Psychology PhD / MPhil
The Department of Psychology at City has a long history of excellence in research that builds upon the traditions of the discipline whilst advancing new approaches. Over 30 members of faculty carry out cutting edge research in purpose built facilities that include two state-of the-art Electroencephalography labs, a Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation lab, a baby lab and about a dozen behavioural labs with access to eye-trackers, psychophysiological recording suits and a comprehensive psychometrics test library.
Our research students form an integral part of the department’s research culture. We currently support a vibrant community of approximately 40 students and can offer supervision on a variety of topics.
Overview of the department’s primary research themes
Members of the Cognitive Neuroscience Research Unit (CNRU) carryout world-leading research concerning the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying attention, sensory processing and multi-sensory integration, action perception, memory, emotion-related processes and aesthetics. The work of the unit involves research with neurologically healthy individuals, people with specific expertise or acquired skills (e.g. dancers, musicians), as well as people with brain damage (e.g. neglect or split-brain patients), sensory impairments (e.g. the blind) or psychiatric illnesses (e.g., schizophrenia).
Research in the areas of counselling and health psychology covers a broad range of topics including factors concerning family dysfunction, stress, pregnancy and miscarriage, pre-menstrual syndrome, health policy, health promotion, smoking, dementia, patient experience of revascularisation, the experience of caring for someone with a chronic illness, discursive constructions and sexual health in the context of HIV/AIDS.
The group's research activities focus on questions concerning how individuals make decisions in various situations, why these decisions are sometimes not consistent with standard models of rationality, what the outcomes of these decisions are and how these outcomes influence future decisions. Particular topics of interest include health-related decision making (e.g., how much to eat or exercise), financial decision making including the psychology of taxation, decision making under conditions of risk, uncertainty and ambiguity and how individual differences in motivation influences the decisions people make.
The Developmental Psychology Research Group comprises researchers dedicated to the understanding of human development. Research focuses on issues that affect the development of children's memory, and the social and emotional development of young children and the psychological mechanisms involved in the development of language. Furthermore, members of the Autism Research Group carry out research to understand the psychological and neurocognitive underpinnings of autism, with current projects focusing on learning and memory, emotional cognition, decision-making, meta-cognition, the processing of time and the influence of aging.
Research activities of the Memory and Cognition group cover a broad range of topics including the perception of food risk, the dependability of software design, the stability of category representations and conceptual combination and all facets of human memory with particular emphasis on the influence of perceptual factors, cue overload, aging and on aspects of memory over the short term. The department’s Centre for Memory and Law furthermore carries out work to further our understanding of the role of memory in legal settings, particularly how it serves as evidence. Research in this context is far reaching but currently focuses on witness memory reports in the media, legal cases, accounts of war, political oppression and applications for immigrant status.
The Organisational Psychology Group is focused on producing high impact research in a broad range of applied areas, including: employee selection and assessment; diversity in the workplace, including gender equality; employee well-being and resilience; individual differences; mindfulness-based interventions in workplace settings and the promotion of pro-environmental behaviour at work.
In addition to the above core areas of research, the Department also has close links to Research centres in the Department of Sociology, highlighting the interdisciplinary nature of our activities:
- The Social Research Methodology Centre, which has a strong interest in the application of both qualitative and quantitative social research methods to empirical and methodological issues.
- The Centre for Comparative Social Surveys which hosts the multi-nation European Social Survey (ESS) funded by the European Commission, European Science Foundation and national funding agencies.
The MPhil/PhD programme is a research training doctorate mainly aimed at students who wish to pursue a career in academic research. In addition to attending formal courses in advanced research methods, PhD students carry out an extended piece of original, empirical research under the direction of one or more members of academic staff. The degree of PhD is awarded on successful completion of the research methods courses, the submission of a thesis embodying the results of the programme of research and successful performance in an oral examination based on the thesis.
Applicants should demonstrate the following:
- A track record of high academic achievement, demonstrated by a good undergraduate degree with at least a second class (upper division) pass or equivalent.
- Good research methodological skills as demonstrated through relevant research experience and/or a good Masters level degree with at least a pass with merit (or equivalent).
- Excellent communication skills, both written and oral (see also the section on English language Requirements).
- Excellent planning and time-management skills.
For students whose first language is not English, the following qualifications will meet the English language requirement for entry to a postgraduate course of study:
- A first degree from a UK university or from the CNAA.
- A first degree from an overseas institution recognised by the University as providing adequate evidence of proficiency in the English language, for example, from institutions in Australia, Canada or the USA.
- GCE O-level/GCSE English language or English literature, grade C minimum.
- Cambridge ESOL CPE (Certificate of Proficiency in English) at grade C or above.
- An overall score of 6.5 in the English Language Testing System (IELTS) with a minimum of 6.0 for each subtest.
- Satisfactory standard in the verbal section of the Princeton Test (GMAT).
- US SAT with 500 in verbal performance.
- Warwick English Language Test (WELT) with pass grades of BBC minimum.
- Other evidence of proficiency in the English language which satisfies the Board of Studies concerned.
