PhD Student Information

ISTR's 5th International PhD Seminar was held online July 5-10, 2020

ISTR is pleased to have been able to continue with its 5th International PhD Seminar online.  We are exceptionally thankful to the faculty who facilitated the small group sessions and provided valuable feedback to the students.








ISTR’s 5th International PhD Seminar

Reflection by Avadh Bihari, PhD Student, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India

"The 2020 ISTR PhD Seminar has made its place in the history for going online for the first time, due to the spread of Covid-19 across the world. I was very excited when I got the news in 2019 that I had been selected for the 5thInternational PhD Seminar scheduled in July 2020 in Montreal, Canada. My happiness doubled when I heard my paper had been accepted........."(read more)

Reflection by Enos Kitambo, PhD Student, Makerere University, Uganda

"My worry was how to successfully engage virtually with poor rural network connection.  Without hesitation I relocated to town to seek internet connectivity to capture the benefit from this rare opportunity.  It was the first-ever international virtual meeting in my life connecting with peers from all continents.  It all started with procuring a modem, setting zoom audios and videos, and praying that the electric power would not disappoint me...." (read more)

Reflection by Keratiloe Mogotsi, PhD Student, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

"Covid 19 did not rob us of the opportunity to receive scholarly interaction and feedback on our work.  One of my faculty members (Stefan Einarsson) actually took out more time to give me an individual consultation and provide more assistance on my concerns and the feedback that had been provided during my session. This was over and above the 1hr 30 mins session I had. This encouraged me greatly and gave me guidance on how I should proceed in a smart manner and cater for any scholarly arguments that could come about in future...." (read more

Reflection by Aleksander Bosic, Department of Social Work and Sociology, University of Agder, Norway 

"It was vital for me to be surrounded by a group of people who have similar research interests because we as PhD students can often feel quite isolated with our challenging work topics. After an active and inspirational week, I felt that I had finally found my “tribe” of peers and established scholars with similar research interests that I have been seeking for so long. I am thrilled to be a part of the vibrant and diverse ISTR community and am looking forward to having the chance to meet my fellow PhD colleagues in person next year at the conference in Montreal and hearing more about the progress of their amazing projects....." (read more)



The call for applications for the 6th International PhD Seminar will be forthcoming.  


Call for Applications for the 5th International PhD Seminar 

Deadline to apply: September 30, 2019 - Applications Closed


The ISTR PhD Seminar is open for applications to all enrolled doctoral students in the field of third sector and civil society research, across the different regions in the world, and at all stages of their doctoral research.

The aim of the workshop is to provide doctoral students with the opportunity to engage with senior scholars and peers in extensive intellectual and methodological discussion on their doctoral research, to discuss the main theories and developments in the field, to reflect upon publication and career strategies, and to provide a unique opportunity to network within the international ISTR research community and civil society in general.

The seminar is limited to a group of (up to) 50 doctoral students.  Applicants must become members of ISTR for 2020/2021 and must register and attend the ISTR International Conference in Montréal. Students are encouraged to submit abstracts to the main conference (see the call here: Past participants in ISTR International and Regional PhD Seminars are welcome to apply.

About the PhD Seminar

Central to the PhD Seminar are the parallel small group sessions in which the participants have the opportunity to discuss their doctoral research with peers and senior faculty.  Students do not need to prepare a paper or a PowerPoint presentation.  Rather, in these sessions, students will provide brief overviews of their research and will then spend most of their allotted time soliciting feedback from others that will strengthen students’ PhD work.  Participants will be grouped thematically, but the group composition will be heterogeneous in terms of concrete research topics, disciplinary background, research stage, method, and regional affiliation.  

The seminars also offer plenary sessions and professional development workshops with presentations by leading scholars in the field.

Additionally, the PhD Seminar will feature the 3-Minute Thesis Competition. Participation is voluntary, but strongly encouraged.  In this competition, students will have 3 minutes to present their research using 1 PowerPoint slide to illustrate their presentation.  It is not permitted to read from a prepared text. This light-hearted competition encourages students to practice sharing ideas in a clear and compelling manner, which is one important aspect of good research. Compelling presentations can be serious or humorous; the key is engaging the audience in the question at hand.  The winner will be awarded a monetary prize and will be asked to make their presentation at a plenary in the main conference.

