Linguistics and English Language

Help with your application

Guidance for applicants to the PhD programme

Writing your research proposal

Your research proposal will be used to consider whether supervision can be provided for the research that you propose, so it is important that your basic aims and area of investigation are clear.

We understand that it can be difficult to formulate research plans for a proposal well in advance of carrying out the work, but we encourage you to formulate your ideas clearly and to take great care over your proposal. You should expect to draft your proposal several times, and, ideally, seek comments on it from people able to discuss it with you (perhaps from your referees or former lecturers) before submitting your application.

Word limit

Your proposal should be around 1000 words.  This does not include any references or bibliography – you are encouraged to refer to relevant literature and may include a set of references as well as a proposal of the length described above.

Your proposal should include:

  • a title for the project

  • a description of the research context in which you aim to work – you should refer explicitly to work which is similar to that which you are planning or which is influential on your ideas, and you should include the details of this work in a bibliography or list of references

  • a discussion of the research questions or hypothesis that you intend to address, along with a justification for them: what makes the problem or questions interesting and important?

  • some indication of the methodology or theoretical approach to be adopted

  • a brief explanation of the ideas or data that the research will investigate

If your application is successful, we expect that your research will develop.  It is likely that your supervisor will suggest changes or developments to your research. Therefore you will not be held to the ideas that you explain in your proposal during the course of your research.

Identifying supervisor/research area

You are not required to identify a supervisor prior to application however we would strongly encourage you to look at our Research Interests page in order to ensure that your research interests fit with our expertise.  If you have not been in contact with a potential supervisor, it is useful if you can identify the research area you are interested in on your application form under the proposed supervisor section of the application form.

If you choose to make contact with a potential supervisor prior to application please include your draft proposal and CV as an attachment to the email as this will provide the starting point for discussion.


 If you would like more information about submitting your application and the admissions process please do not hesitate to get in touch with the School Postgraduate Office.

Postgraduate Office

  • School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences

Contact details



Room 1.06
Dugald Stewart Building
3 Charles Street

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