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Examples of research proposals

How to write your research proposal, with examples of good proposals.

Research proposals

Your research proposal is a key part of your application. It tells us about the question you want to answer through your research. It is a chance for you to show your knowledge of the subject area and tell us about the methods you want to use.

We use your research proposal to match you with a supervisor or team of supervisors.

In your proposal, please tell us if you have an interest in the work of a specific academic at York St John. You can get in touch with this academic to discuss your proposal. You can also speak to one of our Research Leads. There is a list of our Research Leads on the Apply page.

When you write your proposal you need to:

  • Highlight how it is original or significant
  • Explain how it will develop or challenge current knowledge of your subject
  • Identify the importance of your research
  • Show why you are the right person to do this research
  • Research Proposal Example 1 (DOC, 49kB)
  • Research Proposal Example 2 (DOC, 0.9MB)
  • Research Proposal Example 3 (DOC, 55.5kB)
  • Research Proposal Example 4 (DOC, 49.5kB)

Subject specific guidance

  • Writing a Humanities PhD Proposal (PDF, 0.1MB)
  • Writing a Creative Writing PhD Proposal (PDF, 0.1MB)
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Writing a research proposal

two girls looking at a laptop

The research proposal is the main way in which we evaluate the quality of your research plans. You should aim to make your proposal about 1500-2000 words long.

Your proposal should include the following:

The title indicates the overall question or topic of the PhD. It should include any key concepts, empirical focus, or lines of inquiry that you aim to pursue, and it should be concise and descriptive. You can normally discuss changes in the title with your supervisor(s) should you be successful but it is important to try to choose a clear and engaging title.

Research questions

What are the questions or problems for politics or international relations that you are trying to understand and solve? In explaining these, it will be helpful to spell out what else we need to know in order to understand why you are framing the problem this way.

Research aims

In answering these questions, what will your research project do? What will it shed light on or help us to understand that we don’t really understand better?


Why this project? Explain why your project is interesting, what its broader implications are, and – if you think this is relevant – why you are particularly well placed to tackle it. It is also valuable to reflect on who has worked on the topic before and to provide a brief literature review. Are there any good approaches to the topic, or particular articles or books, that you are drawing on or bad ones you want to push back against?

What are the sources you plan to use to answer your research questions? These will vary according to the nature of your research but may include study of particular texts, interviews, published or unpublished data, archival or policy documents, or field site visits, among others. Try to be as specific as you can and assess the possibility of access to relevant sources.

This includes thinking about the research methods you will use to analyse empirical sources (e.g., sampling, survey or interview design, data collection, discourse analysis) but may also include setting out the kind of theoretical framework you will employ or your approach to history or political ideas. What prior knowledge and skills do you bring to the project? What extra training may you need?

Structure and timetable

Include a provisional chapter structure and timetable to completion, covering the three years of the full-time programme or six years of the part-time programme, as appropriate.

To help you with your application here are some examples of PhD proposals which were successful in obtaining funding:  PhD sample research proposal 1 (PDF , 96kb) PhD sample research proposal 2 (PDF , 79kb) PhD sample research proposal 3 (PDF , 197kb)

Apply for a PhD now

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Writing a research proposal

Guidelines on preparing a thesis proposal to support your application.

Student in seminar typing on laptop

These guidelines are intended to assist you in developing and writing a thesis proposal. Applications for admission to a research degree cannot be dealt with unless they contain a proposal.

Your proposal will help us to make sure that:

  • The topic is viable
  • That the department can provide appropriate supervision and other necessary support
  • You have thought through your interest in and commitment to a piece of research
  • You are a suitable candidate for admission

The process of producing a proposal is usually also essential if you need to apply for funding to pay your fees or support yourself whilst doing your research. Funding bodies will often need to be reassured that you are committed to a viable project at a suitable university.

The research proposal – an outline

Your proposal should be typed double-spaced, if possible, and be between 1,000 and 2,000 words. Your PhD proposal can be added under the 'Supporting Documents' section of the Postgraduate Applications Online System .

