Writing a research proposal

Developing a research proposal is a necessary part of the application process it:

  • provides a basis for decision-making;
  • helps to make sure that you get the most appropriate supervisor for your research.

Your research proposal does not commit you to researching in a specific area if your application is successful. 

Following a successful application, you need to provide a more comprehensive proposal which will be useful reference as your research develops.

How to write a research proposal

Organise your proposal should around a small set of ideas or hypotheses that you would like to investigate. Provide some evidence of relevant background reading if possible.

A typical research proposal might look something like this:

  • Rationale for the research project, including: a description of the phenomenon of interest, and the context(s) and situation in which you think the research will take place; an explanation of why the topic is of interest to the author; and an outline of the reasons why the topic should be of interest to research and/ or practice (the 'so what?' question); a statement of how the research fits in with that of potential supervisor(s) in the Department of Accounting and Finance.
  • Issues and initial research question. Within the phenomenon of interest: what issue(s) do you intend to investigate? (This may be quite imprecise at the application stage); what might be some of the key literatures that might inform the issues (again, indicative at the application stage); and, as precisely as you can, what is the question you are trying to answer?
  • Intended methodology: How do you think you might go about answering the question? Do you have a preference for using quantitative methods such as survey based research, or for qualitative methods such as interviews and observation?
  • Expected outcomes: how do you think the research might add to existing knowledge; what might it enable organisations or interested parties to do differently?
  • Timetable: What is your initial estimation of the timetable of the dissertation? When will each of the key stages start and finish (refining proposal; literature review; developing research methods; fieldwork; analysis; writing the draft; final submission). There are likely to overlaps between the stages.

An initial research proposal that forms part of a PhD application should be between 600 and 1,000 words in length.

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