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  • How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates

How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates

Published on October 12, 2022 by Shona McCombes and Tegan George. Revised on November 21, 2023.

Structure of a research proposal

A research proposal describes what you will investigate, why it’s important, and how you will conduct your research.

The format of a research proposal varies between fields, but most proposals will contain at least these elements:


Literature review.

  • Research design

Reference list

While the sections may vary, the overall objective is always the same. A research proposal serves as a blueprint and guide for your research plan, helping you get organized and feel confident in the path forward you choose to take.

Table of contents

Research proposal purpose, research proposal examples, research design and methods, contribution to knowledge, research schedule, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about research proposals.

Academics often have to write research proposals to get funding for their projects. As a student, you might have to write a research proposal as part of a grad school application , or prior to starting your thesis or dissertation .

In addition to helping you figure out what your research can look like, a proposal can also serve to demonstrate why your project is worth pursuing to a funder, educational institution, or supervisor.

Research proposal length

The length of a research proposal can vary quite a bit. A bachelor’s or master’s thesis proposal can be just a few pages, while proposals for PhD dissertations or research funding are usually much longer and more detailed. Your supervisor can help you determine the best length for your work.

One trick to get started is to think of your proposal’s structure as a shorter version of your thesis or dissertation , only without the results , conclusion and discussion sections.

Download our research proposal template

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Writing a research proposal can be quite challenging, but a good starting point could be to look at some examples. We’ve included a few for you below.

  • Example research proposal #1: “A Conceptual Framework for Scheduling Constraint Management”
  • Example research proposal #2: “Medical Students as Mediators of Change in Tobacco Use”

Like your dissertation or thesis, the proposal will usually have a title page that includes:

  • The proposed title of your project
  • Your supervisor’s name
  • Your institution and department

The first part of your proposal is the initial pitch for your project. Make sure it succinctly explains what you want to do and why.

Your introduction should:

  • Introduce your topic
  • Give necessary background and context
  • Outline your  problem statement  and research questions

To guide your introduction , include information about:

  • Who could have an interest in the topic (e.g., scientists, policymakers)
  • How much is already known about the topic
  • What is missing from this current knowledge
  • What new insights your research will contribute
  • Why you believe this research is worth doing

As you get started, it’s important to demonstrate that you’re familiar with the most important research on your topic. A strong literature review  shows your reader that your project has a solid foundation in existing knowledge or theory. It also shows that you’re not simply repeating what other people have already done or said, but rather using existing research as a jumping-off point for your own.

In this section, share exactly how your project will contribute to ongoing conversations in the field by:

  • Comparing and contrasting the main theories, methods, and debates
  • Examining the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches
  • Explaining how will you build on, challenge, or synthesize prior scholarship

Following the literature review, restate your main  objectives . This brings the focus back to your own project. Next, your research design or methodology section will describe your overall approach, and the practical steps you will take to answer your research questions.

To finish your proposal on a strong note, explore the potential implications of your research for your field. Emphasize again what you aim to contribute and why it matters.

For example, your results might have implications for:

  • Improving best practices
  • Informing policymaking decisions
  • Strengthening a theory or model
  • Challenging popular or scientific beliefs
  • Creating a basis for future research

Last but not least, your research proposal must include correct citations for every source you have used, compiled in a reference list . To create citations quickly and easily, you can use our free APA citation generator .

Some institutions or funders require a detailed timeline of the project, asking you to forecast what you will do at each stage and how long it may take. While not always required, be sure to check the requirements of your project.

Here’s an example schedule to help you get started. You can also download a template at the button below.

Download our research schedule template

If you are applying for research funding, chances are you will have to include a detailed budget. This shows your estimates of how much each part of your project will cost.

Make sure to check what type of costs the funding body will agree to cover. For each item, include:

  • Cost : exactly how much money do you need?
  • Justification : why is this cost necessary to complete the research?
  • Source : how did you calculate the amount?

To determine your budget, think about:

  • Travel costs : do you need to go somewhere to collect your data? How will you get there, and how much time will you need? What will you do there (e.g., interviews, archival research)?
  • Materials : do you need access to any tools or technologies?
  • Help : do you need to hire any research assistants for the project? What will they do, and how much will you pay them?

If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.


  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility


  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

Once you’ve decided on your research objectives , you need to explain them in your paper, at the end of your problem statement .

Keep your research objectives clear and concise, and use appropriate verbs to accurately convey the work that you will carry out for each one.

I will compare …

A research aim is a broad statement indicating the general purpose of your research project. It should appear in your introduction at the end of your problem statement , before your research objectives.

Research objectives are more specific than your research aim. They indicate the specific ways you’ll address the overarching aim.

A PhD, which is short for philosophiae doctor (doctor of philosophy in Latin), is the highest university degree that can be obtained. In a PhD, students spend 3–5 years writing a dissertation , which aims to make a significant, original contribution to current knowledge.

A PhD is intended to prepare students for a career as a researcher, whether that be in academia, the public sector, or the private sector.

A master’s is a 1- or 2-year graduate degree that can prepare you for a variety of careers.

All master’s involve graduate-level coursework. Some are research-intensive and intend to prepare students for further study in a PhD; these usually require their students to write a master’s thesis . Others focus on professional training for a specific career.

Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate information and to be aware of biases or assumptions, including your own.

Like information literacy , it involves evaluating arguments, identifying and solving problems in an objective and systematic way, and clearly communicating your ideas.

The best way to remember the difference between a research plan and a research proposal is that they have fundamentally different audiences. A research plan helps you, the researcher, organize your thoughts. On the other hand, a dissertation proposal or research proposal aims to convince others (e.g., a supervisor, a funding body, or a dissertation committee) that your research topic is relevant and worthy of being conducted.

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research proposal for funded phd

How to Write a PhD Research Proposal

  • Applying to a PhD
  • A research proposal summarises your intended research.
  • Your research proposal is used to confirm you understand the topic, and that the university has the expertise to support your study.
  • The length of a research proposal varies. It is usually specified by either the programme requirements or the supervisor upon request. 1500 to 3500 words is common.
  • The typical research proposal structure consists of: Title, Abstract, Background and Rationale, Research Aims and Objectives, Research Design and Methodology, Timetable, and a Bibliography.

What is a Research Proposal?

A research proposal is a supporting document that may be required when applying to a research degree. It summarises your intended research by outlining what your research questions are, why they’re important to your field and what knowledge gaps surround your topic. It also outlines your research in terms of your aims, methods and proposed timetable .

What Is It Used for and Why Is It Important?

A research proposal will be used to:

  • Confirm whether you understand the topic and can communicate complex ideas.
  • Confirm whether the university has adequate expertise to support you in your research topic.
  • Apply for funding or research grants to external bodies.

How Long Should a PhD Research Proposal Be?

Some universities will specify a word count all students will need to adhere to. You will typically find these in the description of the PhD listing. If they haven’t stated a word count limit, you should contact the potential supervisor to clarify whether there are any requirements. If not, aim for 1500 to 3500 words (3 to 7 pages).

Your title should indicate clearly what your research question is. It needs to be simple and to the point; if the reader needs to read further into your proposal to understand your question, your working title isn’t clear enough.

Directly below your title, state the topic your research question relates to. Whether you include this information at the top of your proposal or insert a dedicated title page is your choice and will come down to personal preference.

2. Abstract

If your research proposal is over 2000 words, consider providing an abstract. Your abstract should summarise your question, why it’s important to your field and how you intend to answer it; in other words, explain your research context.

Only include crucial information in this section – 250 words should be sufficient to get across your main points.

3. Background & Rationale

First, specify which subject area your research problem falls in. This will help set the context of your study and will help the reader anticipate the direction of your proposed research.

Following this, include a literature review . A literature review summarises the existing knowledge which surrounds your research topic. This should include a discussion of the theories, models and bodies of text which directly relate to your research problem. As well as discussing the information available, discuss those which aren’t. In other words, identify what the current gaps in knowledge are and discuss how this will influence your research. Your aim here is to convince the potential supervisor and funding providers of why your intended research is worth investing time and money into.

Last, discuss the key debates and developments currently at the centre of your research area.

4. Research Aims & Objectives

Identify the aims and objectives of your research. The aims are the problems your project intends to solve; the objectives are the measurable steps and outcomes required to achieve the aim.

In outlining your aims and objectives, you will need to explain why your proposed research is worth exploring. Consider these aspects:

  • Will your research solve a problem?
  • Will your research address a current gap in knowledge?
  • Will your research have any social or practical benefits?

If you fail to address the above questions, it’s unlikely they will accept your proposal – all PhD research projects must show originality and value to be considered.

5. Research Design and Methodology

The following structure is recommended when discussing your research design:

  • Sample/Population – Discuss your sample size, target populations, specimen types etc.
  • Methods – What research methods have you considered, how did you evaluate them and how did you decide on your chosen one?
  • Data Collection – How are you going to collect and validate your data? Are there any limitations?
  • Data Analysis – How are you going to interpret your results and obtain a meaningful conclusion from them?
  • Ethical Considerations – Are there any potential implications associated with your research approach? This could either be to research participants or to your field as a whole on the outcome of your findings (i.e. if you’re researching a particularly controversial area). How are you going to monitor for these implications and what types of preventive steps will you need to put into place?

6. Timetable

PhD Project Plan - PhD research proposal

We’ve outlined the various stages of a PhD and the approximate duration of a PhD programme which you can refer to when designing your own research study.

7. Bibliography

Plagiarism is taken seriously across all academic levels, but even more so for doctorates. Therefore, ensure you reference the existing literature you have used in writing your PhD proposal. Besides this, try to adopt the same referencing style as the University you’re applying to uses. You can easily find this information in the PhD Thesis formatting guidelines published on the University’s website.

Finding a PhD has never been this easy – search for a PhD by keyword, location or academic area of interest.

Questions & Answers

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we’re asked about the Research Proposal:

Can You Change a Research Proposal?

Yes, your PhD research proposal outlines the start of your project only. It’s well accepted that the direction of your research will develop with time, therefore, you can revise it at later dates.