Your proposal should contain at least the following elements:

  • A provisional title
  • A key question, hypothesis or the broad topic for investigation
  • An outline of the key aims of the research
  • A brief outline of key literature in the area [what we already know]
  • A description of the topic and an explanation of why further research in the area is important [the gap in the literature - what we need to know]
  • Details of how the research will be carried out, including any special facilities / resources etc. which would be required and any necessary skills which you either have already or would need to acquire [the tools that will enable us to fill the gap you have identified]
  • A plan and timetable of the work you will carry out

For more detailed information on each element of your research proposal, see our extended guidance document .

Three additional points:

  • Try to be concise. Do not write too much – be as specific as you can but not wordy. It is a difficult balance to strike.
  • Bear in mind that the proposal is a starting point. If you are registered to read for a PhD you will be able to work the proposal through with your supervisor in more detail in the early months.
  • Take a look at the Department’s staff profiles, research centres, and research clusters. Can you identify possible supervisors and intellectual support networks within the Department?

Examples of Successful PhD Proposals

  • PhD sample proposal 1
  • PhD sample proposal 2
  • PhD sample proposal 3
  • PhD sample proposal 4
  • PhD sample proposal 5
  • PhD sample proposal 6
  • PhD sample proposal 7
  • PhD sample proposal 8

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Research Proposal Example/Sample

Detailed Walkthrough + Free Proposal Template

If you’re getting started crafting your research proposal and are looking for a few examples of research proposals , you’ve come to the right place.

In this video, we walk you through two successful (approved) research proposals , one for a Master’s-level project, and one for a PhD-level dissertation. We also start off by unpacking our free research proposal template and discussing the four core sections of a research proposal, so that you have a clear understanding of the basics before diving into the actual proposals.

  • Research proposal example/sample – Master’s-level (PDF/Word)
  • Research proposal example/sample – PhD-level (PDF/Word)
  • Proposal template (Fully editable) 

If you’re working on a research proposal for a dissertation or thesis, you may also find the following useful:

  • Research Proposal Bootcamp : Learn how to write a research proposal as efficiently and effectively as possible
  • 1:1 Proposal Coaching : Get hands-on help with your research proposal

Webinar - How to write a research proposal for a dissertation or thesis

FAQ: Research Proposal Example

Research proposal example: frequently asked questions, are the sample proposals real.

Yes. The proposals are real and were approved by the respective universities.

Can I copy one of these proposals for my own research?

As we discuss in the video, every research proposal will be slightly different, depending on the university’s unique requirements, as well as the nature of the research itself. Therefore, you’ll need to tailor your research proposal to suit your specific context.

You can learn more about the basics of writing a research proposal here .

How do I get the research proposal template?

You can access our free proposal template here .

Is the proposal template really free?

Yes. There is no cost for the proposal template and you are free to use it as a foundation for your research proposal.

Where can I learn more about proposal writing?

For self-directed learners, our Research Proposal Bootcamp is a great starting point.

For students that want hands-on guidance, our private coaching service is recommended.

Literature Review Course

Psst… there’s more!

This post is an extract from our bestselling Udemy Course, Research Proposal Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .

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Example of a literature review

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example of doctoral research proposal

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Oxford PhD Proposal Sample: The Best Proposal

Oxford PhD Proposal Sample

An Oxford PhD proposal sample, like Oxford personal statement examples , should give you an idea of how to structure and write your own PhD proposal, which is a key element of how to get into grad school . Should you pursue a master's or PhD , you should know that, with few exceptions, all graduate programs require that applicants submit a research proposal. It can vary in length (usually between 1,000 and 3,000 words) and must outline your main research goals and methods and demonstrate your facility with the topic. The almost 35,000 applications Oxford received in a recent year should give you some idea of how competitive getting into a master's or PhD program is.

Writing a stellar proposal is important to make your application stand out, so, to that end, this article will show you an expert-approved Oxford PhD proposal sample based on the actual requirements of an Oxford graduate program. 

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<

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Article Contents 11 min read

Oxford phd proposal sample.

PhD Program : DPhil in Migrant Studies

Research Proposal Length: minimum 2000 - maximum 3000 words

To: Matthew J. Gibney, Professor of Politics and Forced Migration

Name: Adrian Toews

Title: Wired and Hungry Masses: Social Media, Migrants and Cultural Bereavement in the Digital Sphere

Proposed Research Topic: Does social media help migrants cross the cultural barriers of their adopted home and succeed in helping them preserve touchstones of their home culture? 

