• How to Write a Great PhD Research Proposal | FindAPhD.com

How to Write a Great PhD Research Proposal

Written by Mark Bennett

You'll need to write a research proposal if you're submitting your own project plan as part of a PhD application. A good PhD proposal outlines the scope and significance of your topic and explains how you plan to research it.

It's helpful to think about the proposal like this: if the rest of your application explains your ability to do a PhD, the proposal demonstrates the actual PhD you plan to do. Of course, being able to effectively plan and explain a research project is one of the key qualifications for being able to complete one, which is why the proposal is such an important part of the PhD application process.

Thankfully, the secret to writing a good research proposal isn't complicated. It's simply a case of understanding what the proposal is for, what it needs to do and how it needs to be put together.

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What is a PhD research proposal?

First things first, do you need a research proposal for your PhD? It depends on the kind of project you want to do:

As a rule, advertised projects are very common in STEM subjects, whereas Arts, Humanities and Social Science students are more likely to propose their own PhDs.

Some PhD programmes actually wait and ask students to develop their research proposal during the degree (usually after they've completed some initial training). This is normal in the USA , but it's becoming more common for some UKRI-funded UK PhDs.

For the purposes of this guide we're going to assume that you do need to write a good research proposal for your PhD application. So let's explore what's involved in that.

What should a PhD research proposal include?

It's natural to be a little intimidated at the thought of structuring a PhD proposal, particularly if you've never written anything like this before.

But here's the thing: a research proposal isn't a fiendish test designed to catch you out and stop you ever doing a PhD. It's actually much more boring than that.

All a research proposal really is is a document that demonstrates three things:

Or to put it even more simply: the PhD is worth doing, it's doable and you can do it.

Demonstrate your PhD is worthwhile (the what and the why)

A successful PhD project has to make a significant original contribution to knowledge. If it doesn't, it won't meet the criteria for a doctoral degree and will probably fail the viva exam .

Your PhD proposal itself doesn't have to meet those criteria (or pass a viva!) but it does need to indicate that your PhD project eventually will.

It does that by first demonstrating that your research topic is original. That means nobody else has studied this same topic (or one very similar) before.

There are all sorts of ways a PhD can be original. You might examine new data or primary sources, to look at existing material from a fresh perspective, or deal with the impact of new events. It doesn't matter how your project is original, so long as your proposal is really specific about what makes it original.

You also need to explain why your proposed research will be academically significant. To do this properly, you'll need to acknowledge relevant existing scholarship and explain how your research will relate to it. You don't need to be exhaustive at this point, but you should be able to show how your PhD will contribute to its field and – ideally – indicate some of the gaps in knowledge it will aim to fill.

The final step in demonstrating your PhD is worthwhile is to suggest what will become possible as a result of your research. How could other researchers use or build upon your results? What might closing those gaps in academic knowledge mean for audiences outside the unviversity?

Demonstrate your PhD is feasible (the how)

It isn't enough just to show that your research is worth doing; it also needs to actually be doable.

The length of a full-time PhD is around three to four years in most countries (it's longer in for a PhD in the USA , but you don't spend all that time doing research).

Three years may seem like a long time, but researching a PhD is a lot of work and you'll probably spend at least some of your time on other activities like teaching, conference presentations or even publication.

So, one of the things your proposal needs to do is demonstrate that your project is feasible: that it fits within the scope of a PhD.

The most important criteria for this is to be clear about what you plan to do. It should be obvious from your proposal what the scope of your project is – what is and isn't included within it.

You also need to outline how you plan to go about your research. Where will you start and what order do you expect to proceed in? Is the logic for that obvious? If not, it's probably a good idea to explain it.

Finally, you need to explain the methodology you plan to use. This could include techniques for collecting data and sources, theoretical perspectives for analysing them – or both. You may also need to detail specific equipment you expect to use or fieldwork you'll need to undertake (including trips to archives or other external resources).

None of this needs to be exact or completely final. The key word here is 'plan' – but you do need to have one.

Demonstrate that you can complete it at this university (the who and the where)

So far we've thought about the project itself: what makes it worth doing and how it's going to get done. But your proposal also needs to address the who and the where: why are you the right person to carry out this research, and why do you want to do it at this particular university?

The first part of this is easier than it probably looks. Writing a good research proposal demonstrates enthusiasm for your project much more convincingly than simply saying you're very interested in it (a classic case of 'show, don't tell').

You also don't need to repeat your grades and academic achievements (other parts of your PhD application will cover those). Instead, try to underline experiences that relate to this project. Has a particular module or Masters dissertation topic prepared you with useful subject knowledge or methodological skills? If so, highlight it.

It's also fine, within reason, to be honest about the skills you don't have and to identify your training needs. This shows you're being practical about your project and thinking seriously about what it will require. Just make sure you can realistically acquire the skills and training you need within the time available (this goes back to the feasibility).

Showing your project is a good fit for the university is also relatively simple. There should already be some reasons why you've chosen this university for your PhD so make sure you explain what they are. Perhaps there's a particular supervisor you'd like to work with , or facilities and resources your research could use. The key is to emphasise the fit between the project and the university – so don't just say you want to research there because it's highly ranked .

PhD research proposal structure

Hopefully the above sections have given you a few ideas for the things your proposal needs to include. Let's be honest though, the scariest thing about a proposal isn't deciding what to include: it's actually writing it.

But, if we flip that on its head, we remember that all a research proposal really is is a piece of writing that follows a pretty standard format. And that's a lot less scary.

Research proposal structure

Because proposals for PhD all have to do the same things, they mostly follow a similar structure. Yours will probably go something like this:

You probably won't need to include a specific conclusion - it should be obvious, by now, what your project is doing, how you're going to do it and why that matters. A quick summary sentence is fine though, if you think it will help.

Writing tips

Being able to effectively communicate academic concepts, ideas and results is a key skill for PhD research in all subjects . Think of your proposal as a chance to demonstrate this.

The good news is that the key principles of good proposal writing aren't that different from other work you've probably done as a Bachelors or Masters student:

How long should a PhD research proposal be?

Honestly? As long as the university asks for it to be. Most will have guidelines and you should follow them closely if so.

If you honestly can't find a suggested word count for your proposal, then consider asking a prospective supervisor . If you still aren't sure, aim for somewhere between 1,000-2,000 words .

As a very general rule, Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences are a bit longer than STEM proposals (and a lot of STEM students don't have to write one anyway, as we've explained).

Researcgh proposal for PhD - dos and don'ts

Research proposals are a popular topic over on the FindAPhD blog , where we've shared stories of how students wrote theirs , along with mistakes to avoid and a counter-intuitive look at the things a PhD proposal doesn't actually need to do .

Here are a few general tips and mistakes to avoid:

#1 Give yourself enough time to do a good job

Preparing to write a proposal takes time and effort. None of this is wasted as the process of evaluating and framing your ideas for a proposal will improve your project plan immensely. So will the need to decide which ideas to include.

But you need time and space to do that, so make sure you get it. How long it will take to write your proposal is heavily dependent on your personal working style, but you'll likely need to give yourself at least a few weeks to do a good job.

#2 Set out to impress

A good proposal isn't a begging letter. You're approaching the university with a great idea that's going to contribute to and enhance their research. Be honest, be realistic, but don't be unnecessarily humble. They should want you and your project.

#3 Demonstrate original thinking!

You may not need to present original research findings yet, but your proposal does need to present original ideas – and it should be clear why and how those ideas are original.

Make sure you indicate how your project is going to expand, enhance or even correct existing work in your field. Remember that making an "original contribution to knowledge" is a key part of what a PhD is .

#1 Send the same proposal to several universities

A good proposal needs to explain why you want to do your research at a particular university. That's a big part of the feasibility (the fit between project, person and place) and methodology (how are you going to use this university's equipment and archives; when and where will you need to travel).

It's OK to apply to more than one university in parallel, but, in that case, you're writing research proposals .

#2 Use online proposal templates (without evaluating them first!)

It can be tempting to search for PhD proposal samples on the internet, but make sure you evaluate what you find. Some websites may host old proposals from previous PhD students, but there's no way of knowing how relevant these are to your subject and university – or if they were even successful! More 'generic' research proposal examples can offer guidance, but they won't be tailored to your specific project.

The best place to look for a PhD proposal sample is your university. Consider asking your supervisor if they can share a good proposal from a previous student in your subject – or put you in touch with a current student you can ask.

#3 Confuse the proposal with the PhD

We've covered this on the blog , but it's simple enough to include here too.

You're setting out to do a PhD, but you (probably!) haven't done one yet. So you don't need to include research findings, in-depth analysis or a comprehesive literature review. You need to make a case for the research and analysis you want to do.

#4 Ignore your university's help and guidance

The advice on this page is necessarily quite general. We're considering adding guides to writing PhD proposals in specific subjects in future but, for now, the best place to get specific advice for your academic field is probably the university you're applying to.

See if you can get some subject-specific tips by contacting a supervisor , or just checking with the admissions team for your department.

And remember: if they give you a structure and a word count, stick to it.

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How to nail your PhD proposal and get accepted: Examples included

How to nail your PhD proposal and get accepted: Examples included

Getting a PhD place is not easy – which is why your PhD proposal needs to be passionate and convincing. A good research proposal will make a difference between acceptance and rejection, between making your project a reality and going back to the drawing board.

Nearly 200.000 people earn a PhD every year in the U.S. alone, making the field incredibly competitive.

That’s why a PhD research proposal is important: it formally outlines the intended research, including your methodology, timeline, feasibility, and many other factors that need to be taken into consideration.

So, here is what your PhD proposal should contain, how the PhD process looks like and how it should look.

What is a PhD proposal?

A PhD proposal represents a brief rundown of your project which highlights its uniqueness and aims to convince the recipients of the importance of your work.

Usually, it contains the following elements and responds to the following questions:

In terms of length, there isn’t an exact answer.

This depends on the institution you’re applying to, so always go through guidelines or contact the department in charge to make sure you have the correct information.

Benefits of having a strong PhD application

The main and the most obvious benefit of having a strong PhD application is being accepted to the PhD program. This is the most important step as it can make or break your success.

Most applicants are somewhat confused by the process since it requires a lot of information and a big emphasis is put on using the correct proposal structure.

That doesn’t have to be the issue, though, since you have access to awesome research proposal templates that will do half the work for you.

If you’re still unsure whether applying for a PhD is a good choice, let’s consider the main benefits of going through with the process:

Stages of PhD programs

Applying for PhDs and going through the program is a rigorous process that consists of different stages.

Those stages are:

Step 1. The first words: your project title

This section is pretty self-explanatory: it’s the first page of your proposal that outlines your project’s name and basic information.

Being the first thing potential supervisors will be looking at, your title page should be engaging and invite them to read on.

In other words, your project should have an engaging title that demonstrates the potential of the whole idea in a few words.

However, the title page should go a little further than simply conveying the name of your project – it should some indication of how you’ll approach the problem and what kinds of key questions you’ll be answering.

This page should also contain your information: name, academic title, date of birth, contact, etc.

Step 2. Introduce your research supervisor

Right after your project title, you have to state the name, department, and faculty of your supervisor.

Your research supervisor will also cooperate with you to review and improve the proposal before submission to ensure it meets all the criteria of your subject area.

These details are sometimes included right on the first page, with your project title and description.

Step 3. Outline the proposed mode of research

Your mode of research is essentially the type of research you’ll be doing.

Think of it as a format or style of research – field research, written work, data studies – all of these are modes of research. Different sciences, disciplines, and problems require different types of research, so this will usually be closely linked to your field.

This is usually not needed for research in the sciences field but you should consult with your supervisor to learn how to formulate this section.

It’s also important not to go too deep into describing your research at this point – then you’re going into the methodology. Here, you just need to briefly describe what’s the nature of your proposed project.

Step 4. List your aims and objectives

Now we’re getting into the specifics.

In this section of your PhD or thesis proposal , you need to tell the reader exactly what you’re looking to achieve with your research. It should also reference what’s the reason for your application to get a research degree.

Are you testing a theory, addressing some deficiencies in the current research, or something else?

So, start with the big questions your research is trying to answer – those will usually be your aims.

Your objectives, on the other hand, are your aims broken down, the specific steps that need to be taken to achieve your intended outcome.

Here is a graduate research proposal example:

Aim of the research:

Establish whether the occurrence of adolescent violence can be caused by the portrayal of violence in the media.


As you can see, the aim is a broad statement while objectives are more specific. If this seems too difficult, you might want to try some customizable research proposal templates .

Step 5. Give a brief synopsis (give an example)

A synopsis is a brief summary of what your research is about. Think of it as a shortened version of the proposal that needs to explain to the reader what your research project is looking to achieve without getting into too many specifics.

