Postgraduate study

Developing your own research idea

How do you know if your own research idea is suitable for doctoral study? There are many factors you should consider, including time, topic, size and supervisor availability.

Is it the right time?

We recommend you start planning your research application one year in advance.

Be aware of funding deadlines and make sure you apply on time, regardless of whether you are still waiting on information from a prospective supervisor, for example. It is essential you apply before the deadline.

If you will need an international student visa in order to study in the UK, then you should leave enough time to process your visa application before you begin your studies.

Is it the right topic?

Many prospective students are interested in studying at Edinburgh because of our excellent reputation for research, but it is still worth checking that we offer the type of PhD and specialism in research that you are interested in.

Look at the websites for the academic school, institute or research centre that hosts the field you’re interested in. Check whether they specialise in the area you are interested in, and look for information on their outputs and the impact of their research.

It’s also worth checking if a project is already available in the field you wish to research.

PhD research projects

Is it the right size and scope?

Is your research idea the right size and scope to undertake over a four-year period?  Will the subject matter sustain your interest for an extended period of intense research?

It is often useful to begin writing your research proposal in order to define your project and determine whether the scope is sufficient, or even too much.

How to write a good proposal

Is the right supervisor available?

Many programmes will tell you to talk with a potential supervisor before applying. At the very least you should have an awareness of who the experts are in your field. If you’re considering a specific programme, you should think about who will you be working with and who will supervise your research.

How to find the right supervisor