Abstract: The ascendance of social media platforms has increased and, strangely, decreased interconnectedness among disparate groups in society. But, while social media has been implicated, rightly, as a catalyst for the rise of disinformation, hate speech, and other anti-social behaviors, I would argue that its ubiquity and prevalence provide those experiencing cultural bereavement with a more-effective coping mechanism, as social media is able to replicate, in a non-physical space, the culturally specific mechanisms they know and which, prior to digital communications, could not be replicated in new, adopted countries and cultures.

Objective: I want to present social media as an informal networking tool, expressive outlet, and cultural road map with which migrants who are experiencing cultural bereavement can engage for two specific reasons: 1) to assuage the grief that accompanies anyone who has left their homeland as a migrant or refugee, and 2) to help them assimilate into their new identity by giving them a window into the cultural norms and practices of their new country or culture. 

Wondering if you should go to grad school? Watch this video:

An Oxford PhD proposal sample like this one is only one version of what a proposal can look like, but it should contain at least these basic elements. You should know how to choose a PhD topic at this point in your career, but if you still feel like you need help, then you can hire PhD admission consultants to help you choose your topic and research interests.

Above all, you should know why you want to do a PhD . Answering this question first will be effective in helping you ultimately decide on a program, which can then make it easier for you to write any number of different doctorate-related texts, such as a PhD motivation letter and a statement of intent .

Understanding your true motivations, passions, and research interests is doubly important when pursuing a PhD since you do not want to invest so much time and resources in a subject you are only partially interested in. If you can honestly answer why you want to pursue a PhD, you can then take concrete steps toward defining your research goals and how they can be fulfilled by the program you choose.

Your Oxford PhD proposal should adhere to the requirements set forth by the program you wish to enter. Regardless of your discipline or field, almost all PhD programs at Oxford require that you submit a research proposal of between 2,000 and 3,000 words. 

A statement of intent is another type of essay that applicants are often asked to submit to graduate schools. It involves talking about your past academic experiences and achievements, what you intend to do in graduate school, and why you want to go there. A PhD proposal, on the other hand, contains no personal details or experiences.

Instead, a PhD proposal should be a focused, concrete road map built around a specific research question. In your proposal, you list the theoretical approaches that you are going to use, research methods, past scholarship on the same topic, and other investigative tools to answer this question or present evidence from this research to support your argument. 

A statement of purpose is another common essay that graduate school applicants must submit. The line between a statement of purpose and a statement of intent is a fine one, but the line between a statement of purpose and a PhD proposal is much more prominent, and there is no mistaking the two. So, you should not read over graduate school statement of purpose examples to learn how to write a PhD proposal.

A statement of purpose can also be research-focused, but in an undefined way. A PhD proposal combines theory and practice and requires that you demonstrate your knowledge of proper scientific research, investigative methods, and the existing literature on your topic. 

You should include a title page where you list your name, the program you are applying to, and a title for your research project. You should address it to a specific faculty member, who can perhaps, if they agree, show you how to prepare for a thesis defense . The proposal itself should include an abstract, an overview of the existing scholarship on your topic, research questions, methods, and a bibliography listing all your sources. 

The usual length of PhD proposals is between 1,000 and 3,000 words, but your program may have different requirements, which you should always follow. 

There are up to 350 different graduate programs at Oxford, all with their own particular requirements, so the university does not set forth a universal set of requirements for all graduate programs. Many of these programs and their affiliated schools offer students advice on how to write a PhD proposal, but there are few, if any, stated requirements other than the implied ones, which are that you have familiarity with how to conduct graduate-level research and are knowledgeable in the field you are researching. 

A majority of programs do, yes. There are always exceptions, but a fundamental part of pursuing a PhD involves research and investigation, so it is normal for any PhD program to require that applicants write a PhD proposal. 

It is quite possible for your research interests and direction to change during your research, but you should not be discouraged. Graduate programs understand that these things happen, but you should still do your best to reflect the current state of research on your topic and try to anticipate any changes or sudden shifts in direction while you research. 

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example of doctoral research proposal


PhD Research Proposal Template With Examples

23/02/2023 Emily Watson

A comprehensive research proposal is one of the most important parts of your PhD application, as it explains what you plan to research, what your aims and objectives are, and how you plan to meet those objectives.

Below you will find a research proposal template you can use to write your own PhD proposal, along with examples of specific sections. Note that your own research proposal should be specific and carefully tailored to your own project and no two proposals look the same. Use the template and examples below with that in mind.