A good test is to simply give someone your synopsis to read without looking at the rest of the proposal. Then simply ask them if they understand what you’re trying to do and what the project is all about.

Here is an example of a brief summary.

My PhD project will be situated within the field that takes a look at all the social impacts of environmental degeneration. The research will focus on how climate change affects inequality, violence, and other social issues that take place in many Eurasian countries. I will specifically address my primary research question towards the case of the Phillippines as a country rich with natural resources that are being exploited by Western countries and which has been experiencing high levels of violence and inequity. It’s an understudied case that has been affecting the entire region […]

Step 6. Get into details with your background

This is where you give the reader the “why” of your research.

What has been happening in your field and what is the current research client on the topic? Provide some context through an existing literature review and introduce the reader to the specific issues you’ll later be addressing.

This does two things:

Make sure you rely on the existing research of notable scholars in your area of research and explain how they have affected the field so far.

Step 7. Expected research contribution: what are you bringing to the table?

In this section, you want to tell the reader not only why there’s a need for your proposed research but how it will affect the entire field of study.

Start by answering the following questions:

The last question is particularly important and it plays a vital part in creating a connection with the reader. It shows that you’re applying at the right place, for the right reasons.

Step 8. Explain your proposed methodology

In the research methodology section, you need to explain the how – what techniques you’ll be using to conduct your research.

Don’t be afraid to go into great detail here: describe what equipment, personnel, and subject you’ll need. Tell the reader how you will collect your data and which theoretical frameworks you’ll be drawing on.

Make sure to explain why these particular research methods are suitable for your project but also cover why some others might not be.

This will demonstrate that you took the time to find the perfect solution to carrying out your research.

When writing the methodology section , you should also anticipate any potential issues like time constraints, ethical considerations, personnel challenges, and anything else you might think of.

Address these issues and offer potential solutions.

Ultimately, this section should leave the reader with no questions about your research design and data collection.

They should have a clear picture of how you’ve thought out the practical aspect of the project and how you plan to tackle everything that goes with it.

Step 9. Provide a detailed work plan

Your work plan is essentially a detailed timeline that shows how you plan to execute your research through the course of your postgraduate studies.

Remember, PhD students can take up to four years to complete their studies so you have to show that you understand the time involved with the project.

You need to demonstrate your planning capabilities and give a plan that covers everything with realistic, thought-out deadlines.

It’s a good idea to separate your Goals from your Activities so that the reader can see both what you’re planning to do and the specific activities you’ll be participating in to make everything happen.

You can also provide a detailed plan for year one with more general overviews for later years.

Here is an example of a work plan for the first year.

Step 10. List all your required resources

This is another section where you need to demonstrate just how much thought and planning you’ve put into your PhD application.

In the resources section, your goal should be to list everything you’ll need to make your project a reality: materials, equipment, travel expenses, staff – everything that could be considered a cost or resource.

It should all be boiled down to a single proposed budget.

Resources are often presented in the form of a table to make things easier to track and identify.

Step 11. List all your sources in the bibliography section

Finally, there is the obligatory Bibliography section where you need to mention all the references you used throughout the proposal.

Where possible, provide links to the publications.

A bibliography section will usually look something like this.


Federici, S. (2012). The Reproduction of Labor Power in the Global Economy and the Unfinished Feminist Revolution (2008). In S. Federici (Ed.). Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction and Feminist Struggle. Oakland: PM Press, pp.91-111.

Virdee, S. (2019). Racialized capitalism: An account of its contested origins and consolidation. The Sociological Review, 67(01), pp.3-27. [Online]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/0038026118820293.

Bhattacharyya, G. (2018). Social Reproduction: Gender, Racism, Nature. In G. Bhattacharyya (ed.). Rethinking Racial Capitalism: Questions of Reproduction for Survival. London: Rowman and Littlefield, pp.39-69.

The pros and cons of templates for PhD proposals

There are no particularly strict rules when it comes to the format of PhD proposals – your supervisor will be more than capable of guiding you through the process.

Still, since everything is so structured and formal, you might want to use a template to help you get started. Templates can help you stay on track and make sure your proposal follows a certain logic.

A lot of proposal software solutions offer templates for different types of proposals, including PhD proposals.

But, should you use a template? Here are some pros and cons to help you make a decision.

In our research proposal template , we give you just enough direction to help you follow through but we don’t limit your creativity to a point that you can’t express yourself and all the nuances of your research.

For almost all sections, you get a few useful examples to point you in the right direction. The template provides you with a typical PhD proposal structure that’s perfect for almost all disciplines.

It can come in quite handy when you have everything planned out in your head but you’re just having trouble putting it into pen and paper!

Conclusion: writing a PhD proposal

Writing and completing a PhD proposal might be confusing at first: you need to follow a certain logic and share all the required information without going too long or sharing too much about the project.

And, while your supervisor will certainly be there to guide you, the brunt of the work will still fall on your shoulders.

That’s why you need to stay informed, do your research, and don’t give up until you feel comfortable with what you’ve created.

If you want to get a head start, you might want to consider our research proposal template . It will offer you a structure to follow and give you an idea on what to write in each section.

Start your free trial with PandaDoc and check out all the functionalities you’ll have at your disposal!

Frequently asked questions about PhD proposals

How long should a phd proposal be.

There really isn’t a specific rule when it comes to the length of a PhD proposal. However, it’s generally accepted that it should be between 1,500 and 2,000 words.

You can’t elaborate on such a serious project in less than 1,200-1,500 words but going over 2,000 is overkill. You’ll lose people’s attention and water down your points.

What’s the difference between a dissertation proposal and a PhD proposal?

There seems to be some confusion over the terms “dissertation” and “PhD” and how you write proposals for each one. However, “dissertation” is just another name for your PhD research so the proposal for a dissertation would be the same since it’s quite literally the same thing.

Does a PhD proposal include budgeting?

Yes, as mentioned, you need to demonstrate the feasibility of your project within the given time frame and with the resources you need, including budgets. You don’t need to be 100% exact but you need to have accurate, based estimates for everything.

More importantly, you need to show that you thought of every little detail.

How is a PhD proposal evaluated?

This will change from one institution to another but these things will generally have a big impact on the reviewers:

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research proposal phd how long

How to Write a PhD Research Proposal

What is a Research Proposal?

A research proposal is a supporting document that may be required when applying to a research degree. It summarises your intended research by outlining what your research questions are, why they’re important to your field and what knowledge gaps surround your topic. It also outlines your research in terms of your aims, methods and proposed timetable .

What Is It Used for and Why Is It Important?

A research proposal will be used to:

How Long Should a PhD Research Proposal Be?

Some universities will specify a word count all students will need to adhere to. You will typically find these in the description of the PhD listing. If they haven’t stated a word count limit, you should contact the potential supervisor to clarify whether there are any requirements. If not, aim for 1500 to 3500 words (3 to 7 pages).

Your title should indicate clearly what your research question is. It needs to be simple and to the point; if the reader needs to read further into your proposal to understand your question, your working title isn’t clear enough.

Directly below your title, state the topic your research question relates to. Whether you include this information at the top of your proposal or insert a dedicated title page is your choice and will come down to personal preference.

2. Abstract

If your research proposal is over 2000 words, consider providing an abstract. Your abstract should summarise your question, why it’s important to your field and how you intend to answer it; in other words, explain your research context.

Only include crucial information in this section – 250 words should be sufficient to get across your main points.

3. Background & Rationale

First, specify which subject area your research problem falls in. This will help set the context of your study and will help the reader anticipate the direction of your proposed research.

Following this, include a literature review . A literature review summarises the existing knowledge which surrounds your research topic. This should include a discussion of the theories, models and bodies of text which directly relate to your research problem. As well as discussing the information available, discuss those which aren’t. In other words, identify what the current gaps in knowledge are and discuss how this will influence your research. Your aim here is to convince the potential supervisor and funding providers of why your intended research is worth investing time and money into.

Last, discuss the key debates and developments currently at the centre of your research area.

4. Research Aims & Objectives

Identify the aims and objectives of your research. The aims are the problems your project intends to solve; the objectives are the measurable steps and outcomes required to achieve the aim.

In outlining your aims and objectives, you will need to explain why your proposed research is worth exploring. Consider these aspects:

If you fail to address the above questions, it’s unlikely they will accept your proposal – all PhD research projects must show originality and value to be considered.

5. Research Design and Methodology

The following structure is recommended when discussing your research design:

6. Timetable

PhD Project Plan - PhD research proposal

We’ve outlined the various stages of a PhD and the approximate duration of a PhD programme which you can refer to when designing your own research study.

7. Bibliography

Plagiarism is taken seriously across all academic levels, but even more so for doctorates. Therefore, ensure you reference the existing literature you have used in writing your PhD proposal. Besides this, try to adopt the same referencing style as the University you’re applying to uses. You can easily find this information in the PhD Thesis formatting guidelines published on the University’s website.

Finding a PhD has never been this easy – search for a PhD by keyword, location or academic area of interest.

Questions & Answers

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we’re asked about the Research Proposal:

Can You Change a Research Proposal?

Yes, your PhD research proposal outlines the start of your project only. It’s well accepted that the direction of your research will develop with time, therefore, you can revise it at later dates.

Can the Potential Supervisor Review My Draft Proposal?

Whether the potential supervisor will review your draft will depend on the individual. However, it is highly advisable that you at least attempt to discuss your draft with them. Even if they can’t review it, they may provide you with useful information regarding their department’s expertise which could help shape your PhD proposal. For example, you may amend your methodology should you come to learn that their laboratory is better equipped for an alternative method.

How Should I Structure and Format My Proposal?

Ensure you follow the same order as the headings given above. This is the most logical structure and will be the order your proposed supervisor will expect.

Most universities don’t provide formatting requirements for research proposals on the basis that they are a supporting document only, however, we recommend that you follow the same format they require for their PhD thesis submissions. This will give your reader familiarity and their guidelines should be readily available on their website.

Last, try to have someone within the same academic field or discipline area to review your proposal. The key is to confirm that they understand the importance of your work and how you intend to execute it. If they don’t, it’s likely a sign you need to rewrite some of your sections to be more coherent.

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How to Write a Research Proposal

Lindsay Kramer

Once you’re in college and really getting into  academic writing , you may not recognize all the kinds of assignments you’re asked to complete. You know what an essay is, and you know how to respond to readings—but when you hear your professor mention a research proposal or a literature review, your mind might do a double take. 

Don’t worry; we’ve got you. Boiled down to its core, a research proposal is simply a short piece of  writing that details exactly what you’ll be covering in a larger research project. You’ll likely be required to write one for your  thesis , and if you choose to continue in academia after earning your bachelor’s degree, you’ll be writing research proposals for your master’s thesis, your dissertation, and all other research you conduct. By then, you’ll be a research proposal pro. But for now, we’ll answer all your questions and help you confidently write your first one. 

Here’s a tip: Want to make sure your writing shines? Grammarly can check your spelling and save you from grammar and punctuation mistakes. It even proofreads your text, so your work is extra polished wherever you write.

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What is the goal of a research proposal?

In a research proposal, the goal is to present the author’s plan for the research they intend to conduct. In some cases, part of this goal is to secure funding for said research. In others, it’s to have the research approved by the author’s supervisor or department so they can move forward with it. In some cases, a research proposal is a required part of a graduate school application. In every one of these circumstances, research proposals follow the same structure.

In a research proposal, the author demonstrates how and why their research is relevant to their field. They demonstrate that the work is necessary to the following:

A research proposal also demonstrates that the author is capable of conducting this research and contributing to the current state of their field in a meaningful way. To do this, your research proposal needs to discuss your academic background and credentials as well as demonstrate that your proposed ideas have academic merit. 

But demonstrating your research’s validity and your personal capability to carry it out isn’t enough to get your research proposal approved. Your research proposal also has to cover these things:

If you’ve already read our post on literature reviews , you may be thinking that a research proposal sounds pretty similar. They’re more than just similar, though—a literature review is part of a research proposal. It’s the section that covers which sources you’re using, how you’re using them, and why they’re relevant. Think of a literature review as a mini-research proposal that fits into your larger, main proposal. 

How long should a research proposal be?

Generally, research proposals for bachelor’s and master’s theses are a few pages long. Research proposals for meatier projects, like Ph.D. dissertations and funding requests, are often longer and far more detailed. A research proposal’s goal is to clearly outline exactly what your research will entail and accomplish, so including the proposal’s word count or page count isn’t nearly as important as it is to ensure that all the necessary elements and content are present. 

