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Preparing a research proposal


Please follow the guidelines below in preparing your PhD research proposal. Your proposal should contain the following sections 1-8.

Your proposal should be around 2,500 words long. This is a numerical guideline and the emphasis is on the overall quality of the proposal and the degree of fit with your potential supervisor.

1. Your background
Tell us about you and how your experiences, roles, and/or context relate to the proposed research. Your experience is valuable and will inevitably influence, and potentially enrich, your choice of topic and approach.

2. Your intended supervisor
State who you would like to supervise your PhD and why. Think about what might make the proposal attractive to your intended supervisor.

3. PhD route
Identify the route or routes you may be interested in following. Do not worry if you cannot decide at this point as your potential supervisor can provide advice. The route can be discussed and agreed later.

4. Research question(s)
State the research question(s) you wish to address.

5. Rationale
Provide an initial review of relevant literature that makes the case for your research question(s). In addition, in what other ways might your work be timely, important, needed, or useful. For example, how does it relate to current problems or issues?

6. Methods/approaches
Set out the methods/approaches you will use to conduct your research and provide an initial justification for selection. Select and account for your research strategy. Explain your intended sources such as literature, documents, and/or fieldwork. Discuss how you will evaluate the sources.

7. Your research philosophy
Explain your philosophy of research i.e. how you see yourself as a researcher. You should briefly discuss your preferred stance e.g. interpretivist or positivist. You can discuss these terms further with your potential supervisor.

8. References
Include a full reference list.

Finally, although the proposal needs to be quite developed in order to arrive at an initial decision, we do recognise that it is provisional and that your ideas can, and will, change. So, the proposal should not be regarded as final in any sense. You will probably spend at least your first year considerably developing the proposal.