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Writing a research proposal

Most research degrees require you to submit a research proposal with your application.

If you are applying for a specific, advertised research project, particularly where the research project is already defined, you may only need to include the project title, the identified supervisor and description instead of a proposal.

Please refer to the programme entry on Course Finder or the advertisement on whether you need to provide a research proposal.

A research proposal forms a crucial part of your application for a research degree and where possible should be developed in conjunction with your proposed supervisor. This is to ensure that you have a project in mind that is appropriate for the research degree and that the relevant School has the necessary expertise to provide adequate supervision.

How long will the proposal need to be?

The length and structure of the proposal depends on the School and the research degree you are applying for.

Suggested structure

It is recommended that the proposal is structured to include the following, if applicable to your intended research:

  • a suggested title for the proposed research project
  • aims and objectives of the research
  • a list of questions to be addressed by the research
  • an indicative bibliography and a brief summary of research that has already been undertaken in this field
  • an outline of the proposed methodology/design, including information on the research sample and methods of data collection.

What else needs to be included?

At the top of your proposal, make sure you clearly write:

  • your name
  • your application number
  • the academic School you are applying to
  • your proposed research degree.

You can then upload it as a supporting document to your application using the Online Application Service.

It should be stressed that the advice provided here is only a general guide and it does not guarantee acceptance onto a research programme. Accepting students onto a research programme depends on many factors, including the nature of your proposed research, the quality of your ideas, your ability to commit to an intensive period of research study, the effectiveness of your research proposal in communicating your ideas, the "match" between the proposed research and the potential supervisor and the capacity of the research department.