MA not suited to PhD application?


Two years ago I graduated with an MA in English Literature. I am now interested in pursuing a PhD. I am worried about my academic transcript from my MA - while I did a module and my dissertation in the area I want to pursue a PhD in (medieval romance literature) the other modules I completed were in a completely different area (Victorian and Eighteenth Century Literature). I also don't have the skills of palaeography and codiology that are taught on Medieval Studies MAs.
I would really appreciate some advice on how this would impact my PhD application. Would the fact that I studied widely on my MA hinder my chances on getting accepted for PhD study? I am still in the early stages of thinking of applying, so would really appreciate any comments or advice anyone has to offer!

Avatar for rewt

Engineer here.

So you did your dissertation in the area of your proposed PhD but worried that you also did other modules. That sounds fine to me, you have some knowledge and you can learn new skills during the 3 year PhD. As long as you got a good score on the dissertation and can discuss it in depth you should have a chance. I know in engineering having some wider knowledge/experience is considered favorably


Having a good breadth of education should be seen as a positive rather than a negative. I am a very strong believer that it is through breadth of knowledge that exceptional ideas appear. In particular I strongly believe that the popular idea that you should focus just on one area are misguided at best and simply wrong in virtually all aspects. We seem to have lost the ability to be polymaths despite centuries of history telling us that some of the greatest achievments in humanity have come from people with that exact background.

You really want to avoid working with a supervisor who thinks your background is a problem.


I doubt the module variety would be an issue but lack of skills might be. I assume as you mention them that you'd need palaeography and codiology to do your proposed topic? If so, given how hard it is to get AHRC funding, it might be worth seeing if anywhere would let you do some stand alone modules to get the basics before you apply. This for example looks useful:
I don't think the AHRC offer 1+3 studentships as that would have been ideal in this scenario. Do you have supervisors in mind that you could ask for advice? They'd probably know what others in a similar situation have done. I am taking it for granted that you will be applying for funding - if self-funding pick a university that teaches those things and audit the classes in your first year. But the way things are I'd avoid self-funding if at all possible (unless you're very wealthy).


Hi, a difference between your MA and PhD may not be an issue, so long as you can show you have a plan to bridge any gaps. My MA was in a totally different area to my PhD, and I needed to be able to code which I had not done before. I did some online courses before and during my application which helped.