Research Degrees

Students Reading and Talking

The DPhil in English is intended to develop the skills and understanding necessary to undertake and present original research at a high level, and provide a thorough foundation for a career in research.

Under the guidance of your supervisor, you will complete a thesis of 80,000 to 100,000 words. A typical term will involve a great deal of independent research, punctuated by meetings with the supervisor who will be able to suggest direction and address concerns throughout the writing process. It is expected that you will have at least two substantial supervisions in each term (or for part-time students, at least one each term).

The range of topics studied for the DPhil. in our Faculty is broad. The study of English language, literature and related interdisciplinary fields is continually reshaped by the new questions that DPhil. students and Faculty members pursue. In general, our DPhil. students research the following topics: English language and literature from anywhere in the world; the other languages and literatures of Great Britain, Ireland, neighbouring islands (including Iceland) and of other Anglophone countries; these literatures in comparison with, or in translation into, other languages and literary traditions. They also study performance arts in English anywhere in the world or in the other languages of Anglophone countries; and theoretical, interdisciplinary and philosophical reflection on literature composed in any language.

It is essential that the Faculty has a supervisor qualified to guide your research in whatever texts, languages or interdisciplinary fields you study. It is advisable to check carefully on the Faculty’s website the research expertise of postholders, to gauge whether there is such supervision available. Joint supervision by people in English and in another Faculty can also sometimes be arranged, when a topic is interdisciplinary or spans more than one Faculty.

You will be enrolled as Probationary Research Student and then apply to transfer to full DPhil status during your first year (or for part-time students, by the end of your second year). A further assessment of your work and progress takes place during the third year of the programme (for part-time students, this would be completed by the first term of your sixth year).

In the final year of your course, you will need to submit a thesis of 80,000 to 100,000 words for assessment by an internal examiner, from within the University, and an external examiner, from beyond. There will then be a ‘viva voce’ oral examination with the two examiners.

In addition, you will have the opportunity to attend a wide range of classes, seminars and lectures in order to learn bibliographic and research skills, interact with other researchers or gain new perspectives on your work. You may also be encouraged to attend the research skills courses available as part of the master's (MSt) programme, depending how much of this training has been covered previously.

The English Faculty is not responsible for providing teaching opportunities for research students as most undergraduate teaching in Oxford is organised by individual colleges. Teaching is not a compulsory part of the DPhil. But research students may wish to gain some teaching experience, so long as it does not interfere with their own progress. Those research students who wish to gain teaching experience are invited to attend Faculty-run preparatory teaching workshops and seminars, as well as enrolling on a Teaching Mentor Scheme.

DPhil theses of outstanding merit are published each year by Oxford University Press in the Oxford English Monographs series, and a prize is awarded for the best thesis.

Graduates from the English Faculty are employed across a wide range of sectors. Many take up academic positions in the UK and overseas. Other graduates pursue careers in occupations including teaching, the arts, heritage, librarianship, journalism, law, publishing, law and the civil service.