Preparing a research proposal

As part of the application for admission all MPhil and PhD students must prepare a research proposal outlining their proposed area of study.

The aim of the proposal is to determine your area of research interest so you can be matched with an appropriate supervisor, and to give you an opportunity to demonstrate to us that you have the aptitude to undertake doctoral level research. It is the most important document submitted as part of your application, so we strongly encourage you to spend time preparing it and to take into account these guidelines.

Proposal guidelines

We understand that your proposal will be indicative at this stage. If you have not already identified a possible supervisor, before writing your proposal it is advisable to look at our staff profiles and check on the research interests of academic staff in our departments to see if they match your interests. 

Your research proposal should be no longer than 1,000-1,250 words (3 or 4 sides of A4) and contain the following information:

  • your name
  • proposed programme of study
  • tentative title of thesis
  • proposed supervisor (if known)

You should also include:

  • Aims and objectives - set out the central aims and research questions that guide your research. What hypothesis or argument are you trying to explore and what questions are you trying to answer? When outlining your questions try to prioritise one or two central questions from which you can derive secondary ones.
  • Rationale - contextualise your questions/aims in a broader field of study, identifying the main literature that you are addressing. You need to explain why your research questions/hypotheses are important and topical.
  • Methodology - explain how you are going to conduct your research; what information you would need, how you would collect it and how you are going to analyse it. This need only be indicative at the moment.
  • Timeline – You don’t need to produce a detailed time plan, but it is helpful to provide a summary of what you are planning to do and when. You will be expected to submit your thesis within three years (six years for part-time students) so it is important you have a feasible timeline. This section is especially important if you are proposing to undertake case study work or fieldwork.
  • Bibliography – a short bibliography of relevant works in your research area. 

Further information

You are very welcome to visit the department and talk to potential research supervisors and meet one of our current students. If you would like to do this please contact the Graduate Research Team with a selection of possible dates, your research interests, and any members of staff you would particularly like to meet.

Phone: +44(0) 1392 724490
Web: Enquire online