Research proposal structure

A research proposal follows a fairly straightforward structure. In order to achieve the goals described in the previous section, nearly all research proposals include the following sections:


Your introduction achieves a few goals:

In a research proposal, an introduction can be a few paragraphs long. It should be concise, but don’t feel like you need to cram all of your information into one paragraph. 

In some cases, you need to include an abstract and/or a table of contents in your research proposal. These are included just before the introduction. 

Background significance

This is where you explain why your research is necessary and how it relates to established research in your field. Your work might complement existing research, strengthen it, or even challenge it—no matter how your work will “play with” other researchers’ work, you need to express it in detail in your research proposal.  

This is also the section where you clearly define the existing problems your research will address. By doing this, you’re explaining why your work is necessary—in other words, this is where you answer the reader’s “so what?” 

In your background significance section, you’ll also outline how you’ll conduct your research. If necessary, note which related questions and issues you won’t be covering in your research. 

Literature review

In your  literature review , you introduce all the sources you plan to use in your research. This includes landmark studies and their data, books, and scholarly articles. A literature review isn’t merely a list of sources (that’s what your bibliography is for); a literature review delves into the collection of sources you chose and explains how you’re using them in your research. 

Research design, methods, and schedule

Following your research review, you’ll discuss your research plans. In this section, make sure you cover these aspects:

Beyond a comprehensive look at your research itself, you’ll also need to include:

Suppositions and implications

Although you can’t know your research’s results until you’ve actually done the work, you should be going into the project with a clear idea of how your work will contribute to your field. This section is perhaps the most critical to your research proposal’s argument because it expresses exactly why your research is necessary. 

In this section, make sure you cover the following:

In other words, this section isn’t about stating the specific results you expect. Rather, it’s where you state how your findings will be valuable. 

This is where you wrap it all up. Your conclusion section, just like your conclusion paragraph for an essay , briefly summarizes your research proposal and reinforces your research’s stated purpose. 


Yes, you need to write a bibliography in addition to your literature review. Unlike your literature review, where you explained the relevance of the sources you chose and in some cases, challenged them, your bibliography simply lists your sources and their authors.

The way you write a citation depends on the style guide you’re using. The three most common style guides for academics are MLA , APA , and Chicago , and each has its own particular rules and requirements. Keep in mind that each formatting style has specific guidelines for citing just about any kind of source, including photos , websites , speeches , and YouTube videos .

Sometimes, a full bibliography is not needed. When this is the case, you can include a references list, which is simply a scaled-down list of all the sources you cited in your work. If you’re not sure which to write, ask your supervisor. 

Here’s a tip: Grammarly’s  Citation Generator  ensures your essays have flawless citations and no plagiarism. Try it for citing journal articles in MLA , APA , and Chicago  styles.

How to write a research proposal

Research proposals, like all other kinds of academic writing, are written in a formal, objective tone. Keep in mind that being concise is a key component of academic writing; formal does not mean flowery. 

Adhere to the structure outlined above. Your reader knows how a research proposal is supposed to read and expects it to fit this template. It’s crucial that you present your research proposal in a clear, logical way. Every question the reader has while reading your proposal should be answered by the final section. 

Editing and proofreading a research proposal

When you’re writing a research proposal, follow the same six-step writing process you follow with every other kind of writing you do. 

After you’ve got a first draft written, take some time to let it “cool off” before you start proofreading . By doing this, you’re making it easier for yourself to catch mistakes and gaps in your writing. 

Common mistakes to avoid when writing a research proposal

When you’re writing a research proposal, avoid these common pitfalls: 

Being too wordy

As we said earlier, formal does not mean flowery. In fact, you should aim to keep your writing as brief and to-the-point as possible. The more economically you can express your purpose and goal, the better.   

Failing to cite relevant sources

When you’re conducting research, you’re adding to the existing body of knowledge on the subject you’re covering. Your research proposal should reference one or more of the landmark research pieces in your field and connect your work to these works in some way. This doesn’t just communicate your work’s relevance—it also demonstrates your familiarity with the field. 

Focusing too much on minor issues

There are probably a lot of great reasons why your research is necessary. These reasons don’t all need to be in your research proposal. In fact, including too many questions and issues in your research proposal can detract from your central purpose, weakening the proposal. Save the minor issues for your research paper itself and cover only the major, key issues you aim to tackle in your proposal. 

Failing to make a strong argument for your research

This is perhaps the easiest way to undermine your proposal because it’s far more subjective than the others. A research proposal is, in essence, a piece of persuasive writing . That means that although you’re presenting your proposal in an objective, academic way, the goal is to get the reader to say “yes” to your work. 

This is true in every case, whether your reader is your supervisor, your department head, a graduate school admissions board, a private or government-backed funding provider, or the editor at a journal in which you’d like to publish your work. 

Polish your writing into a stellar proposal

When you’re asking for approval to conduct research—especially when there’s funding involved—you need to be nothing less than 100 percent confident in your proposal. If your research proposal has spelling or grammatical mistakes, an inconsistent or inappropriate tone, or even just awkward phrasing, those will undermine your credibility. 

Make sure your research proposal shines by using Grammarly to catch all of those issues. Even if you think you caught all of them while you were editing, it’s critical to double-check your work. Your research deserves the best proposal possible, and Grammarly can help you make that happen. 

research proposal phd how long

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How long do PhD students typically take to come up with their research proposal?

Especially if you are someone who is entering a PhD with very broad interests and little depth of knowledge in your field.

warmzombie's user avatar

3 Answers 3

If you are talking about the writing of a formal proposal document, the rules vary from department to department. If you are talking about the idea for a project, then that needs to be developed very early on—the tentative idea should already be in place by the time work starts.

In my department, for instance, students had roughly one year from the completion of the qualifying examination to submit the research proposal. This was a fairly substantial document (25-30 pages). Other schools I considered required the submission as late as the third or fourth year (in what was nominally a five- to six-year program); in that case, the research proposal was almost a first draft of the thesis, as it was typically anywhere from 50 to 100 pages in length!

In my current department, students receive fellowships to work on projects with their advisors. In such cases, the advisor typically plans the basic outline of the project, and the start of the work plan. Later years are left for the student to devise.

aeismail's user avatar

For PhD in the United Kingdom:

It is not uncommon for students submit a PhD research proposal as part of their application for the PhD program. They can also find a supervisor to work on the research proposal together before submitting it as part of their application.

I have applied for a PhD in another field before and was able to write a proposal in 2 weeks that was good enough to get an interview for the program. This was with the help of a supervisor who gave me the research area, open problems he is interested in, relevant literature and he read several of my drafts.

Legendre's user avatar

In the department where I got my degree at, the proposal was expected in the third year, had to represent about 30% of dissertation work, and qualified as a Master's defense should the student drop out of the program and yet being able to walk away with something in hand. In the department where I worked, the proposal was expected half a year before the defense (i.e., in the fall of the fifth year), had to constitute about 80% of the work, and basically was a rehearsal for the job market talk (the winter of the fifth year). So yes, rules and traditions vary from department to department and from discipline to discipline. Ask your Director of Graduate studies (or chair if the department does not have a designated officer for this role) as to what the expectations are.

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How to Write a Research Proposal

How to write a research proposal for phd & masters | guidelines.

A research proposal is one of the core documents (writing samples) that you submit to the admission committee for a Master’s by research or PhD. Knowing how to write beautifully could be the deciding factor in your acceptance to your preferred university. This post will provide an overview of How to Write a Research Proposal for PhD & Masters Degree Program. You should follow the instructions below whether you are applying for a self-funded or studentship. However, it is critical to understand what a Research Proposal is.

Furthermore, a research proposal is a concise and coherent summary of the research you intend to conduct and It outlines the main issues or questions you intend to address. Also, It describes the general field of study in which your research falls, referring to current knowledge and any recent debates on the subject. It also shows the uniqueness of your proposed research.

The proposal, along with the Recommendation Letter and Motivation Letter, is the most important required document for the Scholarship that you submit as part of the application process. It allows you to demonstrate your aptitude for graduate-level research, for example, by demonstrating your ability to communicate complex ideas clearly, concisely, and critically. The proposal also assists us in matching your research interests with a suitable supervisor. You may also check: Personal Statement for Scholarship .

How long a Research Proposal should be?

A research proposal for PhD and Masters degree should be between 2,000 and 3,500 words (4 to 7 pages).

How to Write a Research Proposal?

Whether you are applying for an MPhil or a Ph.D. programme, your research proposal should typically include the following information:

Research Proposal Components(How to Write a Research Proposal)

The main components of a research proposal(How to Write a Research Proposal) are:

Your title should clearly state your proposed research approach or key question.

2. Background

You should Include the following information:

3. Proposed Method

Describe your proposed research method. Which may be closely related to your discipline and is where you will describe the style or format of your research, such as data, field research, composition, written work, social performance, and mixed media, among other things.

This is not required for scientific research, but your research supervisor can advise you on discipline-specific requirements.

4. Aims and Objectives

What are you hoping to accomplish with your research? What is the goal? This section should explain why you want to pursue a research degree. Are you filling a gap in current research? Do you want to investigate a theory further and put it to the test? Is there anything you want to prove or disprove? To help you clarify this, consider the possible outcome of your research if you were successful – that is your goal. Make sure this is a specific statement.

Also, your objectives will be a breakdown of your goal – the steps to achieving the desired outcome and they are the smaller proof points that will support the purpose of your research. Be logical in how you present these so that each succeeds the previous, i.e. if you need to achieve ‘a’ before ‘b’ before ‘c’, then order your objectives a, b, c.

5. Research Significance

The proposal should demonstrate the uniqueness of your proposed research. As a result, you should explain why your research is important (for example, by explaining how your research builds on and adds to the current state of knowledge in the field or by setting out reasons why it is timely to research your proposed topic).

6. Research Questions

Similarly, the proposal should outline the main goals and research questions that will guide your research. Take some time before writing your proposal to think about the key questions you want to answer. Many research proposals are too broad, so thinking about your key research questions is a good way to ensure that your project is narrow enough and feasible (i.e. one that is likely to be completed within the normal period for an MPhil or Ph.D. degree).

You should formulate these clearly, explaining what problems and issues will be investigated and why they are important.

7. Synopsis

A concise summary of your research topic. It outlines the key aspects of your investigation as well as the expected results. Also, It summarises the what, why, and how of your research and a good way to see if you’ve written an effective synopsis is to have someone read it without reading the rest of your research proposal. Would they be aware of the nature of your research?

8. Work plan

A work plan is an important part of your research proposal because it indicates the feasibility of completion within the timeframe and helps you achieve your goals throughout your degree.

So, consider the goals you want to accomplish at each stage of your research. A PhD or master’s degree in research can be completed in two to four years of full-time study. It might be useful to provide year one in detail and the subsequent years in broader terms. Finally, you must demonstrate that your research is likely to be both original and completed – and that you understand the time commitment.

9. Bibliography

You should include the following:

Conclusion (How to Write a Research Proposal)

Lastly, a research proposal should clearly and concisely present your idea or question, as well as the expected outcomes – the what. It should also explain why your question is important and what value it will add to your discipline – the why. What it should not do is answer the question; your research will do that.

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How to write a research proposal

What is a research proposal.

A research proposal should present your idea or question and expected outcomes with clarity and definition – the what.

It should also make a case for why your question is significant and what value it will bring to your discipline – the why. 

What it shouldn't do is answer the question – that's what your research will do.

Why is it important?

Research proposals are significant because Another reason why it formally outlines your intended research. Which means you need to provide details on how you will go about your research, including:

Think of it as a tool that will help you clarify your idea and make conducting your research easier.

How long should it be?

Usually no more than 2000 words, but check the requirements of your degree, and your supervisor or research coordinator.

Presenting your idea clearly and concisely demonstrates that you can write this way – an attribute of a potential research candidate that is valued by assessors.

What should it include?

Project title.

Your title should clearly indicate what your proposed research is about.

Research supervisor

State the name, department and faculty or school of the academic who has agreed to supervise you. Rest assured, your research supervisor will work with you to refine your research proposal ahead of submission to ensure it meets the needs of your discipline.

Proposed mode of research

Describe your proposed mode of research. Which may be closely linked to your discipline, and is where you will describe the style or format of your research, e.g. data, field research, composition, written work, social performance and mixed media etc. 

This is not required for research in the sciences, but your research supervisor will be able to guide you on discipline-specific requirements.

Aims and objectives

What are you trying to achieve with your research? What is the purpose? This section should reference why you're applying for a research degree. Are you addressing a gap in the current research? Do you want to look at a theory more closely and test it out? Is there something you're trying to prove or disprove? To help you clarify this, think about the potential outcome of your research if you were successful – that is your aim. Make sure that this is a focused statement.

