Top tips for writing your research proposal

  • Allow plenty of time to write your proposal and do not rush.
  • Bear in mind that the individuals reviewing your application will often have to read a large number of proposals. Well-presented and clearly written proposals are more likely to stick in the reviewer’s mind.
  • Research proposals do not have to be set in stone, as research often evolves as work progresses. Think of your proposal as a preliminary outline rather than a definitive summary of the final product.
  • Make sure that you acknowledge the authors of all publications you reference in your proposal, to avoid any risk of plagiarism. You should paraphrase or use quotation marks where appropriate.
  • Make sure that your research ideas and questions are very clearly stated. Your questions are as important as your results at this stage of the research.
  • Make sure that the scope of your research is reasonable and realistic. Proposals are assessed not only on intellectual ambition and significance, but also the likelihood of completion.
  • Make sure that your passion for the research topic shines through. Your proposal should be approached as a piece of persuasive writing – you want to establish the attention of your reader and convince them of your project’s significance.
  • Make sure that your writing is clear, concise, and coherent.
  • Make sure that your proposal does not contain any errors. Proofread and edit your work a number of times before you submit it.

What is originality?

There are many ways in which you can demonstrate originality in your proposal. You could study something that has genuinely never been studied before, but we are not all lucky enough to be able to do this. As a result, you should think of other ways to make your proposal stand out as original.

  • Identify problems, such as inconsistencies or gaps, in existing analysis.
  • A fresh, critical discussion of texts, works and/or ideas that have been neglected by scholarship.
  • Bring together disciplines and areas of work that have not been brought together before.
  • Compare a topic in one country/language/business model/legal system/etc. with the same topic in another (a 'comparative study').
  • Analyse an issue from a new perspective, or apply work from another discipline to your own, in order to create new knowledge, learning or practice (e.g. by bringing a theoretical approach to a problem that has not been applied before, at length).
  • A study of the impact of a particular set of conditions, piece of legislation, series of events, government, etc.