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How to Write PhD Concept Paper Assignment?

Table of Contents

A PhD concept paper is a paper written by a PhD aspirant to summarize the research project for the benefit of the dissertation committee that examines the validity of the project across at least four dimensions. They are:

  • Does the candidate present his research aims and objectives clearly?
  • Has the candidate shown his or her proficiency in understanding the theoretical aspect of the research area?
  • Does the candidate show a clear understanding of the research methodology which is selected to answer the research questions formulated in the concept paper?
  • Is the contribution original? Does it make a relevant contribution to the larger field of research?

Sounds serious? No need to worry as now brings you a complete guide to writing a PhD concept paper .

How to Write PhD Concept Paper Assignment

Understanding the ‘concept’ behind a concept paper

A concept paper is like a proposal which is submitted to the PhD committee in order to seek its approval for starting the research project. A candidate must be able to convince the committee through its concept paper that:

  • He or she is capable of handling the research project
  • He or she has a good command over all the theoretical and practical aspects of the research to be undertaken
  • He or she willread the relevant secondary literature on the subject and is cognizant of the debates in his or her area of specialization
  • Finally the research will make an original contribution to the field of study.

Timeline for a PhD concept paper

Each country has its own set of rules for PhD. For instance, in the US, a PhD takes anywhere between 5 to 7 years of study. This includes one to two years of coursework or graduate study along with independent research for the rest of the time period under the supervision of a professor. However, this set of rules is applicable only for science and humanities subjects. For MBA and law, separate set of rules is followed. The time limit for a PhD project in management and law is typically shorter.

A PhD concept paper is usually submitted at the end of the coursework and before the beginning of the independent research work. By that time, the student must have a clear idea about the research topic, the research question he is going to undertake and the research methodology he is going to follow.

Components of a PhD concept paper

A concept paper must contain all the major components of a proposal. The major parts include:

1. Introduction :

Introduction or exposition is the most crucial property of your concept paper. It introduces the topic of research and narrates an introductory account of your research. There are few tips you must keep in mind while writing a concept paper:

  • Never make an introduction lengthy
  • Avoid writing convoluted sentences which can confuse your readers
  • After making few general comments, come straight to the point
  • Try to avoid errors (proofing or factual) since they create a negative impression on your readers
  • Try not to make any ambitious claims while writing your introduction. Keep your aims and objectives realistic.

2. Research aims or objectives :

Next, we come to the research aim. A research aim is a statement which justifies the very purpose of conducting the research. Research aim should be clear and unambiguous. It is best not to make any grandiloquent statement which defies the purpose of carrying the research. Here are a couple of things which you must keep in mind:

  • Research aim should be clear to you. If you are not convinced about your own project no one else will be either
  • The written statement should reflect your personal conviction
  • You should be able to justify the validity of the project and let your committee know why conducting a research work on the mentioned subject is so important.

3. Research question :

A research question must contain the gist of your argument. It can either be framed as a question or may be formulated as a statement. Here is the way forward:

  • Try framing a question that summarizes the whole project in one or two lines
  • The research question or statement (if you prefer to call it that) must not contain the details of your research. Those may come later
  • Finally, the research question must contain the essence of the project.

4. Research methodology :

Methodology refers to the method or the set of methods which you would be using while writing your PhD dissertation. They are the tools which you would be using in order to conduct your research. A variety of tools are now available. You can choose from the following list:

  • Interviews – Interviews are usually preferred tools of research in subjects like psychology, marketing, sociology, anthropology etc. They reveal the insights into the psychological aspects of human behaviour.
  • Questionnaires – This method is preferred when a behavioral pattern is to be noted among a number of respondents. This method is preferred in subjects like psychoanalysis which analyses various patterns of human behavior.
  • Surveys – When quantitative data is preferred from a large number of respondents (typically a large sample group), then surveys are used. Sample surveys are preferred in marketing, statistics, demography etc.
  • Theoretical analysis – It is preferred in subjects like philosophy, languages, comparative literature and cultural studies. Theoretical analysis tries to grapple with a problem by using a set of existing theories.
  • Lab based experiments – Almost all science based subjects prefer laboratory experiments. Scientific hypotheses are established on the basis of direct inference on the basis of the findings of a lab based research.
  • Archival research – An archive is a place where old historical documents are kept. Historical research often requires analysis on the basis of a thorough exploration of the archive.