If you’re looking for more detailed information on how to write a PhD research proposal, read our full guide via the button below.

How to write a PhD research proposal

Research Proposal Template

The template below is one way you could consider structuring your research proposal to ensure that you include all of the relevant information about your project. However, each university publishes its own guidance on what to include in a proposal, so always make sure you are meeting their specific criteria.

Your proposal should typically be written in size 12 font and limited to around 15 pages in length.

Date Title of Your Research Project (or proposed title) Your name Supervisor’s name (if known) Department

Contents Introduction… Page 3 Research aims… Page 4 Literature review… Page 5 Research methods/methodology… Page 7 Outcomes and impact… Page 8 Budget… Page 9 Schedule… Page 9 References/Bibliography… Page 10

Introduction Introduce your research proposal with a brief overview of your intended research. Include the context and background of the research topic, as well as the rationale for undertaking the research. You should also reference key literature and include any relevant previous research you have done personally.

Research aims The aims of your research relate to the purpose of conducting the research and what you specifically want to achieve. Your research questions should be formulated to show how you will achieve those aims and what you want to find out through your research. “The objectives of this research project are to…..” “The following tasks will be undertaken as a part of the proposed research: Task 1 Task 2 Task 3, etc.”

Literature review Identify and expand on the key literature relating to your research topic. You will need to not only provide individual studies and theories, but also critically analyse and evaluate this literature.

Research methods/methodology Explain how you plan to conduct your research and the practical and/or theoretical approaches you will take. Describe and justify a sample/participants you plan to use, research methods and models you plan on implementing, and plans for data collection and data analysis. Also, consider any hurdles you may encounter or ethical considerations you need to make.

Outcomes and impact You don’t need to identify every specific/possible outcome from your research project but you should think about what some potential outcomes might be. Think back to any gaps you identified in the research field and summarise what impact your work will have on filling them. Make sure your assessors know why your research is important and ultimately worth investing time, money and resources into.

Budget Answer the following questions:

  • What is the total budget for your project?
  • Has funding already been acquired?
  • If not, where is the money coming from and when do you plan to secure it?

Schedule You should outline the following 3 years and include achievable ‘deadlines’ throughout that period. Using your research aims as a starting point, itemise a list of deliverables with specific dates attached. You may choose to use a Gantt chart here.

References/Bibliography List all the references you used throughout your proposal and/or texts that will be relevant to your proposal here.

Example Research Proposal

To: Professor P. Brown From: Alissa Student Date: 30th April 2021 Proposed Research Topic: An investigation into the use of Multicultural London English by adolescents in South London

Change in present-day spoken British English is reportedly characterised by dialect levelling – the reduction of regional differences between dialects and accents. The details, however, are complex, with homogenisation across a region (Torgersen/Kerswill 2004) alongside geographical diffusion from a metropolis (Kerswill 2003). Yet there is also local differentiation and innovation (Britain 2005, Watson 2006). The role of London has been held to be central, with its influence claimed for the diffusion of a range of linguistic features, including T-glottalling (Sivertsen 1960) and TH-fronting (Kerswill 2003). In more recent years, there have been multiple large-scale sociolinguistic studies into the use of English by adolescents in London and the emergence of Multicultural London English (MLE) in particular. However, these studies (such as Kerswill et al. 2004-2007 and Kerswill et al. 2007-2010) focused on analysing language use in Hackney, a traditionally white working-class area with high immigration numbers in the twentieth century, located in East London. There have been fewer studies into the use of English and specifically the emergence of MLE among adolescents in South London. Areas of South London, such as Brixton, have high numbers of adolescents and, like Hackney, have been influenced by immigration movements throughout the twentieth century.

Research aims Through this research, I hope to investigate the language use of adolescents in the community of Brixton, enhancing our understanding of MLE in South London. My research questions are as follows:

  • What are the linguistic features of the English spoken by adolescents in Brixton?
  • What are the linguistic features of the English spoken by elderly residents in Brixton?
  • Analyse the language of male participants versus female participants.
  • Analyse the presence of linguistic features originally identified as characteristics of MLE in participants.

