The Research Proposal

Your research proposal is extremely important in helping the School to make an informed decision about whether your proposed research is interesting, significant and viable.

PhD Research should contain elements of originality and innovation, backed up by sound methodological practices and a logically reasoned, evidence based argument. Your research proposal is the best way to demonstrate to your prospective supervisor that you have original ideas, strong methodological skills and a firm grounding in the literature already published in your area.

The majority of 1st year PhD students will adapt their proposal once they begin studying in more depth on the advice of their supervisory team. So, whilst the proposal should be a coherent, realistic, well thought-out description of your planned research, it is not a binding document, and it is likely to be revised and developed once your studies commence.

Choosing a research topic

Consider what area of research particularly interests you, and how it fits in with the research interests of the Information School. Consider which of our Research Groups your proposed topics would best fit, and explore the research interests of the academic members of this group.

If you are struggling, have a look through our list of suggested PhD topics.

Main elelements of a research proposal

The research proposal should be around 2,000 words in length and should contain the following elements:

  • Title of proposed thesis
  • Background to your research topic - you must show why the topic area you intend to study is interesting and how it is of theoretical and practical significance. You also need to demonstrate that you are knowledgeable about what has already been published in this field. Include a literature review in this section.
  • Specific aims and objectives - set out what contribution to knowledge your study will make: this could be based on identifying current gaps, areas of contention in the field or new empirical findings. The aim of the project should be clearly stated and you should include focused and specific steps (objectives) required to address your aim.
  • Methods of research proposed, and a plan and timetable of your work. You should show an understanding of the methodological tradition within which you intend to work. If you plan to collect empirical data, you should provide a detailed justification of your proposed data collection methods, sampling strategy and methods of analysis. You should propose an ambitious but feasible plan of work to be completed within three years. You should show some awareness of the ethical issues surrounding your proposed research.

Your proposal should be written in clear, intelligible English. It should be well structured with distinct sections and headings, and it should be fully referenced. It should be ambitious yet achievable.

Your research proposal must be original, and must represent your own work. All proposals are checked using plagiarism-detection software to ensure that the work is your own. An application may be rejected if the proposal contains unreferenced material or uses quotations without quotation marks. You must not copy and paste from other sources, and you must not re-use material which you have written for other university assignments.