Can the Potential Supervisor Review My Draft Proposal?

Whether the potential supervisor will review your draft will depend on the individual. However, it is highly advisable that you at least attempt to discuss your draft with them. Even if they can’t review it, they may provide you with useful information regarding their department’s expertise which could help shape your PhD proposal. For example, you may amend your methodology should you come to learn that their laboratory is better equipped for an alternative method.

How Should I Structure and Format My Proposal?

Ensure you follow the same order as the headings given above. This is the most logical structure and will be the order your proposed supervisor will expect.

Most universities don’t provide formatting requirements for research proposals on the basis that they are a supporting document only, however, we recommend that you follow the same format they require for their PhD thesis submissions. This will give your reader familiarity and their guidelines should be readily available on their website.

Last, try to have someone within the same academic field or discipline area to review your proposal. The key is to confirm that they understand the importance of your work and how you intend to execute it. If they don’t, it’s likely a sign you need to rewrite some of your sections to be more coherent.

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  • Writing a research proposal for a PhD application

How to write a research proposal for a PhD application

What is a research proposal.

A research proposal gives details of the direction of your future research, usually based on a research question and a chapter-by-chapter approach to answering it.

For PhD applications, this proposal will be assessed to see:

  • whether the project is likely to be completed within three years of full-time research
  • whether it can be effectively supervised at the university
  • whether you are competent and keen enough to complete it.

There may be other factors affecting whether you get a place at the University of Brighton:

  • whether the project fits a growing or established research priority of the university
  • how the proposal fits with a current cohort and the research environment

A successful proposal will leave the panel in no doubt on these, and you should prepare to show the strength of your idea and demonstrate your suitability.

Within the proposal, you should take the opportunity to clearly outline your research idea; your research methodology and critical approaches; your experience in this field of research where you can; and how your work will be offering an original contribution to knowledge, theories and/or practice. 

Find more details about a PhD in your discipline at the University of Brighton

How to get a prospective supervisor's help with your proposal

The strongest proposals are often ones that have been written jointly between a prospective student and prospective supervisor.

As Professor Pollen states in our film, supervisors have an understanding of the language used in proposals and the skillsets that asessors will want to see -- whether for a university position or a funding application.

To develop a strong proposal, we recommend you  work with a possible supervisor  at the University of Brighton who can help shape your project for feasibility and suitability within our institution. This person may then become your lead supervisor.

Please enable targeting cookies in order to view this video content on our website, or you can watch the video on YouTube .

What journey leads to a PhD application?  This film was made by the University of Brighton for UKRI and features University of Brighton students and academics as well as those from other partner universities.

Finding a PhD theme and understanding the university research environment

You may be responding to an advertised call for a particular project that has already achieved funding. Alternatively, you may want to propose a personally developed project. 

If you are responding to a call then the advertisement will have clear guidance as to what research experience and interest a candidate will need. This should help you structure your PhD research proposal.

If you are proposing a personally developed project then it should be carefully written to show the viability within the university's current research environment and a specific supervisory possibility at the university.

Some applicants have found our repository of theses helpful for the development and refinement of their research idea. You can find over 1000 theses completed at the University of Brighton over the past 40 years at our repository of successful PhD student theses . 

Our research database has useful leads to potential supervisory staff and a strong idea of the university's current research priorities online:

  • Explore our PhD disciplinary programme search tools including free search and A-Z 
  • Explore our research centres (COREs)  or our research groups (REGs) 
  • Visit our research database of staff, projects and organisational units.

Once you have identified a potential lead researcher of a research project most aligned to yours, do not hesitate to email them.

Explain who you are, your motivation to do a PhD in their field of study and with them. They will let you know if they are interested in your project and would be interested in potentially supervising your PhD. If they cannot commit, they may be able to help you identify another researcher who could be available and interested.

By liaising with a suitable supervisor, your proposal will benefit from expert help and be channelled towards the appropriate disciplinary environment.

If you are in doubt about whether we can offer the appropriate supervision, please contact the  Doctoral College .

Find out more about your opportunities for a PHD on our FAQ page

What should a research proposal contain?

A research proposal should include the following:

1. Indicative title of the topic area

This should accurately reflect what it is that you want to study and the central issues that you are going to address.

It may be useful to present this in the format of a statement (perhaps a quote) and a question, separated by a colon. For example: '"The tantalising future of research": how are research proposals developed and assessed?'

2. Context / rationale / why is this study important? (300 – 500 words)

Introduce your specific area of study. You should identify the theoretical context within which your research will be developed by discussing the discipline(s) and or field/s of study relevant to your research.

This means outlining the key theoretical area(s) you will draw upon to enable you to find out what it is that you want to know (for example, how it is underpinned from methods in the social sciences; arts and humanities; life, health and physical sciences).

What we are looking for here is an indication that you understand and have done some research into the wider theoretical context.

Developing the context is just one part of this section; you are building a case / rationale for the study area. Why is this study important, which theoretical areas support this? Can you identify any gaps in current understanding that help you build the case for this research study?

For example, this section might take the form of: a series of statements on the current landmark areas of thought; a recognition of what has not yet been done thoroughly enough or where there is territory for research between these landmark studies; and where your study will fill the gaps you have identified.

3. Literature review (approximately 700 – 900 words)

Here you are demonstrating that you are aware of what has been and what is currently being written about your topic.

It will certainly include the up-to-date and relevant past landmark academic literature. It may also include other evidence of current thought and attitude, for example, government documents or media coverage. Practice-led PhD studies may make reference to innovation and trends in industry or professional practice.

We are looking for you to make links between this body of literature and your proposed area of study. This will support the ways you have identified gaps in the current global knowledge-base. A PhD thesis arises from original research leading to new knowledge or a significant contribution to existing knowledge. If, at this stage, you have some thoughts on how your research is likely to contribute to knowledge then include details in your proposal.

This section should include citations which are compiled into a reference list at the end of the document (see point 7).

4. The research questions or hypotheses (approximately 200 words)

Having told us what you want to study and why, and then illustrated these ideas with reference to a body of literature, the next task is to distil your ideas into a tentative set of research questions, hypotheses, aims and objectives (as per the underpinning discipline requires) that are manageable and achievable within a normal PhD timeframe (see 6 below). There are typically between three and ten questions/aims of this kind.

5. Research approach/ methodologies / methods (approximately 400 words)

There will be many research approaches open to you. In your proposal, suggest the methodological approach that you might take and make a reasoned case as to why the research questions you have posed are best addressed by this approach.

You might also suggest what methods you would use to generate data that can help you address your research questions.

6. Timescale/research planning (approximately 200 words)

A full-time PhD should take three years to complete, although you may require more time to acquire the relevant skills prior to commencing your research. Part-time study will take longer (up to five - six years). Within this timeframe, you will need to demonstrate your awareness of time management and planning, for example the length of time for primary research/ fieldwork.

7. Reference list 

You should include a reference list of all the sources that you referred to in the text using a recognised referencing style appropriate to your discipline (for example Harvard or Vancouver for Sciences).

Evidence of thorough background reading might include between ten and twenty citations at this point. They should demonstrate to an expert that you are knowledgeable of the landmark work in your field.

There are a number of books widely available that may help in preparing your research proposal (as well as in completing your research degree), here are a couple to point you in the right direction:

Bell, J (2010, 5th edn) Doing Your Research Project: A Guide for First-time Researchers in Education & Social Science , Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Baxter, L, Hughes, C and Tight, M (2007, 3rd edn) How to Research , Buckingham: Open University Press.

a man at a desk writing

Research proposals in practice-led and professionally-based disciplines

The University of Brighton prides itself on the quality of its research in areas that intersect with professional practices and direct impact through in-the-field relationships with co-producers.

We are very supportive of doctoral projects that bring positive results from these methodolgies and practices.

Some of the subject areas that have supported personal practice as research include: design, art, architecture, media production and creative writing, with successful approaches including autoethnographic methods and public participation or site-specific interventions. 

Some of the areas that have benefited from significant professional practice and industry relationship-focused research have included: engineering, nursing, business administration and teaching. 

The research proposal will still need to demonstrate your capability as a researcher with a project that is workable and fits with the university's interests and capacities. 

You should, however, adapt your proposal to demonstrate the value that your practice can bring to the research. This should be in tandem with a clear understanding of the relationship between practice and research.

A clear competence in practice should be evidenced, but do be aware that your proposal will be judged on its research and the new knowledge that is developed and shared, rather than the quality of practice in and of itself.

Personal practices, experiences and data gained through professional relationships may form part of a standard PhD thesis and proposal as description of work and resulting data. You will only be appyling for a practice-led component to be taken into account if this will form a significant part of the representation and examination of the knowledge-base. In such cases, the thesis is signficantly shorter.

Some pitfalls in the applications for practice-led or practice-focused research include:

  • An imbalance between the practical and theoretical elements
  • Too arbitrary a divide between the practice and theory
  • Using practice to simply provide personal illustrations of established theories or concepts
  • Insufficient sense of how the research knowledge will be held and disseminated
  • Insufficiently contained scope for a three-year project – for example, where the practice is described as a life-long investigation – with no clarity on an end-point
  • A project that could be better or similarly tackled through a standard PhD in terms of efficient response to the research questions. For example where the practice element might be represented as data or results instead of examined practice.

Your potential supervisor will be able to advise where a proposal will include significant elements beyond the traditional thesis. For further information, please contact the Doctoral College .

Hand gripping toothbrush designed with two flexible handles designed to be squeezed as help for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers

A set of designed objects submitted as part of a practice-led PhD project in medical therapeutic design, by Dr Tom Ainsworth, who went on to become a teacher, researcher and supervisor at the University of Brighton.

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How to write a PhD proposal

How to write a good PhD proposal

Study tips Published 3 Mar, 2022  ·  5-minute read

Want to make sure your research degree starts smoothly? We spoke with 2 PhD candidates about overcoming this initial hurdle. Here’s their advice for how to write a good PhD proposal.

