Advice to candidates: what makes a great Summer Doctoral Programme application?

Victoria Nash What is expected in applications for the OII’s Summer Doctoral Programme? How can you make your application stand out? We talk to SDP Director Dr Victoria Nash, who has the following advice for doctoral students who are thinking about applying to the programme.

She writes:

    • The three main criteria for acceptance onto the SDP are academic excellence, overlap with the OII’s areas of interest, and a likelihood that the student will benefit from undertaking the programme. Bear this in mind when you put together your application to ensure that you provide clear evidence on each count.
    • We really need to know about your thesis research, as one of the primary aims of the programme is to help improve students’ dissertations. So make sure that your thesis abstract is clear and compelling. Remember that although the research is very familiar to you, we will never have heard about it before, so make sure you spell out the broad topic, research questions and likely contribution as simply as possible. Practice this ‘elevator pitch’ on your peers to see if they can understand what your research is really about.

  • CVs are a great way to show off your strengths, so if you have given presentations, won prizes or undertaken relevant research or teaching experience, make sure you highlight this. Bear in mind that this is an academic programme though, so we don’t need to know about your time spent as a waiter/waitress during your under-grad degree.
  • Have a clear understanding of what you want to get out of the SDP, and make sure your referees are aware of this too. It’s helpful to know if you have a particular problem with your survey structure or your theory chapter, so that we can see where we can add some value. Obviously the networking is an excellent reason to attend, but the best experiences are had by students who know what they need to work on whilst they’re with us.

Lastly, in the words of a past SDP student: “Be honest about your research. Think about the strengths of your PhD: what’s the gap in the literature that you want to fill and how are you going to achieve this? Remember that your readers might not be familiar with your theoretical background so be clear and concise in addressing the literature. Don’t forget to justify your methods and what you expect to find. If some things are still unclear about your research, that’s normal. Don’t be shy in articulating your expectations from SDP. You won’t find all the answers there but lots of useful hints and advice that will help you keep going.”

SDP 2012 Seminar

SDP students come from a wide variety of disciplinary and methodological traditions; what they all share is a genuine intellectual curiosity and a willingness to consider these different perspectives. OII Fellow Joss Wright (SDP2012) presents recent work on mapping internet censorship.