Developing a PhD research proposal

1. Working title

This can be amended as your research develops

2. A clear statement on your research topic, setting out what it is, why it is important and how it will be focused to enable it to be written and completed in 80-100,000 words (the word limit includes footnotes and appendices but not bibliography). Issues to consider are:

  • What are your main research questions?
  • Will your research make an original contribution to knowledge?
  • Is your topic feasible in the available time period?

3. What is the context of your research?

  • What has already been written in your subject?
  • Is there a body of literature on this general field?
  • What gaps in research knowledge on this general area will your research fill?
  • Do you agree with what has been written or would your research argue against it?
  • (One of your first tasks will be to carry out a literature review, which will identify what has been written in your field of study, whether you agree with it and where /what the gaps in knowledge are. Your research will add to current knowledge in your area by filling some of those gaps in knowledge.)

4. Your research methodology

  • How will you conduct your research – quantitative/qualitative, oral interviews, etc?
  • Will your approach consider existing theories or methodologies?

5. Timetable

  • A PhD is normally completed within 3-4 years (full-time study) or 6 years (part-time study).
  • Consider the main stages in your research and writing. Will you need to travel to carry out your research? If so, the time and expense must be factored into your planning.
  • Consider how you might structure your research and writing  (which can be amended as you progress) and what you might achieve each year of study.
  • Are there challenges in carrying out your research? If so, how would you approach overcoming them?


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