Candidates for the PhD in Professional Practice will be required to submit a PhD portfolio consisting of the following pieces of work…

The individual learning plan will be collaboratively designed by the candidate and lead supervisor to advance the candidate’s academic and research development. In collaboration with their supervisor, areas in which the candidate wishes to advance their knowledge will be identified and they will be assisted to search for appropriate literature and a reading plan developed. Please note that the word count is indicative. There is some flexibility with the word count for each element of the portfolio.  This needs to be agreed in your learning plan with your lead supervisor. The overall word count for the portfolio should be in the region of 50 to 70,000 words.

1. Critical Review of Literature

Candidates will be facilitated through the programme to acquire the following competencies:

  • Literature searching techniques.
  • Evaluating evidence.
  • Reviewing and synthesising evidence.
  • Writing a literature review.

This area will be assessed through Critical Review of Literature, with a word limit of 8,000 words. The topic to be reviewed will reflect the candidate’s chosen specialist theme and area of study and approved within the individualised learning plan. 

2. Small Scale Research Project

The completion of one small scale research project designed to enhance professional practice associated with the organisation or delivery of services in the area of their specialism. It is expected that the area of professional practice in which candidates are involved will provide opportunities for them to undertake such service development activities. 

Candidates will be facilitated through the programme and the completion of this project to develop the following competencies:

  • An advanced understanding of professional and service issues in the area of the candidate’s practice.
  • An advanced understanding of evidence-based practice in this area.
  • An advanced understanding of approaches to service development and evaluation and associated methodologies.
  • Project management skills, including planning, implementation and dissemination.

The service development research project is assessed by the submission of a report of 8,000 words in the form of a Small Scale Research Project Report.

3. Applied Research Project

A more substantial, theoretically driven investigative research project must be undertaken. This piece of research needs to be designed to be an original contribution to the advancement of knowledge in an area related to the thematic focus of the learning plan as a whole. In addition to the above competencies the following competencies will be developed through the completion of the project and through the programme of study:

  • Advanced research literature searching techniques.
  • Evaluating and critiquing research designs, methodologies and findings.
  • A rich knowledge of the existing research in relation to the area of enquiry.
  • A comprehensive understanding of research design and methodologies.
  • A rich and practiced understanding of the research methodology applied in the project.
  • Writing for publication and dissemination of research findings.
  • Research project management including proposal writing, costing, ethical approval, and organisational access.

This research is submitted in the form of an Applied Research Report of 20,000 words.  Candidates are required to submit a detailed proposal for their Research Dissertation and will be required to gain ethics approval for their research. 

4. Report of Professional Practice

The learning undertaken in relation to development of professional practice will be assessed by the submission of a Report of Professional Practice of 8,000 words concerning the candidate’s professional work centrally related to the thematic focus of the programme of study. This piece of work needs to reflect the complex work practices of experienced practitioners and provides opportunity for their reflections about, and learning from, the work. The following competencies will be developed through the completion of this piece of work:

  • Integrate existing knowledge with practice.
  • Theoretical and practice links.
  • Change and develop practice.
  • Understanding best practice.
  • Applying the evidence to practice.
  • Applying an understanding of process in their practice.

5. Reflective Account

This piece of work offers the candidate an opportunity to provide a reflective account of their learning across the portfolio of pieces of work documenting their journey as well as pulling together the various pieces of work into a coherent thematic argument.  Their individual learning plan and meetings with supervisors to reflect on and further develop this will form the basis of this report.  Opportunities for reflection on professional practice should enable them to develop their skills and knowledge and their critical and evaluative abilities in relation to their professional practice generally (6,000 words):

  • An advanced ability to synthesise and critique one’s own practice and research.
  • Advanced reflexivity skills.


The candidate’s PhD Portfolio will consist of the following:

Accessing, Reviewing and Disseminating Evidence

8,000 words in the form of a Critical Review of Literature.

Service Based Research and Development

8,000 words in the form of a Small Scale Research Project Report.

Research Design, Implementation and Dissemination

This research is submitted and assessed in the form of an Applied Research Report of 20,000 words.

Report of Professional Practice

8,000 words in the form of a Report of Professional Practice

Reflective Account

6,000 words in the form of:

  • An introduction to the portfolio.
  • A final chapter that integrates the learning from the four other elements of the PhD portfolio.

Total Word Count: 50,000 

An illustration of how this approach works in practice can be found by  clicking here. This shows the possibilities for one candidate’s ideas for their individual programme of study at the point of applying for the programme and the pieces of work that were then submitted over the course of the programme.


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Last edited: 09/05/2019 10:48:00