Methodology I will base my methodology on that used by Kerswill et al. (2004-2007, 2007-2010), analysing the natural language of adolescents in Brixton as well as a sample of elderly residents from the same region. The sample studied will include a mixture of male and female participants as well as participants from the three largest ethnicity demographics in Lambeth (according to the Lambeth council census, 2015), including White, Black, and Asian residents. My methodology consists of the following:

  • Observe the language of adolescents in relaxed conversation-like interviews with friends and individually. I will attempt to conduct these interviews in an informal way and ask open-ended questions that encourage participants to converse in more detail and more naturally.
  • Record these conversations and transcribe these conversations from these recordings. Transcriptions will be made using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) to allow phonetic features to be identified and analysed.
  • Using methods established in corpus linguistics, I will quantify the data and identify the rate of notable linguistic features in the group of participants, looking for any linguistic patterns relating to gender, ethnicity and age.

Outcomes and impact I expect this research to contribute to our understanding of Multicultural London English (MLE) in South London, an area of London not previously studied in great detail and one with different demographics to previously studied areas such as East London (Hackney). In the course of this research, which looks at the language of participants from a broad range of ethnic backgrounds and ages, it is possible that further variations and/or innovations in MLE will also be identified.

Schedule The first year of the project (30th September 2020-30th June 2021) will be spent conducting the necessary research with participants from Brixton and surrounding areas of South London. The first six months of the second year of the project (30th September 2021 – 31st March 2022) will be spent transcribing and collating the linguistic data. By the end of the second year of the project, the data will be analysed and I will begin writing up my findings, ready to be submitted in January 2023.

References Baker, Paul. 2006. Using corpora in discourse analysis. London: Continuum. BBC Voices Project http://www.bbc.co.uk/voices/. Cheshire, Jenny, Susan Fox, Paul Kerswill and Eivind Torgersen. 2008. Linguistic innovators: the English of adolescents in London. Final report presented to the Economic and Social Research Council. Cheshire, Jenny and Susan Fox. 2009. Was/were variation: A perspective from London. Language Variation and Change 21: 1–38. Cheshire, Jenny, Kerswill, Paul, Fox, Susan & Torgersen, Eivind. 2011. Contact, the feature pool and the speech community: The emergence of Multicultural London English. Journal of Sociolinguistics 15/2: 151–196. Clark, Lynn & Trousdale, Graeme. 2009 The role of frequency in phonological change: evidence from TH-fronting in east-central Scotland. English Language and Linguistics 13(1): 33-55. Gabrielatos, Costas, Eivind Torgersen, Sebastian Hoffmann and Susan Fox. 2010. A corpus–based sociolinguistic study of indefinite article forms in London English. Journal of English Linguistics 38: 297-334. Lambeth Council. 2015. Lambeth Demography 2015. https://www.lambeth.gov.uk/sites/default/files/ssh-lambeth-demography-2015.pdf. Johnston, Barbara. 2010. Locating language in identity. In Carmen Watt and Dominic Watt (eds.) Language and identities. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 29–36. Kerswill, Paul & Williams, Ann. 2002. ‘salience’ as an explanatory factor in language change: evidence from dialect levelling in urban England. In M. C. Jones & E. Esch (eds.) Language change. The interplay of internal, external and extra-linguistic factors. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 81–110. Kerswill, Paul, Torgersen, Eivind & Fox, Susan. 2008. Reversing “drift”: Innovation and diffusion in the London diphthong system. Language Variation and Change 20: 451–491. Kerswill, Paul, Cheshire, Jenny, Fox, Susan and Torgersen, Eivind. fc 2012. English as a contact language: the role of children and adolescents. In Hundt, Marianne & Schreier, Daniel (eds.) English as a contact language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Labov, William. 2007. Transmission and diffusion. Language 83: 344–387. Llamas, Carmen. 2007. Field methods. In Carmen Llamas, Louise Mullany and Peter Stockwell (eds.). The Routledge companion to sociolinguistics. London: Routledge, pp. 12– 17. Pichler, Heike and Torgersen, Eivind. It’s (not) diffusing, innit?: The origins of innit in British English. Paper presented at NWAV 38, University of Ottawa, October 2009. 34 Rampton, Ben. 2010. Crossing into class: language, ethnicities and class sensibility in England. In Carmen Llamas and Dominic Watt (eds.) Language and identities. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 134–143. Sebba, Mark. 1993. London Jamaican. London: Longman. Spence, Lorna. 2008. A profile of Londoners by country of birth: Estimates from the 2006 Annual Population Survey. London: Greater London Authority. Torgersen, Eivind & Kerswill, Paul 2004. Internal and external motivation in phonetic change: dialect levelling outcomes for an English vowel shift. Journal of Sociolinguistics 8: 23–53. Torgersen, Eivind, Gabrielatos, Costas, Hoffmann, Sebastian and Fox, Sue. (2011) A corpus-based study of pragmatic markers in London English. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory 7: 93–118. Wells, John C. 1982. Accents of English, Vols. I–III. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wiese, Heike. 2009. Grammatical innovation in multiethnic urban Europe: New linguistic practices among adolescents. Lingua 119: 782–806. Winford, Donald. 2003. An Introduction to Contact Linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell.

