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How to Research Your Symptoms Online

People use the Internet to research a myriad of things from what they should buy to why they have pain. These guidelines will help you learn how to research your symptoms online if you have concerns.

Use a Medical MD Symptom Checker

As soon as you enter the phrase, “how to research health symptoms,” into any search engine, you’ll receive results for at least one or more reputable medical MD symptom checkers. These symptoms checkers ask your age, gender, primary symptoms, if you’re pregnant, the severity of your symptoms, your current medications and past or current conditions. Once you click submit, a list of conditions that match your symptoms will appear. You’ll have the option to edit your symptoms or start over if you wish.

Check Reputable Websites

If you can’t find what you’re looking for using a free medical symptom checker, there are websites with articles or blog posts that list symptoms. Make sure you’re looking at reputable websites that end with .org or .edu because these sites tend to contain scholarly or medical information that can be trusted. The Internet is full of information that’s published and not verified. Therefore, it’s essential that you’re looking up symptoms on a website that presents information that’s been fact-checked.

Go to a Doctor’s Website

Under some circumstances, you’ll find an online symptom checker on a physician’s website. If you can’t find a MD symptom checker, you’ll find a plethora of resources on these websites. Doctors work diligently toward providing information for their patients in the way of medical library research materials, informational articles, blog posts and podcasts. Therefore, if you can find a symptom checker, you should be able to find information about the symptoms you’re experiencing.

Visit Forums

Sometimes it helps to hear what others are experiencing when you’re undergoing symptoms that don’t match up with the search results you’ve found. Therefore, it’s time to check out user forums. These discussion areas contain experiences from users who go into detail about the symptoms they’re having, what’s happening throughout their experience and if they’re having successful or unsuccessful treatment. Be cautious, though, as these forums will not replace medical advice and may lead to more worry than help.

Check Out Question-and-Answer Websites

Much like a discussion forum, these websites are where users post specific questions to other users regarding issues they’re experiencing. Under many circumstances, these questions pertain to symptoms they’re experiencing and where they can find resources. Other users will help them find pertinent information regarding their specific symptoms when they feel they’ve exhausted every other avenue.


model research proposal for phd

How to Write a Great PhD Research Proposal

Written by Mark Bennett

You'll need to write a research proposal if you're submitting your own project plan as part of a PhD application. A good PhD proposal outlines the scope and significance of your topic and explains how you plan to research it.

It's helpful to think about the proposal like this: if the rest of your application explains your ability to do a PhD, the proposal demonstrates the actual PhD you plan to do. Of course, being able to effectively plan and explain a research project is one of the key qualifications for being able to complete one, which is why the proposal is such an important part of the PhD application process.

Thankfully, the secret to writing a good research proposal isn't complicated. It's simply a case of understanding what the proposal is for, what it needs to do and how it needs to be put together.

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What is a PhD research proposal?

First things first, do you need a research proposal for your PhD? It depends on the kind of project you want to do:

As a rule, advertised projects are very common in STEM subjects, whereas Arts, Humanities and Social Science students are more likely to propose their own PhDs.

Some PhD programmes actually wait and ask students to develop their research proposal during the degree (usually after they've completed some initial training). This is normal in the USA , but it's becoming more common for some UKRI-funded UK PhDs.

For the purposes of this guide we're going to assume that you do need to write a good research proposal for your PhD application. So let's explore what's involved in that.

What should a PhD research proposal include?

It's natural to be a little intimidated at the thought of structuring a PhD proposal, particularly if you've never written anything like this before.

But here's the thing: a research proposal isn't a fiendish test designed to catch you out and stop you ever doing a PhD. It's actually much more boring than that.

All a research proposal really is is a document that demonstrates three things:

Or to put it even more simply: the PhD is worth doing, it's doable and you can do it.

Demonstrate your PhD is worthwhile (the what and the why)

A successful PhD project has to make a significant original contribution to knowledge. If it doesn't, it won't meet the criteria for a doctoral degree and will probably fail the viva exam .

Your PhD proposal itself doesn't have to meet those criteria (or pass a viva!) but it does need to indicate that your PhD project eventually will.

It does that by first demonstrating that your research topic is original. That means nobody else has studied this same topic (or one very similar) before.

There are all sorts of ways a PhD can be original. You might examine new data or primary sources, to look at existing material from a fresh perspective, or deal with the impact of new events. It doesn't matter how your project is original, so long as your proposal is really specific about what makes it original.

You also need to explain why your proposed research will be academically significant. To do this properly, you'll need to acknowledge relevant existing scholarship and explain how your research will relate to it. You don't need to be exhaustive at this point, but you should be able to show how your PhD will contribute to its field and – ideally – indicate some of the gaps in knowledge it will aim to fill.

The final step in demonstrating your PhD is worthwhile is to suggest what will become possible as a result of your research. How could other researchers use or build upon your results? What might closing those gaps in academic knowledge mean for audiences outside the unviversity?

Demonstrate your PhD is feasible (the how)

It isn't enough just to show that your research is worth doing; it also needs to actually be doable.