Writing your research proposal is an integral part of commencing a PhD with many schools and institutes, so it can feel rather intimidating. After all, how you come up with your PhD proposal could be the difference between your supervisor getting on board or giving your project a miss.

Let’s explore how to make a PhD research proposal with UQ candidates Chelsea Janke and Sarah Kendall. 

Look at PhD proposal examples

Chelsea Janke quote

Look at other PhD proposals that have been successful. Ask current students if you can look at theirs.

Nobody’s asking you to reinvent the wheel when it comes to writing your PhD proposal – leave that for your actual thesis. For now, while you’re just working out how to write a PhD proposal, examples are a great starting point.

Chelsea knows this step is easier if you’ve got a friend who is already doing a PhD, but there are other ways to find a good example or template.

“Look at other PhD proposals that have been successful,” she says.

“Ask current students if you can look at theirs.”

“If you don’t know anyone doing their PhD, look online to get an idea of how they should be structured.”

What makes this tricky is that proposals can vary greatly by field and disciplinary norms, so you should check with your proposed supervisor to see if they have a specific format or list of criteria to follow. Part of writing a good PhD proposal is submitting it in a style that's familiar to the people who will read and (hopefully) become excited by it and want to bring you into their research area.

Here are some of the key factors to consider when structuring your proposal:

  • meeting the expected word count (this can range from a 1-page maximum to a 3,000-word minimum depending on your supervisor and research area)
  • making your bibliography as detailed as necessary
  • outlining the research questions you’ll be trying to solve/answer
  • discussing the impact your research could have on your field
  • conducting preliminary analysis of existing research on the topic
  • documenting details of the methods and data sources you’ll use in your research
  • introducing your supervisor(s)  and how their experience relates to your project.

Please note this isn't a universal list of things you need in your PhD research proposal. Depending on your supervisor's requirements, some of these items may be unnecessary or there may be other inclusions not listed here.

Ask your planned supervisor for advice

Alright, here’s the thing. If sending your research proposal is your first point of contact with your prospective supervisor, you’ve jumped the gun a little.

You should have at least one researcher partially on board with your project before delving too deep into your proposal. This ensures you’re not potentially spending time and effort on an idea that no one has any appetite for. Plus, it unlocks a helpful guide who can assist with your proposal.

PhD research isn’t like Shark Tank – you’re allowed to confer with academics and secure their support before you pitch your thesis to them. Discover how to choose the right PhD supervisor for you.

For a time-efficient strategy, Chelsea recommends you approach your potential supervisor(s) and find out if:

  • they have time to supervise you
  • they have any funds to help pay for your research (even with a stipend scholarship , your research activities may require extra money)
  • their research interests align with yours (you’ll ideally discover a mutual ground where you both benefit from the project).

“The best way to approach would be to send an email briefly outlining who you are, your background, and what your research interests are,” says Chelsea.

“Once you’ve spoken to a potential supervisor, then you can start drafting a proposal and you can even ask for their input.”

Chelsea's approach here works well with some academics, but keep in mind that other supervisors will want to see a research proposal straight away. If you're not sure of your proposed supervisor's preferences, you may like to cover both bases with an introductory email that has a draft of your research proposal attached.

Sarah agrees that your prospective supervisor is your most valuable resource for understanding how to write a research proposal for a PhD application.

“My biggest tip for writing a research proposal is to ask your proposed supervisor for help,” says Sarah.

“Or if this isn’t possible, ask another academic who has had experience writing research proposals.”

“They’ll be able to tell you what to include or what you need to improve on.”

Find the 'why' and focus on it

Sarah Kendall quote

One of the key aspects of your research proposal is emphasising why your project is important and should be funded.

Your PhD proposal should include your major question, your planned methods, the sources you’ll cite, and plenty of other nitty gritty details. But perhaps the most important element of your proposal is its purpose – the reason you want to do this research and why the results will be meaningful.

In Sarah’s opinion, highlighting the 'why' of your project is vital for your research proposal.

“From my perspective, one of the key aspects of your research proposal is emphasising why your project is important and should be funded,” she says.

“Not only does this impact whether your application is likely to be successful, but it could also impact your likelihood of getting a scholarship .”

Imagine you only had 60 seconds to explain your planned research to someone. Would you prefer they remember how your project could change the world, or the statistical models you’ll be using to do it? (Of course, you’ve got 2,000 words rather than 60 seconds, so do make sure to include those little details as well – just put the why stuff first.)

Proofread your proposal, then proof it again

As a PhD candidate, your attention to detail is going to be integral to your success. Start practising it now by making sure your research proposal is perfect.

Chelsea and Sarah both acknowledge that clarity and writing quality should never be overlooked in a PhD proposal. This starts with double-checking that the questions of your thesis are obvious and unambiguous, followed by revising the rest of your proposal.

“Make sure your research questions are really clear,” says Sarah.

“Ensure all the writing is clear and grammatically correct,” adds Chelsea.

“A supervisor is not going to be overly keen on a prospective student if their writing is poor.”

It might sound harsh, but it’s fair. So, proofread your proposal multiple times – including after you get it back from your supervisor with any feedback and notes. When you think you’ve got the final, FINAL draft saved, sleep on it and read it one more time the next morning.

Still feeling a little overwhelmed by your research proposal? Stay motivated with these reasons why a PhD is worth the effort .

Want to learn more from Chelsea and Sarah? Easy:

  • Read about Chelsea’s award-winning PhD thesis on keeping crops healthy.
  • Read Sarah’s series on becoming a law academic .

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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:

  • your approach and methodology
  • timeline and feasibility
  • all other considerations needed to progress your research, such as resources.

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:

  • Why is your research question or hypothesis worth asking?
  • How is the current research lacking or falling short?
  • What impact will your research have on the discipline?
  • Will you be extending an area of knowledge, applying it to new contexts, solving a problem, testing a theory, or challenging an existing one?
  • Establish why your research is important by convincing your audience there is a gap.
  • What will be the outcome of your research contribution?
  • Demonstrate both your current level of knowledge and how the pursuit of your question or hypothesis will create a new understanding and generate new information.
  • Show how your research is innovative and original.

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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Writing your PhD research proposal

Find guidance on how to write your PhD research proposal and a template form for you to use to submit your research proposal.

By asking you for an outline  research proposal we hope to get a good picture of your research interests and your understanding of what such research is likely to entail.

The University's application form is designed to enable you to give an overview of your academic experience and qualifications for study at postgraduate level. Your outline research proposal then gives us an idea of the kind of research you want to undertake. This, together with information from your referees, will help us assess whether the Moray House School of Education and Sport would be the appropriate place for you to pursue your research interests.

At  the application stage you are unlikely to be in a position to provide a comprehensive research proposal; the detailed shaping up of a research plan would be done in conjunction with your supervisors(s). But it is important for us to appreciate what you are hoping to investigate, how you envisage carrying out the research, and what the results might be expected to contribute to current knowledge and understanding in the relevant academic field(s) of study. In writing your proposal, please indicate any prior academic or employment experience relevant to your planned research.

In your research proposal, please also ensure that you clearly identify the Moray House research cluster your proposal falls under, as well as two to three staff members  with expertise in this area. We also encourage you to contact potential supervisors within your area of proposed research prior to submitting your application in order to gauge their interest and availability.

How to write your research proposal

The description of your proposed research should consist of 4-5 typed A4 sheets. It can take whatever form seems best, but should include some information about the following:

  • The general area within which you wish to conduct research, and why (you might find it helpful to explain what stimulated your interest in your chosen research field, and any study or research in the area that you have already undertaken)
  • The kind of research questions that you would hope to address, and why (in explaining what is likely to be the main focus of your research, it may be helpful to indicate, for example, why these issues are of particular concern and the way in which they relate to existing literature)
  • The sources of information and type of research methods you plan to use (for example, how you plan to collect your data, which sources you will be targeting and how you will access these data sources).

In addition to the above, please include any comments you are able to make concerning:

  • The approach that you will take to analysing your research data
  • The general timetable you would follow for carrying out and writing up your research
  • Any plans you may have for undertaking fieldwork away from Edinburgh
  • Any problems that might be anticipated in carrying out your proposed research

Please note: This guidance applies to all candidates, except those applying to conduct PhD research as part of a larger, already established research project (for example, in the Institute for Sport, Physical Education & Health Sciences).

In this case, you should provide a two- to three-page description of a research project that you have already undertaken, as a means of complementing information given in the application form. If you are in any doubt as to what is appropriate please contact us:

Contact us by email: Education@[email protected]

All doctoral proposals submitted as part of an application will be run through plagiarism detection software.

Template form for your research proposal

All applicants for a PhD or MSc by Research are required to submit a research proposal as part of their application. Applicants  must   use the template form below for their research proposal. This research proposal should then be submitted online as part of your application. Please use Calibri size 11 font size and do not change the paragraph spacing (single, with 6pt after each paragraph) or the page margins.

research proposal for funded phd

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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:

  • how your research addresses a gap in, or builds upon, existing knowledge
  • how your research links to the department that you're applying to
  • the academic, cultural, political and/or social significance of your research questions.

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:

  • every page is numbered
  • it's professional, interesting and informative
  • the research proposal has been proofread by both an experienced academic (to confirm that it conforms to academic standards) and a layman (to correct any grammatical or spelling errors)
  • it has a contents page
  • you've used a clear and easy-to-read structure, with appropriate headings.

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:

  • The Open University - Social Policy and Criminology
  • University of Sheffield - Sociological Studies
  • University of Sussex
  • University of York - Politics

Find out more

  • Explore PhD studentships .
  • For tips on writing a thesis, see 7 steps to writing a dissertation .
  • Read more about PhD study .

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Writing your research proposal

How to write a PhD research proposal

Creating a focused and well-written research proposal - a concise and coherent summary of your proposed research - is an essential part of a successful PhD application.

A research proposal is normally required for self-funded PhDs (where you develop your own idea for a thesis), but isn't usually needed for funded studentships or pre-defined research projects.

What is a research proposal?

