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Doing a PhD with Middlesex University

Middlesex University supervises PhDs in a whole range of storytelling disciplines, from English Literature, to English Language, Creative Writing, Film, Theatre, Media and more. The university has particular areas of specialism, including interdisciplinarity, genre-writing, post-colonial literature, ethnographic writing, semiology and the use of narrative in education. Importantly, as can be seen below, based on our staff being both creative practitioners and academic researchers, Middlesex emphasises practice-based research as much as traditional critical research. 

Below, you can see a range of current and recent research topics/questions, find out how to apply to undertake research at Middlesex, and check out the profiles of just a few of our PhD supervisors.

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A sample of current and recent PhD research topics/questions

Creative Writing


  • Speculative Fiction: To what extent can speculative fiction operate as political protest and a catalyst for change concerning a real-world social and environmental problem, as exemplified by my novel Salton Sea Tales?


  • Speculative climate-fiction (‘cli-fi’)


  • How far has Western detective fiction introduced an oppressive dynamic (concerning marginalized groups such as Asians, women and people with disabilities) to the tradition of Indian detective fiction during and after the British Raj, and how might that dynamic be subverted through my experimental short story collection Break Down the Walls?


  • How do the genres of YA Fantasy and Dark Fantasy Romance overlap with each other, particularly in terms of identity formation and/or the use of archetypes, how is this relationship problematic in terms of contemporary societal progress, and how might identity formation be more responsibly addressed in my novel Circling?


  • Thirteen Queens: A Queer, Feminist, Science-Fiction Novel


  • Historical novel/Representation of women in Zimbabwean literature


  • PhD by Publication: Is poetry in essence an act of anamnesis and if so, how does anamnesis shape the writing and the reading of poetry, and to what extent is the writer and reader’s poetic experience enhanced by an understanding of anamnesis? 

English (Literature and/or Language)


  • Imagination at the progressive border: Can fantasy literature foster a liminal space for social justice-oriented narrative-based belief change in the individual?


  • Effects of metacognitive reading strategy instruction on second language reading comprehension and motivation: A meta-analysis and a teaching intervention


  • Multilingual practices in a Japanese supplementary school in London


  • An exploration of the double-consciousness through the production of speech in its own image


  • Metaphor and novelty


  • Understanding and Teaching Idioms: Arguments for assuming first language cultural contexts in teaching materials

Media and Communications


  • Investigating UK academics' social media use


  • Pandemic communications: Comparative analysis of UK and Pakistan


  • Producing and perceiving students’ requests in social media messaging: A case study of institutional contexts in Thailand


  • "What is my Story?” Older people re-framing their lives through digital storytelling: An ethnographic approach


  • Towards the Haptic Encounter: Investigating and theorising a strategy for writing a web-series screenplay

Theatre and Film


  • Screen/Stage practice


  • Dramaturgy and scenography from the director’s perspective, and the potentials for scenography to function as a form of disruptive


  • PhD by Public Works (Four Stage Plays)

Biosemiotics (yes, it is a thing! I know, right?)


  • The idea of non-human animal culture


  • A biosemiotic approach to trauma


  • Food confusion

Applying to become a PhD researcher at Middlesex

  1.   You should apply via our Online Applicant Portal here.

  2.   You will initially be applying to become an MPhil student-researcher with us and will convert, after a year or so (all being well), to being PhD researcher.

  3.   As part of your initial application, you will be asked to upload a Research Proposal document. We recommend that you organise and write your proposal document based on the subheadings listed here. (I tend to recommend that the title of your doc also be your main research question.)

  4.   Before writing your proposal, I’d strongly recommend watching the ‘PhD in English or Creative Writing’ video on this site – even though you might be interested in another subject area, the video shares particular insights on ‘The Nature of a PhD’ and ‘The Learning Experience’ slides.

  5.   It is often a good idea to identify one or two potential supervisors for your PhD and to name them at the top of the proposal document. Indeed, you might wish to email one of the supervisors before you submit the document to check on their capacity/ availability/ willingness to supervise you – and they might be willing to look at a draft of your proposal.

  6.   Do mention at least one academic theory in your proposal, explaining how it relates to your proposed research.

  7.   Do use correct academic referencing within your proposal. If you’re unsure how to go about it, please find more info here. Try to use academic sources (e.g. available via the Google Scholar site) rather than general websites (e.g. via the normal Google site).

  8.   Do understand that Word contains free grammar- and spell-check functions. Once you realise that, you’ll also realise that there is zero excuse for presenting a proposal with incorrect English.

  9.   Once you’ve submitted your proposal via the portal, it will be reviewed by several of our academics, to make a decision on whether to proceed with an application interview. If the interview goes well, then we’ll look to offer you a place to be a researcher at Middlesex! Hurrah!

Bonus point – if you’re worried about finance, you may be eligible to apply for funding via the organisations here. Incidentally, if you’ve studied previously with Middlesex, then you might be eligible for a discount.

Meet some of our PhD supervisors

Dr Anna Charalambidou is currently supervising seven PhDs, on language and identities, online communication, reading motivation and comprehension, language and fine art and several transdisciplinary professional doctorates. In the Grenglish website you can see some of her research.

Professor Paul Cobley is one of the world's leading academics in the fields of semiotics, communication and narrative. He currently supervises around a dozen PhDs.

Dr Charlotte Thompson is currently supervising a number of PhDs in theatre, screenwriting and playwriting.


Dr Adam Dalton is currently supervising six PhDs, several on fantasy literature, one in detective fiction, one in climate fiction (‘cli-fi’), one in women’s sci-fi, and one in dark romance.


Dr Maja Simunjak is currently supervising a number of PhDs in journalism, media and communications.

Dr James Graham supervises PhDs across the areas of media and communications and post-colonial studies, and is currently supervising PhDs in the areas of Zimbabwean fiction and climate fiction.


Dr Lara Thompson supervises PhDs in creative non-fiction, film and creative writing.

Dr Ariel Kahn is currently supervising a number of PhDs, principally in the areas of fantasy literature, historical fiction, ethnographic fiction, poetry, sci-fi and creative non-fiction.


Dr Sophie Knowles is currently supervising PhDs in journalism, media and communications.

Dr Adam Lively is currently supervising several PhDs, in areas which include writing speculative fiction, climate fiction and literary fiction.


[An indicative rather than exhaustive list, obviously.]

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