Writing a research proposal and personal statement
PhDs and postgraduate research
When you apply for a research degree with us, you may have to submit a research proposal that outlines – among many other things – the nature of your research, and why it's important.
To help make yours as compelling as possible, read our helpful hints for creating a clear, concise and engaging research proposal.
For further information on how to write proposal for a PhD by Publication application, please see our PhD by Publication guidance.
What should I put in my research proposal?
Most proposals are between 1,500-4,000 words, and the exact length varies depending on which faculty you're applying to join.
A good research proposal clearly identifies the nature and scope of your research, and provides a meaningful context for its significance. It will also highlight your general and specific aims for the work and outline how you plan to meet them.
Here's a checklist of what to include, when you write your proposal:
Define your research
- What is the research problem you want to study?
- What's the nature of the problem and why is it problematic?
- Why is your research significant, who is it significant to, and why is it relevant now?
- How will your research make an original contribution or stimulate debate within your chosen field?
- What academic research has been done in your chosen area, what ideas and findings has it developed, and how will your research build on the existing knowledge?
- Which authors and which models have been most influential in this area, and why?
- Are there any possible ethical issues arising from your research – and if so, how will you address them?
Define your research aims and methods
- What are the general and specific aims of your research?
- What research methods have you considered?
- What authors have influenced your consideration of research methods, and how?
- What would be the most useful methodology for your research and what kinds of data will it yield?
- How will you gain access to any data relevant to your study?
What should I put in my personal statement?
Your personal statement is an opportunity to tell us about yourself, and to outline why you're a compelling candidate for a research degree with us.
In your statement, you should demonstrate your enthusiasm for your research topic and highlight the skills you've gained from your academic studies and your work or life experience. Here's a checklist of what you should include:
- Your reasons for choosing your topic of research
- The aspects of your topic of research that interest you most
- Any skills and abilities gained from work experience, placement or voluntary work, particularly if it's relevant to your subject
- How your choice of research fits in with your future career plans
- Why you would like to study in the UK (for EU/International students)
- If you've taken, or are planning to take, a year out, please give your reasons
- If you aren't currently in full-time education, please provide details of your current or previous employment