A PhD research proposal is a statement of potential research that a student proposes to study during his/her PhD course. Since the duration of the PhD is at least three years, the research problem or area of research should be big enough to be studied throughout this period.
A research proposal describes in detail the programme for a proposed research. It is an outline of the entire research process and gives a summary of the information that will be discussed in the project. Research proposals are written either in active voice or future tense and have different points of emphasis. A proposal should present a strict research plan in order to distribute research time according to the importance of each task and the time that will be spent for each activity.
As a PhD candidate, your research proposal should emulate proposals in professional practice. Your PhD proposal should also be worthy of being submitted to funding agencies. It is also recommended that you structure your proposal according to the funding agency’s proposal preparation guidelines.
A research proposal can be rejected because it is unsuitable or poorly designed and on this basis, both your research and PhD application to the university may be rejected. The proposal is, therefore, a very important document. You should give your best effort to get it right. Another reason to get the proposal right is that this can save you time in the long-run. If your proposal is well-designed, it can help you significantly in writing your final thesis.
Although research proposals are generally similar in terms of structure, there are slight variations in the format of research proposals depending on the research subject. For specialised fields, it is recommended to consult the past research proposals of students who have pursued their PhD in that subject.
You should ask the university where you are applying for sample research proposals. There are also several samples of PhD proposals which are accessible online. These will give you ideas regarding current research topics that are being pursued by other PhD students. Moreover, this will present different approaches for writing PhD research proposals.
Here are some sample research proposals that will guide you in writing your own thesis proposal:
- Syracuse University, Self-Directed Learning Readiness and Life Satisfaction Among Older Adults: A Sample Quantitative Research Proposal Written in the APA 6th Style, http://www-distance.syr.edu/quantproposal.html
- University of Washington, Research Paper Proposal Sample, http://faculty.washington.edu/changed/140/reading_researchproposal.pdf
Below is a short list of university-based online databases which show sample dissertation proposals:
- University of Texas at Austin, Intellectual Entrepreneurship: https://webspace.utexas.edu/cherwitz/www/ie/sample_diss.html
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Computer Science Students Association: http://www.cs.unc.edu/~cssa/guides/proposals/index.html
- University of Western Australia, Faculty of Education: http://www.education.uwa.edu.au/students/research/sample-proposals
Despite working extensively on your research proposal, it is wise to remember that the proposal or contract is not carved in stone. If research results or objectives change, you can change the direction of your PhD dissertation.
 Espire Education. (2011). Guidelines for PhD Research Proposal. Last accessed 30th Mar 2013.
 Master Papers. (2013). Research Proposal Example. Available: http://www.masterpapers.com/blog/research-paper-writing/research-proposal-example-download-them-for-free/. Last accessed 30th Mar 2013.
 Iowa State University. (2012). Preparing a PhD Proposal. Available: http://www.intrans.iastate.edu/education/documents/StudentGuideToPreparingForPhDProposal.pdf. Last accessed 30th Mar 2013.
 The University of Melbourne. (2010). Help sheet: Research Proposals. Available: http://sydney.edu.au/business/__data/assets/pdf_file/0014/90410/Research_proposal.pdf. Last accessed 30th Mar 2013.
 Espire Education. (2011). Guidelines for PhD Research Proposal. Available: http://www.espireeducation.com/blog/guidelines-phd-research-proposal/. Last accessed 30th Mar 2013.
Category: Phd Writing