The length of a full-time PhD is around three to four years in most countries (it's longer in for a PhD in the USA , but you don't spend all that time doing research).

Three years may seem like a long time, but researching a PhD is a lot of work and you'll probably spend at least some of your time on other activities like teaching, conference presentations or even publication.

So, one of the things your proposal needs to do is demonstrate that your project is feasible: that it fits within the scope of a PhD.

The most important criteria for this is to be clear about what you plan to do. It should be obvious from your proposal what the scope of your project is – what is and isn't included within it.

You also need to outline how you plan to go about your research. Where will you start and what order do you expect to proceed in? Is the logic for that obvious? If not, it's probably a good idea to explain it.

Finally, you need to explain the methodology you plan to use. This could include techniques for collecting data and sources, theoretical perspectives for analysing them – or both. You may also need to detail specific equipment you expect to use or fieldwork you'll need to undertake (including trips to archives or other external resources).

None of this needs to be exact or completely final. The key word here is 'plan' – but you do need to have one.

Demonstrate that you can complete it at this university (the who and the where)

So far we've thought about the project itself: what makes it worth doing and how it's going to get done. But your proposal also needs to address the who and the where: why are you the right person to carry out this research, and why do you want to do it at this particular university?

The first part of this is easier than it probably looks. Writing a good research proposal demonstrates enthusiasm for your project much more convincingly than simply saying you're very interested in it (a classic case of 'show, don't tell').

You also don't need to repeat your grades and academic achievements (other parts of your PhD application will cover those). Instead, try to underline experiences that relate to this project. Has a particular module or Masters dissertation topic prepared you with useful subject knowledge or methodological skills? If so, highlight it.

It's also fine, within reason, to be honest about the skills you don't have and to identify your training needs. This shows you're being practical about your project and thinking seriously about what it will require. Just make sure you can realistically acquire the skills and training you need within the time available (this goes back to the feasibility).

Showing your project is a good fit for the university is also relatively simple. There should already be some reasons why you've chosen this university for your PhD so make sure you explain what they are. Perhaps there's a particular supervisor you'd like to work with , or facilities and resources your research could use. The key is to emphasise the fit between the project and the university – so don't just say you want to research there because it's highly ranked .

PhD research proposal structure

Hopefully the above sections have given you a few ideas for the things your proposal needs to include. Let's be honest though, the scariest thing about a proposal isn't deciding what to include: it's actually writing it.

But, if we flip that on its head, we remember that all a research proposal really is is a piece of writing that follows a pretty standard format. And that's a lot less scary.

Research proposal structure

Because proposals for PhD all have to do the same things, they mostly follow a similar structure. Yours will probably go something like this:

You probably won't need to include a specific conclusion - it should be obvious, by now, what your project is doing, how you're going to do it and why that matters. A quick summary sentence is fine though, if you think it will help.

Writing tips

Being able to effectively communicate academic concepts, ideas and results is a key skill for PhD research in all subjects . Think of your proposal as a chance to demonstrate this.

The good news is that the key principles of good proposal writing aren't that different from other work you've probably done as a Bachelors or Masters student:

How long should a PhD research proposal be?

Honestly? As long as the university asks for it to be. Most will have guidelines and you should follow them closely if so.

If you honestly can't find a suggested word count for your proposal, then consider asking a prospective supervisor . If you still aren't sure, aim for somewhere between 1,000-2,000 words .

As a very general rule, Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences are a bit longer than STEM proposals (and a lot of STEM students don't have to write one anyway, as we've explained).

Researcgh proposal for PhD - dos and don'ts

Research proposals are a popular topic over on the FindAPhD blog , where we've shared stories of how students wrote theirs , along with mistakes to avoid and a counter-intuitive look at the things a PhD proposal doesn't actually need to do .

Here are a few general tips and mistakes to avoid:

#1 Give yourself enough time to do a good job

Preparing to write a proposal takes time and effort. None of this is wasted as the process of evaluating and framing your ideas for a proposal will improve your project plan immensely. So will the need to decide which ideas to include.

But you need time and space to do that, so make sure you get it. How long it will take to write your proposal is heavily dependent on your personal working style, but you'll likely need to give yourself at least a few weeks to do a good job.

#2 Set out to impress

A good proposal isn't a begging letter. You're approaching the university with a great idea that's going to contribute to and enhance their research. Be honest, be realistic, but don't be unnecessarily humble. They should want you and your project.

#3 Demonstrate original thinking!

You may not need to present original research findings yet, but your proposal does need to present original ideas – and it should be clear why and how those ideas are original.

Make sure you indicate how your project is going to expand, enhance or even correct existing work in your field. Remember that making an "original contribution to knowledge" is a key part of what a PhD is .

#1 Send the same proposal to several universities

A good proposal needs to explain why you want to do your research at a particular university. That's a big part of the feasibility (the fit between project, person and place) and methodology (how are you going to use this university's equipment and archives; when and where will you need to travel).

It's OK to apply to more than one university in parallel, but, in that case, you're writing research proposals .