A research proposal sets out the central issues or questions that you intend to address. It outlines the general area of study within which your research falls, referring to the current state of knowledge and any recent debates on the topic. It should also demonstrate the originality of your proposed research.

What it should include

As a guide, research proposals should be around 2,000-3,000 words and contain:

  • A title – this is just tentative and can be revised over the course of your research
  • An abstract – a concise statement of your intended research
  • Context - a brief overview of the general area of study within which your proposed research falls, summarising the current state of knowledge and recent debates on the topic
  • Research questions - central aims and questions that will guide your research
  • Research methods - outline of how you are going to conduct your research, for example, visiting particular libraries or archives, field work or interviews
  • Research significance - demonstrate the originality of your intended research
  • A bibliography.

Crucially, it is also an opportunity for you to communicate your passion for the subject area and to make a persuasive argument about the impact your project can achieve.

Your research proposal will be assessed by our academic schools to assess the quality of your proposed research and  to establish whether they have the expertise to support your proposed area of PhD study.

Thesis writing classes and support for international research students

The University’s English Language Centre (ELC)  provides thesis writing support for international PhD students. Classes run throughout semesters one and two and are designed to help develop the academic writing skills needed to write up research effectively.

The sessions are taught by tutors with their own research experience. They have PhDs themselves and have many years of experience in analysing writing in different disciplines.

The course also provides an opportunity for students to receive individual feedback on samples of their own writing.

The following classes are available:

  • Thesis Writing for Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine
  • Thesis Writing for Humanities and Social Sciences

In addition to these thesis writing classes, the ELC also provides a 1:1 Academic Writing Consultation service.

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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.

  • apply for a funded PhD where you research a set project
  • design your own research project, which you can either fund yourself, or apply for external funding.

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:

  • the questions driving your research
  • how your research makes 'an original contribution' to your field and how will you achieve this
  • if your research provides new knowledge, or reinterprets existing ideas in an original way
  • how you intend to do the research i.e. the methodology you'll use and how you'll structure your work
  • how Sussex can aid you in your research and what you want to study here.

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:

  • introduction
  • research background
  • research methods
  • bibliography.

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:

  • formulates a precise, interesting research question
  • establishes the relevance and value of the proposed research question in the context of current academic thinking
  • describes the data or source material your research requires
  • outlines a clear and practical methodology, which enables you to answer the research question
  • states clearly what you hope to discover at the end of your research and what new areas it might open up.

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:

  • include a short summary of the central question behind your research
  • explain the background of your proposed project
  • describe the expected outcome of your project.

Thesis statement

Write a summary of your overarching research question and include:

  • why your research area is of academic and practical interest
  • how your research builds on existing work
  • what has inspired you to pursue your area of research
  • your knowledge of the research area.

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: 2,000 - 3,000 words excluding references

Your research proposal should describe what you want to research, why it is important to do this research, and how you plan to conduct your study. Here is a suggested structure:

Provide a clear working title for your research.

The introduction will indicate the focus of your research and your main research question. It should also address:

  • why this topic is an important area of research
  • why the subject is important to you
  • how your research will contribute to our knowledge and understanding.

Research context

Provide a concise overview of the context in which you plan to conduct your research.

This section provides a concise review of related research within your field of study. It demonstrates that you are aware of the work of others and how your research will contribute new knowledge. It should also demonstrate critical engagement with relevant conceptual and theoretical frameworks and make clear your theoretical position about the issues you are researching, how this frames your research questions and your methodological approach.

Methodology and methods

Indicate your methodological approach, followed by details of how you plan to answer your research questions. This should include information about:

  • how you plan to collect data (through which research methods)
  • how you plan to select participants
  • how you plan to analyse the data
  • how you will address ethical considerations.

Provide a timeline, including time to conduct the research, process and analyse your data and write your final thesis.

Provide a bibliography of all citations used in your 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:

  • your interest in the particular research area and the topic you want to study
  • the specific research questions you want to investigate
  • a description of your knowledge of the subject
  • the relevant research literature you have read
  • the methods and techniques you will use for your research
  • an explanation of your motivations for applying for a PhD degree and an outline of your career aspirations
  • a timetable for your project (monthly for the first year, and quarterly for subsequent years).

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:

  • what are the key texts already existing in your field?
  • how does your proposal differ from existing research?
  • what will your project contribute to existing work in the field?
  • how does your project expand our understanding and knowledge of the subject?

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:

  • does your project involve archives, databases or specialist libraries?
  • is your study interdisciplinary?
  • what are the theoretical resources you intend to use and why?
  • is your research based on a single author or a group of writers and texts?

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

  • what has inspired you to pursue your area of research.

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.

  • a general personal statement, which describes a broad topic of interest to you and how your areas of academic strength would benefit the topic
  • a specific personal statement, which shows us why you are the right person for one of our advertised research projects
  • explain your motivation for applying for a PhD degree and outline your career aspirations
  • your knowledge of the subject and relevant research literature you have read
  • the methods and techniques you will use for your research.

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

  • which project or PhD scholarship you want to be considered for in the financial information session
  • if you have another way of funding your studies if we are unable to offer you a place on a funded project
  • the name of your sponsor, if you will be funded by a third party.

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:

  • write a new research proposal
  • write a general personal statement, which describes a broad topic of interest to you and how your areas of academic strength would benefit the topic
  • write a specific personal statement, which shows us why you are the right person for one of our advertised research projects.
  • explain your interest in the research area, your motivation for carrying out the research and your career aspirations
  • describe the questions you want to investigate
  • describe your knowledge of the subject and relevant previous research experience and skills
  • tell us about the relevant research literature you've read
  • describe the methods and techniques you will use to achieve your aims.

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

  • which project or PhD scholarship you want to be considered for in the financial information section

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:

  • why your research topic is interesting and important
  • what we know already about the research area and how your study will expand our knowledge of it.

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:

  • what kind of control conditions are needed for your research?
  • what do you need to measure and how?
  • do you need to run any pilot studies?
  • what difficulties might you have carrying out your research, and how can these be overcome?

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.

You might also be interested in:

  • finding a supervisor
  • using our postgraduate application system
  • how to apply for a PhD
  • 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 topic is viable
  • That the department can provide appropriate supervision and other necessary support
  • You have thought through your interest in and commitment to a piece of research
  • You are a suitable candidate for admission

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:

  • A provisional title
  • A key question, hypothesis or the broad topic for investigation
  • An outline of the key aims of the research
  • A brief outline of key literature in the area [what we already know]
  • A description of the topic and an explanation of why further research in the area is important [the gap in the literature - what we need to know]
  • Details of how the research will be carried out, including any special facilities / resources etc. which would be required and any necessary skills which you either have already or would need to acquire [the tools that will enable us to fill the gap you have identified]
  • A plan and timetable of the work you will carry out

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

Three additional points:

  • Try to be concise. Do not write too much – be as specific as you can but not wordy. It is a difficult balance to strike.
  • Bear in mind that the proposal is a starting point. If you are registered to read for a PhD you will be able to work the proposal through with your supervisor in more detail in the early months.
  • Take a look at the Department’s staff profiles, research centres, and research clusters. Can you identify possible supervisors and intellectual support networks within the Department?

Examples of Successful PhD Proposals

  • PhD sample proposal 1
  • PhD sample proposal 2
  • PhD sample proposal 3
  • PhD sample proposal 4
  • PhD sample proposal 5
  • PhD sample proposal 6
  • PhD sample proposal 7
  • PhD sample proposal 8

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PhD Research Proposal Sample

phd research proposal example

PhD Research Proposal Sample for Your Inspiration

One of the toughest things to do when it comes to completing a voluminous and challenging PhD research project is the proposal. The thing about the PhD research proposal is that you have to encapsulate everything that you want to accomplish, communicate in a concise way what you want to do, the resources that it will require, and finally you have to convince the reader of the viability and necessity of the project. It isn’t easy to know where to begin with something like this, but with the help of a PhD research proposal example from our professional PhD writing service , it’s easier than ever! We’ve got a wide range of samples made by doctoral proposal writer that you can take advantage of to learn all the ins and outs of crafting the highest quality proposal. No matter what the subject or specifications of your proposal are, our professional example research proposal is here to provide you with the help that you need!

research proposal for funded phd

If you need some help with PhD investigation, you may use these samples for writing. Another smart solution is to pick a sample research proposal with comments from an expert. Such samples are just to give you some idea about writing the research proposal. However, if you are still confused or facing some time constraints to write PhD proposal, we are here to help you. Our team of experts has vast experience and expertise to write a perfect research proposal for your needs. Moreover, we can help you choose the most relevant research proposal topics , write a paper from scratch, or improve the existing one. No matter what your subject is, we have the subject specialist on every subject, who have years of experience of writing research proposals. We ensure fresh and unique work, which is 100% plagiarism free. Each student is special to us, and we ensure your personal and work details will be kept secret. We can also help you to meet your short deadlines. With the lightning-fast experts on the board, our PhD proposal writing service accepts even last-minute tasks, delivering high-quality outcomes on time or even earlier, leaving enough time for revisions and comments from your supervisor. Get your PhD research proposal without any hassle, contact us Now!

Look Through Our Well-Written PhD Research Proposal Sample

The dynamics of hyperinflation and stabilization policies – the case of zimbabwe.

The dynamics of hyperinflation and stabilization policies

The running of the country can be viewed commercially as a business enterprise by the economists. The business needs to be run in equilibrium; a balance between supply and demand must be stricken if the entrepreneur or the owner of the enterprise is to enjoy any benefits accrued by running a business. In the case of a country, it should be governed in a way that that the prices of goods and services are kept in control.  The stakeholders must not let the prices escalate beyond the ability of a typical citizen. Similarly, the release of cash into the economy should be maintained so that the flow of money is monitored and controlled, hence preserving the value of that particular currency.

This proposal will dig into inflation and find out how inflation has affected economies of a country, in particular, Zimbabwe and the ways to stabilize this condition. The dynamics of hyperinflation will also be looked into in detail to bring out the real picture and the damages it causes to an economy. The proposal will also focus on the causes of inflation in Zimbabwe and the how the theories of hyperinflation have applied in this context. The proposal will also look at the quantity theory of money and how it is associated with hyperinflation.


