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The UCD structured PhD programmes allows students achieve the best possible experience of graduate research and training. Making a substantial and original contribution to knowledge, normally leading to peer-reviewed publications remains the core objective of doctoral studies.  A research degree is based primarily on a research project, usually proposed and developed by the student, who undertakes their research under the supervision of a supervisor and a Doctoral Panel.

A PhD typically takes 4 years full-time and 6 years part time to complete. The examination for the degree is based on a description of the candidates research written up as a dissertation and defended in a viva voce (orla examination). The Institute offers expert supervision in all major areas of American Studies (do we add particular topics eg American Politics and Foreign Policy, American Literature and Culture, Media and Conflict, Irish and US Relations)

As part of the structured PhD programme the College of Arts and Humanities require all incoming PhD students to obtain at least 30 credits in addition to the dissertation before a PhD will be awarded. Twenty credits may generally be awarded for prior learning (taught MA or equivalent), subject to the approval of the Graduate School Board of the College of Arts and Humanities. The selection of the remaining 10 credits should be discussed with your supervisor. Students are also required to undergo assessment of the progress in the dissertation (a Transfer Panel) 12-18 months after beginning their studies. The Transfer Panel will decide whether the student can progress from stage 1 of the PhD programme to stage 2. Details of both aspects of the PhD are given below.

Please note that PhD applications are now accepted to start in September, January and May each year.

Further details on UCD PhD Policy


In general applicants for the PhD must hold a BA and MA or equivalent qualifications, with a distinguished record of academic achievement. However, there are no automatic criteria which make students eligible for a research degree. The Institute takes all elements of the application into account with close attention given to the quality of the applicants’ application form, research proposal, their referees recommendations and their academic record. Applications from students without evidence of a completed postgraduate degree can only be considered in exceptional circumstances . Such applications will be considered on a case-by case basis.

It is advisable to contact the Institute in advance of submitting an application as it may be beneficial in shaping your research proposal and to identify a suitable supervisor in advance.


In addition to completing the online application form, student will be asked to upload the following documents:

  • A research proposal (4-5 pages). The proposal should provide a provisional title for the thesis, explain the central idea, question, or problem you wish to research and justify the choice material you intend to study. You should also give an indication of how you expect your research to contribute to knowledge on your choice topic and in wider fields of study. You should explain what methodologies will be used in the course of your research.
  • A provisional bibliography of major scholarly publications in the subject you wish to research- the bibliography should provide a comprehensive list of the major publications on the topic you wish to research, or in the general area of your research. This should indicate that you have conducted a preliminary survey of existing research and understand how your research might build upon existing research and scholarship.
  • A proposed schedule for completing your research and dissertation within four years. This might be divided into years or semesters.
  • Copy of official transcripts of your academic qualifications
  • Copy of passport or birth certificate
  • If English is not your first language you are required to produce and IELTS certificate to a standard of 8 or equivalent ????
  • Two academic references supporting your application
  • Copy of any additional qualifications or evidence of any expertise, which may be advantageous to your studies.

The Institute reserves the right to request a Skype interview with applicants and the right to request a sample of your written work.

On acceptance of a place on the programme you will be required to submit hard copies of all documents for inspection.

Closing Date – there is no closing date.  If your application is accepted, your studies can begin in September, January or May.

Progress in the Dissertation: Transferring from Stage 1 to Stage 2 (this could be written as a word documents and linked to instead of been on this page?) 


What does Stage 1 mean?

Stage one of the PhD programme is a probationary period. During this time they will work with their supervisor and their Doctoral Studies Panel (DSP). The Doctoral Studies Panel is appointed for you early in your first year. and is made up your supervisor(s) and two other members of staff. The panel will meet with the student at least once per year to discuss the student’s progress and any other issues the student may wish to consider. The purpose of the DSP is to enhance the supervisor-student relationship, to monitor student progress during the course of your doctoral studies and to provide advice and support for the student and the supervisor.

At the end of stage 1 (within 12-18 months of starting) students will be assessed by a Transfer Assessment Panel to demonstrate that they have made sufficient progress in stage 1 to complete their research at the required standard, usually within four years of commencing their studies. The TAP is made up of the doctoral studies panel and one other member of staff. The supervisor does not sit on the TAP. The student will submit a 10,000 word research piece (usually a chapter) to the panel for examination. The supervisor will submit a report on the student’s progress. The panel will then convene to interview the student, discussing both the research piece and the student’s programme, and his/her plans for completion of the project. The panel will then make a recommendation to the Graduate School of Arts and Humanities as to whether:

(a) the student’s progress is satisfactory, and the student should be allowed to progress to stage 2

(b) the student’s progress is not yet sufficient to progress to stage 2 and the student should be given the chance to submit their work for further assessment after another 5-6 months

(c) the student should be required to exit the programme.

Please note: this is a university assessment, progress is not automatic or guaranteed.