#2 Use online proposal templates (without evaluating them first!)

It can be tempting to search for PhD proposal samples on the internet, but make sure you evaluate what you find. Some websites may host old proposals from previous PhD students, but there's no way of knowing how relevant these are to your subject and university – or if they were even successful! More 'generic' research proposal examples can offer guidance, but they won't be tailored to your specific project.

The best place to look for a PhD proposal sample is your university. Consider asking your supervisor if they can share a good proposal from a previous student in your subject – or put you in touch with a current student you can ask.

#3 Confuse the proposal with the PhD

We've covered this on the blog , but it's simple enough to include here too.

You're setting out to do a PhD, but you (probably!) haven't done one yet. So you don't need to include research findings, in-depth analysis or a comprehesive literature review. You need to make a case for the research and analysis you want to do.

#4 Ignore your university's help and guidance

The advice on this page is necessarily quite general. We're considering adding guides to writing PhD proposals in specific subjects in future but, for now, the best place to get specific advice for your academic field is probably the university you're applying to.

See if you can get some subject-specific tips by contacting a supervisor , or just checking with the admissions team for your department.

And remember: if they give you a structure and a word count, stick to it.

model research proposal for phd

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How to write a research proposal

What is a research proposal.

A research proposal should present your idea or question and expected outcomes with clarity and definition – the what.

It should also make a case for why your question is significant and what value it will bring to your discipline – the why. 

What it shouldn't do is answer the question – that's what your research will do.

Why is it important?

Research proposals are significant because Another reason why it formally outlines your intended research. Which means you need to provide details on how you will go about your research, including:

Think of it as a tool that will help you clarify your idea and make conducting your research easier.

How long should it be?

Usually no more than 2000 words, but check the requirements of your degree, and your supervisor or research coordinator.

Presenting your idea clearly and concisely demonstrates that you can write this way – an attribute of a potential research candidate that is valued by assessors.

What should it include?

Project title.

Your title should clearly indicate what your proposed research is about.

Research supervisor

State the name, department and faculty or school of the academic who has agreed to supervise you. Rest assured, your research supervisor will work with you to refine your research proposal ahead of submission to ensure it meets the needs of your discipline.

Proposed mode of research

Describe your proposed mode of research. Which may be closely linked to your discipline, and is where you will describe the style or format of your research, e.g. data, field research, composition, written work, social performance and mixed media etc. 

This is not required for research in the sciences, but your research supervisor will be able to guide you on discipline-specific requirements.

Aims and objectives

What are you trying to achieve with your research? What is the purpose? This section should reference why you're applying for a research degree. Are you addressing a gap in the current research? Do you want to look at a theory more closely and test it out? Is there something you're trying to prove or disprove? To help you clarify this, think about the potential outcome of your research if you were successful – that is your aim. Make sure that this is a focused statement.

Your objectives will be your aim broken down – the steps to achieving the intended outcome. They are the smaller proof points that will underpin your research's purpose. Be logical in the order of how you present these so that each succeeds the previous, i.e. if you need to achieve 'a' before 'b' before 'c', then make sure you order your objectives a, b, c.

A concise summary of what your research is about. It outlines the key aspects of what you will investigate as well as the expected outcomes. It briefly covers the what, why and how of your research. 

A good way to evaluate if you have written a strong synopsis, is to get somebody to read it without reading the rest of your research proposal. Would they know what your research is about?

Now that you have your question clarified, it is time to explain the why. Here, you need to demonstrate an understanding of the current research climate in your area of interest.

Providing context around your research topic through a literature review will show the assessor that you understand current dialogue around your research, and what is published.

Demonstrate you have a strong understanding of the key topics, significant studies and notable researchers in your area of research and how these have contributed to the current landscape.

Expected research contribution

In this section, you should consider the following:

Draw links between your research and the faculty or school you are applying at, and explain why you have chosen your supervisor, and what research have they or their school done to reinforce and support your own work. Cite these reasons to demonstrate how your research will benefit and contribute to the current body of knowledge.

Proposed methodology

Provide an overview of the methodology and techniques you will use to conduct your research. Cover what materials and equipment you will use, what theoretical frameworks will you draw on, and how will you collect data.

Highlight why you have chosen this particular methodology, but also why others may not have been as suitable. You need to demonstrate that you have put thought into your approach and why it's the most appropriate way to carry out your research. 

It should also highlight potential limitations you anticipate, feasibility within time and other constraints, ethical considerations and how you will address these, as well as general resources.

A work plan is a critical component of your research proposal because it indicates the feasibility of completion within the timeframe and supports you in achieving your objectives throughout your degree.

Consider the milestones you aim to achieve at each stage of your research. A PhD or master's degree by research can take two to four years of full-time study to complete. It might be helpful to offer year one in detail and the following years in broader terms. Ultimately you have to show that your research is likely to be both original and finished – and that you understand the time involved.

Provide details of the resources you will need to carry out your research project. Consider equipment, fieldwork expenses, travel and a proposed budget, to indicate how realistic your research proposal is in terms of financial requirements and whether any adjustments are needed.


