Help with your application
Guidance for applicants to the PhD programme
Writing your research proposal
Your research proposal will be used to consider whether the proposed research is feasible and can be supervised by our staff members, so it is important that your theoretical and methodological preparedness for it are clear.
We understand that it can be difficult to formulate research plans well in advance of carrying out the work, but we encourage you to articulate your ideas as clearly as possible. You should draft your proposal several times, and, ideally, seek comments on it from other people (perhaps from your referees or former lecturers) before submitting it.
It is recommended that you contact your planned supervisor(s) well in advance of the deadline to identify a suitable topic for your research proposal. You should then draft the research proposal independently and then discuss it with your planned supervisor(s), revising it based on their comments and suggestions.
Each PhD thesis contains several theoretical and empirical chapters. Your proposal should focus on the empirical work, laying out plans for at least two empirical studies (further plans can be worked out as you progress). Ideally, each of the studies should be a publishable journal article: students are strongly encouraged to publish their work in collaboration with their supervisors.
Your proposal must not exceed 1000 words; the panel may not read the part of your proposal exceeding the limit. This does not include references.
Your proposal should include:
- A title for the project
- A brief background for the planned research question(s)
- A compelling, brief rationale for the studies, including the specific research questions/hypotheses
- A description of the methodology for addressing these questions/hypotheses, which generally includes:
- Sufficiently large sample(s) of participants (allowing for appropriate statistical power) and measurement/experimental procedures
- If using existing data (e.g., data from large cohort studies or biobanks, imaging data sets, etc.), describe the data sets
- Your data analytical approach (e.g., suitable statistical models)
- If using qualitative data such as interviews, describe your methods and analytical approach
- Note that the methodology should be realistic, within the resources and time-scales available to you and your supervisor(s), and also allowing for necessary time for writing the thesis
- An indication of how your proposed work fits with and contributes to the research programme of your planned supervisor(s). A PhD thesis typically means teamwork, involving the student and one or two supervisors, and often also other members of the research group(s) of the supervisor(s); a student receives training and help form the team, but can also contribute to the team with their research. Applicants that can show a good fit with supervising team have an advantage.
We may ask for a brief (Zoom or MS Teams) interview with you if we have further questions.
If your application is successful, we expect that your research will develop. It is likely that your supervisor(s) or those reviewing the work will suggest changes or developments to your research as your studies progress.
Therefore, you will not be held to the ideas that you explain in your proposal during the course of your research.
We strongly encourage you to get in touch with a potential supervisor, and to include their name in your application. When contacting a potential supervisor, please include a draft proposal and CV as this will provide the starting point for discussion. You can introduce yourself by explaining why their work interests you. Please note that our academic staff are very busy and it may take time for them to respond to your enquiry.
In order to ensure full consideration of your application we ask that you submit your complete application including all supporting documentation by 14 November 2022.
You will be asked to add contact details for your referees. We will email them with information on how to upload their reference directly to your online application. Please allow plenty of time as we can only consider your application once we have received your full application, including your references.
If you require a PDF document in an alternative format, such as large print or a coloured background, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the Postgraduate Office.
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.