Section examples

Example introduction.

In this example, the candidate is applying for an Executive PhD programme that requires them to have both work experience and academic experience. The candidate focuses their introduction on the background of the research area they are proposing and relates this to their own experiences and deep understanding of the topic.

Recent developments in the global economy have exposed weaknesses and vulnerabilities in commodity-dependent emerging economies. The country of Azerbaijan has been affected significantly by a radical fall in oil prices; this has revealed an inability, and to a certain extent the incapacity, of the economy to respond to this new reality. As a result, the local currency has depreciated to more than half its value in a two-year period and the country’s balance of payments gap has reached five billion US dollars within the last year. While Azerbaijan is a small country in the global economy, many of these same problems are occurring in other emerging economy countries with primary commodity dependency, and have occurred in cycles in the past. The context of this crisis might be different, but the same themes reoccur throughout history. Today the price of oil, tomorrow the collapse of the Euro currency or a dramatic increase in the price of food. Any scenario emphasises the need to build comprehensive institutions which encourage economic growth alongside a viable macro-risk management system to ensure stability all the while balancing government with the needs of businesses. During my MBA, I was introduced to the theories underpinning modern finance. I was given a toolset with which I would answer many of the queries I have about international finance. In applying for the Executive PhD programme, I want to pursue my interest in ensuring economic growth, prudent banking regulation and the building of a macro-risk management system for developing countries. Over the last couple of years, I have been involved in anti-crisis efforts and the large-scale reorganisation of the Azeri financial system. At present, the Azerbaijani economy is suffering from a “Dutch disease” problem where the previous economic development of the oil and natural resources sector has caused a decline and lack of development in all other sectors (including manufacturing and agriculture). Other countries with similar problems include Gulf States, Nigeria, Venezuela, Ecuador and Russia. GDP is estimated to have contracted by 3% in 2016 and the budget deficit has reached 4.6%. The role of the state sector has increased significantly and the state now has an 8% of GDP deficit. Previous models have always assumed a recovery in oil prices, but this has not materialised and forecasts are increasingly vague. In a world of persistently low oil prices and declining Azerbaijani output, the country has to make progress on a sizable structural reform agenda. My research project would comparatively study the three principal areas of macroeconomic weakness in the Azerbaijani economy where reforms are slated to take place over the coming years, comparing them with other commodity-dependent economies; these areas would be: the challenging business environment (including strategic trade, labour market rigidity and transport problems), problems in macroeconomic policy coordination, and banking sector weakness. The key outcome of this policy research would be maintaining a policy of economic growth, poverty reduction and avoiding the middle-income trap in Azerbaijan. Conducting further research into these issues would allow me to further my macroeconomic knowledge and I believe would allow me to ultimately be promoted to a more senior financial position within the Azerbaijani civil service.

Example Research Questions

In this example, the candidate is proposing research that involves working with children in order to study the effects of creative writing on children’s development. The overall objective is to explore the impact upon the young child’s creative writing/storytelling behaviours of the views and beliefs of significant others across home, pre-school and school settings.

What is the adult’s role when supporting young children with creative writing? What forms of child/ adult interaction support rather than constrain young children’s episodes of creative writing? How does the adult ‘tune in’ to young children’s needs in relation to storytelling? How does the adult recognise when it is appropriate to intervene? Does the form of interaction appear to change with the age or perceived storytelling ability of the child? Is the form of interaction between child and adult influenced by gendered behaviours? How does the environment best support child/ adult interaction? (Time, space, organisation of materials.) Does adult support for young children’s creative writing differ from support given in relation to other activities? How important is the adult’s awareness/ knowledge of the child’s holistic needs when supporting young children’s storytelling behaviours? How important is the adult’s awareness/ knowledge of the child’s particular patterns of meaning making when supporting young children’s creative writing behaviours? What is the impact upon young children’s creative writing of an adult’s own experience/ knowledge and understanding of storytelling behaviour?