Hyperinflation can be defined as a situation where the prices of goods and services escalate beyond control that the concept of inflation is an understatement. Economically, hyperinflation can be defined to occur when the total inflation over a period of three years is equivalent or exceeds 100%. Countries in hyperinflation usually experience rapid erosion of the real value of local currency prompting the population to hold a relatively stable foreign currency.

Hyperinflation makes the prices of goods and services in an economy to rise rapidly since the value of the local currency loses the real value quickly. Zimbabwe has experienced hyperinflation since 2001 with inflation rates over a whopping 100%.  However, as from 2006, inflation in Zimbabwe has risen to an uncontrollable 1500% annually. It should be observed that Zimbabwe was the only country that was experiencing hyperinflation and the first in the 21st century to have hyperinflation. Inflation in Zimbabwe has been perceived in two ways. First, the private sector speculation which the Zimbabwean authorities argue that the private sector rises up the prices intentionally to maximize profits on to pile pressure on the economy through ruthless price increments.

Secondly, the authorities also believe that the withdrawal of aids and the international economic sanctions have led to an economic decline from the year 2000. This perception has the explanation that the printing and minting of excess money by the government is usually tailored to bridge the gap between the government revenue and the actual receipts. This proposal to examine these concepts in depth.

Literature review

In this section, the Cagan (1956) hyperinflation model will be examined, where he assessed the statistical connection between cash and changes in price by conducting instances of hyperinflation in six different countries across Europe. According to Cagan, the demand for money balances declined with increase in inflation, assuming inflation played a significant role in determining hyperinflation.

Milton Friedman bases his view of hyperinflation in quantity theory of money. This theory states that the relationship between money and the price level is directly proportional.  This relationship implies that inflation will increase with an increase in money supply and the continued trend will lead to hyperinflation. In Zimbabwe, the supply of money and the prices of goods and services increased in tandem, as per the quantity theory of money because people opted to use the available cash immediately, rather than to wait on the depreciating cash. This, in turn, led to the increase of velocity as well as an increase of money through the printing of new currency, hence the exponential increase in prices of goods and services in Zimbabwe.


This proposal will seek to clarify the mechanisms through which money, the setting of price behavior and the requirements of government revenue collaborate in Zimbabwe, to examine the explanations put forth by the authorities about the hyperinflation in Zimbabwe. To achieve this goal, the proposal will look at various models and tests that will lead to the understanding of the hyperinflation.

Granger causality test

In general, it is obvious that money engenders the rate of inflation, but the reverse could also be claimed to be true. It can be said that hyperinflation has self-perpetuating tendencies, due to the fact that the rise in prices of goods and services results in the rise in demand for nominal cash. Thus, causation develops from inflation to supply of money. This test investigates the amount of the existing value of money and premium is a utilizable component in the prediction of inflation.

Theoretical model

This model provides the classical quantity theory of money which believes that institutional factors determine the rate of money circulation. The economy is assumed to be or close to the real GDP.  In this case, the growth of money does not have an effect in the real GDP. This implies that holding both variables constant, the growth rate of money is directly proportional to the rate of inflation. Inflation reduces money demand due to an increase in the opportunity cost of holding money. Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe increased the parallel market premium and consequently, a change in the parallel market premium affected the velocity of cash in the circulation. The data used here was derived from various sources including the website of the RBZ.

The inflation data and money supply were collected from RBZ while parallel exchange rate was collected from Carmen M. Reinhart, a Harvard Kennedy School Professor of the International Financial System. The methodology in this paper employs heavily the ARDL co-integration approach for investigating the relationship between the inflation and its determinants.  ARDL was used because it has several advantages over other models of co-integration. ARDL can be used with time series data, can also be employed in a general-to-specific modeling by including insufficient numbers to lags for the data generating and error correction model (ECM) can be derived using ARDL co-integration model.

Theoretical/conceptual framework

Lagged change in the inflation and money supply growth are insignificant in the ARDL framework. Moreover, the ever-increasing prices are not unsustainable in the long-run; hence using the concept of long-run relations could give incorrect results. Zimbabwe had almost all her prices listed in foreign currencies which fully wrote off inflation inertia. In this case, an exchange rate is a useful tool for curbing inflation rates thereby making stabilization of hyperinflation less costly in comparison to moderate methods of dealing with hyperinflation. Through Ordinary Least Squares method, hyperinflation in Zimbabwe is said o have been caused by the rapid growth of paper money. The money demand model will seek to find out if this result is consistent. Additionally, a unit increase in the parallel market premium will result in an equivalent change in inflation.

High rates of interest will deter borrowing and foster saving, slowing the economy and hence disinflationary effects. The Treasury bill by the Zimbabwe government had turned the interest rates negative and this manipulation discouraged savings by the households. As per the Quantity Theory of money, hyperinflation in Zimbabwe could have been a monetary phenomenon and the only way to curb it would be to constrain the unnecessary money supply growth.

Research plan

Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe had severe adverse effects on the economy in regard to wealth, savings and deposits. Prices of essential goods and services became unreachable, especially to those on inflexible incomes. Countermeasures including price controls and foreign currencies ban to control the then escalating levels of inflation and the devaluation of the Zimbabwean currency were taken. Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation was at its peak when the government compelled the RBZ to issue banknotes of higher denominations, hence fuelling the rate of inflation. The Zimbabwean dollar value diminished at a faster rate and the RBZ could not keep up with the printing. This led to the abandonment of the Zimbabwean dollar in favor of the US dollar as well as the SA Rand.

This study aimed at finding the causes of hyperinflation in Zimbabwe by using the right econometric models. Its main aim is to find out if the growth of money has a positive effect on inflation. Additionally, it will be aimed at finding out whether the parallel market premium is directly proportional to the growth of inflation. Whether money supply is the primary driver of hyperinflation in Zimbabwe, the findings of the research will provide the answer.

Works cited

BBC News,. ‘Zimbabwe Abandons Its Currency’. N.p., 2014. Web. 29 Dec. 2014.

Cato Institute,. ‘Measurements of Zimbabwe’s Hyperinflation’. N.p., 2014. Web. 29 Dec. 2014.

Larochelle, C., J. Alwang, and N. Taruvinga. ‘Inter-Temporal Changes In Well-Being During Conditions Of Hyperinflation: Evidence From Zimbabwe’. Journal of African Economies 23.2 (2014): 225-256. Web.

McIndoe Calder, Tara. ‘Hyperinflation In Zimbabwe: Money Demand, Seigniorage And Aid Shocks’. SSRN Journal n. pag. Web.

Makochekanwa, A. ‘A Dynamic Enquiry Into The Causes Of Hyperinflation In Zimbabwe’. The University of Pretoria, Department of Economics (2007): n. pag. Print. Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ),. ‘Bank Annual Reports From 2000-2008’. N.p., 2008. Web. 29 Dec. 2014

Sokic, Alexandre. ‘The Monetary Analysis Of Hyperinflation And The Appropriate Specification Of The Demand For Money’. German Economic Review 13.2 (2011): 142-160. Web.

Works, Anchor. ‘Data’. Carmenreinhart.com. N.p., 2014. Web. 29 Dec. 2014.

You can also take a look at our guide for writing an  interpretive thesis if you feel like you’re struggling to write on your own. So check it out! You can also find out more helpful examples of research proposals if you contact us.

If you need an additional professionally written PhD research proposal sample or any kind of support – just contact us right now!

Proposal Preparation and Submission



A proposal is more than a pitch document; it’s a work plan. If the agency awards the project, you will have to follow the plan that your proposal represents. Proposals are complex documents with specific requirements for each section. Be sure that you understand each component and allocate adequate time to put together your budget and gather the necessary components for your proposal. Keep in mind that some components require additional review so that should also be accounted for in your preparation timeline.

Proposal Development and Routing

The electronic Proposal Development and Routing Form (PDRF ) is used to collect and route all the proposal documents, approvals and waivers necessary for review and endorsement by Stanford University. Department administrators should initiate the PDRF at the beginning of the proposal development process in the Stanford Electronic Research Administration System (SeRA).  

Review and Approvals

The Principal Investigator’s review and approval collected in the PDRF provides the certifications required by government agencies, and an agreement to comply with Stanford and sponsor policies.

Departmental review and approvals confirm financial commitments made in a proposal, and that stated personnel and facilities are available to carry out the project. Other required special approvals that are provided by the applicable Stanford office (such as SLAC involvement, international activity, PI waivers, etc.) are also collected and documented in the PDRF. 

Final Review and Endorsement

The Institutional Official (IO) reviews the information contained in the PDRF to endorse the proposal. The IO submits the endorsed proposal to the sponsor on behalf of Stanford University.

Proposal Timeline

As you complete the PDRF, you will get a better understanding of the complexity of your proposal including the approvals that you may have to obtain from various offices on campus.

days for internal approvals timeline

Keep in mind, reviews do not have to be sequential. If you know a proposal will require a special approval, e.g., an indirect cost waiver or waiver for PIship, initiate those requests as soon as possible. Your timeline’s starting point is the sponsor’s deadline. From there, you will factor in your institutional official’s proposal review policy (+5 business days) as well as any other special approvals you may need (see picture above). Remember to allow for extra time when the proposal includes components with external approvals such as subawards or work conducted abroad. Also don’t forget to check the timezone that your proposal is due by (PST, CT, EST, Greenwich time, etc.). Understand what is required by reading the OSR Internal Proposal Deadline Policy Memo 2015 , Q&A Clarifying the University Proposal Deadline Policy and the School of Medicine Internal Proposal Deadline Policy and FAQs .

Proposal Timeline Guidance

The PI and support staff prepare the proposal in time for routing through department and school channels for approval. The complexity of your proposal and the approvals needed from other offices/departments will determine the length of your timeline. 

30 days or more to prepare the proposal budget

In the School of Medicine, the PI and support staff work in close collaboration with the Research Management Group (RMG). The Research Process Manager (RPM) assigned to the applicable SoM department will also create the budget for the proposal. RMG requests a 30-day or more advance notification (School of Medicine only).