5. Chapter structure :

Your concept proposal must contain the skeleton of all the proposed chapters and the major points of research you are about to undertake in that chapter. Here is a list of things you might consider while preparing the chapter summaries:

  • No details are required since the chief aim is to give an idea about what the research is all about
  • Chapters summaries should be brief and to the point
  • Each chapter summary must contain its own research question that it seeks to answer.

6. Bibliography and References :

Although concept paper does not require a detailed list of works consulted or to be consulted, a small bibliography appended to the paper cannot hurt. If anything, it is sure to impress your committee. Beware of certain things though:

  • Never mention books which you have not read or do not plan to read. You would be asked questions on them
  • Always mention the primary reference texts which are essential for your research
  • Secondary reference works or works which are not directly related may be mentioned briefly
  • Try to stick to the standard referencing styles. You may choose from the following:
  • Harvard referencing style which incorporates the name of the author along with the publication date within the text
  • Chicago style which includes the reference details as foot notes or endnotes
  • MLA style which includes just names and page numbers within the text.

Writing a concept paper

Now that you are well aware of how to write a paper , here is how you should proceed.

  • Think of a research topic. You may come up with an original idea or can come up with the same by consulting your supervisor
  • Read the primary and secondary texts to have an idea of the subject
  • Set a time table of preparing a concept paper
  • After you have written the first draft, show it to your supervisor to make necessary changes
  • Incorporate the changes in your paper
  • Give it a thorough reading for detecting possible proofing errors
  • Submit and wait for your interview.
  • Your committee will go through the copy and make useful suggestions. Once they are done, they give the green signal to the project.

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Hi, I am Mark, a Literature writer by profession. Fueled by a lifelong passion for Literature, story, and creative expression, I went on to get a PhD in creative writing. Over all these years, my passion has helped me manage a publication of my write ups in prominent websites and e-magazines. I have also been working part-time as a writing expert for for 5+ years now. It’s fun to guide students on academic write ups and bag those top grades like a pro. Apart from my professional life, I am a big-time foodie and travel enthusiast in my personal life. So, when I am not working, I am probably travelling places to try regional delicacies and sharing my experiences with people through my blog. 


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How to Write a Concept Paper for a PhD: A 10-Step Guide

Adela Belin

Table of contents

You’re ready to enroll for your Ph.D. studies but feeling anxious. You don’t know whether your application will be accepted or what it would take to be accepted.

Aside from your academic qualifications, a concept paper is one of the most critical determinants. If you’re planning to pursue a Ph.D., you need to learn how to write an effective concept paper to convince your professors.

Writing a concept paper requires strong analytical skills, advanced research knowledge, and excellent writing skills.

This blog post will give you a step-by-step guide on how to write a concept paper for a Ph.D. to get you a step closer to becoming a doctor of philosophy.

What is a concept paper for Ph.D.?

A concept paper for a Ph.D. is a written statement outlining the objectives and concepts of a proposed research study. It acts as an introduction to your dissertation or full thesis.

It is also an important part of the application process for Ph.D. programs and helps the admissions committee evaluate a student's research potential.

It typically includes background information on the topic to be studied, an overview of existing research, and the proposed research design. It also highlights potential results from the proposed study and their practical applications.

Ultimately, concept papers for Ph.D. programs help determine whether a student is qualified to pursue doctoral-level work in their chosen field.

How long is a Ph.D. concept paper?