Your objectives will be your aim broken down – the steps to achieving the intended outcome. They are the smaller proof points that will underpin your research's purpose. Be logical in the order of how you present these so that each succeeds the previous, i.e. if you need to achieve 'a' before 'b' before 'c', then make sure you order your objectives a, b, c.

A concise summary of what your research is about. It outlines the key aspects of what you will investigate as well as the expected outcomes. It briefly covers the what, why and how of your research. 

A good way to evaluate if you have written a strong synopsis, is to get somebody to read it without reading the rest of your research proposal. Would they know what your research is about?

Now that you have your question clarified, it is time to explain the why. Here, you need to demonstrate an understanding of the current research climate in your area of interest.

Providing context around your research topic through a literature review will show the assessor that you understand current dialogue around your research, and what is published.

Demonstrate you have a strong understanding of the key topics, significant studies and notable researchers in your area of research and how these have contributed to the current landscape.

Expected research contribution

In this section, you should consider the following:

Draw links between your research and the faculty or school you are applying at, and explain why you have chosen your supervisor, and what research have they or their school done to reinforce and support your own work. Cite these reasons to demonstrate how your research will benefit and contribute to the current body of knowledge.

Proposed methodology

Provide an overview of the methodology and techniques you will use to conduct your research. Cover what materials and equipment you will use, what theoretical frameworks will you draw on, and how will you collect data.

Highlight why you have chosen this particular methodology, but also why others may not have been as suitable. You need to demonstrate that you have put thought into your approach and why it's the most appropriate way to carry out your research. 

It should also highlight potential limitations you anticipate, feasibility within time and other constraints, ethical considerations and how you will address these, as well as general resources.

A work plan is a critical component of your research proposal because it indicates the feasibility of completion within the timeframe and supports you in achieving your objectives throughout your degree.

Consider the milestones you aim to achieve at each stage of your research. A PhD or master's degree by research can take two to four years of full-time study to complete. It might be helpful to offer year one in detail and the following years in broader terms. Ultimately you have to show that your research is likely to be both original and finished – and that you understand the time involved.

Provide details of the resources you will need to carry out your research project. Consider equipment, fieldwork expenses, travel and a proposed budget, to indicate how realistic your research proposal is in terms of financial requirements and whether any adjustments are needed.


Provide a list of references that you've made throughout your research proposal. 

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Writing your PhD research proposal

Find guidance on how to write your PhD research proposal and a template form for you to use to submit your research proposal.

How to write your research proposal

The description of your proposed research should consist of 4-5 typed sheets of A4. It can take whatever form seems best, but should include some information about the following:

In addition to the above issues, please include any comments you are able to make concerning:

Please note: This guidance applies to all candidates, except those applying to conduct PhD research as part of a larger already established research project (for example, in the Institute for Sport, Physical Education & Health Sciences).

In this case you should provide a two to three page description of a research project that you have already undertaken, as a means of complementing information given in the application form. If you are in any doubt as to what is appropriate please contact us on the following email address: [email protected]

Contact us by email

All doctoral proposals submitted as part of an application will be run through plagiarism detection software.

Template form for your Research Proposal

All applicants for a PhD or MSc by Research are required to submit a research proposal as part of their application. Applicants  must   use the template form below for their research proposal. This research proposal should then be submitted online as part of your application. Please use Calibri size 11 font size and do not change the paragraph spacing (single, with 6pt after each paragraph) or the page margins.

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How to write a PhD proposal

How to write a good PhD proposal

Study tips Published 3 Mar, 2022  ·  5-minute read

Want to make sure your research degree starts smoothly? We spoke with 2 current PhD candidates about overcoming this initial hurdle. Here’s their advice for how to write a good PhD proposal.

Writing your research proposal is an integral part of commencing a PhD with many schools and institutes, so it can feel rather intimidating. After all, how you come up with your PhD proposal could be the difference between your supervisor getting on board or giving your project a miss.

Let’s explore how to make a PhD research proposal with current UQ candidates Chelsea Janke and Sarah Kendall. 

Look at PhD proposal examples

"Look at other PhD proposals that have been successful; ask current students if you can look at theirs." - Chelsea Janke

Nobody’s asking you to reinvent the wheel when it comes to writing your PhD proposal – leave that for your actual thesis. For now, while you’re just working out how to write a PhD proposal, examples are a great starting point.

Chelsea knows this step is easier if you’ve got a friend who is already doing a PhD, but there are other ways to find a good example or template.

“Look at other PhD proposals that have been successful,” she says.

“Ask current students if you can look at theirs.”

“If you don’t know anyone doing their PhD, look online to get an idea of how they should be structured.”

What makes this tricky is that proposals can vary greatly by field and disciplinary norms, so you should check with your proposed supervisor to see if they have a specific format or list of criteria to follow. Part of writing a good PhD proposal is submitting it in a style that's familiar to the people who will read and (hopefully) become excited by it and want to bring you into their research area.

Here are some of the key factors to consider when structuring your proposal:

Please note this isn't a universal list of things you need in your PhD research proposal. Depending on your supervisor's requirements, some of these items may be unnecessary or there may be other inclusions not listed here.

Ask your planned supervisor for advice

Alright, here’s the thing. If sending your research proposal is your first point of contact with your prospective supervisor, you’ve jumped the gun a little.

You should have at least one researcher partially on board with your project before delving too deep into your proposal. This ensures you’re not potentially spending time and effort on an idea that no one has any appetite for. Plus, it unlocks a helpful guide who can assist with your proposal.

PhD research isn’t like Shark Tank – you’re allowed to confer with academics and secure their support before you pitch your thesis to them. Discover how to choose the right PhD supervisor for you.

For a time-efficient strategy, Chelsea recommends you approach your potential supervisor(s) and find out if:

“The best way to approach would be to send an email briefly outlining who you are, your background, and what your research interests are,” says Chelsea.

“Once you’ve spoken to a potential supervisor, then you can start drafting a proposal and you can even ask for their input.”

Chelsea's approach here works well with some academics, but keep in mind that other supervisors will want to see a research proposal straight away. If you're not sure of your proposed supervisor's preferences, you may like to cover both bases with an introductory email that has a draft of your research proposal attached.

Sarah agrees that your prospective supervisor is your most valuable resource for understanding how to write a research proposal for a PhD application.

“My biggest tip for writing a research proposal is to ask your proposed supervisor for help,” says Sarah.

“Or if this isn’t possible, ask another academic who has had experience writing research proposals.”

“They’ll be able to tell you what to include or what you need to improve on.”

Find the “why” and focus on it

"One of the key aspects of your research proposal is emphasising why your project is important and should be funded." - Sarah Kendall

Your PhD proposal should include your major question, your planned methods, the sources you’ll cite, and plenty of other nitty gritty details. But perhaps the most important element of your proposal is its purpose – the reason you want to do this research and why the results will be meaningful.

In Sarah’s opinion, highlighting the “why” of your project is vital for your research proposal.

“From my perspective, one of the key aspects of your research proposal is emphasising why your project is important and should be funded,” she says.

“Not only does this impact whether your application is likely to be successful, but it could also impact your likelihood of getting a scholarship .”

Imagine you only had 60 seconds to explain your planned research to someone. Would you prefer they remember how your project could change the world, or the statistical models you’ll be using to do it? (Of course, you’ve got 2000 words rather than 60 seconds, so do make sure to include those little details as well – just put the why stuff first.)

Proofread your proposal, then proof it again

As a PhD candidate, your attention to detail is going to be integral to your success. Start practising it now by making sure your research proposal is perfect.

Chelsea and Sarah both acknowledge that clarity and writing quality should never be overlooked in a PhD proposal. This starts with double-checking that the questions of your thesis are obvious and unambiguous, followed by revising the rest of your proposal.

“Make sure your research questions are really clear,” says Sarah.

“Ensure all the writing is clear and grammatically correct,” adds Chelsea.

“A supervisor is not going to be overly keen on a prospective student if their writing is poor.”

It might sound harsh, but it’s fair. So, proofread your proposal multiple times – including after you get it back from your supervisor with any feedback and notes. When you think you’ve got the final, FINAL draft saved, sleep on it and read it one more time the next morning.

Still feeling a little overwhelmed by your research proposal? Stay motivated with these reasons why a PhD is worth the effort .

Want to learn more from Chelsea and Sarah? Easy:

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Research proposal

For comprehensive advice please download our How to write a research proposal guide.

What is a research proposal

Your research proposal needs to outline the nature of your proposed research project and give some indication of how you will conduct your research.  It is an integral part of the postgraduate research application process, so it is certainly worth investing time and energy into it.

Your research proposal should leave a positive first impression upon the reader about your ‘fitness’ to study a PhD. It is your project, so it is important to demonstrate leadership in this first stage of the application process. An ideal proposal should leave the reader feeling in no doubt that you have done some preliminary research about your subject and that you are knowledgeable and ready to tackle the challenges of a PhD. Give your proposal your utmost attention and time, but also be realistic ‐ you are not expected to know everything at this stage. Your proposal can also be flexible. It is not a contract. Always ask someone else to read your proposal before you submit it, and to offer you some critical but supportive feedback. Remember that a research proposal is about what you want to study; it immediately reflects your initial understanding of, and commitment to, PhD study. A research proposal can and should make a positive and powerful first impression about your potential to become a good researcher.  Importantly, the main purpose is to enable the university to assess whether you are a good ‘match’ for our supervisors and our areas of research expertise. Therefore, in a good research proposal you will need to demonstrate two main things:

Applying for a PhD is like applying for a job, you are not applying for a taught programme.  When you start a PhD you will become a valued researcher in an academic department. Through your research proposal your colleagues want to know whether they can work with you, and whether your ideas are focussed, interesting and realistic. Try and impress them! Your proposal should be indicative and it should outline your areas of interest and your general insight into the research topic. You are not expected to be an expert and to be familiar with all the specific details of your subject. However, you are expected to have a good level of knowledge about the subject and where you might make a valuable contribution to research. The perfect research proposal should leave the reader interested, excited and wanting to find out more about your ideas, and about you!

Preparing a research proposal

Before you write a research proposal, the first step should be to provide a 500-word outline of your proposed research project. You should then forward this to any academic you feel would best suit your proposed project – you can find contact details for staff on the individual subject websites. If you receive a positive response, you can then plan to submit a formal application in the form of a research proposal.

Your proposal must specify the area of your proposed research and should cover relevance, theoretical perspectives, research methodology, and sources of data.  Your proposal is your calling card. It is your chance to sell yourself and your research to prospective supervisors. Competition for places is fierce, and many students apply to us with excellent Bachelors and Masters degrees from around the world. Your proposal is your way of setting yourself apart from the crowd. So, you should work hard to submit the best possible application.

Putting together your document

There is no set formula for your research proposal in terms of length or what you include in it. It is quality, not quantity, that counts to demonstrate that you have a clear and concise way of thinking. Your proposal should explain your project, establish its importance, and set out how you are going to complete it in the time allowed.

PhD-level study, quite literally, encompasses an almost infinite variety of topics and projects.  It is for this reason that prescribing a ‘one-size-fits-all’ method for research proposal writing is a difficult task, but the strongest proposals are likely to contain many of the following:

Background  – You should establish the context to, and rationale for, your research based on a reading of the relevant academic and/or practitioner literature. Where possible, cite relevant authors and studies, and explain how this research builds on your previous academic work or professional experience. You should discuss the intellectual importance of your work, its contribution to your subject area, and its originality, which, in time, form three of the four main criteria for assessing your PhD.

Aims and objectives  – Set out the central aims and research questions that guide your research. What hypothesis or argument are you trying to explore and what questions are you trying to answer? Set out your terms of reference clearly and precisely. These may cover what you intend to achieve by the research in general and, more specifically, how the research fits the background and the outcomes from the project. 

Methods and techniques  – Explain how your approach to collecting and analysing information will help you satisfy your aims and objectives. Potential data collection methods and possible analytical techniques give a sense of the direction of the research. Explain the choices behind case study organisations or locations, as well as sampling strategies or particular computer-based techniques.

Rationale  - contextualise your questions/aims in a broader field of study, identifying the main literature that you are addressing. You need to explain why your research questions/hypotheses are important and topical.

Project management  – You don’t need to produce a detailed time plan because research projects evolve. However, it is extremely useful to explain in general terms what you are proposing to do, and when, in order to get a sense of the scale of the task. This is especially important if you are proposing to undertake case study work or fieldwork.

Ethics  – Almost inevitably your research will raise some ethical issues and you should aspire to conduct your research with the highest ethical standards.

Health and safety  – All types of research have implications for health and safety, albeit some types of work are more risky than others. Where appropriate your proposal should seek to identify any issues and explain how you may address them.

