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Investigating and enhancing motivation for reading


About This PhD Project

Project Description

Apply to Royal Holloway, University of London for a place to study by Monday 20 January 2020.
Apply for SeNSS studentship funding by 12.00pm on Monday 2 March 2020.

This competition is open to UK and EU nationals only, subject to certain conditions (https://senss-dtp.ac.uk/apply).

Reading ability influences academic achievement, career prospects. and personal well-being. But why are some people more motivated to read? This project takes a new perspective on reading acquisition, drawing on complementary strengths of the academic supervisors, Dr. Krishnan (brain and language), Dr. Ricketts (reading and vocabulary), and Dr. Balsters (social decision making). We will use models from decision making to capture how much time, effort, and money people are willing to expend on reading. We will also explore the brain basis of motivation using neuroimaging tools (fMRI).

The Reading Agency is an Arts Council-funded, UK-wide charity that works to tackle life’s big challenges (literacy, health and wellbeing, social mobility and loneliness) through the proven power of reading. They deliver several successful programmes to boost reading, including the Summer Reading Challenge, Reading Ahead, and Quick Reads. A collaboration with The Reading Agency will enable us to address whether motivation for reading differs in those with low literacy and explore how environments can be nudged to boost motivation.

The successful candidate will be hosted at the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London. The Department has an excellent research reputation (6th in REF2014), an active postgraduate community, and cutting-edge facilities for research, including an on-site MRI scanner. They will also have access to space, supervision, and project-related resources at The Reading Agency (based in central London).

Training Opportunities


A comprehensive package of training will be agreed in consultation with the supervisors. Elements of training will be provided by the supervisors, Royal Holloway, University of London, and by other providers.

Applicants: essential and/or desirable attributes/skills


The ideal candidate will show an interest in reading and language. A first class or 2:1 undergraduate degree in Psychology or a related discipline is required; an MSc or previous research experience is desirable. Strong communication, quantitative and organisational skills are necessary. Experience of neuroimaging and programming would be advantageous.

Studentship Details


This studentship may be taken as either a 1+3 year award (a one-year MSc followed by a three-year PhD), a +3 award (a three-year PhD)

• It may be taken full-time or part-time
• The studentship award covers your university fees, and provides you with a stipend of £17,009 per year
• You will also be able to apply for small amounts of additional funding via the SeNSS Research Training Support Grant

How to apply for this studentship


In order to be considered for this SeNSS studentship, you must first apply for a place to study Royal Holloway, University of London, noting that you are applying for the collaborative studentship. Please go to Royal Holloway, University of London, How to apply for a PhD for information on how to make your application - https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/studying-here/applying/research-degrees/how-to-apply/

You will then need to make a separate application to SeNSS for this collaborative studentship. Please read the SeNSS Collaborative Studentship Application Guidance Notes before completing our online application form. The Guidance Notes are available at the bottom of the following webpage: Applying for a SeNSS collaborative studentship - http://senss-dtp.ac.uk/applying-for-a-senss-collaborative-studentship/

Starting date


On or about 1 October 2020.

Enquiries email name and address


For queries relating to the Royal Holloway application process, please email
For queries related to the project itself, please email Dr Naomi Flynn ()

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