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Writing a research proposal

Your research proposal is a very important part of your PhD application. It should explain what you aim to achieve with your proposed research and what sources and methodology you will use. This helps us to understand your project and decide about your application. This information will also ensure that you find the best supervisor to support your research.

Consult our staff profiles to help you identify possible supervisors in your intended field of research. Staff will be happy to help you formulate and develop your research proposal. If you would like advice on who to approach, contact Beky Hasnip, Admissions Manager, and Charles West, Director of Graduate Studies at history.admissions@sheffield.ac.uk.

Your proposal should normally be in the region of 1,000 words (separate advice will be provided for funding applications, where you will usually have c. 700-800 words). You should write as concisely and precisely as possible.

A good proposal explains three things:

  1. The originality of the research. How is your project different from existing work in this field? How does it relate to, and develop, the existing scholarship?
  2. The significance of the research. It is not enough to fill in a 'gap' in our knowledge – why does your topic matter, and why will it be of interest to scholars in the field? What larger issues does it engage with?
  3. The feasibility of your research. Can your project be completed in three years? What sources will you use, and what methodology or conceptual approaches will you employ?

The proposal is a starting point. If you are accepted onto the PhD programme, you will be able to work the proposal through with your supervisor in more detail during the early stages of your research.

How to apply