Example Risk Analysis

In this example, the candidate is proposing research that involves working with children in order to study the effects of creative writing on children’s development. When working with children, it is particularly important to conduct a risk assessment and take care in ensuring all laws and regulations are upheld to ensure all child participants are safeguarded.

Particular attention will be paid to the role of the children within the project. It is expected that the children taking part in the study will be aged between 5 and 7 years. It is expected that involvement in episodes of creative writing activity will be voluntary and that, given that the research is taking place in a familiar school context and that the practitioners are part of that context, the normality of the children’s experience can be maintained. It is anticipated that each school will have an agreed policy on gaining permission for the taking of video and digital images within the setting which will be adhered to. In many settings, parents sign a consent form when the children begin attending the setting agreeing to their child being videoed. In relation to this research project, following editing of any video material or digital images, it will be necessary to gain additional consent from parents of featured children if the material is to be published. No child will be videotaped or photographed where permission by parents/carers has been refused. The reason for the use of the video camera/digital camera will be explained simply to the children. They will be told that a particular activity is being videoed so that they can choose not to take part. Time must be found for children to see the data collected if the children request this. The original materials/drawings will remain in the setting but the researcher will make colour photocopies of all drawings. The original videotapes/digital images, if taken by the adult participants, will remain with the school and the researcher will make a copy. Videotapes/digital images taken by the researcher will remain with the researcher but will be made available to the participants. Following observation of videotapes/digital images by practitioners and researchers it is anticipated that only clips of video and digital images agreed by all parties will eventually be retained. Both the school and the researcher will have copies of the edited material. All participants will be assured that their names and their settings will not be divulged. In written documentation, the children’s first names will be changed and surnames will not be used. Practitioners will be asked not to use children’s surnames when videoing.

Further resources

There are many resources available if you’re looking for help developing your PhD research proposal. Some universities, such as York St John University and the Open University, provide examples of research proposals that you can use as a basis on which to write your own PhD proposal. Most university departments also publish detailed guidelines on what to include in a research proposal, including which sections to include and what topics they are currently accepting proposals on.

The Profs’ PhD application tutors can also provide relevant example research proposals and support to help you structure your own PhD research proposal in the most effective way. More than 40% of all of our tutors have PhDs themselves, with many having worked as university lecturers, thesis supervisors, and professors at top universities around the world. Thanks to the expertise of our tutors and the consistent support our team provides, 95% of our students get into their first or second choice university. Get in touch with our postgraduate admissions department today to find out how we can help you.

How do I create a PhD timescale/timeline?

Many universities request that PhD applicants submit a timescale/timeline detailing how they plan to spend the 3-4 years on their research. There are many ways you can do this, but one of the most popular methods (and one that is often suggested by university experts) is to use a Gantt chart. A Gantt chart is a useful way of showing tasks displayed against time. On the left of the chart is a list of the activities and along the top is a suitable time scale. Each activity is represented by a bar; the position and length of the bar reflect the proposed start date, duration and end date of the task.

How long does it take to write a research proposal?

The amount of time you need to write a research proposal will depend on many factors, including the word count, when your application deadline is, and how developed your research plan is. On average, it takes applicants about 2-3 months to research, write, rewrite, edit, and submit a strong proposal.

How do I find a research proposal topic?

Choosing a research topic is one of the most important stages of submitting a PhD research proposal. Primarily, you should look to choose a topic that you are interested in/that you care about; you will be researching this topic for 3-4 years at least, so it’s important that you are invested in it. Secondly, your research topic needs to be narrow enough that it is manageable. If your topic is too broad, there will be too much information to consider and you will not be able to draw concise conclusions or focus deeply enough.

In order to find a research proposal topic, first look at the areas that you have previously studied. Reviewing past lecture notes and assignments can be a helpful way of finding inspiration. Background reading can also help you explore topics in more depth and limit the scope of your research question. You can also discuss your ideas/areas of interest with a lecturer or professor, potential dissertation supervisor, or specialist tutor to get an academic perspective.

