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Sociology, Social Policy and CriminologyPart of Economic, Social and Political SciencePostgraduate study

How to Write a PhD Research Degree Proposal

What is a PhD proposal?

A research proposal is a project outline of around 3,000 words that you write as part of the process of applying to study for a PhD research degree. We use it to assess the quality and originality of your ideas, whether you are able to think critically and whether you have a grasp of the relevant literature. It also tells us about the perspectives you intend to take on your research area, and helps us to assess whether we can offer a suitable supervisor for your project.

We encourage you to identify and contact a prospective supervisor in the Division and to discuss your proposal with them before you submit it to us formally. At the application stage, what we are looking for is clear evidence of potential for successful PhD study and a proposal which reflects that. After students have started their research degree study, it is quite usual for them to refine their original proposal in light of detailed literature reviews, further consideration of research approaches as the research progresses, and comments received from the supervisors (and other academic staff).

What should your PhD proposal contain?

It is best to structure your proposal as follows:

The keys to writing a strong research proposal are to:


The following books are widely available from bookshops and libraries and may help in preparing your research proposal (as well as in completing your research degree):

Photo of Maryam Kassim Alriyamy
The University has a diverse student body, which means that it's an excellent opportunity to interact and network with people from all over the world.
Maryam Kassim AlriyamyMSc Sociology and Social Policy, PhD in Sociology and Social Policy,

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