If you are applying for a PhD programme, you need to submit a research proposal with your application. The proposal helps an academic school or department establish whether it has the expertise to support your proposed area of PhD study. It will also be used in assessing the overall quality of your application.


A typical research proposal

  • is read by academics with an interest in your field (please note, some schools may not have academics whose interests match your own)
  • ranges from 1,000 to 3,000 words
  • is judged both on content and proposal format

A research proposal should:


What should a research proposal contain:


While the actual empirical work you undertake may differ to your proposal, it is essential you have an understanding of the issues associated with conducting research and the potential to design a research study to address a specific set of issues.
You can still make changes to your proposal once you have been accepted for a research degree, however as it is the foundation of your working relationship with your supervisor, it cannot be radically altered without discussion and consultation.