PhD proposal research

Every PhD candidate at Sheffield is required to submit a research proposal prior to acceptance onto the programme. This document is vital to the success of your application. It should be fully referenced and approximately 3,000 words (excluding bibliography) in length.

It should include:

  • Title of your proposed PhD research
  • The main aims and objectives of your research
  • Discussion of relevant existing literature
  • The proposed methods of research and a plan and timetable of work
  • Any resources available and any additional ones required

In more detail, you should include the following:

The title is your PhD’s ‘headline’. It should include any key concepts, empirical focus, or lines of inquiry that you aim to pursue. Look at our doctoral researcher pages for an perspective on what has been submitted and accepted. You can negotiate changes in the title with your supervisors should you be successful but it is important to devise a title that describes what you aspire to research.

The aim and objectives of your research should be a short list of answers to the question: what will the PhD do? These are broader than a question: they give a prospective statement about the overall destination of the PhD and its potential impact.

A discussion of key existing literature situates the PhD in extant research. Literature reviews are not simply descriptive mapping exercises at PhD level. Here you should identify a small number of key texts and say something about how these articles and books are important for your research – whether it is to support, extend, or challenge existing work. Try to incorporate up to date sources so that your proposal demonstrates awareness of current research.

The proposed methods of research is a particularly important section. This is where you can say something about how you will answer your research questions, for example will you be formulating and testing hypotheses in a quantitative piece of work? Or perhaps taking a more qualitative approach by employing methods such as interviews or observation. Management as a discipline accepts a broad range of approaches to research so the one that best fits your proposed research should be outlined and discussed.

The research needs a timetable. This should be set out over three years with clear indications of how long you will need to prepare for and carry out research and allow time for writing up. Try to be as detailed as you can at this stage.

The resources you require can vary according to the nature of the research: access to a particular archive, specialist library, visits to field sites, the use of analytical software, access to databases, training, and so on. It is important to list any of these resources and give a very brief account of how they will enhance the PhD.

Click here if you're ready to submit your proposal