References  – Please enter a reference list using Harvard Notation. It is useful for potential supervisors to better understand the breadth and depth of your reading to date.

Appendices  – These are a useful way of including additional supporting material while keeping the main body of the proposal succinct.

Timeline  – You don’t need to produce a detailed time plan, but it is helpful to provide a summary of what you are planning to do and when. You will be expected to submit your thesis within three years (six years for part-time students) so it is important you have a feasible timeline. This section is especially important if you are proposing to undertake case study work or fieldwork. Bibliography  – a short bibliography of relevant works in your research area.

Guidelines and advice

How long should a good research proposal be?

A good research proposal is as long as it takes, but a guide would be 1,500-2,500 words. Remember that it is meant to be an accurate overview, not a thesis, so you need to provide enough detail for the reader to understand it.  A paragraph would not be enough and 5,000 words likely too much.

The '3Cs' rule

When you have written your research proposal, ask a friend to read it critically and provide you with feedback. Also, ask yourself whether it follows the '3Cs' rule:

If you can answer all of these questions with confidence, you have probably put together a good proposal.


Depending on your project and the wider field it is a part of, you may want to include a paragraph on how you would go about spreading the ideas discussed in your research to the academic community, and in some cases the organisation arranging your funding. This could be anything, from traditional sources such as publications and seminars, to more contemporary methods such as blogs, vlogs and exhibitions.

To protect yourself from accusations of plagiarism please make sure that all your references are present, correct and up-to-date at the time of submission.  In order to ensure you have correctly referenced, it is sensible to include publications in your bibliography that influenced your thoughts and arguments in any way, even if they are not quoted from directly.  If you have used quotations from other academics, please check you have used quotation marks and a citation.

6 steps to a successful research proposal

A good research proposal should not be complicated. However, it can be challenging to write and it is important to get right. A PhD is challenging, so it is good training working on your research proposal. Although there is no exact prescribed format for a general research proposal (across all subjects), a research proposal should generally include six main sections, as detailed below:

1:  A clear working title for your research project

2:  A clear statement about what you want to work on and why it is important, interesting, relevant and realistic

3:  Some background knowledge and context of the area in which you wish to work, including key literature, key people, key research findings

4:  Some consideration of the methods/approach you might use

5:  Some indication of the strategy and timetable for your research project and any research challenges you may face

6:  A list of the key references which support your research proposal

All of the above six sections are important but section 2 is particularly important because in any research project, establishing your main purpose represents the whole basis for completing the research programme. Therefore, the value of your proposed research is assessed in relation to your research aims and objectives.

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What (Exactly) Is A Research Proposal?

A simple explainer with examples + free template.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Expert Reviewed By: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | June 2020

If you’re nearing the end of your degree program and your dissertation or thesis is on the horizon, or you’re planning to apply for a PhD program, chances are you’re going to need to craft a convincing research proposal . If you’re on this page, you’re probably unsure exactly what the research proposal is all about. Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Overview: Research Proposal Basics

What is a research proposal?

A research proposal is a simply a structured, formal document that explains  what  you plan to research (i.e. your research topic),  why  it’s worth researching (i.e. your justification), and  how  you plan to investigate it (i.e. your practical approach). 

The purpose of the research proposal (it’s job, so to speak) is to  convince  your research supervisor, committee or university that your research is  suitable  (for the requirements of the degree program) and  manageable  (given the time and resource constraints you will face). 

The most important word here is “ convince ” – in other words, your research proposal needs to  sell  your research idea (to whoever is going to approve it). If it doesn’t convince them (of its suitability and manageability), you’ll need to revise and resubmit . This will cost you valuable time, which will either delay the start of your research or eat into its time allowance (which is bad news). 

A research proposal is a  formal document that explains what you plan to research , why it's worth researching and how you'll do it.

What goes into a research proposal?

As we mentioned earlier, a good dissertation or thesis proposal needs to cover the “what”, the “why” and the “how” of the research. Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail:

Your proposal needs to clearly articulate your research topic. This needs to be specific and unambiguous . Your research topic should make it clear exactly what you plan to research and in what context. Here’s an example:

Topic: An investigation into the factors which impact female Generation Y consumer’s likelihood to promote a specific makeup brand to their peers: a British context

As you can see, this topic is extremely clear. From this one line we can see exactly:

So, make sure that your research proposal provides a detailed explanation of your research topic. It should go without saying, but don’t start writing your proposal until you have a crystal-clear topic in mind, or you’ll end up waffling away a few thousand words. 

Need a helping hand?

research proposal phd how long

As we touched on earlier, it’s not good enough to simply propose a research topic – you need to justify why your topic is original . In other words, what makes it  unique ? What gap in the current literature does it fill? If it’s simply a rehash of the existing research, it’s probably not going to get approval – it needs to be fresh.

But,  originality  alone is not enough. Once you’ve ticked that box, you also need to justify why your proposed topic is  important . In other words, what value will it add to the world if you manage to find answers to your research questions ? 

For example, let’s look at the sample research topic we mentioned earlier (factors impacting brand advocacy). In this case, if the research could uncover relevant factors, these findings would be very useful to marketers in the cosmetics industry, and would, therefore, have commercial value . That is a clear justification for the research.

So, when you’re crafting your research proposal, remember that it’s not enough for a topic to simply be unique. It needs to be useful and value-creating – and you need to convey that value in your proposal. If you’re struggling to find a research topic that makes the cut, watch  our video covering how to find a research topic .

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

It’s all good and well to have a great topic that’s original and important, but you’re not going to convince anyone to approve it without discussing the practicalities – in other words:

While it’s generally not expected that you’ll have a fully fleshed out research strategy at the proposal stage, you will need to provide a high-level view of your research methodology and some key design decisions. Here are some important questions you’ll need to address in your proposal:

So, make sure you give some thought to the practicalities of your research and have at least a basic understanding of research methodologies before you start writing up your proposal. The video below provides a good introduction to methodology.

How long is a research proposal?

This varies tremendously, depending on the university, the field of study (e.g., social sciences vs natural sciences), and the level of the degree (e.g. undergraduate, Masters or PhD) – so it’s always best to check with your university what their specific requirements are before you start planning your proposal. 

As a rough guide, a formal research proposal at Masters-level often ranges between 2000-3000 words , while a PhD-level proposal can be far more detailed, ranging from 5000-8000 words . In some cases, a rough outline of the topic is all that’s needed, while in other cases, universities expect a very detailed proposal that essentially forms the first three chapters of the dissertation or thesis. 

The takeaway – be sure to check with your institution before you start writing.

The length of a proposal varies tremendously, depending on the university, the field of study, and the level of the degree.

How is a research proposal structured?

While the exact structure and format required for a dissertation or thesis research proposal differs from university to university, there are five “ essential ingredients ” that typically make up the structure of a research proposal:

For a detailed explanation of each of these, and step by step guidance covering how to write a research proposal,  have a look at this video post .   You might also consider using our free research proposal template here .

Final thoughts

As you write up your research proposal, remember the all-important core purpose:  to convince . Your research proposal needs to sell your research idea in terms of suitability and viability. So, focus on crafting a convincing narrative and you’ll have won half the battle.

research proposal phd how long

Psst… there’s more (for free)

This post is part of our research writing mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project.

You Might Also Like:

What (Exactly) Is A Dissertation Abstract?


Myrna Pereira

I truly enjoyed this video, as it was eye-opening to what I have to do in the preparation of preparing a Research proposal.

I would be interested in getting some coaching.


I real appreciate on your elaboration on how to develop research proposal,the video explains each steps clearly.

Christopher Makuvaza

Thank you for the video. It really assisted me and my niece. I am a PhD candidate and she is an undergraduate student. It is at times, very difficult to guide a family member but with this video, my job is done.

In view of the above, I welcome more coaching.

Zakia Ghafoor

Wonderful guidelines, thanks

Annie Malupande

This is very helpful. Would love to continue even as I prepare for starting my masters next year.


Thanks for the work done, the text was helpful to me

Ahsanullah Mangal

Bundle of thanks to you for the research proposal guide it was really good and useful if it is possible please send me the sample of research proposal

Derek Jansen

You’re most welcome. We don’t have any research proposals that we can share (the students own the intellectual property), but you might find our research proposal template useful: https://gradcoach.com/research-proposal-template/

Cheruiyot Moses Kipyegon

Cheruiyot Moses Kipyegon

Thanks alot. It was an eye opener that came timely enough before my imminent proposal defense. Thanks, again


thank you very much your lesson is very interested may God be with you


I am an undergraduate student (First Degree) preparing to write my project,this video and explanation had shed more light to me thanks for your efforts keep it up.

Synthia Atieno

Very useful. I am grateful.

belina nambeya

this is a very a good guidance on research proposal, for sure i have learnt something

Wonderful guidelines for writing a research proposal, I am a student of m.phil( education), this guideline is suitable for me. Thanks

You’re welcome 🙂


Thank you, this was so helpful.

Amitash Degan

A really great and insightful video. It opened my eyes as to how to write a research paper. I would like to receive more guidance for writing my research paper from your esteemed faculty.

Glaudia Njuguna

Thank you, great insights

Thank you, great insights, thank you so much, feeling edified


Wow thank you, great insights, thanks a lot

Roseline Soetan

Thank you. This is a great insight. I am a student preparing for a PhD program. I am requested to write my Research Proposal as part of what I am required to submit before my unconditional admission. I am grateful having listened to this video which will go a long way in helping me to actually choose a topic of interest and not just any topic as well as to narrow down the topic and be specific about it. I indeed need more of this especially as am trying to choose a topic suitable for a DBA am about embarking on. Thank you once more. The video is indeed helpful.


Have learnt a lot just at the right time. Thank you so much.

laramato ikayo

thank you very much ,because have learn a lot things concerning research proposal and be blessed u for your time that you providing to help us

Cheruiyot M Kipyegon

Hi. For my MSc medical education research, please evaluate this topic for me: Training Needs Assessment of Faculty in Medical Training Institutions in Kericho and Bomet Counties


I have really learnt a lot based on research proposal and it’s formulation

Arega Berlie

Thank you. I learn much from the proposal since it is applied


Your effort is much appreciated – you have good articulation.

You have good articulation.

Douglas Eliaba

I do applaud your simplified method of explaining the subject matter, which indeed has broaden my understanding of the subject matter. Definitely this would enable me writing a sellable research proposal.


This really helping


Great! I liked your tutoring on how to find a research topic and how to write a research proposal. Precise and concise. Thank you very much. Will certainly share this with my students. Research made simple indeed.

Alice Kuyayama

Thank you very much. I an now assist my students effectively.

Thank you very much. I can now assist my students effectively.

Abdurahman Bayoh

I need any research proposal


Thank you for these videos. I will need chapter by chapter assistance in writing my MSc dissertation


Very helpfull

faith wugah

the videos are very good and straight forward


thanks so much for this wonderful presentations, i really enjoyed it to the fullest wish to learn more from you

Bernie E. Balmeo

Thank you very much. I learned a lot from your lecture.

Ishmael kwame Appiah

I really enjoy the in-depth knowledge on research proposal you have given. me. You have indeed broaden my understanding and skills. Thank you

David Mweemba

interesting session this has equipped me with knowledge as i head for exams in an hour’s time, am sure i get A++

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Online Phd Program

How To Write A PhD Research Plan

December 3, 2022

October 15, 2022

Donna Kjellander

A research plan is a detailed roadmap for your research project. It outlines the goals, methodology, and timeline for your research project. The research plan is a crucial component of your PhD application. It demonstrates your ability to think critically about your research topic and to plan and execute a research project. Your research plan should be clear and concise. It should be well-organized and logical. It should outline the goals of your research and the methods you will use to achieve those goals. Your research plan should also include a timeline for your project. Your research plan is a important part of your PhD application. It will be reviewed by the admissions committee and by your potential supervisor. Make sure that your research plan is well-written and well-organized.

In addition to submitting a project plan, you should write a research proposal if you want to pursue a PhD. Your PhD proposal should explain the scope and significance of your research topic. You don’t need to be an expert to write a good research proposal. For example, you should understand what the proposal entails and what steps it requires to take. To accomplish this, the project must have a significant original contribution to knowledge. If it does not, it will not meet the doctoral degree requirements and will most likely fail the viva exam. In most countries, PhD programs last three to four years on average. Your proposal should clearly articulate the scope of your project.

You should also outline your research plan in advance. A plan is key here, but you do not have to have one. Demonstrate that you can complete it at this university (why and where). What is a PhD research proposal? How long should one be? The university will have no trouble accepting it as long as it is desired. It is unlikely that you will need to include a specific conclusion; simply state what your project is about.

