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How to Write a PhD Research Proposal

With the rise of search engines, more and more people are looking for information on writing a PhD research proposal on the web. Any PhD paper is a huge project, often taking up years of the author’s life, with countless hours spent on research, analysis, and putting everything to paper. The PhD research proposal is a work much smaller in scope, but still complex and integral to the project as a whole. If you are ready to undertake this task, and are looking for information on how to get it done, this article should help.

Understanding purpose

The purpose of the PhD research proposal is to present an outline of your project, giving the reader all the basic information pertaining to the topic you chose, the work you conducted, and the results you reached. The basis of this proposal is a question or topic that must be defined and addressed. The proposal must convince the reader of the significance of the work and show how the approach you’ve chosen is unique and suitable. Apart from describing why your contribution should be considered, the author of a PhD research proposal should also refer to previous work, mentioning how the new study will complement existing work and literature in the given field.

Structuring your proposal

As a rule, every educational institution and departments sets its own requirements when it comes to the contents of a research proposal, but there are some general guidelines that apply to most PhD research proposals.

The first element found in the proposal is the title. The title section should contain a short (usually single-sentence) name for your work, as well as organizational information such as the names of your supervisors, sponsors, etc.

Once this “entry frame” of your proposal is complete, you can move on to the main and most lengthy part – the overview of your project. In the overview, you should thoroughly describe your research and present other information relevant to the topic. This means establishing several questions that your research aims to answer or at least address, define the influences that prompted this research along with the literature and works that came before yours. It is very important to connect your work to the work of your department, so bringing up studies by people who worked there will cement your place as another contributor to your institution’s pursuits. While establishing a strong connection to previous work is a good start, the overview should also convince the reader that the work is significant in some way. The best way to do this is by claiming original ideas/methods/approaches, or comparing your work to previous ones and describing ways in which it is superior or more thorough. However, many researchers also choose a problem such as gaps in theoretical or practical knowledge, which they want their study to resolve. If you can’t decide on a single approach for establishing your work’s significance, you can combine several of the approaches mentioned above.

The overview section gives a very good understanding of the “why” of your work, and it is followed by a section that addresses the “how” – methodology. The methodology section will establish the parameters of your research, list specific objectives you set throughout your work, describe the methods you chose to conduct research and why, as well as offer a timeline for the many phases of your work.

The methodology section should be followed by a brief overview of your references. The final draft of your PhD will probably have a bibliography with many pages, but the research proposal only needs to mention the sources that had the biggest influence on your work. Sometimes, references are not given a separate section in the proposal, and are simply mentioned in the overview.


Now that you see the difficulty of writing a PhD research proposal, you may be feeling overwhelmed. However, a diligent work ethic and desire to succeed will move your research and writing along. If you ever feel like you are not up to the task or lack the time to finish it in time, you can always turn to an essay writing service, whose experienced writers will do the work for you.

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