For other schools, a similar timeframe +30 days will ensure sufficient time to complete all the steps in the proposal preparation process. 

In the School of Engineering, the PI and supporting staff work with the Engineering Research Administration (ERA) group to put together all the proposal documentation.

In other schools, the PI and support staff complete all of the documentation that ultimately gets routed for department/school approvals and institutional endorsement and submission.

PI Eligibility & Exceptions

Eligibility to serve as a PI or Co-PI on externally-funded research projects is a privilege generally granted only to members of the Stanford Academic Council or to the Medical Center Line faculty. This policy is intended to ensure that the intellectual direction of research and scholarship is explicitly recognized as the responsibility of the PI. Designation as a project PI confers primary responsibility for the scientific, technical, and fiscal direction of the project to that individual. This designation, once granted to a specific named PI, may not be delegated to any other faculty member or staff member.

However, the University recognizes that there may be special situations for which it is acceptable to grant PI-ship to other individuals. Exceptions to the policy may be granted under special circumstances, and a waiver of PI status is required.

  • For example, a researcher who is otherwise not eligible may be approved to serve as PI on externally-funded activities related to the sponsorship of conferences, exhibits, workshops, or public events; specific projects that are part of a larger interdisciplinary program; or career development awards. These exceptions must be approved by the department chair and the school dean.  
  • In addition, the University recognizes that there may be other unique and rare situations that warrant an exception to the policy, such as allowing short-term PI-ship for a visiting faculty member or granting permission for a not-yet-approved faculty member to submit a proposal. In addition to department and school approval, these requests must also be approved by the Dean of Research. To learn more see RPH 2.1: Principal Investigator Eligibility and Criteria for Exceptions .
  • Note also that the University distinguishes between PI or co-PI and other project personnel designations (e.g., Associate Investigators), as may be needed in the presentation of specific proposal staffing requirements.   

Submission of the proposal in the name of a "nominal" Principal Investigator who then delegates primary responsibility to an ineligible PI is inconsistent with the responsibility of Academic Council members for the intellectual direction of the University and is not permitted. See RPH 14.2: Academic Policies Pertaining to Sponsored Project Proposals .

Check with your school for time required to request a waiver of indirect (F&A) costs

The Dean of Research will consider requests for indirect (F&A) cost waivers in very limited circumstances. The PI should initiate the request for approval first to her department chair and school dean's office; requests must adhere to RPH . If approval is obtained, the request must be sent to the Dean of Research Office for approval.

For projects administered within the School of Medicine, the request must be sent to the Dean of the School of Medicine through the Research Management Group once it is approved by the PI’s department chair.

the budgeting process

10 business days or more prior to sponsor deadline

The PI and School/Departmental approvals of the PDRF including attachments (at a minimum, a copy of the draft scientific portion of the proposal, internal budget and budget justification)  should have been completed by now in the SeRA system. This will ensure that approvals from other offices (indirect cost waiver, global affairs review, export control review, etc.) will be completed on time for the final review and endorsement by the Institutional Official (IO). Finally, the proposal forms and documentation should be simultaneously accessible for review in the sponsor’s proposal application portal (ASSIST, Cayuse 424, Fastlane, Research.gov, etc.).  

5 business days or more prior to sponsor deadline

The approvals from other offices are now complete in the PDRF (some are collected within the PDRF such as the export control review while others require for the e-mail approval to be attached to the PDRF, i.e. foundation relations approval) and the proposal is now ready for the institutional official to review. During this review period, your IO will let you know if changes or corrections are needed. 

By the sponsor's deadline date and time

Once the proposal is fully compliant, the proposal is endorsed and submitted by your IO in OSR or RMG (SoM only) to the sponsor on behalf of the University.via the sponsor's requested method. Remember that the proposal may be due by a set time in a different time zone from ours (e.g., MST, EST, foreign country timezone, etc..)

Check eProtocol for panel schedule

If the proposal has an extremely high probability of being awarded soon, request a protocol approval by Stanford compliance panels when the research involves human subjects, stem cells, animal subjects, or hazardous substances.

Who is My Preaward Institutional Official

The Institutional Official (IO) is an individual named by Stanford, who is authorized to act for the institution, and to assume the obligations imposed by federal, state and local laws, regulations, requirements and conditions, as well as Stanford policy that applies to a proposal and award.

institutional official review and submission chart

The IO reviews, endorses, signs and submits proposals to the sponsor on behalf of Stanford. In signing a proposal and in accepting a corresponding award, this individual certifies that Stanford will comply with the assurances and certifications referenced in the application. 

This individual's signature further certifies that Stanford will be accountable both for appropriate use of funds awarded and performance of the sponsored project activities resulting from the application.

IO Responsibilities by Central Office

Stanford proposal preparation resources.

The Office of Sponsored Research , the School of Medicine's  Research Management Group  and the School of Engineering's Engineering Research Administration group along with your school-based research administrators can help you with your proposal.

In addition Stanford offers support for your proposals from the following offices:

Stanford Research Development Office (RDO), is a unit under VPDoR that aims to strengthen collaborative or strategic research and scholarly activities through support for funding applications. RDO supports research teams from across the University, with an emphasis on complex or strategic proposals. This often includes large, multi-PI, multi-disciplinary proposals, but can also apply to other projects depending on the discipline or specific situation.

RDO’s goal is to enhance the competitiveness of proposals through grantsmanship while reducing the burden on PIs. They provide (pre-)preaward support that might include finding the right fit between project and sponsor, supporting team formation and concept development, coordinating proposal development, and editing of proposals.

University Corporate and Foundation Relations (UCFR) is a central university office that helps to foster relationships between Stanford University and companies and private professional foundations. Part of the Office of Development, they help faculty and external funding partners connect and collaborate to advance mutual goals that align with the university’s research and teaching mission. 

The Office of Science Outreach  (OSO) helps faculty engage in science outreach, including organized activities targeted at youth, school teachers, and the general public that will increase their interest, understanding, and involvement in math, science, and engineering.  

OSO serves faculty throughout the University by assisting them in creating outreach project ideas and proposals, identifying potential partners for them (both within Stanford as well as externally), and facilitating information and resource sharing among all of the University's science outreach programs. 

They can brainstorm/suggest outreach ideas to incorporate in your proposal, review and give feedback on a draft proposal, find a specific audience/partner for your project, or write/acquire letters of support from project partners/participants. OSO also provides programs faculty members can tap into to fulfill outreach requirements while continuing to conduct research and perform teaching duties.

The Stanford Center for Clinical and Translational Education and Research (Spectrum) is an independent research center funded in part by an NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA). Its goal is to accelerate and enhance medical research, from basic discovery to improved patient care.

Global Business Services

Are you planning travel abroad to study, research, or volunteer? Will you be collaborating with international visitors either here at Stanford or abroad? If so, you must be aware of your individual responsibilities for understanding the laws, regulations, and requirements that apply. Prepare for your international academic activity with the wealth of tools and services available to you.

University Libraries Data Management Services

Data management is emerging as a key component of funding agency requirements. Stanford University Libraries offers tools and services to help researchers comply with funding agency provisions on data management and to improve the visibility of their research.

The Data Management Planning Tool provides templates, Stanford-specific guidance, and suggested answer text for creating a data management plan for your next grant submission. The Stanford Digital Repository provides long-term preservation of your important research data in a secure, sustainable stewardship environment, combined with a persistent URL (PURL) that allows for easy data discovery, access, sharing, and reuse.

Sponsor Proposal Preparation Guidelines

Before you prepare a proposal, study and follow the current specific agency/sponsor guidelines to understand your responsibilities. 

Federal agencies

Most federal agencies issue guidelines with the funding opportunities and are attached to the grants.gov listing. 

federal research terms compliance hierarchy chart

The National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, two of our top funders, provide many resources for proposal preparation and award management:

  • NIH How to Apply
  • NIH Grants Policy
  • NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) and Policy Information

Proposal Submission

Once the proposal has been reviewed by the institutional official, it gets submitted to the sponsor via the method prescribed in the associated solicitation/funding opportunity announcement. The vast majority of our proposals must be submitted via an electronic portal by an institutional official. To guide you in determining the portal to use, please see the below table:

Federal Agencies

  • Grants.gov is the official funding opportunity announcement website for the federal government. Stanford University does not use Grants.gov’s electronic proposal submission portal called Workspace.  Once you locate a program announcement in Grants.gov, use the table above to determine the method of submission applicable to that program announcement.  
  • Cayuse Proposals (S2S) is a web-based software service that provides faculty researchers and support staff an easier, faster interface to Grants.gov for submitting research proposals to federal agencies. 
  • NSF Research.gov is the National Science Foundation online system that support all functions of the proposal process: submission, review, award, and reporting. All reporting functionality (technical and financial)  is in Research.gov. The old NSF FastLane system has been retired.  For a status update on FastLane system decommissioning and transition to Research.gov transition click Here .
  • NASA NSPIRES - NASA utilizes this online system to announce NASA funding opportunities. In some instances, pre-proposals and/or full proposals are accepted via NSPIRES.
  • NIH ERA Commons is an investigator registration system that works in conjunction with ASSIST and Grants.gov to insure receipt of applications by the National Institutes of Health. All investigators must be registered in NIH Commons prior to submitting proposals to NIH and other Public Health Service agencies.

Private Agencies

Proposals to foundations, corporations and other non-profit agencies are submitted via a variety of methods. Make sure to check the instructions from the sponsor and verify that we are registered for their electronic method of submission. Some foundations also require coordination and prior approval with foundation relations. Please refer to the  Restricted Foundation List.  Applications to restricted foundations require coordination with the  Office of University Foundation Relations.

