writing a research proposal

Writing your research proposal is an important element of your application for postgraduate research study with us.

Here are some tips to help you prepare a successful application.

What is a research proposal?

A research proposal is a concise summary of your proposed research that sets out the key issues or questions you plan to address. This is an opportunity to demonstrate the originality of your proposal by outlining the general area of study that your research falls under and referencing the current knowledge on this topic.

Your proposal is a chance to prove your ability to communicate complex ideas clearly, concisely and critically. It also helps us in The Graduate School to match your research interest with the right supervisor.

How long should my research proposal be?

Your research proposal should be approximately four sides of A4.

If you are applying to a specific funding body, please check its requirements as to word counts, which may be different to ours.

Research proposal template

What should you include in your research proposal? Use our recommended template below to get you started:

1. Working title

You can change your title once you get started on your project, but we recommend you sum up your proposed idea with a working title at this stage.

2. Research context

This explains the context in which you will conduct your research. Show how familiar you are with the field by including a brief overview of the general area of study, summarising the current state of knowledge and recent debates on the topic.

3. Research questions

What are the central aims and questions that will guide your research? Before writing your proposal, it is a good idea to reflect on the key issues and questions that your work will concentrate on. This will help to make sure your project is sufficiently focused for you to complete it within the time limits.

We also recommend outlining the approach you intend to take in answering your research questions: for example, will it be empirical, doctrinal or theoretical?

4. Research methods

What are the methods you plan use to conduct your research? This could include accessing specific archives or libraries, field work or interviews.

If your proposed research is library-based, explain where your key resources (for example, law reports and journal articles) are located. If you plan on doing field work or collecting empirical data, provide details about this (for example, if you want to do interviews, who you will interview and how many interviews you will do). You should also explain how you are going to analyse your research findings.

5. Significance of your research

Tell us why your proposed research is original and important. How will it add to existing knowledge in the field? Why is it timely to research your proposed topic?

6. Scale and scope of the proposed research

You will need to outline how you will be able to complete on time.

7. Bibliography

Be sure to include a short bibliography citing the most relevant works for your topic.

Funded Phds and studentships

Did you know? You can actually get paid to study your area of interest.

Funded PhD opportunities across our academic schools give you the chance to work on a specific research project and have your fees funded by our university and/or an external partner organisation. They may also include a bursary.

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The graduate school

Realise your research ambitions and influence the future for everyone

At The Graduate School, our specialist team aim to foster an environment for a high quality postgraduate study experience. Facilitating collaboration and innovation, our staff support scholars and researchers in the delivery of research excellence and real world impact.

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