If you are not from the European Economic Area / Switzerland and you are coming to study in the UK you may need to apply for a visa or entry clearance to come to the UK to study.
The way that you apply may vary depending on the length of your course; there are different rules for:
- Students on courses of more than 6 months
- Students on courses of less than 6 months
- Students on a pre-sessional English Language course
Please note: If you require a Tier 4 student visa to study in the UK, you cannot undertake any City University London courses on a part-time basis.
For more information see our main Visa page.
Admissions take place in late September and applications will be considered on a running basis throughout the months of November - July. Applications will normally not be considered after the 31st of July.
Duration of Studies
The minimum period of registration is two years for full-time students and four years for part-time students. The maximum period of registration is four years for full-time students and seven years for part-time students.
About the programme
The PhD programme in Psychology is designed to develop your skills as an independent scholar and give you transferable skills for the years after you finish. With these aims in mind the PhD programme is structured as follows:
In year one students take a number of MSc level modules to furnish their core research methodological skills (see our Research Methods MSc) and subject-specific knowledge (see our MScs in Organisational Psychology, Behavioural Economics, Health Psychology and Clinical, Social and Cognitive Neuroscience). They will also develop a systematic review of the literature in their field of study and begin to implement the first stages of their empirical and analytic work.
In year two students will finalise their literature review, develop an outline of the overall shape of their thesis and carry out the bulk of their empirical and analytic work. Students will have the opportunity to take advantage of several advanced level training courses to build expertise in subject-specific research methodologies such as Eye-tracking, Electroencephalography and Psychophysiology (please see the next section for further details of available advanced level training courses).
In year three students will conclude their empirical work and focus on writing up their thesis. They will also seek to disseminate their work in the form of peer-reviewed publications and/or conference presentations and identify opportunities for the next stage of their career.
The fourth year is only used for the final preparation and submission of the thesis, the viva voce examination by at least two examiners (at least one external to the University) and the completion of any amendments that may be requested.
It is important to note that all students on graduate research programmes are initially registered for an MPhil award. Promotion to registration to PhD is not automatic, but contingent on the satisfactory outcome of a review process, which normally involves an oral presentation in May and the submission of a formal progress report at the end of the first year of registration (or the second year in case of part-time students). An academic panel comprising the candidate’s supervisor(s) and the Senior Tutor for Research will evaluate progress against the expected milestones of Year 1 outlined above. If the outcome is satisfactory, students will be upgraded to PhD. Progress in subsequent years will continue to be monitored through the annual review process and any failures to meet expected target milestones may lead to the withdrawal of candidates.
For the award of a PhD candidates are required to demonstrate the following:
- a full understanding of previous research literature and current academic and professional thinking;
- the ability to undertake sustained, high level research and master the theoretical (and where appropriate, practical) aspects of the subject areas relevant to the research field;
- the ability to communicate the subject matter of the research field, and the conclusions of the particular research project, in the accepted academic form of a research thesis.
The research thesis/dissertation must contribute to the advancement of knowledge and the understanding of the subject, either through the communication of substantial new information as a result of the research, or through a significant and novel reinterpretation of previous research and/or knowledge.
For full details about the City PhD programme structure, please see the Guide for Research Students.
The current research interests of our staff can be found on our staff profile pages.
- Full-time EU: £4,500 per year
- Part-time EU: £2,250 per year
- Full-time Non EU: £12,000 per year
- Part-time Non EU: £6,000 per year
Fees for doctoral candidates are charged annually and cover registration, supervision and examination. Fees are subject to review each year and may vary during your period of registration.
The School of Arts and Social Sciences is delighted to offer a PhD Studentship for this programme. The Studentship will comprise a full tuition fee waiver and a maintenance grant of £16,057 per annum for three years, starting in October 2016.
Full applications received by Thursday 31st March 2016 will be automatically considered for the Studentship and successful candidates will be informed in May 2016.
External sources of funding are also often available to support students wishing to join the department. Please consult the following links for possible funding opportunities:
When considering potential applicants, we attach great importance both to the applicant's academic profile and record of achievement, and to the fit between the proposed research and the interests of the supervisor. It is therefore essential that potential applicants identify staff with relevant research expertise, and then contact an individual member of staff to discuss their willingness to offer supervision for their particular topic before submitting a formal application to undertake a research degree. Please consult individual staff webpages for our specialist research profiles and interests.
Please note that we will not consider applications unless the applicant has initially discussed their proposal with a member of staff.
How to Apply
To apply, you should submit the following documents:
- One copy of the Online Research Degree Application Form (full time) or Online Research Degree Application Form (part time)
- Your research proposal
- Testimonials from at least two academic referees sent by email from an official work (not private) email account
- Copies of your degree transcripts and certificates (originals or certified copies). If your application is successful we will need to verify the original hard copies before a final offer is made
- Proof of your English language proficiency (if English is not your first language)
- A non-technical summary of the proposed research of no more than 400 words.
Please note that we will not consider incomplete applications.
