PhD proposal


Key Research Questions and Objectives
Give a concise and clear outline of what you intend to find out in your project and what objectives you
want to achieve. Research questions may take the form of a hypothesis to be tested against a specific set
of criteria or a more open-ended inquiry. Together with the general overview this section should establish
the relevance and value of the proposed research in the context of current academic thinking. Your
proposal needs to show why the intended research is important and to justify the reason for doing the
This is a very important part of your research outline and should receive a lot of attention. It may well be
the longest section of your proposal. Give detailed information about how you intend to answer your
research questions. Anyone who reads your proposal will want to know the sources and quality of
evidence you will consult, the analytical technique you will employ, and the timetable you will follow.
Depending on the discipline and the topic, suitable research strategies should be defined. You will need to
describe for example the intended methods of data gathering, the controls you will introduce, the statistical
methods to be used, the type of literature or documentary analysis to be followed and so on. Ethical
issues as well as difficulties in gathering data and other material could also be discussed in this section.
Tentative Timetable
Give information about your estimated timetable (if possible in table form), indicating the sequence of
research phases and the time that you will probably need for each phase. Take into account that at this
stage, it can only be estimated, but make clear that you have an idea about the timespan that will be
needed for each step.
Selective Research Bibliography
List the academic works which you have mentioned in your research outline. At least some of them should
be recent publications, indicating that you are aware of the current discourse in your area of research. List
only publications which you have actually used for the preparation of the research outline. Never ever just
copy bibliographies from other papers. In case important publications are not available in your home
country, list them separately and make clear that you have had no possibility to read them.
Once you have finished the conceptual work on your proposal, go through a careful editing stage, in which
you make sure your proposal does not contain any grammatical mistakes or typing errors. Check whether
the title, the abstract and the content of your proposal correspond with each other. If possible, ask
someone within the academic community to proofread your proposal in order to make sure it conforms to
international academic standards.
Checklist for a Research Proposal
In most cases your research proposal will need to include the following:
Table of Contents
Introduction to the General Topic
Problem Statement and Justification of the Research Project
Hypothesis and Objectives of the Study
Literature and Research Review
Research Method(s)
Data Collection, Analysis and Evaluation of Data (in empiric research)
Analysis of texts and documents
Expected Results and Output of the Study
Appendix, e.g. Tables, Graphs, Questionnaires etc.


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