. It normally takes around two months for an application to be assessed. You’ll receive confirmation of your application and we’ll let you know the outcome as soon as we can.
While you're waiting, we suggest you get familiar with the different stages of your upcoming candidate journey, from enrolment to graduation.”
Any tips for the application process?
“Include plenty of information and documentation to inform the selection panel about your research background, for example, abstracts from any published articles, chapters in books, or abstracts from any completed thesis. Ensure your documents are certified. Include all transcripts of results of all tertiary studies attempted, even if you didn’t finish the program. Also read all instructions carefully and note deadlines – especially for scholarship applications.”
Ready to start your PhD journey? If you have questions our Candidature Services team can help. Otherwise, explore our research degrees to get started.