Working on “Research Proposal ”
I need revise and correct
Writing a research
proposal for a PhD or
A guide for prospective students
Some Schools and Departments may require you to write an outline research proposal and
submit this with your application to study for a PhD or MPhil. The content and structure of
the proposal will inevitably vary depending on the discipline area and the nature of the
project you wish to pursue. In some cases you may be provided with some guidance in terms
of what information should be included in the proposal and, if this is the case, you should
read this carefully and follow it. However, where this is not the case, the general guidance,
and suggested headings, provided here should help you to structure and present your ideas
clearly in your proposal.
Your overall aim is to produce a research proposal that is clear and coherent in every respect.
You should therefore avoid the use of overly long sentences and of technical jargon. It is
important that the proposed research is realistic and feasible so that the outcomes can be
achieved within the scale of a typical research degree programme, which is typically three
years full-time for a PhD (or two years for an MPhil). Although you should write the proposal
yourself, it is best if you discuss its contents with your proposed supervisor before you submit
Your research question
For most projects there is usually one main question that you would like to address, which
can sometimes be broken down into several sub-questions. You will need to state your main
research question(s), explain its significance, and locate it within the relevant literature
(remembering to refer only to research that is directly relevant to your proposal). You will
probably need to address questions such as;
What is the general area in which you will be working and the specific aspect(s) of
that area that will be your focus on inquiry?
What is the problem, shortcoming, or gap in this area that you would like to address?
What is the main research question or aim that you want to address?
University of Reading 2016 Page 1
What are the specific objectives for the proposed research that follow from this?
Why is the proposed research significant and why does it matter (either theoretically
You will need to explain how you will go about answering your question (or achieving your
aim), and why you will use your intended approach to address the question / aim. Questions
you might need to cover include:
What steps will you take and what methods will you use to address your question?
How will your proposed method provide a reliable answer to your question?
What sources / data will you use?
If your project involves an experimental approach, what specific hypothesis or
hypotheses will you address?
What specific techniques will you use to test the hypothesis, such as laboratory
procedures, interviews, questionnaires, modelling, simulation, text analysis, use of
secondary data sources, etc.
What practical considerations are there; for example, what equipment, facilities, and
other resources will be required?
What relevant skills / experience do you have with the proposed methods?
Will you need to collaborate with other researchers / organisations?
Are there particular ethical issues that will need to be considered (for example, all
projects using human participants require ethical approval)?
Are there any potential problems / difficulties that you foresee (for example, delays in
gaining access to special populations or materials) that might affect your rate of
You will need to provide a rough time line for the completion of your research to show that
the project is achievable (given the facilities and resources required) in no more than three
years of full-time study (or part-time equivalent) for a PhD and two years for an MPhil.
You need to say something about what the expected outcomes of your project would be.
How, for example, does it make a contribution to knowledge, how does it advance theoretical
understanding, how might it contribute to policy or practice?
If you are aiming to study for a PhD then you need to say how your proposed research will
make an original contribution to knowledge. This is not essential if you are aiming to study
for an MPhil, although you will still need to show originality in the application of knowledge.
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List of references
You will need to provide a list of any key articles or texts that you have referred to in your
It is important that you carefully check your proposal for typographical and spelling errors,
consistency of style, and accuracy of references, before submitting it.
Professor Dianne Berry,
Dean of Postgraduate Research Studies
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Your research question
List of references