Your research proposal is an integral part of the Research Degree application process, and as such, it is worth investing time and energy to ensure that your proposal is strong, clear and effective.
Your proposal needs to outline the nature of your proposed research project, identify your knowledge of existing literature and provide an indication of how you will conduct your research project.
Quite often, students who fit the minimum entrance criteria fail to be accepted as Ph D candidates as a result of weaknesses in the research proposal. (1997): Supervising the Ph D, (Open University Press, Milton Keynes).
To avoid this, keep the following advice in mind: Bell, J. (2001): How to Research, (Open University Press, Milton Keynes). (2000): The Research Student's Guide to Success, (Open University, Milton Keynes).
Be as specific as possible in identifying influences or debates you wish to engage with, but try not to get lead astray into a long exegesis of specific sources.
Rather, the point is to sketch out the into which your work will fit.Make sure that your title goes beyond simply describing the subject matter – it should give an indication of your approach or key questions.In this section you should provide a short overview of your research and where it fits within the existing academic discourses, debates or literature.Crucially, it is also an opportunity for you to communicate your passion in the subject area and to make a persuasive argument about what your project can accomplish. It is normal for students to refine their original proposal in light of detailed literature reviews, further consideration of research approaches and comments received from the supervisors (and other academic staff).Although the proposal should include an outline, it should also be approached as a persuasive essay – that is, as an opportunity to establish the attention of readers and convince them of the importance of your project. It is useful to view your proposal as an initial outline rather than a summary of the ‘final product’.Think very carefully about the scope of your research and be prepared to explain how you will complete it within this timeframe.Research proposals are also used to assess your expertise in the area in which you want to conduct research, you knowledge of the existing literature (and how your project will enhance it).Moreover, they are used to assess and assign appropriate supervision teams.If you are interested in the work of a particular potential supervisor – and especially if you have discussed your work with this person – be sure to mention this in your proposal.Your references should provide the reader with a good sense of your grasp on the literature and how you can contribute to it.Be sure to reference texts and resources that you think will play a large role in your analysis.