Instructions to referees
Thank you for your contribution to our admissions process; reports from academic referees are a vital part of our information gathering about applicants for Research Degrees. In your testimonial, please focus your report on the following issues:
- Give evidence of the applicant's capacity to undertake high quality research in psychology
- Explain any particular features of the applicant's prior training that you consider to be of particular importance
- Comment on the applicant's determination and motivation for studying for a research degree
- Indicate whether or not the applicant has discussed their research interests with you prior to applying to City
- Comment on the applicant's honesty and integrity.
Writing Your Research Proposal
Your research proposal should be no more than three sides of A4. It should specify (a) your research question, (b) an indication of the research literature you have consulted, (c) the research methods you intend to use, (d) an outline work plan and (e) any research ethics implications.
All research students will have a supervisory team of at least two members of faculty. At least one of them will have experience in seeing research students through to successful completion and both will be actively engaged in an area of research relevant to the student’s field of inquiry. Normally one of the supervisors will take primary responsibility of mentoring the student with the second supervisor lending subsidiary support although it is not uncommon for both supervisors to share equal responsibility because of their complementary areas of expertise.
For details about our faculty and their areas of expertise, please consult the staff web-pages.
Besides our MSc level courses the department also offers a number of advanced level training workshops for specific research methodological skills. Moreover, wider transferable skills are developed through provisions within the department and through the University’s Graduate School.
Current workshops include:
Health and Safety in Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience
A induction on ethical and health and safety issues related to cognitive neuroscience methods including issues related to methodologies such as Electroencephalography (EEG), Transcranial electrical stimulation (TES), and Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and issues related to work with vulnerable patient groups. This induction is obligatory for any student working with these methods or wishing to attend the available courses relevant to these methods.
Convenors: Dr. Elliot Freeman, Dr. Kielan Yarrow & Dr. Sebastian Gaigg
This full-day workshop in one of the department’s EEG laboratories will teach students how to prepare participants for testing, how to collect data and how to filter, reduce and analyse data including event-related and frequency analysis techniques.
Convenors: Prof. Bettina Forster, Dr. Corinna Haenschel & Dr. Beatriz Calvo-Merino
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) & Transcranial electrical stimulation (TES)
On this full-day workshop students will learn how to prepare participants for testing, how to collect data and how to filter, reduce and analyse relevant behavioural, neurophysiological and neuromuscular data.
Convenors: Dr. Kielan Yarrow & Dr. Elliot Freeman
This 2-day workshop provides training on eye-tracking methodologies with a focus on Tobii eye-trackers. Students will learn how to implement experiments in Tobii studio as well as through interfacing with E-prime. Day 1 will focus on experimental design and data-collection, including gaze-contingent paradigms. Day 2 will focus on data analysis using pre-set Tobii studio functions as well as MatLab routines.
Convenor: Dr. Sebastian Gaigg
Dates: 18th – 19th January; 10am – 4pm on each day.
Randomised Controlled Trials
Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are used to obtain a reliable evaluation of treatment effectiveness in healthcare interventions. They can also be applied to other types of intervention, for example in educational or organisational settings. This half-day workshop will provide an introduction to the design, analysis and reporting of RCTs. Topics are likely to include the need for RCTs, exploratory trials, cluster trials, trial size, randomisation, blinding, process analyses, assessment of mediators and moderators, intention-to-treat analysis, and CONSORT guidelines.
Convenor: Dr. Katy Tapper
This half-day course will provide training in the use of discourse analytic methods of data analysis which can be used to develop a systematic understanding of the ways in which talk and text are constructed through discourse and to trace their social and psychological effects and consequences.
Convenor: Prof. Carla Willig
Dates: Friday in the autumn term
Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA)
IPA is an approach to psychological qualitative research with an idiographic focus, which means that it aims to offer insights into how a given person, in a given context, makes sense of a given phenomenon. Usually these phenomena relate to experiences of some personal significance - such as a major life event, or the development of an important relationship. This workshop will discuss main philosophical and epistemological positions of the methodology together with a brief historical account concluding with a discussion between IPA’s phenomenology and Neurophenomenology.
Convenor: Dr. Pavlos Filippopoulos
To foster our students’ broader academic and communication skills, they are required to attend a fortnightly research student seminar at which they are expected to present on their work at least once a year. The seminar is chaired by the Senior Tutor for Research (the PhD programme director) and takes the format of an oral conference session in which two students typically present for 20 minutes, with 10 minutes allowed for questions and discussion. Students are also expected to be immersed in the wider research culture of the department and attend laboratory and departmental research seminars including an external speakers programme that runs throughout the academic term. Students are also offered opportunities to acquire experience in teaching. Depending on their level of experience, they may help run small-group seminars or contribute to lectures on our undergraduate programme, or they may host stats clinics and run laboratory sessions on statistical analyses. All teaching activities are supervised by a senior member of academic staff who provides guidance and feedback and students wishing to obtain formal qualifications can take advantage of the MA in academic practice offered centrally by the University.
Outside the department, students are also encouraged to avail of opportunities to learn a foreign language through the University’s Centre for Language Studies and to engage with the Researcher Skills Development programme offered by the Graduate school, which hosts events to foster communication skills to a wider audience (e.g., Research Development Days, Research Symposium). Students wishing to hone their programming skills can also take advantage of a University wide MatLab club.