How to Write a PhD Research Proposal

 A crucial part of the PhD application is the PhD research proposal. It is one of the key criteria that is used to differentiate between different applicants and to make decisions on whether to make offers of acceptance onto the doctoral programme. This page provides guidance on how to write a research proposal, with a few suggestions on what to include and what to avoid. 

What is a PhD Proposal?

A PhD proposal is an outline of your proposed research that is designed to: • Formulate and define a clear, interesting research question; this may take the form of a hypothesis to be tested, or a open-ended enquiry 

• Establish the relevance and value of the proposed research question in the context of current academic thinking, highlighting its originality and significance 

Outline a clear and practical methodology which enables you to answer the research question, and to describe and evaluate any data or source material you will draw upon 

• Suggest what you hope to discover at the end of your research and what new areas it might open up 

Provide a provisional timeline of your PhD research proposal

Before making your final application is likely that you will need to revise your proposal several times so as to make sure that it is clearly written, well structured, presents a good review of existing literature, outlines the methodology be used, and explains the significance of your proposed research. 

What is the PhD Research Proposal For?

 Postgraduate Research and potential supervisors use research proposals to assess the quality and originality of your ideas, your skills in critical thinking and the feasibility of the research project.  Think carefully about the scope of your research and be prepared to explain how you will complete it within the timeframe.  

Research proposals are also used to assess your expertise in the area in which you want to conduct research, your knowledge of the existing literature and how your proposed project will enhance it. Moreover, they are used to assess and assign appropriate supervision teams.   

We encourage you to identify a potential prospective supervisor and get in touch with them to discuss your proposal before making an formal application, to ensure it is of mutual interest and to gain input on the design, scope and feasibility of your project.   

However, it is important to remember that we can make no guarantee in advance that your application will be accepted or that you will be supervised by a specific academic.

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