Provide a list of references that you've made throughout your research proposal. 

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How to write a successful research proposal

As the competition for PhD places is incredibly fierce, your research proposal can have a strong bearing on the success of your application - so discover how to make the best impression

What is a research proposal?

Research proposals are used to persuade potential supervisors and funders that your work is worthy of their support. These documents setting out your proposed research that will result in a Doctoral thesis are typically between 1,500 and 3,000 words in length.

Your PhD research proposal must passionately articulate what you want to research and why, convey your understanding of existing literature, and clearly define at least one research question that could lead to new or original knowledge and how you propose to answer it.

Professor Leigh Wilson, director of the graduate school at the University of Westminster, explains that while the research proposal is about work that hasn't been done yet, what prospective supervisors and funders are focusing on just as strongly is evidence of what you've done - how well you know existing literature in the area, including very recent publications and debates, and how clearly you've seen what's missing from this and so what your research can do that's new. Giving a strong sense of this background or frame for the proposed work is crucial.

'Although it's tempting to make large claims and propose research that sweeps across time and space, narrower, more focused research is much more convincing,' she adds. 'To be thorough and rigorous in the way that academic work needs to be, even something as long as a PhD thesis can only cover a fairly narrow topic. Depth not breadth is called for.'

The structure of your research proposal is therefore important to achieving this goal, yet it should still retain sufficient flexibility to comfortably accommodate any changes you need to make as your PhD progresses.

Layout and formats vary, so it's advisable to consult your potential PhD supervisor before you begin. Here's what to bear in mind when writing a research proposal.

Your provisional title should be around ten words in length, and clearly and accurately indicate your area of study and/or proposed approach. It should be catchy, informative and interesting.

The title page should also include personal information, such as your name, academic title, date of birth, nationality and contact details.

Aims and objectives

This is a short summary of your project. Your aims should be two or three broad statements that emphasise what you ultimately want to achieve, complemented by several focused, feasible and measurable objectives - the steps that you'll take to answer each of your research questions. This involves clearly and briefly outlining:

Literature review

This section of your PhD proposal discusses the most important theories, models and texts that surround and influence your research questions, conveying your understanding and awareness of the key issues and debates.

It should focus on the theoretical and practical knowledge gaps that your work aims to address, as this ultimately justifies and provides the motivation for your project.


Here, you're expected to outline how you'll answer each of your research questions. A strong, well-written methodology is crucial, but especially so if your project involves extensive collection and significant analysis of primary data.

In disciplines such as humanities the research proposal methodology identifies the data collection and analytical techniques available to you, before justifying the ones you'll use in greater detail. You'll also define the population that you're intending to examine.

You should also show that you're aware of the limitations of your research, qualifying the parameters that you plan to introduce. Remember, it's more impressive to do a fantastic job of exploring a narrower topic than a decent job of exploring a wider one.

Concluding or following on from your methodology, your timetable should identify how long you'll need to complete each step - perhaps using bi-weekly or monthly timeslots. This helps the reader to evaluate the feasibility of your project and shows that you've considered how you'll go about putting the PhD proposal into practice.


Finally, you'll provide a list of the most significant texts, plus any attachments such as your academic CV . Demonstrate your skills in critical reflection by selecting only those resources that are most appropriate.

Final checks

Before submitting this document along with your PhD application, you'll need to ensure that you've adhered to the research proposal format. This means that:

Research proposal examples

To get a better idea of how your PhD proposal may look, some universities have provided examples of research proposals for specific subjects:

Find out more

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How to nail your PhD proposal and get accepted: Examples included

How to nail your PhD proposal and get accepted: Examples included

Getting a PhD place is not easy – which is why your PhD proposal needs to be passionate and convincing. A good research proposal will make a difference between acceptance and rejection, between making your project a reality and going back to the drawing board.

Nearly 200.000 people earn a PhD every year in the U.S. alone, making the field incredibly competitive.

That’s why a PhD research proposal is important: it formally outlines the intended research, including your methodology, timeline, feasibility, and many other factors that need to be taken into consideration.

So, here is what your PhD proposal should contain, how the PhD process looks like and how it should look.

What is a PhD proposal?

A PhD proposal represents a brief rundown of your project which highlights its uniqueness and aims to convince the recipients of the importance of your work.

Usually, it contains the following elements and responds to the following questions:

In terms of length, there isn’t an exact answer.

This depends on the institution you’re applying to, so always go through guidelines or contact the department in charge to make sure you have the correct information.

Benefits of having a strong PhD application

The main and the most obvious benefit of having a strong PhD application is being accepted to the PhD program. This is the most important step as it can make or break your success.

Most applicants are somewhat confused by the process since it requires a lot of information and a big emphasis is put on using the correct proposal structure.

That doesn’t have to be the issue, though, since you have access to awesome research proposal templates that will do half the work for you.