The length of your concept paper will depend on your field of study and the requirements set by your university. Generally speaking, most universities expect concept papers to be between 3-5 pages long. Some papers may be longer or shorter depending on how much detail your project entails.

Key takeaways

A concept paper for Ph.D. includes:

  • Background information on the topic;
  • Overview of existing research;
  • Proposed research design;
  • Potential results from the study;
  • Practical applications of the study.

How to Write a Concept Paper for Ph.D.?

An effective concept paper will help you get approval from your professor or adviser to begin your doctoral work.

What are the characteristics of a good concept paper?

A good concept paper should present an idea or topic in a clear and concise manner. It should provide an overview of what the research project will cover and explain why it’s important.

Additionally, it should highlight any potential implications of the research study and how they can be addressed or minimized. The goal of the paper is to convince the reader that your proposed project is worth pursuing and that it contributes new knowledge to your field of study.

What are the 5 elements of a concept paper?

The five elements of a concept paper are:

  • Background;
  • Purpose statement;
  • Problem statement;
  • Research questions or hypotheses;
  • Significance or implications for practice.

These elements work together to provide a comprehensive overview of your proposed research project and show why it’s worth pursuing.

Here are the steps to write an outstanding concept paper that stands no chance of being rejected.

1. Define the title and purpose of your study

The first step in writing a concept paper is defining the title and purpose of your study. What will your research be about? And what are you trying to accomplish through it?

The title and purpose of your study will set the foundation for your concept paper. This part should be concise and clear so that readers understand the basis and significance of your research. When formulating the title, ensure it accurately reflects the main focus of your entire research study.

2. Describe the background and scope of your study

The next step is to provide an overview of the background information of your study topic and explain how it relates to your proposed project.

When describing the background of your study, you need to provide some context about why this topic is important enough to warrant academic inquiry.

Highlight any existing studies or theories related to your topic so that readers understand why you have chosen it as part of your dissertation research.

3. Identify the problem statement

Next, identify a problem statement that outlines what issue or gap in the knowledge you are attempting to address through your research project. Every good concept paper should include a well thought problem statement.

Your problem statement should be precise and concise so readers can easily understand what they can expect from reading further.

Here, you should make it clear why there’s a need for further investigation in your chosen field and how your research will contribute new insights into existing knowledge.

4. List your goals and objectives

Now that you’ve established your problem statement, you need to outline the specific goals and objectives that will guide you through your research.

Here, you outline what steps you’ll take and what specifically you hope to achieve in every stage of the study. This could mean anything from creating new theories, testing existing theories or models, exploring the techniques used in other studies, etc.

Your goals and objectives will give the readers a heads-up about what outcomes they can expect from the project.

Ensure whatever goals and objectives you list are measurable and achievable within the scope of your research study.

5. Formulate research questions

Next, formulate detailed research questions (and accompanying hypotheses) based on the topic you plan to explore.

These questions should include the variables you plan to manipulate or measure during data collection. Ensure the questions are clear and written in simple language so readers can understand what you’ll address through the study.

Also, don’t forget to create hypotheses for every research question you write. These are specific claims that will act as the starting points for further inquiry and potential conclusions for the study.

6. Explain the theoretical framework of the study

Once you’ve formulated your research questions, the next step is to explain the theoretical framework or foundational concept of the study.

Identify and briefly explain the theories that inspired you and connect them back to your intended study.

This will set out the context of your project and show that you’ve read and understood existing knowledge on the subject. This theoretical knowledge will come in handy if your application is accepted.

7. Write the literature review

The next step is to write the literature review . Here, you identify information and existing knowledge from previous studies and other published articles.

Your literature review should also include summaries or reviews of key texts related to your topic. You can get information for this section from peer-reviewed articles and online journals like OpenDOAR and CORE.

Remember, all the facts, statistics, and other relevant information must be accompanied by appropriate citations and references.

8. Describe the proposed research methodology

After writing the literature review, go ahead and describe the research design and methodology you’ll be employing.

