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Your journey into research

Are you interested in finding solutions to problems and making a real-world impact? Then research might be for you.

The research journey can often seem to be a confusing process, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re thinking about studying a PhD or Professional Doctorate, read our advice on how to become a researcher.

What is research?

Research involves collecting, analysing and interpreting information to better understand a phenomenon. At university you’ll be engaged in Doctoral-level research. The aim is to make a significant contribution to your field and hopefully help to make a difference in the world.

We offer both PhDs (Doctor of Philosophy) and Professional Doctorates, where the type of research you undertake differs slightly.

Academic research (PhDs):

  • seeks to add to a larger body of knowledge
  • theoretically focused
  • findings are generally made public.

Professional research (Professional Doctorates):

  • seeks to find solutions to existing problems
  • is organisationally focused
  • findings are generally kept private.

How do I become a researcher?

There are different ways that you can become a researcher. You can:

  • progress straight from an undergraduate degree
  • progress from a Masters degree
  • research professionally while working
  • use your existing professional body of work to gain a research degree.

Differences between taught and research degrees

You might have studied a taught degree before, such as an undergraduate degree, or postgraduate Masters course. A research degree is less structured than these. Rather than studying specific modules through lectures and seminars, you will spend your time working independently on a long-term research project.

You will be guided by a supervisor and be supported to develop a range of professional skills. Your research will culminate in an in-depth written piece of work, often called a thesis.

How do I pick a research topic?

Your research topic needs to be something that you are passionate about, in an area that requires more critical analysis. You’ll be researching the topic for a long time (from three to eight years) so it has to be something that will sustain your interest.

Once you’ve selected your topic, you’ll need to narrow this down to a focused research question. The aim of a PhD or Professional Doctorate is to make a novel contribution to your field, so think carefully about what you’d like to propose and the research methods you will use to achieve this. You can always ask for advice from a potential supervisor before you finalise your proposal.

Your interests might align with one of our advertised PhD projects. These are opportunities that have already been developed by our academics. If you want to submit your own proposal, search our research areas and supervisors to see if your research area is something that we specialise in.

Where can your research take you?

Research can open up lots of fascinating opportunities. You could continue to specalise, teach and share your knowledge in academia, or go into industry and apply your research to advance your field. Whichever path you choose, your research could help to make the world a better place.

Our researchers come from a variety of backgrounds, but they have all identified a problem and been driven to do something about it. Here are some of their stories.


Feeding the world: improving food security

Ashraf Alkhtib, Research Fellow


Standing up for equality: decolonialising our soci

Deanne Bell, Senior Lecturer


International decision making: connecting cultures

Ursula F. Ott, Professor

How to apply

Think research is for you? The next step is to prepare and submit your Professional Doctorate or PhD application.