If you’re still unsure whether applying for a PhD is a good choice, let’s consider the main benefits of going through with the process:

Stages of PhD programs

Applying for PhDs and going through the program is a rigorous process that consists of different stages.

Those stages are:

Step 1. The first words: your project title

This section is pretty self-explanatory: it’s the first page of your proposal that outlines your project’s name and basic information.

Being the first thing potential supervisors will be looking at, your title page should be engaging and invite them to read on.

In other words, your project should have an engaging title that demonstrates the potential of the whole idea in a few words.

However, the title page should go a little further than simply conveying the name of your project – it should some indication of how you’ll approach the problem and what kinds of key questions you’ll be answering.

This page should also contain your information: name, academic title, date of birth, contact, etc.

Step 2. Introduce your research supervisor

Right after your project title, you have to state the name, department, and faculty of your supervisor.

Your research supervisor will also cooperate with you to review and improve the proposal before submission to ensure it meets all the criteria of your subject area.

These details are sometimes included right on the first page, with your project title and description.

Step 3. Outline the proposed mode of research

Your mode of research is essentially the type of research you’ll be doing.

Think of it as a format or style of research – field research, written work, data studies – all of these are modes of research. Different sciences, disciplines, and problems require different types of research, so this will usually be closely linked to your field.

This is usually not needed for research in the sciences field but you should consult with your supervisor to learn how to formulate this section.

It’s also important not to go too deep into describing your research at this point – then you’re going into the methodology. Here, you just need to briefly describe what’s the nature of your proposed project.

Step 4. List your aims and objectives

Now we’re getting into the specifics.

In this section of your PhD or thesis proposal , you need to tell the reader exactly what you’re looking to achieve with your research. It should also reference what’s the reason for your application to get a research degree.

Are you testing a theory, addressing some deficiencies in the current research, or something else?

So, start with the big questions your research is trying to answer – those will usually be your aims.

Your objectives, on the other hand, are your aims broken down, the specific steps that need to be taken to achieve your intended outcome.

Here is a graduate research proposal example:

Aim of the research:

Establish whether the occurrence of adolescent violence can be caused by the portrayal of violence in the media.


As you can see, the aim is a broad statement while objectives are more specific. If this seems too difficult, you might want to try some customizable research proposal templates .

Step 5. Give a brief synopsis (give an example)

A synopsis is a brief summary of what your research is about. Think of it as a shortened version of the proposal that needs to explain to the reader what your research project is looking to achieve without getting into too many specifics.

A good test is to simply give someone your synopsis to read without looking at the rest of the proposal. Then simply ask them if they understand what you’re trying to do and what the project is all about.

Here is an example of a brief summary.

My PhD project will be situated within the field that takes a look at all the social impacts of environmental degeneration. The research will focus on how climate change affects inequality, violence, and other social issues that take place in many Eurasian countries. I will specifically address my primary research question towards the case of the Phillippines as a country rich with natural resources that are being exploited by Western countries and which has been experiencing high levels of violence and inequity. It’s an understudied case that has been affecting the entire region […]

Step 6. Get into details with your background

This is where you give the reader the “why” of your research.

What has been happening in your field and what is the current research client on the topic? Provide some context through an existing literature review and introduce the reader to the specific issues you’ll later be addressing.

This does two things:

Make sure you rely on the existing research of notable scholars in your area of research and explain how they have affected the field so far.

Step 7. Expected research contribution: what are you bringing to the table?

In this section, you want to tell the reader not only why there’s a need for your proposed research but how it will affect the entire field of study.

Start by answering the following questions:

The last question is particularly important and it plays a vital part in creating a connection with the reader. It shows that you’re applying at the right place, for the right reasons.

Step 8. Explain your proposed methodology

In the research methodology section, you need to explain the how – what techniques you’ll be using to conduct your research.

Don’t be afraid to go into great detail here: describe what equipment, personnel, and subject you’ll need. Tell the reader how you will collect your data and which theoretical frameworks you’ll be drawing on.

Make sure to explain why these particular research methods are suitable for your project but also cover why some others might not be.

This will demonstrate that you took the time to find the perfect solution to carrying out your research.

When writing the methodology section , you should also anticipate any potential issues like time constraints, ethical considerations, personnel challenges, and anything else you might think of.

Address these issues and offer potential solutions.

Ultimately, this section should leave the reader with no questions about your research design and data collection.

They should have a clear picture of how you’ve thought out the practical aspect of the project and how you plan to tackle everything that goes with it.

Step 9. Provide a detailed work plan

Your work plan is essentially a detailed timeline that shows how you plan to execute your research through the course of your postgraduate studies.

Remember, PhD students can take up to four years to complete their studies so you have to show that you understand the time involved with the project.

You need to demonstrate your planning capabilities and give a plan that covers everything with realistic, thought-out deadlines.

It’s a good idea to separate your Goals from your Activities so that the reader can see both what you’re planning to do and the specific activities you’ll be participating in to make everything happen.

You can also provide a detailed plan for year one with more general overviews for later years.

Here is an example of a work plan for the first year.

