Writing a research proposal

As part of the process of applying for a research degree, you will need to prepare an outline of your proposed research. 

Please see our guidance on what to include below, including word count:

Key Elements Content

(up to 20 words)


Your research topic
A clear and succinct description of your research.

(up to 250 words)


Your research questions and focus
A brief explanation of what you propose to research, why the research is of value and how you propose to go about it. Your introduction should summarise your problem statement, motivation and original approach in a way that can readily communicate why it is worth pursuing. You can think of the introduction as the equivalent of abstracts in research articles.

Background to your proposal
(up to 500 words)              


Your literature review
A thorough examination of key pieces of research relating to your topic. You should use the literature review to identify gaps in, or problems with, existing research to justify why further or new research is required.

(up to 1200 words)

Your original approach and contribution to the literature
A detailed presentation of your proposed project and study. Building upon the previous section, in this part you develop your thoughts and arguments on the research problem or question you identified. You should explain why your proposed work is novel and significant and you should provide details on how you propose to go about developing it. You may want to provide a chapter summary or a roadmap of your investigation.

(up to 300 words)


Your research methods and schedule
A clear description of your choice of methodology, including details of research questions, methods of data collection, sampling and analytical strategy. A time schedule showing key activities would be useful.


Your bibliography
Any literature cited in the proposal should be listed at the end of the document. Use of Harvard or OSCOLA referencing is recommended.

*Word count excludes footnotes.