You can, however, use a simple summary sentence if you believe it will help. Depending on how you work, your proposal may take a little longer to complete. A proposal should outline why you want to conduct research at a specific university. If you intend to apply to more than one university at the same time, you should consider writing a research proposal. All you need to include is research findings, in-depth analysis, and a review of comparable literature. You must present a strong case for your research and analysis. Consider asking your supervisor if they’d like to share a good proposal from a previous student.

The document includes a description of your objectives, justification for the work, how and when you intend to complete it, the resources you will require, and what you expect to produce as a result of the work.

A research plan, in essence, is a template that you can use to plan your research approach . The plan can take the form of an outline, a narrative, a visual/concept map, or a timeline. As you conduct your research, you will create a document that will change and evolve over time.

What Is A Phd Research Plan?

research proposal phd how long

A PhD research plan is a detailed description of the research you will undertake as part of your PhD. It should be written in consultation with your supervisor and should include a timeline, a summary of your research question(s ), and a description of the methods you will use to answer them. The research plan is a key part of your PhD application and should be given careful consideration before you submit it.

This page describes the most fundamental elements of a research plan. A research plan describes a principal investigator’s proposed research and is the primary component of grant applications. The AHRQ’s Peer Review Criteria are used to conduct peer review of applications. This document serves as a clear and concise summary of what the proposed research will seek to accomplish. Articles that fall under the Public Access Policy, as well as those written or co-authored by the applicant, should be included. Each article must be accompanied by a PubMed Central reference number (PMCID234567). The preliminary results section describes prior research conducted by the investigators who will be involved in the project.

What are gaps in the literature? What are the best things about the study that sets it apart from other studies in the field? What is the reason of studying? How can I start studying in just a few hours? The purpose of this study is to determine whether different types of masculine behavior affect relationships within dyads. A dyad is typically one person who interacts with another, and relationships are the most common. Masculinity is a complex concept that combines biological and social characteristics. Men are traditionally regarded as physically masculine due to their strong, powerful, and toughness characteristics. Society values and approves of social masculine behavior because it is perceived as masculine. A sample of undergraduate students will be used in this study. In general, research on dyads and their relationships is lacking. It has been discovered that there are gaps in the literature and that the need for this study arises from the lack of research. A small group of undergraduate students will be included in this study. Because undergraduate students have a broader range of perspectives on masculine identity, the representation of masculinity is more diverse. Furthermore, this population is more likely to be open to change and debate, which will aid in the accuracy and relevance of the study. Relationships between women and men are examined in this study in order to examine how different types of masculine characteristics affect the way women and men interact. A sample of undergraduate students will be used to conduct the study.

How Long Is A Phd Research Proposal?

research proposal phd how long

There is no definitive answer to this question as it depends on a number of factors, such as the topic of research, the institution, and the supervisor. A PhD research proposal is typically around 3,000 words, and is due to be submitted as part of the application process.

If you don’t have time to write your research proposal for PhD application, what is the best way to do it? I am interested in applying for Oxbridge. Any difference on applications? A website may advise you that it will take 2-3 months to research, write, rewrite, edit, and submit a strong proposal. It is not a given, however, depending on when your application deadlines (and how late you have left the writing process) occur. This year, I submitted a proposal that took me just under two months to complete (including research). It will be difficult to draft a proposal for your PhD before your Masters start.

A three-month timeframe is reasonable if you work systematically and methodically, noting your key references and mapping the existing knowledge as you immerse yourself in your topic. If you have at least three weeks to devote to subject knowledge acquisition, I’d recommend doing it. We achieve a level of clarity and precision in our thinking and register of language that is significantly higher than that of a student who is enrolled in undergraduate programs. Because it is a competitive application, I recommend that you avoid applying for a funded PhD this year. I wrote a standard business plan structure around an interesting research question I recently asked, which I had not previously asked and was timely. In both cases, I received an offer. In any case, you don’t have to be massive, just have the right question and the right plan to answer it.

The PhD proposal I submitted was in the vein of an on-point question, clear plan as to the resources, and 3 different options to take and how I might decide them in my first year. Two offers were made to me. An answer, no matter how large it is, must include a question that needs answering and a detailed plan of how you will answer it.

How Long Is A Standard Research Proposal?

Although the length of a research proposal is not an absolute requirement, it is usually no more than 2,500 words.

How To Write A Masters Research Proposal

Before you begin writing your research proposal, you should first consider the type of research you want to conduct. Some proposals may necessitate more information and may take longer than others. It is generally recommended that a master’s research proposal be between 2,000 and 3,500 words long.

How To Write A Research Proposal

research proposal phd how long

When writing a research proposal, it is important to keep in mind the purpose of the proposal. The proposal should be clear and concise, and it should outline the research question, the goals of the research, the methodology, and the expected outcome. It is also important to consider the audience of the proposal, and to make sure that the proposal is accessible and understandable.

A research proposal is a short piece of writing that describes exactly what you’ll be doing in a larger study. The author demonstrates their research’s relevance to their field by providing a rationale for their findings in a research proposal. In addition, they must demonstrate that they have the necessary abilities to conduct this research as well as contribute to the current state of their field in a meaningful way. A literature review, as the name implies, is the section that outlines the sources you use as well as why they are important. Consider a literature review to be a mini-research proposal that ties in with your larger, overarching proposal. What your research proposal should contain is an outline of your findings. A literature review encompasses more than just a list of available sources; it also includes a description of the sources you used.

Simply enter your source as well as their author into your bibliography. The manner in which you cite your work will be determined by the style guide you choose. Each style guide has its own set of rules and requirements for citing. You must present a clear, concise proposal in order to get your research project noticed. The final section of your proposal should be used to answer every question the reader raises. There are several common pitfalls to avoid. We tend to be wordy, or we tend to focus on insignificant details rather than on more serious matters.

It is not appropriate to cite sources in an article. A research proposal is essentially a piece of writing that is persuasive. Grammarly can help you polish your writing for a better proposal. Errors in spelling or grammar, an inconsistent or inappropriate tone, or simply an awkward phrase will erode your credibility.

The purpose of this study is to investigate how smartphone use affects mental health in young adults. We believe that smartphone use has a negative impact on young adults’ mental health and well-being. This hypothesis will be tested by conducting a qualitative research study. To better understand how college students use their smartphones, we will conduct a survey of them. We will conduct qualitative and quantitative interviews as well as focus groups to gather data. The findings of this study will be useful in understanding how smartphone use can affect the mental health and well-being of young adults. We believe that by sharing this information, we can improve how mental health care and research is carried out.

How To Write A Phd Proposal Uk

Before you start writing a PhD proposal, you need to have a clear idea of what you want to research and why. You also need to be aware of the rules and regulations that apply to PhD study in the UK. Your PhD proposal should be around 3,000 words in length and include an outline of your proposed research, as well as a summary of the existing literature on the topic. It should also explain how you plan to go about your research, and what methods you will use to collect and analyse data. Once you have written your proposal, you will need to submit it to the relevant department at your chosen university for approval. If your proposal is accepted, you will then be able to start your PhD research.

Here are eight steps to help you create a proposal for a PhD that is both practical and well-thought-out. You can obtain a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree if you are well-prepared. The outline of your thesis objectives , the topic you intend to study, and any questions you plan to address are all included in the proposal. In this section, you’ll discuss your overall thesis design and the approach you intend to take. It is critical to remember that you do not have any conclusions about your research. Instead, concentrate on your main hypothesis and how it relates to the research question. You should summarize the points from each section of your essay in your conclusion.

You’ll be able to learn more about how you plan to complete your PhD in the PhD proposal. To make this process easier, look at the research methods you want to use and identify a few similar projects. By submitting a proposal, you demonstrate that you understand and can articulate the concepts of a thesis. You can increase your chances of submitting a successful proposal by following these tips. Examine your subject from new perspectives and apply the findings to your own work. Use concise and well-phrased technical terms rather than overcomplicated ones. You can include additional information in the sections that you’ve chosen for your proposal.

For most universities, a first or second-class bachelor’s degree, or the equivalent, is required. You can narrow down your research if you do so effectively. You must create a proposal for each university. Some people, on the other hand, might want to complete a Master of Philosophy before earning a PhD.

How Long Should A Phd Proposal Be Uk?

A research proposal should be no more than 1000-2000 words long, but a few hundred are suggested. If you want to make your overview as accurate as possible, you must provide enough detail to make the reader understand what you mean. It is not necessary to make it longer or shorter than necessary.

What Is A Good Phd Proposal?

A good PhD proposal describes the scope and significance of your topic as well as what research methods you intend to use. Consider the following when developing your proposal: if your application explains how you can do a PhD, the proposal should demonstrate how you intend to do one.

The 5 Tips You Need To Know To Write A Successful Phd Thesis

For students, the process of writing a PhD thesis can be difficult. If you have the right planning and strategy, the experience may even be worth it. When you’re writing your thesis, you should think about the following pointers. Make certain that your thesis is written with care. Your introduction and conclusion should be thorough. Make certain that your thesis is well-written and organized. Make citations and references available where necessary. It is critical to avoid plagiarism. You can find a variety of resources to assist you in the writing process, including online writing tools and writing groups. If you are having difficulty writing your thesis alone, consult with your professor or dissertation adviser. You may choose to shorten your thesis depending on your university’s guidelines, but make sure to keep them in mind when you do so. Here are some pointers to assist you in completing and achieving your academic goals as a PhD candidate.

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How to write a research proposal

Updated: Mar 6, 2022

A step by step guide for preparing a strong and demanding research proposal

Applying for a PhD degree or master's and getting confused on where to start with your research proposal? Don’t worry!! Follow our simple guidelines.

1. What is a research proposal?

2. What is research proposal with example?

3.Why it is important

4.How do you start a research proposal?

5. How long a research proposal needs to be /How many words should a PhD proposal be?

6.How do you write a research proposal for a PhD in 500 words?

7.How long does it take to write a PhD research proposal?

8.What is the format of research proposal/ What things a research proposal needs to cover :?

What is a research proposal-

In general, the research proposal defines what you will examine, why it’s important, and how you will do the research. By definition, research proposal is the summary of your research project work which is developed based on one’s finalized research topic.

What is research proposal with example?

A research proposal is a formal and structured document which explains what you actually plan to research (i.e. your interested research topic), and why it is worth to research(i.e. your reasoning and validation), and how you plan to examine it (i.e. your practical approach).

Why is it important?

Research proposals are significant as it outlines your actual research idea which includes the following details:

· literature studies on the existing research

· Approach and methodology employed

· Duration and viability

· Right resources.

How do you start a research proposal?

A good research proposal should consist of the following elements majorly:

Title-This is just a tentative title for your intended research.

Abstract-The proposal should include a concise statement of your intended research of no more than 100 words.

Literature Review

Research Questions.

Research Methodology.

Importance of Research.


How long a research proposal needs to be / How many words should a PhD proposal be?

The research proposal should be under a range between 3000-5000 words, however it’s better to speak with your guide on this as each university will have different page length.

How do you write a research proposal for a PhD in 500 words?

Some universities may ask you to submit a very precise research proposal whose length or words should not exceed 500 words. Below are the major details which can be included while crafting a precise and simple proposal

1. Be approximately 500 words.

2. Include an outline of your research interests.

3. Detail your initial thoughts about a topic.

4. Have references to previous work.

5. Discuss the methodology and general approach you wish to take.

How long does it take to write a PhD research proposal?

Generally the PhD research proposal takes more time than other research proposal 3-6 months and while other takes maximum 1-2 months.

What is the format of research proposal/ What things a research proposal needs to cover ?

When developing a research proposal, you need to strictly follow your university format/guidelines. However, most of the research proposal should contain at least these following sections.

· Title of the research study

· Introduction of the research topic

· Background and Significance of the study

· Literature Review

· Research Design and Methods

· Preliminary Suppositions and Implications (Expected outcomes)

· Conclusion

· References

Each of the above-mentioned sections are elaborated as under:

Title of the research study

The research study title should be very clear, but memorable and swiftly telling your reader what’s your research about.

Introduction of the research topic:

A good introduction of the research area should be the beginning of any research proposal. Hence, it is very important to well organize your research proposal as this sets an significant tone for the remaining stages of your research proposal.

Literature Review:

Conducting of literature is an very important step in the research proposal as one need to know what are the problem gaps present with the existing study.

Normally, literature review needs done on considering atleast 8-10 years of recent reference research papers from reputed journals.

Aims and Objectives

Once you have identified the research gap, your will be able set the aims and objectives of your research project. The difference here is as follows:

· Your research aim is the broad expected outcome of the study.

· Your research objectives are narrower and more focused.

Research Design and Methods

Include and explore all the research methods and approaches which are more appropriate to the study.