Step 10. List all your required resources

This is another section where you need to demonstrate just how much thought and planning you’ve put into your PhD application.

In the resources section, your goal should be to list everything you’ll need to make your project a reality: materials, equipment, travel expenses, staff – everything that could be considered a cost or resource.

It should all be boiled down to a single proposed budget.

Resources are often presented in the form of a table to make things easier to track and identify.

Step 11. List all your sources in the bibliography section

Finally, there is the obligatory Bibliography section where you need to mention all the references you used throughout the proposal.

Where possible, provide links to the publications.

A bibliography section will usually look something like this.


Federici, S. (2012). The Reproduction of Labor Power in the Global Economy and the Unfinished Feminist Revolution (2008). In S. Federici (Ed.). Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction and Feminist Struggle. Oakland: PM Press, pp.91-111.

Virdee, S. (2019). Racialized capitalism: An account of its contested origins and consolidation. The Sociological Review, 67(01), pp.3-27. [Online]. Available at:

Bhattacharyya, G. (2018). Social Reproduction: Gender, Racism, Nature. In G. Bhattacharyya (ed.). Rethinking Racial Capitalism: Questions of Reproduction for Survival. London: Rowman and Littlefield, pp.39-69.

The pros and cons of templates for PhD proposals

There are no particularly strict rules when it comes to the format of PhD proposals – your supervisor will be more than capable of guiding you through the process.

Still, since everything is so structured and formal, you might want to use a template to help you get started. Templates can help you stay on track and make sure your proposal follows a certain logic.

A lot of proposal software solutions offer templates for different types of proposals, including PhD proposals.

But, should you use a template? Here are some pros and cons to help you make a decision.

In our research proposal template , we give you just enough direction to help you follow through but we don’t limit your creativity to a point that you can’t express yourself and all the nuances of your research.

For almost all sections, you get a few useful examples to point you in the right direction. The template provides you with a typical PhD proposal structure that’s perfect for almost all disciplines.

It can come in quite handy when you have everything planned out in your head but you’re just having trouble putting it into pen and paper!

Conclusion: writing a PhD proposal

Writing and completing a PhD proposal might be confusing at first: you need to follow a certain logic and share all the required information without going too long or sharing too much about the project.

And, while your supervisor will certainly be there to guide you, the brunt of the work will still fall on your shoulders.

That’s why you need to stay informed, do your research, and don’t give up until you feel comfortable with what you’ve created.

If you want to get a head start, you might want to consider our research proposal template . It will offer you a structure to follow and give you an idea on what to write in each section.

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Frequently asked questions about PhD proposals

How long should a phd proposal be.

There really isn’t a specific rule when it comes to the length of a PhD proposal. However, it’s generally accepted that it should be between 1,500 and 2,000 words.

You can’t elaborate on such a serious project in less than 1,200-1,500 words but going over 2,000 is overkill. You’ll lose people’s attention and water down your points.

What’s the difference between a dissertation proposal and a PhD proposal?

There seems to be some confusion over the terms “dissertation” and “PhD” and how you write proposals for each one. However, “dissertation” is just another name for your PhD research so the proposal for a dissertation would be the same since it’s quite literally the same thing.

Does a PhD proposal include budgeting?

Yes, as mentioned, you need to demonstrate the feasibility of your project within the given time frame and with the resources you need, including budgets. You don’t need to be 100% exact but you need to have accurate, based estimates for everything.

More importantly, you need to show that you thought of every little detail.

How is a PhD proposal evaluated?

This will change from one institution to another but these things will generally have a big impact on the reviewers:

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Examples of research proposals

How to write your research proposal, with examples of good proposals.

Research proposals

Your research proposal is a key part of your application. It tells us about the question you want to answer through your research. It is a chance for you to show your knowledge of the subject area and tell us about the methods you want to use.

We use your research proposal to match you with a supervisor or team of supervisors.

In your proposal, please tell us if you have an interest in the work of a specific academic at York St John. You can get in touch with this academic to discuss your proposal. You can also speak to one of our Research Leads. There is a list of our Research Leads on the Apply page.

When you write your proposal you need to:

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Department of Sociological Studies

Writing a research proposal.

Guidelines on preparing a thesis proposal to support your application.

Student in seminar typing on laptop

These guidelines are intended to assist you in developing and writing a thesis proposal. Applications for admission to a research degree cannot be dealt with unless they contain a proposal.

Your proposal will help us to make sure that:

The process of producing a proposal is usually also essential if you need to apply for funding to pay your fees or support yourself whilst doing your research. Funding bodies will often need to be reassured that you are committed to a viable project at a suitable university.

The research proposal – an outline

Your proposal should be typed double-spaced, if possible, and be between 1,000 and 2,000 words. Your PhD proposal can be added under the 'Supporting Documents' section of the Postgraduate Applications Online System .

Your proposal should contain at least the following elements:

For more detailed information on each element of your research proposal, see our extended guidance document .

Three additional points:

Examples of Successful PhD Proposals

Related information

Applying for a PhD

Our Research Themes

Our Research Areas

Search for PhD opportunities at Sheffield and be part of our world-leading research.

