Applications are invited for a SeNSS ESRC-funded collaborative PhD studentship in the N-CoDe lab titled, “Investigating and enhancing motivation for reading


Primary supervisor: Dr. Saloni Krishnan

Supervisory Team: Dr Jessie Ricketts, and Dr. Joshua Balsters (Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London), Dr. Carina Spaulding (The Reading Agency). 

Project background 

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). 


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 MRI and programming would be advantageous.

You must also be eligible for SeNSS funding (see here).

How to apply

You first need to apply for a PhD place at Royal Holloway.

You will need to submit

  • An up-to-date CV
  • A degree transcript and copies of any other qualifications
  • Copies of English language qualifications (if English is not your first language)
  • Contact details for two academic references
  • A summary of the project
  • Project commitment statement  
  • A personal statement 

The deadline applying to Royal Holloway, University of London for a place is 23:59 GMT on 20 January 2020. 

If you are shortlisted, you may be invited to an interview. Applications will also need to go through SeNSS, and final decisions will require approval from the SeNSS Management Board.

More guidance on the documents requested

Before starting to put this together, please email me ( to express that you are interested and get the full project description.

  • A summary of the project. Your summary should be 1000 words or less, covering the following areas:
    • Provide a short summary of the project description, highlighting key hypotheses
    • One of the ideas in the proposal is to explore how motivation is malleable. Outline an experiment you would conduct to address this question.
    • Highlight opportunities you could create within the project
    • Outline challenges you might face during the project and ways you could address these
    • Highlight training you will need as part of the studentship
  • Project commitment statement  [500 words or less]
    • why you want to apply to work on this research project, 
    • why you are the best candidate for this studentship 
    • why you want to work with the Reading Agency. 
  • A personal statement [500 words or less]
    • why you are applying for this studentship, 
    • why you are the best person for it; 
    • why you are passionate about this topic; 
    • how your existing knowledge and experience connects with it; 
    • why you want to study with SeNSS; 
    • what your long-term career plans are
    • how a SeNSS studentship will help you achieve these.

The project commitment statement and personal statement are documents that would also be required from SeNSS if you are successful – so please ensure these are standalone relative to the project summary.