Geography and Environment

Postgraduate research

Preparing a proposal

Although your proposal will be assessed by subject specialists, please bear in mind that non-specialists are also involved in the admissions process and that decisions about studentship awards are likely to be taken by academics from different disciplinary backgrounds.  You should ensure, therefore, that the aims, structure and outline content of the proposed research are comprehensible to a broad academic audience.  

Proposals are likely to take different forms, but you will be expected to situate your research within relevant scholarly literatures and to provide a full reference list.  In particular, the proposal should include:

  1. A statement of aims which outlines the purposes of the research with reference to the general field and/or problematic you wish to examine.
  2. The contribution that the research intends to make to existing knowledge.
  3. A rationale for the research which demonstrates why the intended contribution is interesting or valuable – if similar research has been done, why is a new approach necessary; if your research fills a gap in the literature, why should it be filled?
  4. A discussion of the theoretical approach and/or the conceptual framework or analysis. You should indicate here what the primary structure of the research will be and what issues/concepts/ ideas/ policies or events will be discussed or analysed within it. If you intend to work to a hypothesis, you should state what this is.
  5. A reflection on methodology which shows how the assumptions of the research will be addressed in the analysis and why they are appropriate to it.
  6. A discussion of the sources – eg. interviews/published or unpublished data/archival or policy documents.  If you intend to conduct field work you should give details.  In all cases you should be as specific as you can and assess the possibility of access to relevant sources.
  7. A discussion of the research methods you will use to analyse your sources – eg. sampling, survey or interview design, data collection, discourse analysis.
  8. An indication of your study skills: necessary language competence, familiarity with interview techniques/data processing etc.  
  9. A provisional chapter plan which shows how you intend to develop the argument of the thesis.
  10. A provisional research plan which indicates how you intend to schedule necessary research methods training/field or archival work/data design or collection.