Thinking of postgraduate research in feminist and gender studies?
We are slightly biased but we would highly recommend engaging in feminist and gender studies research. There is no one route or course to undertake and we think that is part of the fun of this area. This page will give some guidance on where to start looking for courses, funding and what life is like for Masters and PhD students in this field.
We will look at Where to Start, Developing a research proposal, Funding opportunities and Life as a post-grad student. We do not intend this to be an exhaustive list of options and is based on the experiences of the Sibeal Board Members.
Recently updated for 2021, we think the website www.findaphd.com to be really informative for logistical information. For studying in Ireland specifically see: https://www.findaphd.com/study-abroad/europe/phd-study-in-ireland.aspx
Where to start?
Firstly, consider how undertaking your Masters or Phd programme fits in with your overall career objectives. Platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn can be useful to see what qualifications current leaders in your field have obtained. From this you can ascertain whether a research qualification is helpful to further your career. Are you hoping to enter academia? Is there a possibility for your current employer to support your studies with fees and study leave? Will you be applying for funding to undertake the course? Where in Ireland or the world do you want to study?
Regardless of your previous experience or undergraduate course, your future studies can encompass feminist and gender studies perspectives. Any topic from law and human rights, medicine and health systems, the arts, the sciences, education, social studies (and many others!!) can be researched with a feminist and gender perspective. Having an interest in your area of study/research is the most important aspect to ensuring you will complete your course. It might be an issue affecting you or your community directly that you have identified needs further consideration. Perhaps a module you did during your studies to date has prompted you to explore more or there is an issue in the wider world that hasn't yet been properly investigated.
If you are considering undertaking a Masters thesis with a dissertation component, your topic will be guided by the available expertise of the staff on your course who will supervise your research. For a PhD to be granted it is essential that your area of study will result in a novel contribution to the field. Your PhD supervisor will be an expert in your field and able to guide you on your research path.
The expertise of the faculty is an important element for postgraduate research so it is worthwhile doing your homework about where to apply. Perhaps you have already studied within that School or College or know about the reputations of the staff. Have the lecturers engaged with industry and activism which you seek to enter at a later stage? Are there opportunities for you to do placements or internships for academic credit? What jobs have graduates of the course gained after graduation?
Developing a Research Proposal (Mostly for Phd Students)
Once you have identified your broad topic, it is time to narrow it down. It is very acceptable to send your research proposal to multiple institutions (but if you are applying for funding you must have already identified your supervisor and institution. This will be discussed more below).
A Masters course is usually done as 1 year full time or 2 years part time and the length of the dissertation can vary between 10,000 and 25,000 words.
A PhD course can range from 3 to 6 years full or part time and is usually between 80,000 and 100,000 words in length.
This can seem like a massive piece of work and that a very broad topic would be required to meet the word count. The biggest problem before thesis submission is usually cutting down on words so narrowing the focus of your research at the outset is hugely helpful!
Generally a research proposal will ask for a short overview of your proposed research. This should be a concise description with a clear research question you hope to address in the thesis. A literature review is usually requested- a summary of what is already being said about your topic by academics and actors in the field. This can be used to demonstrate a gap in existing research to support the novel aspect of your research.
An outline of your proposed methodology will also be required. Methodologies vary across disciplines and it is worth doing some research into what methods are recognised in your field. Browsing the profiles of current Phd students can give some insights into how they are approaching their work. Consider the ethical implications of your proposal within your methodology, the inclusion of minority populations - gender, race, disability etc. Consider the time and preparation required to do fieldwork, will you require translation services, who will you approach to interview/set up experiments, how will you recruit participants or secure time with equipment to conduct your research.
It is very useful to do up a timeline for the project - initial desk research, organising data collection, conducting data collection, analysis, write up. However long you anticipate data collection and analysis will take add in buffers for delays in responses from key actors or disruptions to travel plans due to international pandemics.
How you will disseminate your findings is also often asked of research proposals. As a full time PhD student there are often opportunites to participate in conferences and publish articles. Depending on the nature of your research, consider utilising social media to record your project progress - blogging/vlogging, engaging with mainstream media through authoring newspaper articles and opinion pieces, collaborating with industry and organsiations in your field to verify or implement your findings. At such an early stage you might even have already decided on publishing your thesis as a book.
The rationale for you undertaking this research can also be part of the proposal. What makes you the right person to do this particular project. Highlight your achievements to date, your studies, volunteer roles, anything that shows your unique skills and insight into the area you propose to research.
It is important to highlight again that this is not an exhaustive list of available funding opportunities but a starting point!! It is important to note that most funds discussed here operate on the basis of covering EU Fees for students. If you are applying from outside of the EU there may be additional costs which aren't fully covered. Please read the terms and conditions of each funding scheme to which you are applying carefully. The deadlines for applications are year round so make yourself aware of what calls are most suited to your area of research. You can get advice on this from staff at the institution you are approaching.
