What’s that? You’re planning to study a PhD and you have a great idea for some groundbreaking research in the field of [insert subject of choice here]? But you’re not sure what to include in your research proposal?
Well, you’ve come to the right place! In the following, we set out the seven essential elements of a research proposal.
Are we stating the obvious by saying you need a working title? Maybe. The point is that your title should be clear but memorable, quickly telling your reader what your research is about.
Every research proposal should begin by introducing the subject area and the specific problem your research will address. This sets the tone for the rest of your proposal and is therefore your only opportunity to make a good first impression, so make sure it’s well organized and informative.
3. Literature Review
A research proposal doesn’t usually include a full literature review, but you should provide an overview of key studies in your field. Doing this supplies the reader with vital background information, helping them understand how your study will add to existing research.
4. Aims and Objectives
Once you’ve established your research problem, your proposal should outline a set of aims and objectives. The distinction here is as follows:
- Your research aim is the broad expected outcome of the study and what you hope the research will achieve overall;
- Your research objectives are narrower and more focused, with each one detailing how you will meet the overall study aims.
If required, you should also state the hypotheses your research will test.
Make sure to identify the methods you intend to use in the study, especially if you’re conducting experimental research. This will include things like whether you’re using a qualitative or quantitative approach, equipment, ethical concerns, and sampling and analysis techniques.
Try to be as descriptive as possible, which may include justifying why you’ve chosen to use certain methods over alternative options.
6. Scope of Research
A common mistake when writing a PhD proposal is failing to consider the scope of the research. Remember that you’ll be working with limited time and resources, so your study should be something you can realistically complete within these constraints.
The proposal should therefore include something about what your work will focus on and what it leaves unaddressed, as well as any limitations to the methods adopted.
7. Outline and Timetable
Finally, a good research proposal will also include a chapter outline and a timetable.
The chapter outline sets out how you intend to structure the final dissertation, noting what each section will cover and how it fits into your overall argument.
The timetable, meanwhile, will set out a step-by-step plan of when you expect to finish each stage of your study, including everything from initial research to writing up your results. Doing this shows that you’ve considered the practical side of conducting research, making your proposal more convincing as a result.