Browse more “ University Applications ” related blogs:

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How to write a successful research proposal

As the competition for PhD places is incredibly fierce, your research proposal can have a strong bearing on the success of your application - so discover how to make the best impression

What is a research proposal?

Research proposals are used to persuade potential supervisors and funders that your work is worthy of their support. These documents setting out your proposed research that will result in a Doctoral thesis are typically between 1,500 and 3,000 words in length.

Your PhD research proposal must passionately articulate what you want to research and why, convey your understanding of existing literature, and clearly define at least one research question that could lead to new or original knowledge and how you propose to answer it.

Professor Leigh Wilson, director of the graduate school at the University of Westminster, explains that while the research proposal is about work that hasn't been done yet, what prospective supervisors and funders are focusing on just as strongly is evidence of what you've done - how well you know existing literature in the area, including very recent publications and debates, and how clearly you've seen what's missing from this and so what your research can do that's new. Giving a strong sense of this background or frame for the proposed work is crucial.

'Although it's tempting to make large claims and propose research that sweeps across time and space, narrower, more focused research is much more convincing,' she adds. 'To be thorough and rigorous in the way that academic work needs to be, even something as long as a PhD thesis can only cover a fairly narrow topic. Depth not breadth is called for.'

The structure of your research proposal is therefore important to achieving this goal, yet it should still retain sufficient flexibility to comfortably accommodate any changes you need to make as your PhD progresses.

Layout and formats vary, so it's advisable to consult your potential PhD supervisor before you begin. Here's what to bear in mind when writing a research proposal.

Your provisional title should be around ten words in length, and clearly and accurately indicate your area of study and/or proposed approach. It should be catchy, informative and interesting.

The title page should also include personal information, such as your name, academic title, date of birth, nationality and contact details.

Aims and objectives

This is a short summary of your project. Your aims should be two or three broad statements that emphasise what you ultimately want to achieve, complemented by several focused, feasible and measurable objectives - the steps that you'll take to answer each of your research questions. This involves clearly and briefly outlining:

  • how your research addresses a gap in, or builds upon, existing knowledge
  • how your research links to the department that you're applying to
  • the academic, cultural, political and/or social significance of your research questions.

Literature review

This section of your PhD proposal discusses the most important theories, models and texts that surround and influence your research questions, conveying your understanding and awareness of the key issues and debates.

It should focus on the theoretical and practical knowledge gaps that your work aims to address, as this ultimately justifies and provides the motivation for your project.


Here, you're expected to outline how you'll answer each of your research questions. A strong, well-written methodology is crucial, but especially so if your project involves extensive collection and significant analysis of primary data.

In disciplines such as humanities the research proposal methodology identifies the data collection and analytical techniques available to you, before justifying the ones you'll use in greater detail. You'll also define the population that you're intending to examine.

You should also show that you're aware of the limitations of your research, qualifying the parameters that you plan to introduce. Remember, it's more impressive to do a fantastic job of exploring a narrower topic than a decent job of exploring a wider one.

Concluding or following on from your methodology, your timetable should identify how long you'll need to complete each step - perhaps using bi-weekly or monthly timeslots. This helps the reader to evaluate the feasibility of your project and shows that you've considered how you'll go about putting the PhD proposal into practice.


Finally, you'll provide a list of the most significant texts, plus any attachments such as your academic CV . Demonstrate your skills in critical reflection by selecting only those resources that are most appropriate.

Final checks

Before submitting this document along with your PhD application, you'll need to ensure that you've adhered to the research proposal format. This means that:

  • every page is numbered
  • it's professional, interesting and informative
  • the research proposal has been proofread by both an experienced academic (to confirm that it conforms to academic standards) and a layman (to correct any grammatical or spelling errors)
  • it has a contents page
  • you've used a clear and easy-to-read structure, with appropriate headings.

Research proposal examples

To get a better idea of how your PhD proposal may look, some universities have provided examples of research proposals for specific subjects:

  • The Open University - Social Policy and Criminology
  • University of Sheffield - Sociological Studies
  • University of Sussex
  • University of York - Politics

Find out more

  • Explore PhD studentships .
  • For tips on writing a thesis, see 7 steps to writing a dissertation .
  • Read more about PhD study .

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