Preliminary Suppositions and Implications (Expected outcomes)

The predicted outcomes(results) of your research study needs to be précised upon in this section.

The complete summary of the research study needs to be specified in this chapter.

The originality of the developed content (Plagiarism) is taken extremely across all academic levels, but even more so for research degree. Hence, make sure you reference the existing literature which you have used in writing the research proposal.

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Master's vs PhD | A Complete Guide to the Differences

Published on November 27, 2020 by Lauren Thomas . Revised on September 14, 2022.

The two most common types of graduate degrees are master’s and doctoral degrees:

A master’s is also the necessary first step to a PhD. In the US, the master’s is built into PhD programs, while in most other countries, a separate master’s degree is required before applying for PhDs.

Master’s are far more common than PhDs. In the US, 24 million people have master’s or professional degrees, whereas only 4.5 million have doctorates.

Table of contents

Master’s vs phd at a glance, which is right for you, length of time required, career prospects, costs and salaries, application process, frequently asked questions about master's and phd degrees.

The table below shows the key differences between the two.

A PhD is right for you if:

A master’s degree is the better choice if any of the following apply:

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research proposal phd how long

The length of time required to complete a PhD or master’s degree varies. Unsurprisingly, PhDs take much longer, usually between 3–7 years. Master’s degrees are usually only 1–2 years.

Length of a master’s

Master’s degrees are usually 2 years, although 1-year master’s degrees also exist, mainly in the UK.

Most of the degree consists of classes and coursework, although many master’s programs include an intensive, semester-long master’s thesis or capstone project in which students bring together all they’ve learned to produce an original piece of work.

Length of a PhD

In the US, a PhD usually takes between 5 and 7 years to complete. The first 2 years are spent on coursework. Students, even those who choose to leave without finishing the program, usually receive a master’s degree at this point.

The next 3–5 years are spent preparing a dissertation —a lengthy piece of writing based on independent research, which aims to make a significant original contribution to one’s field.

Master’s degrees tend to prepare you for a career outside of academia, while PhDs are designed to lead to a career in research.

Careers for master’s graduates

There are two types of master’s degrees: terminal and research-intensive. The career prospects are different for each.

Terminal master’s degrees are intended to prepare students for careers outside of academia. Some degrees, known as professional degrees, specifically prepare students for particular professions; these include the Master of Public Policy (MPP), Master of Business Administration (MBA), Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), Master of Fine Arts (MFA), and Master of Public Health (MPH) degrees.

Other master’s degrees, usually Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Sciences (MS or MSc) degrees, do not necessarily lead to a specific career, but are intended to be a final degree. Examples include an MS in Communications or MS in Data Analytics.

In research-intensive master’s programs, students take coursework intended to prepare them for writing an original piece of research known as the master’s thesis . Such programs are usually intended to prepare for further study in a doctoral program.

Careers for PhD graduates

As research degrees, PhDs are usually intended to lead to an academic career. A PhD can be thought of like an apprenticeship, where students learn from professional researchers (academics) how to produce their own research.

Most students aspire to become a university professor upon the completion of their degree. However, careers in academia are highly competitive, and the skills learned in a doctoral program often lend themselves well to other types of careers.

Some graduates who find they prefer teaching to producing research go on to be teachers at liberal arts colleges or even secondary schools. Others work in research-intensive careers in the government, private sector, or at think tanks.

Below are a few examples of specific fields and non-academic careers that are common destinations of graduates of those fields.

Many government jobs, including economists at a country’s central bank, are research-intensive and require a PhD. Think tanks also hire economists to carry out independent research.

In the private sector, economic consulting and technology firms frequently hire PhDs to solve real-world problems that require complex mathematical modeling.

Graduate students from the humanities are sometimes hired by museums, who can make use of their research and writing skills to curate exhibits and run public outreach.

Humanities PhDs are often well-suited to research and grant-writing roles at nonprofits. Since so much of research is funded by grants, PhD students often gain a lot of experience applying for them, which is a useful skill in the nonprofit sector.

There are a wide range of non-academic research jobs for lab scientists with doctorates in subjects like chemistry, biology, ecology and physics.

Many PhD graduates are hired by pharmaceutical companies that need to perform research to create and test their products. Government agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), also hire lab scientists to work on research projects.

Job prospects after graduation vary widely based on the field. In fields like management, computer science, statistics, and economics, there’s little underemployment—even graduates from less well-known programs can easily find jobs that pay well and use the skills they’ve gained from the PhD.

However, in other fields, particularly in the humanities, many PhD graduates have difficulty in the job market. Unfortunately, there are far more PhD graduates than assistant professor roles, so many instead take on part-time and low-paid roles as adjunct instructors. Even non-academic careers can sometimes be difficult for PhDs to move into, as they may be seen as “overqualified”  or as lacking in relevant professional experience.

Because career options post-PhD vary so much, you should take the time to figure out what the career prospects are in your field. Doctoral programs often have detailed “placement” records online in which they list the career outcomes of their graduates immediately upon leaving the program. If you can’t find these records, contact the program and ask for them—placement information should play an important role in your choice of PhD program.

Although PhDs take far longer to complete, students often receive a living stipend in exchange for being a teaching or research assistant. Master’s degrees are shorter but less likely to be funded.

Both master’s degrees and PhDs lead to increased salaries upon graduation. While PhDs usually earn a bit more than those with a master’s degree, in some fields, the wages are identical, meaning that no financial benefit is gained from going on to a PhD.

Cost of a master’s

The upfront cost of a master’s degree is usually higher than a doctoral degree due to the lower amount of financial aid available. However, increased salaries also arrive faster than with a doctoral degree, because people graduate much earlier from a master’s program.

Some master’s students do receive stipends for their degrees, usually as compensation for being a teaching or research assistant. In addition, many people complete master’s degrees part time while working full-time, which allows them to fund their living costs as well as tuition.

The cost varies significantly by school and program. Public schools are usually cheaper than private ones. Some master’s degrees, such as MBAs, are notoriously expensive, but also result in much higher wages afterwards that make up for the high cost.

The master’s wage premium , or the extra amount that someone with a master’s degree makes than someone with just a high school diploma, is 23% on average. Many universities provide detailed statistics on the career and salary outcomes of their students. If they do not have this online, you should feel free to contact an administrator of the program and ask.

Cost of a PhD

PhDs, particularly outside the humanities, are usually (though not always) funded, meaning that tuition fees are fully waived and students receive a small living stipend. During the last 3–5 years of a PhD, after finishing their coursework (and sometimes before), students are usually expected to work as graduate instructors or research assistants in exchange for the stipend.

Sometimes students can apply for a fellowship (such as the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Program in the United States) that relieves them of any obligations to be a teaching or research assistant. Doctoral programs in the US tend to be better funded than in the rest of the world.

Sometimes, PhD degrees can be completed part-time, but this is rare. Students are usually expected to devote at least 40 hours a week to their research and work as teaching or research assistants.

The main cost of doctoral programs comes in the form of opportunity cost—all the years that students could be working a regular, full-time job, which usually pays much better than a graduate school stipend.

The average wage premium for PhDs is 26%, which is not much higher than the master’s degree premium.

In the US, the application process is similar for master’s and PhD programs. Both will generally ask for:

Applications for both types of programs also often require a standardized test. PhDs usually require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), which tries to measure verbal reasoning, quantitative, critical thinking , and analytical writing skills. Many master’s programs require this test as well.

Applying for a master’s

Master’s degrees programs will often ask you to respond to specific essay prompts that may ask you to reflect upon not just your academic background, but also your personal character and future career ambitions.

Northwestern University’s Kellogg Business School requires Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) applicants write two essays, one about a recent time they demonstrated leadership and the second about their personal values.

Who you should ask for your letters of recommendation varies by program. If you are applying to a research-intensive master’s program, then you should choose former professors or research supervisors. For other programs, particularly business school, current work supervisors may be a better choice.

Some professional master’s programs require a specific test. For example, to apply to law school, you must take the Law School Admissions Test, or LSAT. For business school, you must take either the GRE or the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT).

Applying for a PhD

When applying for a PhD, your resume should focus more on your research background—you should especially emphasize any publications you’ve authored or presentations that you’ve given.

Similarly, your statement of purpose should discuss research that you’ve participated in, whether as an assistant or the lead author. You should detail what exactly you did in projects you’ve contributed to, whether that’s conducting a literature review, coding regressions, or writing an entire article.

Your letters of recommendations should be from former professors or supervisors who can speak to your abilities and potential as a researcher. A good rule of thumb is to avoid asking for recommendations from anyone who does not themselves have a PhD.

A master’s is a 1- or 2-year graduate degree that can prepare you for a variety of careers.

All master’s involve graduate-level coursework. Some are research-intensive and intend to prepare students for further study in a PhD; these usually require their students to write a master’s thesis . Others focus on professional training for a specific career.

A PhD, which is short for philosophiae doctor (doctor of philosophy in Latin), is the highest university degree that can be obtained. In a PhD, students spend 3–5 years writing a dissertation , which aims to make a significant, original contribution to current knowledge.

A PhD is intended to prepare students for a career as a researcher, whether that be in academia, the public sector, or the private sector.

This depends on the country. In the United States, you can generally go directly to a PhD  with only a bachelor’s degree, as a master’s program is included as part of the doctoral program.

Elsewhere, you generally need to graduate from a research-intensive master’s degree before continuing to the PhD.

This varies by country. In the United States, PhDs usually take between 5–7 years: 2 years of coursework followed by 3–5 years of independent research work to produce a dissertation.

In the rest of the world, students normally have a master’s degree before beginning the PhD, so they proceed directly to the research stage and complete a PhD in 3–5 years.

A master’s degree usually has a higher upfront cost, but it also allows you to start earning a higher salary more quickly. The exact cost depends on the country and the school: private universities usually cost more than public ones, and European degrees usually cost less than North American ones. There are limited possibilities for financial aid.

PhDs often waive tuition fees and offer a living stipend in exchange for a teaching or research assistantship. However, they take many years to complete, during which time you earn very little.

In the US, the graduate school application process is similar whether you’re applying for a master’s or a PhD . Both require letters of recommendation , a statement of purpose or personal statement , a resume or CV , and transcripts. Programs in the US and Canada usually also require a certain type of standardized test—often the GRE.

Outside the US, PhD programs usually also require applicants to write a research proposal , because students are expected to begin dissertation research in the first year of their PhD.

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University of Bristol Law School

How to write a phd proposal.

We are delighted to consider applications for PhD research. We have a fantastic, diverse and energetic student body who are making the most of fabulous resources for postgraduate students. We welcome you to join us.

In order to help you with your application, the information below aims to give some guidance on how a typical research proposal might look.

Please be aware that if you are applying for   ESRC funding  then the proposal  must be no longer than 1,300 words ,  and if you are applying for  University of Bristol Postgraduate Research Scholarship  then the proposal  must be no longer than 1,000 words (incl. footnotes).

Your aim here is to showcase your ability to carry out postgraduate research. PhD research often travels and what you apply to study for may differ from your ultimate PhD. It is perfectly acceptable for research to move over time in response to findings or changes in preference/supervision.

Please note:  we do not generally have the expertise to supervise PhD proposals that are exclusively in a jurisdiction outside UK, EU or international law. We have many expert supervisors in comparative, international and regional law but if your proposal is only to study the law in your home country, we may not be able to offer you supervision even if you meet the admission requirements.

Title. A short, indicative title is best.

Abstract. This is a succinct summary of your research proposal that will present a condensed outline, enabling the reader to get a very quick overview of your proposed project, lines of inquiry and possible outcomes. An abstract is often written last, after you have written the proposal and are able to summarise it effectively.

Rationale for the research project. This might include a description of the question/debate/phenomenon of interest, and the context(s) and situation in which you think the research will take place; an explanation of why the topic is of interest to you; and an outline of the reasons why the topic should be of interest to research and/ or practice (the 'so what?' question).

Issues and initial research question. What legal or governance question(s) do you intend to investigate? (This may be quite imprecise at the application stage); what might be some of the key literatures that might inform the issues (again, indicative at the application stage); and, as precisely as you can, what is the question you are trying to answer? A research proposal can and should make a positive and persuasive first impression and demonstrate your potential to become a good researcher. In particular, you need to demonstrate that you can think critically and analytically as well as communicate your ideas clearly.