Some of the critical details to include in this section include:

  • What data collection methods you’ll use? (e.g., surveys, interviews, or questionnaires).
  • How many participants will form your sample size?
  • What data analysis methods will you use? (e.g., qualitative versus quantitative).

Be sure to highlight any ethical considerations involved in your research methodology. For instance, explain the informed consent procedures you’ll use if your research involves human participation.

Also, explain how you’ll minimize the potential risks associated with participating in your research activities.

9. Explain the significance of the study (and its implications)

Now that you’ve explained the methodology, it’s time to let the readers understand why this study is important and why it makes a significant contribution to existing research.

Additionally, explain how this study will impact theory development and its significance for policymakers or practitioners in your field of study.

You should also discuss any potential implications of conducting this research (e.g., ethical considerations or political ramifications).

10. Include references/bibliography

Finally, include references or a bibliography at the end of your concept paper to build credibility for your research paper.

A bibliography enables you to give credit where it belongs by recognizing the owners of your reference materials.

Ensure you format references properly according to the style specified by the institution you’re applying to. This could be for example APA , MLA, or  Harvard referencing style .

What is the difference between a concept paper and a research paper?

A concept paper outlines what you plan to do (in future tense), while a research paper explains what you did (in past tense) after completing your research project. In other words, a concept paper serves as an introduction to your research, while a research paper provides evidence-based results from experiments conducted during your study.

Final thoughts

The thought of writing a concept paper for your Ph.D. can be intimidating at first. However, once you know the right approach to take and invest enough time, the writing process becomes hassle-free.

Start by brainstorming your ideas, researching related topics, and creating an outline. Also, ensure you clearly define your concept and know the exact approach you’ll be taking. This way, you won’t find yourself stuck when your concept paper has been approved for further research.

After completing the paper, revise it to ensure everything is clear and accurate with no typos. In the end, you’ll have an excellent concept paper that will pave the way for you to pursue your doctoral studies.

If you need help writing a concept paper for your Ph.D., turn to Writers Per Hour for assistance. With expert Doctoral writers on the team, we can draft a compelling concept paper that is 100% original and written from scratch as per your requirements.

Last edit at Jul 27 2023

Adela Belin

Adela Belin

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  1. How to Write a PhD Concept Paper Sample in Easy Steps

    1. Introduction: 2. Research aims or objectives: 3. Research question: 4. Research methodology: 5. Chapter structure: 6. Bibliography and References: Writing a concept paper Learn to write a PhD concept paper with Related Blogs:

  2. Guidelines of Concept Paper Development by PhD Applicants

    1. INTRODUCTION A concept paper is meant to give the university an informed idea of the applicant’s areas of research interest in order to avail the necessary assistance for them to develop a full research proposal and allocate supervisors to give the necessary assistance. Applicants should therefore be as specific as possible.

  3. How to Write a Concept Paper for a PhD: A 10-Step Guide

    A concept paper for a Ph.D. is a written statement outlining the objectives and concepts of a proposed research study. It acts as an introduction to your dissertation or full thesis. It is also an important part of the application process for Ph.D. programs and helps the admissions committee evaluate a student's research potential.

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    Postgraduate Concept Paper Template A concept paper is meant to give your Department an idea of your area of research interest in order to avail the necessary assistance for you to develop a research proposal. Be as specific as possible in providing information Title of Proposed Study: Area of Study:

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    Example of a title: Example of a title with a sub-title Background to the study Statement of the problem Goal and objectives of the study Research questions and hypotheses Preliminary literature review Proposed research design, methods and procedures Contribution to knowledge References/bibliography Final Thoughts on Writing a PhD Concept Paper

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    Concept Paper •First of three dissertation benchmarks •Is worth 2 credits •Typically 10-12 pages (excluding title page and references) •Presents student’s proposed research agenda •Represents the first 3 chapters of the dissertation