How to write a research proposal for PHD?

How to write a research proposal for PHD?


A PHD Research Proposal should outline your proposed area of study. It should be a clear and abridged summary of your proposed research. The Research Proposal should:

  • Outline the general area of study within your research.

  • Refer to the current state of knowledge and recent controversy on that topic.

  • You should be objective and realistic in your objectives.

  • You should be able to justify your objectives clearly.

  • You have to persuade the prospective supervisor about the importance of your work and why you should undertake it.

Overall, the research proposal should demonstrate the originality of your proposed research project.  


Your research proposal should include:


You have to provide a tentative title for your research. You should ensure that you include all the key words that are relevant to your research. The title should give the supervisor an idea about your approach/ key questions.


A Research Proposal should have a compact statement describing your intended research. This abstract should be within completed within 100-150 words. 

Research context: 

You should explain the background with which you will conduct your proposed research. You should briefly introduce the general area of your study; presenting the summary of the current state of your knowledge; enlisting relevant fields, debates and describing the context comprehensively.

Research Questions/Aims: 

In this section you should enlist the aims of your research, your research statement. The ideal form should be: A central question, followed by two or three subsidiary questions.  Ensure that the research questions/aims are not too broad for a doctoral project. Do ensure that the research questions and aims are narrow and feasible. Suggested word-count for this section is 100-300.

Research Methods: 

You should give a framework of research methods you will use to conduct your research. Although, most of the proposed research is library-based, you should explain which key resources you will use or whether you plan to conduct field work or collect empirical data; the nature of resources you might need access to in order to perform your research. Most importantly, you should also highlight how you will analyse the research findings.

Significance of Research: 

A well-written Research Proposal will demonstrate the originality of your research. You should explain as to why your research is important and in what way it will contribute to the field of existing knowledge. If your proposal fails to make any new proposition, it might not be considered.


In this section, briefly wrap-up the proposed thesis of your research project; summarizing the key components.


This includes the list of all works referred in your proposal. A minimum of 20-30 relevant titles should be included. Remember that making a long list won’t be helpful, if the listed names are not relevant to your research project. You should include the names of most relevant works related to your topic. 


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