Our Phd Students

James Doran

Dissertation Title:

Communicating Health Care Reform


On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; the single largest wholesale reform of health insurance coverage and regulation in the United States since President Johnson’s introduction of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. In announcing his legislative effort over a year earlier, after making it a centrepiece of his campaign platform, the new president, with Congressional control and strong public appetite for reform, argued that legislative success necessitated effective presidential communication. Explanation of Obama’s vision, and participation in debate and dialogue with Congress, special interests, as well as the American public, was placed at the forefront of the White House’s pursuit of reform. What emerged over the course of the legislative battle – and continued into 3 election cycles and Supreme Court challenges – was a contentious partisan and ideological battle, within the Congressional chambers and across the country that exposed the fundamental fault-lines of Washington politics, and challenged the political efficacy and leadership of the president.


My research is concerned with President Obama’s health care communications from his announcement during his 2008 campaign until the legislation was secured with Obama’s re-election in 2012. Situated within the scholarly tradition of the rhetorical presidency, this project aims to address two distinct, but interrelated questions. The first of these is concerned with piecing together the various layers of President Obama’s health care related communications. Taking a dual methodological entry point, this study will qualitatively analyse the content of message President Obama constructed during his first term, combining this with a quantitative examination of the communications venues employed to disseminate his message, and exploring how both were shaped by and evolved to suit the changing political dynamics he faced. The second pivot of this research is concerned with President Obama’s leadership of health care reform. Given the increasing necessity for the contemporary presidency to publicly communicate, and the centrality of communication in Obama’s legislative battle around health care, his communication operation offers particular insight into the president’s ideological and political approaches to the reform process, highlights the role he played in the reform, and is revelatory of his leadership throughout the process.


Alireza Hajihosseini

Dissertation Title

Narrative Wars: Trump & the Media


Donald Trump and his administration are at war with the media. Denying major media outlets access to White House briefings and pulling out of the White House Correspondents Dinner are just some of the examples of the tense standoff between the new U.S. administration and the media establishment charged with keeping a close watch over it. Moreover, the emergence of the term “fake news” as a moniker encompassing any story the White House considers unfavorable points to a new era of narrative wars between the world’s most powerful political administration and the world’s most advanced free press. What impact is this charged environment having on the media industry as a whole? How do realities of today’s hybrid media system – mass participation in news episodes and the constant tussle of old and new media logics – enhance and inform the extreme polarization of the narrative we are witnessing today?

Mahdi Bahmani

Dissertation Title

“Diaspora Strategic Leadership: US-based Iraqis and US Politics towards Iraq”


This thesis examines Iraqi diaspora in terms of its leadership and in the context of US-Iraqi relations from 1990 to the present.  The aim of this research is to explain those dynamics and processes by which the diaspora and the US government have established strategic engagements and have pursued convergent and/or divergent strategies and politics.  I take two complementary analytical approaches in this research to achieve the aim.  The first pays attention to the nature and history of the diaspora and the way in which they have shaped its leadership while the second approach focuses on the engagement between the community and the US governmnet and the impacts of those partnerships on the diaspora leadership.

Academic Qualifications

B.A. in Islamic Studies and Political Science, Imam Sadiq University

M.A. in Islamic Studies and International Relations, Imam Sadiq University, Thesis: “The Political and Social Situation of Iraqi Shia (1990-2006)”


Benjamin Miller

Dissertation  Title

“Expatriatism in the Age of Globalization: A Literary Narrative of the Transnational in Contemporary American Culture”

Research Aims

In the canon of American literature, the expatriate tradition chronicles the writings of hallmark authors such as Henry James, Ernest Hemingway, and Paul Bowles among others whose migrations led to the establishment of writers’ colonies in various international sites across, primarily, Europe and North Africa. With the advent of mass international movement in a decolonised post-WWII world, however, traditional expatriatism became fundamentally obsolete within the context of globalisation. This research seeks to articulate this redefining of expatriatism and the various permutations of transnationality in contemporary American culture. Examining the transnational author and themes reveals the persistent return to international dislocation as a vehicle in which to challenge and redefine notions of the self – political, social, cultural, and racial identities. Starting with the post-WWII/ pre-Cold War context and the consolidation of US neoimperial foreign power, this dissertation will cover key moments in the American political and social narrative, including chapters on the 60s Civil Rights Movement and Black Power, Multiculturalism and the hyphenated identity, and concluding with the most contemporary theorisations of Transnationalism and Diaspora. This structure locates and organises the contemporary expatriate at the site of imperialism and its parallel perspectives – from writing America at the colonial periphery, to writing the colonial periphery from America.

Academic Qualifications

B.A. English & Psychology, University of Connecticut (2010

M.A. American Literature, University College Dublin (2011);  Thesis: “From New York to Interzone: A Case Study of William S. Burroughs as American Expatriate Writer”