Writing a research proposal

For some research degree applications, you may be asked to provide a research proposal. Follow our guidance on how to structure your proposal and what to include.

Although your proposal will be assessed by academics who are experts in their field, please keep in mind that they may not be the only academics involved in the selection process, so your proposal should be comprehensible to a broad academic audience.

Aims/research interests

The aims should outline the purposes of the research you wish to undertake with reference to the general field and/or discipline you wish to examine.

Contribution to academia

You should outline how your research will contribute to existing knowledge of your research area, discipline or field.

Explain why your research is valuable

Include the rationale for your research and demonstrate why your contribution is interesting or valuable – if similar research has been done before, include references in your proposal and explain why a new approach necessary. Alternatively, if your research fills a gap in the literature, outline the sources that currently exist and why this gap in knowledge should be filled.

Discuss the sources

Outline which sources of data you will use to complete your analysis. Be explicit if you can and confirm whether you will make use of published/unpublished data, archival or policy documents. If you intend to conduct field work, you should give details. In all cases, you should assess how feasible it will be to gain access to these sources.

Explain your research methods

You should include a discussion of the research methods you will use to analyse your sources, for example: sampling, surveys or interviews, data collection, discourse analysis or another method.

Share your study skills

It is useful to provide an outline of your study skills, including research and analysis techniques, language ability, familiarity coordinating interviews, experience processing data and/or any other skills that may be of value when undertaking your research.

Before you start

The desired length of the proposal can vary from as little as 500 words to over 5,000 words, so you should check the application details for your school or department before you start.

The information on this page is intended as a guide only. 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/project you are applying to by contacting the school or department directly.

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

Contact us

If you have a question about your research proposal, please contact the academic supervisors who will be overseeing the project. If you are unsure who to contact, you can find a list of contact details in the online prospectus.