Help with your application
Guidance for applicants applying 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.
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 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?
a brief explanation of the ideas or concepts that the research will investigate
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
an indication of feasibility: How will you go about answering the question in the timeframe of the PhD? What skills/knowledge do you need to acquire?
Given the limited scope of a PhD dissertation, you will not resolve a big, longstanding philosophical problem in your dissertation. Instead aim for a medium sized contribution (i.e. greater scope than a single journal article, but no more than a short monograph) to a current debate in philosophy or philosophical scholarship. An overly ambitious proposal is unlikely to be successful. 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.
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 Monday 23 November 2020.
You should include a sample of academic writing, such as an essay or article, written in the past two years. Ideally your work sample should be on a topic related to your proposed area of research.
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 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.
Dugald Stewart Building
Monday to Friday:
9.30 am to 12.30 pm
1.30 pm to 5.00 pm
We are working in the office on a rota basis due to social distancing regulations.
If you would like to talk to a member of the team, please email us and we will respond as quickly as possible.