Writing your research proposal

Your proposal is your chance to tell us why you want to study your PhD at Sussex. Follow our guide to making your research proposal as strong as possible.

Your research proposal

If you are considering studying a PhD, there are two options available to you.

If you decide to design your own research project, you need to write a research proposal which will form a central part of your PhD application.

Follow our step-by-step guide below to help you through the process of writing your research proposal.

Plan your research proposal

You should contact the relevant academic department before applying to Sussex and check if there are any additional requirements for your research proposal.

Even at this early stage, you may be asked questions regarding your research, and so you should start thinking about:

Ask for advice

If you need further advice you can contact our academic staff working in your field.

You can also ask research students and academic staff at your current university for help. It is good practice to discuss your ideas with others in your research area and use their suggestions to further your understanding and strengthen your proposal.

During this process you should start making detailed notes. You might also want to start planning your research proposal. If so, breaking it down into the traditional sections below may help you organise and manage your thoughts:

Find a supervisor

Choosing the right supervisor is one of the most important steps towards a successful and rewarding PhD.

Before approaching a supervisor, you'll need to have a clear idea of the research you hope to undertake.

Once you have established a relationship with a potential supervisor, you can ask them to read the first draft of your research proposal. They can give you valuable feedback and help you refine your ideas before you submit your application.

Discover how to find a supervisor

Write your proposal

You may now be in a position to start writing your proposal. This is central to your final application.

A strong research proposal:

The exact content and structure of your research proposal will depend on your subject area.

Below you can see information from each academic school which shows what they expect a research proposal to contain:

Length: 8-10 pages

Your research proposal should include the following sections:


You should:

Thesis statement

Write a summary of your overarching research question and include:

Literature review

You must show you have the ability to review current research (literature and papers) within your field of study. Your literature review should demonstrate that your research question is relevant, you are aware of the work of others in your field, and how your research will contribute new findings to the subject area.

Theoretical Framework

The theoretical framework provides the rationale behind your research proposal. You must provide a critical review of existing theories, which are closely related to your research topic. Show how these theories frame your research questions and the overall structure of your research proposal.


You must show how you will carry out the research and analyse your findings. Include potential sources, how data will be collected, and any difficulties there may be in conducting your research.

Ethical considerations

Outline any ethical concerns which arise from your research topic or your proposed methods. Read the existing codes of conduct in the social sciences before writing this part of your research proposal.


List the sources you have used in your literature review and any potential sources you may use for your research.

For more information visit the Business School .

Length: 6-8 pages for PhD (+3 route) or 3-4 pages for MSc (1+3 route)

Your research proposal should describe what you want to research, why it is important to the field, and how you plan to conduct your study.

You must provide a working title for your research. This is likely to change over time, but provides a good starting point for your proposal.

Write a summary of the overarching research question and include:

Describe the purpose of your study and your goals for your research. Explain how your proposed research relates to existing work in the field, and how it will contribute new findings to research.

Show how you plan to carry out your research and include information about:

Provide a timeline, including the time it takes to analyse your data and write your final thesis.

Include citations for texts you have used to support your arguments and provide a bibliography at the end of your research proposal.

For more information visit the School of Education and Social Work

Length: 2,000 words

You should identify which research group you want to work with and check that we can support your area of research before writing your research proposal.

Your research proposal should include:

For more information visit the School of Engineering and Informatics

Length: about 2,000 words

You must provide a working title for your research. This is likely to change over time, but provides a good starting point.

You should introduce the questions and issues central to your research and explain how your research will benefit the field.

Research background

Expand on the information you have given in your introduction and try to answer the following questions:

You must set out your research questions as clearly as possible and explain the problems you want to explore.

Research methods

Show how you plan to carry out your research:

Set out your timescale for completing your study. You need to think about dividing your research into sections and indicate how you plan to write up each section.

Include a bibliography, which lists the books and articles, you have referred to in the proposal.

Extra information

Some of these sections will be easier to write than others at this preliminary stage. The selectors who read your proposal know that it is a provisional statement and that your ideas, questions, and approaches will change during the course of your research.

You should treat the proposal as an opportunity to show that you have begun to explore an important area of study and that you have a question, or questions, that challenge and develop that area. It is also necessary to demonstrate that you can express your ideas in clear and precise English, accessible to a non-specialist.

For more information visit the Department of English

Length: 1,000-2,000 words

Include a short summary of your central question. You should tell us what you are attempting to research and why it is significant.

Thesis statement and literature review

Explain the subject matter of your project, and why you think the issues raised are important. You should also show us you are familiar with texts in the field, and can show how your research area is relevant, and in context to current academic thinking.

You must explain how your proposed project is original and will increase our understanding of the subject matter.

You must state clearly what you hope to discover at the end of your research.

Theoretical framework

Show how you plan to carry out your research and how you will analyse the findings.

Outline any ethical concerns which arise from either your research topic or your proposed methods of collating data.

List the sources you have used in your literature review and point to potential sources for your research.