ISTR has hosted several PhD Seminars in the past.  The student reflections in these links may be of interest: Amsterdam 2018Amsterdam 2018,   Munster 2014 and Stockholm 2016Munster 2014

Participation Costs

ISTR will cover two nights of accommodation in shared room (Sunday July 5 and Monday July 6) for all accepted students.

ISTR will cover coffee breaks and meals during the Seminar. 

Students are responsible for travel costs to and from Montreal, ISTR membership fees for 2020/2021, and ISTR Conference fees (student attendance required).

Travel and/or hotel subsidies for a limited number of PhD Seminar participants may be available pending further notice.

ISTR will offer ISTR conference registration subsidies. Applications will be accepted for these in January/February 2020. Please check back for updates.

Eligibility and selection criteria

To be eligible for participation in the PhD Seminar, applicants should be:

A doctoral student [all stages of the doctoral research are allowed]

Conducting research in the field of third sector and civil society [all academic disciplines are invited]

Able to participate in the entire PhD Seminar as well as the full ISTR Conference

Be prepared to present and discuss their doctoral work with peers and faculty, and to participate in an active and constructive way in group discussions

Read the full Call for Applications

More information: contact Megan Haddock, ISTR Program Manager at



2020 Emerging Scholar Dissertation Award

The International Society for Third-Sector Research (ISTR) is pleased to announce the ISTR 2020 Emerging Scholar Dissertation Award.  This award is presented biennially for a PhD dissertation completed or defended in the two calendar years (July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2019) preceding the award. Self-nominations are accepted.

To submit your application, click here.

Dissertations that contribute to the field of comparativestudy of civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), philanthropy, voluntarism and related issues are eligible.  We encourage submissions of PhD dissertations from all parts of the world.  Dissertations focused exclusively on the United States are not eligible.

The winner will be announced and the award will be given at the ISTR 14th International Conference in Montreal, Canada, which will be held July 7-10, 2020. The award is US $1,000.

Dissertations may be submitted in English, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Applications must include:

  • Letter of acceptance for the degree
  • A summary of the dissertation that clearly states: the dissertation's subject matter, research question(s) addressed, the approach taken, key finding(s), and the dissertation’s specific contribution(s) to the field. This needs to be in English and not exceed 1,000 words in total (i.e. including any references, etc.). Submissions that do not comply with this word limit will not be considered.
  • One full copy of the dissertation

Deadline: Dissertations and accompanying materials must be submitted prior to January 15, 2020.

Entries will be judged by a committee based on the following:

  • The dissertation’s contribution to the study of, knowledge on, and understanding of the Third Sector and/or related fields
  • The dissertation potential to influence new thinking on the Third Sector and/or related fields


Regional PhD Seminars

In addition to our international PhD Seminars, ISTR hosts regional PhD Seminars in connection with our regional conferences and regional network events.  Click below to read about the three held in 2019 and watch the videos of the 3-minute thesis contest winners.


Africa PhD Seminar

MAY 14-15, 2019

Johannesburg, South Africa

Hosted by the Africa Centre for Philanthropy and Social Investment at the Wits Business School


LAC PhD Seminar

JULY 2-3, 2019

Medellín, Colombia

Hosted by Universidad EAFIT


 Congratulations to the winner of the ISTR LAC PhD Seminar 3-minute winner Daniel Diaz from (Chile and then) the University of Manchester.


Asia Pacific PhD Seminar 

JULY 13-14, 2019

Bangkok, Thailand

Hosted by the National Institute of Development Administration


Congratulations to the winner of the ISTR Asia Pacific PhD Seminar 3-minute thesis winner Qianjin Zhang from the University of Melbourne!







To read news and impressions from our 2012, 2014, 2016 & 2018 Seminars, please click here


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International Society for Third-Sector Research
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Baltimore, MD 21209

Tel:   410-735-4221
Fax:   410-735-4201

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