Each university and often schools within specific disciplines will have modest funding available internally. This might be linked to the requirement to undertake teaching or research activities for the college. Often this funding has the caveat that you must apply to larger, national funding streams during your course of study. For example, the Hardiman Scholarship at NUI Galway or the William J Leen Scholarship at UCC.
The websites of the centres of research within universities will outline any collaborations with industry - the 'news and events' or 'in the media' sections can show recipients of previous scholarships or bursaries which can be useful.
Academics are increasingly boosting their profiles on Twitter and social media so keep an eye out for lecturers advertising paid Phd positions there. Variations of #JobFairy can be a useful search as well as setting up a Google alerts for notifications about funding competitions. The scope of the research might be pre-assigned in these cases but if you have an interest in that area there might be scope to personalise the project as it progresses.
The most well known national fund for post-graduate study is the Irish Research Council. (http://research.ie/) This fund covers all fields of study and is highly competitive. You must have already approached a potential supervisor and be provisionally approved by the college to undertake the research in order to apply for the Research Council. It is a very detailed application but the funding available covers EU student fees, costs associated with research - fieldwork, purchase of equipment, conference attendance - and a living subsidy. There are some terms and conditions around teaching and engaging in other paid work while in receipt of the funding. You must be a full time research student to avail of this funding.
As well as the traditional Masters and Phd courses, the Research Council have a variety of schemes which facilitates collaboration with industry, public bodies and civil society organisations. (http://research.ie/funding/ebp/?f=postgraduate)
On a more international level, consider looking into ERASMUS and HORIZON 2020 schemes for postgraduate funding.(http://www.european-funding-guide.eu/articles/financing-tips/erasmus-mundus-postgraduate-opportunities). The Wellcome Trust are based in the UK but offer scholarships to Irish institutions, with a cap on EU fees. Investigate in your home country if there are similar philanthropic organisations or government schemes to facilitate study abroad.
Life as a post-graduate student
Post-graduate research can be a very exciting time. Perhaps you are returning to education after an extended period, or you are continuing your student experience from undergraduate or Masters studies. You might be juggling studies with work or family (or both!) so everyone has a different experience. Particularly at PhD level, studying can be quite an isolating experience so if your schedule permits it, do take advantage of any networking and social events throughout your course to stay sane!
Traditionally you will have a set number of credits to complete through taught modules or research related activities, alongside your thesis component. These credits are aimed at making you a 'well rounded' researcher. Credits are available for undertaking teaching activities, attending conferences, publishing papers, participating in book clubs, organising conferences or student activities, doing placement within industry. These are designed to equip you with skills which will complement your research skills and improve your confidence in communicating your findings and expanding your professional network. As you will be busy in your final year with writing up your thesis and potentially figuring out your next role it is best to complete your credit requirements as early in your course as possible.
Find a workspace where you are comfortable - you will be allocated a desk in your institution but your own kitchen table or a local cafe might be nice changes of scenery. The joy of research is that it can be done anywhere once there is a good internet connection. If you are fortunate enough to be in receipt of funding, take advantage of the opportunity to travel to conferences or undertake fieldwork abroad.
If you are considering academia as a career path, now is a good opportunity to gain some teaching experience through teaching activities. Avail of any third level teaching training opportunities. Involvement in student societies can equip you with great soft skills as well as being great social outlets.There is usually free food of some sort available to entice membership! Use your time at Masters or PhD level to bolster your C.V.
Everyone's relationship with their supervisor, or co-supervisors, is unique and generally you will decide at the outset about regularity of meetings, strictness of deadlines and general expectations. For PhD students, as well as your supervisor, you will probably have a panel of academic staff with expertise related to your topic who you can also consult if you have a query, need to be pointed to particular material, that your supervisor is unfamiliar with. These might be referred to as a research or advisory committee.
At the end of each academic year there is an assessment of your work to date to allow you to continue into your next year of study. These have different names in different institutions. You might be asked to prepare a presentation or provide a draft of a chapter in front of a panel such as your research committee or your peers and to explain your work to date. These are intended as supportive sessions to ensure students are on track to complete in a timely manner and that the work is an appropriate standard. Your supervisor will be able to advise you in advance of these sessions.
Once all of your credits have been completed and your thesis is signed, sealed and delivered to your institution the most significant assessment of your work is the Viva Voce. You will defend your work in front of a panel comprised of experts in your field (usually from outside of your own institution). At this stage on your Phd path you are the most expert person on your particular topic, however it does require a lot of preparation. The viva can last between 1 and 3 hours and can cover all aspects of your thesis from the design of the research, the methodology, your findings, the applicability to 'real world' scenarios. Having a mock viva with your own supervisor and fellow students a few weeks before the real thing will be extremely helpful in your preparation.
So that is it really. A research proposal, funding application, a handful of credits, extra curricular activities and 10,000 - 100,000 words is all that is standing between You and your post-graduate qualification.