Postgraduate study

How to write a research proposal

Need advice on how to develop your research proposal? You’ve come to the right place. Read on for advice and information on what you should include.

What is a research proposal?

A research proposal is a short document that summarises the research you want to undertake. It will outline the question you intend to address, the subject background, your proposed research methods, and, importantly, will demonstrate how your research is original, and what it will contribute to the current understanding in the subject. You may also be required to include a bibliography, and your CV.

How to develop your research proposal?

If you’ve never written a research proposal before, it can be pretty daunting. To make sure you have all the support and information you need to write a successful research proposal, we’ve provided some advice and information you might find useful below.

Your initial research proposal should usually be:

  • approximately 500 words
  • include an outline of your research interests
  • your initial thoughts about a topic
  • references to previous work
  • the methodology and general approach you wish to take

You should also indicate how this research will make an original contribution to knowledge.

Some schools/departments require you to complete a more detailed proposal before they can make a final decision on your application. Check to see if this applies to the department you are applying to.

If you know the department you wish to work in, but do not have a particular supervisor in mind, then you can contact the department’s administrator who will be able to help.

If you do not have a firm research proposal, you should still provide as much information as possible with your application including possible topic areas, and intended source(s) of funding.

Applying for studentship?

If you wish to apply for a studentship, you do not need to develop a research proposal; instead please quote the studentship reference number on your application.