A research proposal is an integral part of the PhD program process; it can make a positive and powerful first impression about your potential to become a good researcher. It provides the broad topic you wish to research, the reasons for the research, how you are going to conduct the research and the expected results.

The research proposal is expected to:

  • Show that you are engaging in genuine inquiry about something worthwhile in a particular context;
  • Establish a particular theoretical framework;
  • Establish your methodological approach; and
  • Show that you have a personal viewpoint on the issue.

Think very carefully about the scope of your research and be prepared to explain how you will complete it within a feasible time frame. Research proposals may vary in length, but generally speaking, a proposal should be no more than 2,500 words or 5 pages in length; 2-3 pages are normally sufficient.


Look at your ideas, read widely to make sure that your proposal is original and will add new information to the field. Then clearly outline the following components:

  • Aims and objectives: Write down what you want to achieve.
  • Research question: Explain the questions you want your research to address.
  • Methodology: Consider your academic writing approach.
  • Plan: Decide how you will conduct your research and writing in the time available.
  • Expected outcomes: Describe what you hope to discover at the end of your research and what new areas it might help to inform.


  • Talk to your peers; use them as a sounding board for your proposal.
  • Talk with postgraduate researchers in the field.
  • You may find the most helpful person is your academic advisor.
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