For more information visit the School of Global Studies

You must provide a working title for your research, this is likely to change over time, but provides a good starting point for your proposal.

Include a bibliography, which lists the books and articles you have referred to in the proposal.

For more information visit the School of History, Art History and Philosophy

Length: 2000-3500 words (excluding bibliography)

Your title should give a clear indication of your proposed research approach or key question.

Include a short summary of your central question. You should tell us what you are attempting to research and why it is significant. You must state clearly what you hope to discover at the end of your research.

Explain the subject matter of your project and why you think the issues raised are important. Provide a summary of the key debates and developments in your chosen area and demonstrate your knowledge and grasp of the specific literature (global) that you will be engaging with during your research. You should show that you are familiar with texts in your chosen area, and what are the gaps in the literature that your research is attempting to fill, i.e., how your proposed research is original and will increase our understanding of the subject matter. Through this, you should detail how your research area fits into current academic thinking and/or policy discourse.

The theoretical framework provides the rationale behind your research proposal. You must provide a critical review of existing theories or concepts (global), which are closely related to your research topic. Show how these theories/concepts frame your research questions and the overall structure of your research proposal, and clearly state the specific theoretical concepts/analytical frameworks that you are engaging with.

You should outline your draft overall research question and any relevant sub-research questions and hypotheses through engagement with the theoretical literature.

State to what extent your approach is distinctive or new or builds on/deepens existing theoretical literature in your chosen area.

Research Design

Show how you plan to carry out your research (including fieldwork) and how you will analyse the findings. You should also show how this relates to your hypothesis. Put details of your research design in terms of approaches, methods and tools, along with some indication of specifics such as sample size (i.e., give an idea of the scope of your research project).

Outline any ethical concerns that arise from either your research topic or your proposed methods of collecting and collating data.

List the sources you have used in your literature review. Also, separately, point to potential sources that will be appropriate for your proposed research.

For more information about the PhD in Development Studies by Research visit the Institute of Development Studies website .

Length: 2,000-3,000 words

You must show you have the ability to review current research within your field of study. Your literature review should demonstrate that your research question is relevant, you are aware of the work of others in your field, and show how your research will contribute new findings to the subject area.

Outline any ethical concerns which arise from your research topic or your proposed methods.

For more information visit the School of Law, Politics and Sociology

Length: 1,500-2,000 words

You should identify the research group you want to work with and ensure that we can support your area of research before writing your research proposal.

If you are applying for an advertised research project you should tell us:

For more information visit the School of Life Sciences

You should identify the research area (and/or the researchers) you want to be involved with.

You should either:

If you are applying for advertised funding you should tell us:

For more information visit the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences

Length: about 2,000 words (not including bibliography)

You must provide a working title for your research. This is likely to change over time but provides a good starting point for your proposal.

Brief abstract

Write a paragraph summarising your proposed project.

Research questions and rationale

Introduce your main research questions and why you think your research matters. Indicate how you think your research will be an original contribution to the knowledge and understanding of the subject. Describe the form of your anticipated outputs if your proposal includes creative practice. You may want to explain how you think your research will connect with existing research interests at Sussex.

Conceptual framework

The conceptual framework should elaborate the rationale behind your research proposal. You should demonstrate a critical engagement with theories and secondary literature or other artefacts that are relevant to your research topic. Show how these theories frame your research questions and the overall structure of your research proposal. If relevant, reflect on the research dimension of your creative practice.

Methodology and Research Ethics

Show us how you intend to achieve your research aims and outcomes and how you will answer your research questions. Include information about specific methods and access to relevant sources. If your project involves creative practice in some way, it is important that you describe what facilities you will need and indicate your experience in the relevant production techniques. You may want to include a practice portfolio, or provide links to online examples of your work. Reflect on any ethical considerations relevant to the conduct of your research.

Indicative timeline

Provide an account of how you envisage conducting your research to completion within the period of registration. Note that we fully expect proposals and attendant timelines to evolve in practice, but we are keen to see your ability to design a research project, bearing this in mind.

Include any literature, audiovisual or online resources you have referenced in the proposal.

For more information visit the School of Media, Film and Music

Length: 1,000-1,500 words Your research proposal should contain the following sections:

You should assume you are writing your research proposal for someone who has a good understanding of psychology, but not an expert in your area of research.

You should identify any gaps in our knowledge in your research area, and how your research will fill them. At the end of the section outline your aims and hypotheses.

We are interested in your ability to think critically. You should answer the following questions:

You are expected to show how your initial idea can be developed and expanded over the duration of your PhD degree.

Reference list

You must add in a reference list in American Psychological Association format.

For more information visit the School of Psychology.

Proofread your research proposal

Once you have completed your proposal, check it through thoroughly. You should make sure all the information you have cited is accurate. Correct spelling and punctuation is also essential.

Write in clear sentences and structure your research proposal in a logical format that is easy for the reader to follow.

It is easy to miss errors in your own work, so ask someone else to proofread your research proposal before submitting it to Sussex.

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