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First-Year Researchers

Compulsory Requirements for the First Year of the Doctoral Programme

Seminar requirements

PhD researchers are asked to attend 3 seminars in their first year (and at least one of each type of seminar - Area and Research - over the two first years):

- a Core Skills Seminar
- a March Paper Writing workshop seminar
- an Area or a Research Seminar

Written requirements

- Seminar Paper, by 18 December 2023
- March Paper, by 8 March 2024
- June Paper, by 3 June 2024


First-year Researchers' Work-Plan

All first-year researchers will prepare a work plan in consultation with the supervisor or provisional supervisor. The plan will deal with the whole range of activities during the academic year – choice of seminars, seminar paper, March Paper, missions, and June Paper – as well as identifying other special needs. The plan has to be agreed on and signed by both researcher and supervisor and needs to be submitted to the Departmental Coordinator by 24 November 2023.

Please use this work-plan template.


Seminar Paper

First-year researchers are required to write a Seminar Paper (a.k.a. December Paper) and deliver it no later than 18 December 2023. The December paper should be an essay of 5,000 words (including footnotes but not the bibliography) and deal with a topic discussed in the chosen first-term seminar and agreed upon with the seminar convener and the supervisor. It should engage with the seminar content in a way that relates to the researcher’s dissertation topic, broadly understood. 


March Paper and Mentoring Sessions

The first step in the dissertation work is the March Paper, a substantial paper to be delivered by 8 March 2024. This paper should outline the main issue of the dissertation and its research questions, discuss the relevant literature and put forward some tentative hypotheses. The March Paper is the basis for the June Paper. The supervisor and the second reader read the March Paper.

The March Paper is not a test but is designed to help first-year researchers progress with their thesis and provide the basis for a constructive discussion in the mentoring session. Researchers are encouraged to be in contact with their supervisors for advice regarding its preparation.

Researcher, supervisor, and second reader meet in the First-Year Mentoring Sessions scheduled for 15 and 18 March 2024. These sessions are organized around a discussion of the March Paper and are meant to help researchers to design their June Paper: researchers have the opportunity to ask questions, raise concerns and discuss their work with their supervisor and second reader, who will offer guidance, advice and suggestions. 


Passage to the Second Year: June Paper

The June Paper builds on the March Paper, taking into account the feedback from the mentoring session, and includes a new part based on the primary sources examined during the Spring research mission. These elements are to be framed in a general reflection on the issue, methods, and objectives of the dissertation. Thus, the June Paper – whose structure should be discussed with the supervisor – usually consists of a revised discussion of the research questions contextualized within the relevant literature, along with a first case study. 

The June Paper is assessed by the supervisor in consultation with the second reader for the quality of both academic content and academic writing. The electronic file of the paper is to be submitted by 3 June 2024. This submission is compulsory.

General formatting guidelines for June Papers 

The June Paper should not consist exclusively or merely of a survey and critique of the literature: it should be a precise statement of what the thesis aims to accomplish and how it will go about doing that.

- The cover page should state the title of the paper, the name of the author, the name of the supervisor and second reader and the word count. Please use this cover page template
- A table of contents would be important
- Pages should be numbered throughout the paper
- Take care also that the graphs, maps and tables are clear and easy to read 
- While proofreading it may be useful to double-check our Brief Guide for Academic English

Normally, the June Paper will have a concluding section, of a practical nature, to give readers an idea of the feasibility of the thesis in terms of the time available. A chapter outline is also required at this point: no matter how preliminary, this may serve as a rough guide for the work ahead and help plan the working timetable.


For further information please check pp. 40-41 of the Researchers' Guide.

Page last updated on 01 August 2023

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