Intended methodology. How do you think you might go about answering the question? At Bristol we supervise an incredibly wide range of PhDs, including doctrinal, theoretical, empirical, historical, comparative or policy-focused work. Even if your methods are, for example, doctrinal, please do make this clear and give some indication why you think this is the best methodology for your proposed study. If you have a key theorist in mind, do please outline this in your application, together with some understanding of any critiques that have been raised. If you are planning to do empirical work, do please give some indication of what your methods might be (quantitative (surveys, statistics etc); qualitative (interviews, ethnography etc)

Expected outcomes and impact. How do you think the research might add to existing knowledge; what might it enable organisations or interested parties to do differently? Increasingly in academia (and this is particularly so for ESRC-funded studentships) PhD students are being asked to consider how their research might contribute to both academic impact and/or economic and societal impact . This is well explained on the ESRC website if you would like to find out more.

Timetable. What is your initial estimation of the timetable of the dissertation? When will each of the key stages start and finish (refining proposal; literature review; developing research methods; fieldwork; analysis; writing the draft; final submission). There are likely to overlaps between the stages.

Why Bristol? Why –specifically - do you want to study for your PhD at Bristol? How would you fit into our research themes and research culture (please see the ’10 reasons to study for a PhD at Bristol’ section on the website for more information). You do not need to identify supervisors at the application stage.

Bibliography. Do make sure that you cite what you see as the key readings in the field. This does not have to be comprehensive but you are illustrating the range of sources you might use in your research.


A number of scholarships are available to study for a PhD at Bristol. You can see more information regarding scholarships on our fees and funding page. If you have any questions about which scholarship to apply for and how your research might fit in please contact the PGR Director, Yvette Russell   [email protected] .

Apply online

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:

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:

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:

Find out more

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How To Write A PhD Proposal

Writing a PhD research proposal may seem like a daunting task when you are used to writing essays, reports and other short coursework pieces for your undergraduate degree.

However, the success of your PhD application largely depends on the quality of your thesis proposal, so it's important to try and do this part of your application as well as possible.

What is a PhD research proposal?

A PhD proposal is a an outline of your proposed project that should:

Research proposals may vary in length, so it is important to check with the department(s) to which you are applying to check word limits and guidelines. Generally speaking, a proposal should be around 3,000 words which you write as part of the application process.

What is the purpose of my PhD research proposal?

Potential supervisors, admissions tutors and/or funders use research proposals to check:

It's important that you are able to complete your PhD within 3 years (full-time) or 6 years (part-time), so make sure you are able to explain how you will complete it within this timeframe.

This is your opportunity to convince tutors that your project is important and they should offer you a place at their university.

The proposal will also be used to assign supervisors, so if you are interested in the work of a particular member of staff (especially if you have already discussed your work with this person), make sure you mention this in your proposal. 

It's usually a good idea to scope out prospective supervisors and get in touch with them to discuss your proposal informally before submitting your application, as this will give you a better chance of it being accepted. However, remember that there is no guarantee you will be supervised by a particular academic.

Do I have to stick to my PhD research proposal?

No - not all research proposals are set in stone.

In fact, quite the opposite, since they will often be a work in progress and be amended further down the line as more information comes to light through literature, experiments, input from other academics, etc.

So try not to worry about this too much as you are writing, as there is room for flexibility later on.

What should I include in my PhD proposal?

Overall your proposal needs to explain what exactly you want to research for three or four years, and the reasons why. However, you will also need to include other details, such as why your area of research is important, what gap(s) in the literature you hope to fill, and what broader relevance your ideas have to your chosen field. You will need to make your application stand out from the crowd with a well-written proposal, so they will be more likely to consider you for the place over someone else. The task of writing a proposal is very different from writing an essay. You need to think about the questions you want to answer through your research, rather than putting forward an argument.

Consider how the data you will gather may lead you to a particular line of argument to answer your research questions.

How should I structure my PhD research proposal?

This varies a great deal from institution to institution, and between different subjects. This means you need to find out in advance what the guidelines are for the departments you would be interested in studying at. For example, the faculty of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick require prospective PhD students to write a statement of research from 500 to 1000 words long, whereas the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Oxford do not ask for a formal research proposal, just a statement of why their programmes are of interest to you and the particular areas of research that appeal to you most. However, the things you need to include in the proposal are usually very standard. These include:

You do not need to have full details of the methods you will use to answer your research questions but you need to demonstrate that you have already given some thought about how you will do things. The important thing is that you show the institution you are applying to that your project is feasible in the time period available - it's good to show ambition, but make sure you have thought about the methodological issues. If your proposal is too elaborate and not feasible within 3 or 4 years, your application is likely to be unsuccessful. If you are asked to submit quite a long proposal, make sure it is sub-headed so it is more readable for potential supervisors.

Tips for writing your PhD research proposal

1. think about your main research question.

How could it be broken down into a chain of manageable chunks that are all connected?

Drawing a flowchart or spider diagram may help you with this initial step.

2. Get started early

Since your proposal is likely to go through a significant number of drafts, it’s best to give yourself as much time as possible to write it.

Obviously, if you start only a week or 2 from the application deadline, it's unlikely you will write something good enough to get accepted.

From getting down your first ideas to completing your final draft can take up 2 or 3 months if you’ve done it to the best of your ability.

Ask your tutors who taught you during your undergraduate degree to help you, as usually they are only too happy to encourage good students to pursue doctoral study.

3. Do your homework

It's important to research the departments you are thinking about applying to ensure that there are staff interested in your topic and available to supervise your project.

As mentioned above, we recommend you contact potential supervisors beforehand with a completed draft of your proposal to check it is viable and you have a good chance of being considered.

4. Don't ramble

Long-winded and poorly constructed proposals won't help you win points with faculty staff.

As mentioned earlier, structure your statement well to make your proposal clear and easy to read, otherwise you are more likely to be rejected.

5. Let your passion show

Make sure your enthusiasm for your chosen research area shows through in the structure and arguments presented in your proposal.

What excites you about this project, and how does it add value to your field?

Not all readers will know everything about your field, so it is up to you to make your research proposal engaging and make them want to offer you a place in their department.

6. Be persuasive

This means stating your research problem as clearly as possible, and how it will address gaps in current knowledge.

Thinking about the questions you wish to answer early on will help you gain the results you're looking for later on.

If you aren't convinced there is a project there, your potential supervisors won't be either!

7. Ask for feedback

Taking a draft of your proposal to a tutor who will give you some constructive advice can help you develop your ideas and guide you with the structure and formatting.

If you have any friends who are also looking to apply for a PhD, a few group sessions on looking at each other’s proposals and suggesting improvements could prove to be very useful. Talking to people who are currently studying for a PhD will also help, as they can explain about their experience of the application process and what they wrote for their research proposal. Hopefully they will provide you with some useful tips on how to make your application successful and general advice for getting together that final draft of your proposal.

8. Don't stress

Try not to worry about your proposal as you continue to re-draft to it.

Supervisors know that the course of your research will change as your studies progress, so don’t panic about what you write in the proposal will be exactly what you will do over the next 3 or 4 years. The most important thing is that you are able to demonstrate a well thought out idea and evaluate how you will contribute to the current knowledge and literature. You need to make sure you are able to show this first time in your proposal, as there are no second chances to prove you are good enough to study at a particular institution.

Further information

For more tips and advice on applying for a PhD, please see:


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  1. How to Write a Great PhD Research Proposal

    Three years may seem like a long time, but researching a PhD is a lot of work and you'll probably spend at least some of your time on other activities like teaching, conference presentations or even publication. So, one of the things your proposal needs to do is demonstrate that your project is feasible: that it fits within the scope of a PhD.

  2. PDF A Guide to Writing your PhD Proposal

    The appropriate length of a research proposal A good research proposal is as long as it takes, but a guide would be 1000‐2000 words. Remember that it is meant to be an accurate overview, not a thesis, so you need to provide enough detail for the reader to understand it.

  3. How to nail your PhD proposal and get accepted: Examples included

    Remember, PhD students can take up to four years to complete their studies so you have to show that you understand the time involved with the project. You need to demonstrate your planning capabilities and give a plan that covers everything with realistic, thought-out deadlines.

  4. How to Write a Research Proposal

    The length of a research proposal can vary quite a bit. A bachelor's or master's thesis proposal can be just a few pages, while proposals for PhD dissertations or research funding are usually much longer and more detailed. Your supervisor can help you determine the best length for your work.

  5. How to Write a PhD Research Proposal

    Your research proposal is used to confirm you understand the topic, and that the university has the expertise to support your study. The length of a research proposal varies. It is usually specified by either the programme requirements or the supervisor upon request. 1500 to 3500 words is common.

  6. How to Write a Research Proposal

    How long should a research proposal be? Generally, research proposals for bachelor's and master's theses are a few pages long. Research proposals for meatier projects, like Ph.D. dissertations and funding requests, are often longer and far more detailed.

  7. How long do PhD students typically take to come up with their research

    They can also find a supervisor to work on the research proposal together before submitting it as part of their application. I have applied for a PhD in another field before and was able to write a proposal in 2 weeks that was good enough to get an interview for the program.

  8. How to Write a Research Proposal for PhD & Masters

    The proposal should typically be between 2,500 and 3500 words long. It is important to remember that different funding bodies may have different word limits. It should be 2,500-3,500 words long (4-7 pages). What should the research proposal include? Your proposal should include the following components given below.

  9. How to write a research proposal for a strong PhD application

    How long should it be? Usually no more than 2000 words, but check the requirements of your degree, and your supervisor or research coordinator. Presenting your idea clearly and concisely demonstrates that you can write this way - an attribute of a potential research candidate that is valued by assessors. What should it include? Project title

  10. Writing your PhD research proposal

    All applicants for a PhD or MSc by Research are required to submit a research proposal as part of their application. Applicants must use the template form below for their research proposal. This research proposal should then be submitted online as part of your application.

  11. How to write a good PhD proposal

    Here are some of the key factors to consider when structuring your proposal: meeting the expected word count (this can range from a 1-page maximum to a 3000-word minimum depending on your supervisor and research area) making your bibliography as detailed as necessary outlining the research questions you'll be trying to solve/answer

  12. (PDF) How to Write a PhD Proposal

    A PhD proposal is a focused document that introduces your PhD study idea and seeks to convince the reader that your idea is interesting, original and viable within the allocated study period and ...

  13. PhD research proposal

    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: Show all / Hide all The title Research questions Research aims Contribution Resources Methods Structure and timetable

  14. How to Write a Successful PhD Research Proposal

    References: Do not forget to specify all the references at the end of the proposal. An obvious but very important point is the format of your research proposal. Make sure that the formatting of the document is consistent throughout and that the structure is clear. If possible, it can be a good idea to give the document to your academic tutor or ...

  15. Research proposal

    How long should a good research proposal be? A good research proposal is as long as it takes, but a guide would be 1,500-2,500 words. Remember that it is meant to be an accurate overview, not a thesis, so you need to provide enough detail for the reader to understand it. A paragraph would not be enough and 5,000 words likely too much. The '3Cs ...

  16. What Is A Research Proposal? Definition + Examples

    As a rough guide, a formal research proposal at Masters-level often ranges between 2000-3000 words, while a PhD-level proposal can be far more detailed, ranging from 5000-8000 words.

  17. How To Write A PhD Research Plan

    Your PhD proposal should be around 3,000 words in length and include an outline of your proposed research, as well as a summary of the existing literature on the topic. It should also explain how you plan to go about your research, and what methods you will use to collect and analyse data.

  18. How to write a research proposal for PhD application

    A step by step guide for preparing a strong and demanding research proposal Applying for a PhD degree or master's and getting confused on where to start with your research proposal? Don't worry!! Follow our simple guidelines. 1. What is a research proposal? 2. What is research proposal with example? 3.Why it is important 4.How do you start a research proposal? 5.How long a research proposal ...

  19. How To Write a PhD Proposal in 8 Practical Steps (Plus Tips)

    Here are a few aspects to include and remember when writing your PhD proposal: 1. Include a title page. The working title is usually around ten words long and indicates what you plan to study. Try to choose an interesting and thought-provoking title that attracts the reader's attention.

  20. Master's vs PhD

    A PhD, or doctoral degree, takes 3-7 years to complete (depending on the country) and prepares you for a career in academic research. A master's is also the necessary first step to a PhD. In the US, the master's is built into PhD programs, while in most other countries, a separate master's degree is required before applying for PhDs.

  21. How to write a PhD proposal

    Abstract. This is a succinct summary of your research proposal that will present a condensed outline, enabling the reader to get a very quick overview of your proposed project, lines of inquiry and possible outcomes. An abstract is often written last, after you have written the proposal and are able to summarise it effectively.

  22. How to write a successful research proposal

    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.

  23. How To Write A PhD Proposal

    If your proposal is too elaborate and not feasible within 3 or 4 years, your application is likely to be unsuccessful. If you are asked to submit quite a long proposal, make sure it is sub-headed so it is more readable for potential supervisors. Tips for writing your PhD research proposal 1. Think about your main research question