Follow these hints to ensure that your proposal contains all the key elements for a proposal outline


This must contain the keywords, giving an indication of the key questions you will be asking

Overview of the research

Provide an overview and where it fits with existing academic discourse.

Be as specific as you can in identifying influences or debates that you wish to engage with.

Don’t write too much about each element

Highlight the context of your work.

Make links between yu research and the department you are applying to, and how your research will add to it.


Between 1 and 3 research questions

What are you reasons for asking the questions

Identify the major approaches - conceptual, theoretical, empirical, normative - with a rationale

Identify the significance of the research in all the fields it affects - academic, business, etc.

Positioning of the research (approx. 900 words)

Discuss the texts that are the most important to the work

Demonstrate understanding of the research issues

Identify existing gaps - theoretical and practical

Signpost and contextualise research and not to provide a detailed analysis of existing debates


Provide supervisor with a sense of your understanding of the literature and how you can contribute

Reference major texts and resources

Possible pitfalls

Make sure research idea is clearly stated and addresses a gap

Spend time on questions early on

Research the department of where you want to apply

Make advance contact with possible supervisors and/or departments

Make sure it is a well-structured proposal

Ensure reasonable scope - it must cover three years of writing and study

Make sure it is of adequate size and complexity but that can also be completed.

Show the passion shining through

You will become the expert on the subject so make sure it is interesting to you

Research Design and methodology (900 words)

Clearly identify how you structure your research

Identify the research methods to be used

Research design should include:

  • The definition of the subject matter
  • Is it a theoretical approach or does it also include primary or empirical research
  • Rationale
  • SPECIFIC aim and objectives
  • Brief note and comment on the timeline

This section is crucial

Be specific about techniques and not about the general approach


  • Kinds of resources used
  • Methods for collecting and analysing data
  • Specific techniques - semi structured interviews etc.
  • Brief rationale for this