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How to write a research proposal

If you wish to study for a Manchester PhD, you may need to submit a research proposal with your application. This is crucial in the assessment of your application and it warrants plenty of your time and energy.

Your research proposal should:

  • demonstrate evidence of intellectual purpose and originality;
  • show that you are capable of communicating your ideas clearly, concisely and coherently;
  • define the topic you are interested in and show good awareness of the research context.

Typical proposals range between 1,000 and 1,500 words; however, we advise you to consult with your School for specific guidance on word count.

Structuring your research proposal

Please check with the relevant School for the specific conventions and expectations of your research proposal. The following are general considerations that we deem important:

  • Create a clear working title for your research project.
  • Introduce your proposal, identifying the subject for research in terms of theoretical issues and relevant empirical applications, and highlighting why you wish to pursue this project.
  • Review  the relevant literature and theories relating to your proposed research area, showing that you clearly understand the key arguments that have been developed and the ideas and findings of key researchers working on the topic. This should demonstrate your familiarity with the subject area, and your ability to communicate clearly and concisely.
  • Summarise the central aims and questions that will guide your research.
  • Outline  the research methods you will use, explaining how you will conduct your research. What form will the resources take? Where are they located? Will there be any problems of access?
  • Indicate your project strategy and timetable. What are the main project stages? What would the annual completion expectations be? What are the perceived challenges, and how will these be overcome?
  • Explain why your proposed  project is important. How will your research make an original contribution?
  • Include a bibliography highlighting the key references that will support your research topic.

Before submitting your research proposal

Contact an academic member of our staff to discuss your research proposal and key objectives before you submit your formal application. This will enable you to fine-tune your proposal and check that we can identify a suitable supervisory team for you.

Find out more about choosing a suitable supervisor.

Refining your proposal

When you submit your research proposal for application purposes, you will not be committing yourself to the precise detail or methodology. Once we accept you onto a PhD programme, you can refine your original proposal following discussions with your supervisory team.