  • Proposal Central supports a variety of non-profit funding agencies in proposal submission. Agencies that utilize this system include the American Cancer Society, the Arthritis Foundation, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Created: 04.01.2021

Updated: 02.16.2024

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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:

  • Highlight how it is original or significant
  • Explain how it will develop or challenge current knowledge of your subject
  • Identify the importance of your research
  • Show why you are the right person to do this research
  • Research Proposal Example 1 (DOC, 49kB)
  • Research Proposal Example 2 (DOC, 0.9MB)
  • Research Proposal Example 3 (DOC, 55.5kB)
  • Research Proposal Example 4 (DOC, 49.5kB)

Subject specific guidance

  • Writing a Humanities PhD Proposal (PDF, 0.1MB)
  • Writing a Creative Writing PhD Proposal (PDF, 0.1MB)
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research proposal for funded phd

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  • v.12(1); Jan-Feb 2021

Research Funding—Why, When, and How?

Shekhar neema.

Department of Dermatology, Armed Forces Medical College, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Laxmisha Chandrashekar

1 Department of Dermatology, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Dhanvantari Nagar, Puducherry, India

Research funding is defined as a grant obtained for conducting scientific research generally through a competitive process. To apply for grants and securing research funding is an essential part of conducting research. In this article, we will discuss why should one apply for research grants, what are the avenues for getting research grants, and how to go about it in a step-wise manner. We will also discuss how to write research grants and what to be done after funding is received.


The two most important components of any research project is idea and execution. The successful execution of the research project depends not only on the effort of the researcher but also on available infrastructure to conduct the research. The conduct of a research project entails expenses on man and material and funding is essential to meet these requirements. It is possible to conduct many research projects without any external funding if the infrastructure to conduct the research is available with the researcher or institution. It is also unethical to order tests for research purpose when it does not benefit patient directly or is not part of the standard of care. Research funding is required to meet these expenses and smooth execution of research projects. Securing funding for the research project is a topic that is not discussed during postgraduation and afterwards during academic career especially in medical science. Many good ideas do not materialize into a good research project because of lack of funding.[ 1 ] This is an art which can be learnt only by practising and we intend to throw light on major hurdles faced to secure research funding.

Why Do We Need the Funds for Research?

It is possible to publish papers without any external funding; observational research and experimental research with small sample size can be conducted without external funding and can result in meaningful papers like case reports, case series, observational study, or small experimental study. However, when studies like multi-centric studies, randomized controlled trial, experimental study or observational study with large sample size are envisaged, it may not be possible to conduct the study within the resources of department or institution and a source of external funding is required.

Basic Requirements for Research Funding

The most important requirement is having an interest in the particular subject, thorough knowledge of the subject, and finding out the gap in the knowledge. The second requirement is to know whether your research can be completed with internal resources or requires external funding. The next step is finding out the funding agencies which provide funds for your subject, preparing research grant and submitting the research grant on time.

What Are the Sources of Research Funding? – Details of Funding Agencies

Many local, national, and international funding bodies can provide grants necessary for research. However, the priorities for different funding agencies on type of research may vary and this needs to be kept in mind while planning a grant proposal. Apart from this, different funding agencies have different timelines for proposal submission and limitation on funds. Details about funding bodies have been tabulated in Table 1 . These details are only indicative and not comprehensive.

Details of funding agencies

Application for the Research Grant

Applying for a research grant is a time-consuming but rewarding task. It not only provides an opportunity for designing a good study but also allows one to understand the administrative aspect of conducting research. In a publication, the peer review is done after the paper is submitted but in a research grant, peer review is done at the time of proposal, which helps the researcher to improve his study design even if the grant proposal is not successful. Funds which are available for research is generally limited; resulting in reviewing of a research grant on its merit by peer group before the proposal is approved. It is important to be on the lookout for call for proposal and deadlines for various grants. Ideally, the draft research proposal should be ready much before the call for proposal and every step should be meticulously planned to avoid rush just before the deadline. The steps of applying for a research grant are mentioned below and every step is essential but may not be conducted in a particular order.

  • Idea: The most important aspect of research is the idea. After having the idea in mind, it is important to refine your idea by going through literature and finding out what has already been done in the subject and what are the gaps in the research. FINER framework should be used while framing research questions. FINER stands for feasibility, interesting, novel, ethical, and relevant
  • Designing the study: Well-designed study is the first step of a well-executed research project. It is difficult to correct flawed study design when the project is advanced, hence it should be planned well and discussed with co-workers. The help of an expert epidemiologist can be sought while designing the study
  • Collaboration: The facility to conduct the study within the department is often limited. Inter-departmental and inter-institutional collaboration is the key to perform good research. The quality of project improves by having a subject expert onboard and it also makes acceptance of grant easier. The availability of the facility for conduct of research in department and institution should be ascertained before planning the project
  • Scientific and ethical committee approval: Most of the research grants require the project to be approved by the institutional ethical committee (IEC) before the project is submitted. IEC meeting usually happens once in a quarter; hence pre-planning the project is essential. Some institutes also conduct scientific committee meeting before the proposal can be submitted for funding. A project/study which is unscientific is not ethical, therefore it is a must that a research proposal should pass both the committees’ scrutiny
  • Writing research grant: Writing a good research grant decides whether research funding can be secured or not. So, we will discuss this part in detail.

How to write a research grant proposal [ 13 , 14 , 15 ] The steps in writing a research grant are as follows

  • Identifying the idea and designing the study. Study design should include details about type of study, methodology, sampling, blinding, inclusion and exclusion criteria, outcome measurements, and statistical analysis
  • Identifying the prospective grants—the timing of application, specific requirements of grant and budget available in the grant
  • Discussing with collaborators (co-investigators) about the requirement of consumables and equipment
  • Preparing a budget proposal—the two most important part of any research proposal is methodology and budget proposal. It will be discussed separately
  • Preparing a specific proposal as outlined in the grant document. This should contain details about the study including brief review of literature, why do you want to conduct this study, and what are the implications of the study, budget requirement, and timeline of the study
  • A timeline or Gantt chart should always accompany any research proposal. This gives an idea about the major milestones of the project and how the project will be executed
  • The researcher should also be ready for revising the grant proposal. After going through the initial proposal, committee members may suggest some changes in methodology and budgetary outlay
  • The committee which scrutinizes grant proposal may be composed of varied specialities. Hence, proposal should be written in a language which even layman can understand. It is also a good idea to get the proposal peer reviewed before submission.

Budgeting for the Research Grant

Budgeting is as important as the methodology for grant proposal. The first step is to find out what is the monetary limit for grant proposal and what are the fund requirements for your project. If these do not match, even a good project may be rejected based on budgetary limitations. The budgetary layout should be prepared with prudence and only the amount necessary for the conduct of research should be asked. Administrative cost to conduct the research project should also be included in the proposal. The administrative cost varies depending on the type of research project.

Research fund can generally be used for the following requirement but not limited to these; it is helpful to know the subheads under which budgetary planning is done. The funds are generally allotted in a graded manner as per projected requirement and to the institution, not to the researcher.

  • Purchase of equipment which is not available in an institution (some funding bodies do not allow equipment to be procured out of research funds). The equipment once procured out of any research fund is owned by the institute/department
  • Consumables required for the conduct of research (consumables like medicines for the conduct of the investigator-initiated trials and laboratory consumables)
  • The hiring of trained personnel—research assistant, data entry operator for smooth conduct of research. The remuneration details of trained personnel can be obtained from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) website and the same can be used while planning the budget
  • Stationary—for the printing of forms and similar expense
  • Travel expense—If the researcher has to travel to present his finding or for some other reason necessary for the conduct of research, travel grant can be part of the research grant
  • Publication expense: Some research bodies provide publication expense which can help the author make his findings open access which allows wider visibility to research
  • Contingency: Miscellaneous expenditure during the conduct of research can be included in this head
  • Miscellaneous expenses may include expense toward auditing the fund account, and other essential expenses which may be included in this head.

Once the research funding is granted. The fund allotted has to be expended as planned under budgetary planning. Transparency, integrity, fairness, and competition are the cornerstones of public procurement and should be remembered while spending grant money. The hiring of trained staff on contract is also based on similar principles and details of procurement and hiring can be read at the ICMR website.[ 4 ] During the conduct of the study, many of grant guidelines mandate quarterly or half-yearly progress report of the project. This includes expense on budgetary layout and scientific progress of the project. These reports should be prepared and sent on time.

Completion of a Research Project

Once the research project is completed, the completion report has to be sent to the funding agency. Most funding agencies also require period progress report and project should ideally progress as per Gantt chart. The completion report has two parts. The first part includes a scientific report which is like writing a research paper and should include all subheads (Review of literature, material and methods, results, conclusion including implications of research). The second part is an expense report including how money was spent, was it according to budgetary layout or there was any deviation, and reasons for the deviation. Any unutilized fund has to be returned to the funding agency. Ideally, the allotted fund should be post audited by a professional (chartered accountant) and an audit report along with original bills of expenditure should be preserved for future use in case of any discrepancy. This is an essential part of any funded project that prevents the researcher from getting embroiled in any accusations of impropriety.

Sharing of scientific findings and thus help in scientific advancement is the ultimate goal of any research project. Publication of findings is the part of any research grant and many funding agencies have certain restrictions on publications and presentation of the project completed out of research funds. For example, Indian Association of Dermatologists, Venereologists and Leprologists (IADVL) research projects on completion have to be presented in a national conference and the same is true for most funding agencies. It is imperative that during presentation and publication, researcher mentions the source of funding.

Research funding is an essential part of conducting research. To be able to secure a research grant is a matter of prestige for a researcher and it also helps in the advancement of career.

Financial support and sponsorship

Conflicts of interest.

There are no conflicts of interest.

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NSF 101: Graduate and postdoctoral researcher funding opportunities

The U.S. National Science Foundation supports research opportunities and provides stipends for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and scholars.

There are multiple ways to find these programs, including the funding search on NSF’s website and the NSF Education & Training Application , which is growing its list of opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars.

To help begin your search, opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers are listed below. The principal investigator, or PI (a researcher who oversees a project), is often listed on these grants, along with their graduate students or postdoctoral researchers.

Graduate Student 

While funding for graduate students is often included in a PI’s research proposal, the following opportunities are also available for early career researchers. 

  • Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Awards/Grants (DDRI/DDRIG) These programs help fund doctoral research in a variety of fields to help provide for items not already available at the academic institution. The funding provided cannot be used for items such as, but not limited to, tuition, stipends, textbooks or journals. The monetary amount listed in each DDRI/ DDRIG section does not include indirect cost associated with the project. The doctoral student should be listed as a co-PI on the grants with their advisor listed as the primary PI.

Archaeology Program- DDRIG : This program supports doctoral laboratory and field research on archaeologically relevant topics, with the goal of increasing anthropologically focused understanding of the past. Awards provide funding up to $25,000 per awardee.  

Arctic Science Section DDRIG : The Arctic Sciences Section offers opportunities for DDRI proposals in the following programs: Arctic Social Sciences supports research in any field of social science. Arctic System Science supports projects that address the relationships among physical, chemical, biological, geological, ecological, social, cultural and/or economic processes to advance our understanding of the Arctic system. Arctic Observing Network supports projects focused on scientific and community-based- observations; development of in situ or remote sensors and automated systems; design and optimization of coordinated and scalable observation networks; and management of Arctic Observation Network data, data accessibility and data discovery. Awards provide funding up to $40,000 for a maximum of 3 years. 

Biological Anthropology Program- DDRIG : This program supports research on human and non-human primate adaptation, variation and evolution. Awards provide funding up to $25,000 for up to two years.  

Cultural Anthropology Program- DDRIG : This program supports research that is focused on cultural anthropology research, including topics such as: Sociocultural drivers of anthropogenic processes (i.e., deforestation, urbanization); resilience and robustness of sociocultural systems; scientific principles underlying altruism, conflict, cooperation, and variations in culture and behaviors; economy, culture migration and globalization; kinship and family norms. Awards provide funding for up to $25,000 for up to two years.  

Decision, Risk and Management Science DDRIG : This program supports research on decision, risk and management sciences. This includes research in the areas of judgement and decision making; decision analysis and decision aids, risk analysis; perception and communication; societal and public-policy decision making; and management science and organizational design. Awards are for a maximum of 12 months. 

Economics DDRIG :This program provides funding for research focused on improving the understanding of the U.S. and global economy from macroscale to microscale, including all field of economics such as macroeconomics, microeconomics, econometrics, economic theory, behavioral economics and empirical economics.  

Human-Environment and Geographical Sciences Program- DDRI : This program supports basic scientific research about the nature, causes and/or consequences of the spatial distribution of human activity and/or environmental processes across a range of scales. The program welcomes proposals for empirically grounded, theoretically engaged, and methodologically sophisticated, generalizable research in all sub-fields of geographical and spatial sciences. Awards may not exceed $20,000 in direct costs. 

Linguistics Program- DDRI : This program supports research on human language, including syntax, linguistic semantics and pragmatics, morphology, phonetics, and phonology of individual languages or in general. Awards provide up to $12,000 for a maximum of two years. 

Dynamic Language Infrastructure- DDRI : This program supports research on building dynamic language infrastructure, which includes describing languages; digitizing and preserving languages; and developing standards and databases for analyzing languages. Provides funding up to $15,000 for up to two years. 

Graduate Research Fellowship Program This fellowship supports full-time master's or doctoral students earning their degree in a research-based program focused on STEM or STEM education. Students are the primary submitter for the fellowship. Fellows will be awarded a $37,000 stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for three years of the five-year fellowship. For tips on applying, see our previous NSF 101 article on the fellowship program . 

Non-Academic Research Internships for Graduate Students (INTERN) Supplemental Funding Opportunity   This supplemental funding opportunity is for graduate students funded by active NSF grants. PIs may submit for up to an additional six months of funding to allow students to participate in research internship activities and training opportunities in non-academic settings, such as the following: for-profit industry research; start-up businesses; government agencies and national laboratories; museums, science centers, and other informal learning settings; policy think tanks; and non-profit institutions. Students must have completed at least one academic year of their program. This funding request may not exceed $55,000 per student for each six-month period. A student may only receive this opportunity twice. In addition to the general INTERN opportunity, there are two topic-specific INTERN opportunities: 

Non-Academic Research Internships for Graduate Students in Geothermal Energy Supplemental Funding Opportunity : This opportunity is provided by NSF in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. It maintains the same funding levels and requirements as the general INTERN program; however, funding may only be used for gaining knowledge, skills, training and experience in geothermal energy and technology.  

  • Research Internships for Graduate Students at Air Force Research Laboratory Supplemental Funding Opportunity : This funding opportunity is for students supported on an active NSF grant to intern at a Air Force Research Laboratory facility. AFRL has several potential technology directorates available for students at locations across the U.S.: Aerospace Systems (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio), Information (Rome, New York), Materials and Manufacturing (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio), Directed Energy (Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico), Munitions (Eglin Air Force Base, Florida), Sensors (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio), Space Vehicles (Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico), 711th Human Performance Wing Training (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio). 

Mathematical Sciences Graduate Internship This summer internship is for doctoral students in mathematical sciences through a partnership between NSF and Oak Ridge Institute for Science and E ducation. It provides students who are interested in academic and non-academic careers with the opportunity to learn how advanced mathematics and statistical techniques can be applied to real-world problems. Participants in the internship will receive a stipend of $1,200 per week during the 10-week internship. In addition, there is travel reimbursement for up to $2,000 for those who live more than 50 miles away from their hosting site. 

NSF Research Traineeship Program Graduate students can apply for this traineeship through their institutions, if available. These topics can range across the scientific spectrum. Current projects can be found by state . 

Research Experiences for Graduate Students Supplemental Funding These awards provide additional funding for graduate students with mentors who have an active NSF grant. Currently funding is available through the following programs:  

Cultural Anthropology provides up to $6,000 per student for research activities. 

Human Environment and Geographical Sciences at Minority Serving Institutions and Community Colleges provides up to $7,000 per student for research activities. 

Postdoctoral Scholars 

Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellowship This fellowship supports research investigating a field within astronomy or astrophysics for up to three years. The stipend is $75,000, with a fellowship allowance (i.e., expenses for conducting and publishing research, fringe benefits) of $35,000. 

Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowship This fellowship supports postdoctoral fellows in atmospheric or geospace sciences. Atmospheric science includes topics such as atmospheric chemistry; climate and large-scale dynamics; paleoclimate climate; and physical and dynamic meteorology. Geospace science focuses on aeronomy, magnetospheric physics and solar terrestrial research. This fellowship provides up to 24 months of support. The stipend is $70,000 per year, with a fellowship allowance of $30,000.  

Earth Science Postdoctoral Fellowship This program supports the study of structure, composition and evolution, the life it supports and the processes that govern the formation and behavior of Earth’s materials. Researchers are supported for up to two years at the institution of their choice, including institutions abroad. The stipend is $65,000 per year, with a fellowship allowance of $25,000 per year.  

Mathematical and Physical Sciences Ascending Postdoctoral Research Fellowships

This program supports postdoctoral fellows performing impactful research while broadening the participation of members of groups that are historically excluded and currently underrepresented in mathematical and physical sciences. This fellowship can last between one and three years. The stipend is up to $70,000 per year, with a fellowship allowance of $30,000 per year. 

Mathematical Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellowships This fellowship has two options:  

  • The Research Fellowship provides full-time support for any 18 months within a three-year academic period.  
  • The Research Instructorship provides a combination of full-time and half-time support over a period of three academic years, which allows the fellow to gain teaching experience. Both options receive up to $190,000 over the fellowship period. The full-time stipend is $5,833 per month and the part-time stipend is $2,917 per month. In addition, the fellow will receive $50,000 in two lump sums ($30,000 in the first year and $20,000 in the second year) for fellowship expenses.  

Ocean Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellowships This fellowship supports research in topic areas such as: biological oceanography, chemical oceanography, physical oceanography, marine geology and geophysics, ocean science and technology. This two-year fellowship with a stipend of $67,800 for the first year and $70,000 for the second year, with a fellowship allowance of $15,000 per year.  

Office of Polar Programs Postdoctoral Research Fellowships This fellowship supports postdoctoral research in any field of Arctic or Antarctic science. This two-years fellowship, with a stipend of $67,800 for the first year and $70,000 for the second year, with fellowship expenses of $15,000 per year.  

Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology The Directorate of Biology offers a fellowship for postdoctoral researchers in one of three areas: 

  • Broadening Participation of Groups Underrepresented in Biology. This area requires a research and training plan that is within the scope of the Directorate for Biology and that enhances diversity within the field.  
  • Integrative Research Investigating the Rules of Life Governing Interaction between Genomes, Environment and Phenotypes. This area aims to understand higher-order structures and functions of biological systems. Research should use a combination of computational, observational, experimental or conceptual approaches. 
  • Plant Genome Postdoctoral Research Fellowships. This area has a broad scope and supports postdoctoral training and research at the frontier of plant biology and of broad societal impact. Highly competitive proposals will describe interdisciplinary training and research on a genome wide scale. The fellowships are for 36 months and have a stipend of $60,000 per year, with a research and training allowance of $20,000 per year. 

SBE Postdoctoral Research Fellowships This fellowship supports postdoctoral research in the social, behavioral and economic sciences and/or activities that broaden the participation of underrepresented groups in these fields. Funding is up to two years and has two tracks available:  

  • Fundamental Research in the SBE Sciences. This track supports research focused on human behavior, interaction, social and economic systems. 
  • Broadening Participation in SBE Sciences. This track aims to increase the diversity of post-doctoral researchers in the social, behavioral and economic sciences. In addition to the research proposal, these applications should also answer the question: “How will this fellowship help broaden or inform efforts to broaden the participation of underrepresented groups in the United States?” The stipend for this program is $65,000 per year (paid in quarterly installments) and the research and training allowance is $15,000 per year. 

SBIR Innovative Postdoctoral Entrepreneurial Research Fellowship This fellowship supports postdoctoral researchers at start-up companies through the Small Business Innovation Research program. By recruiting, training, mentoring, matching and funding these early-career scientists, this fellowship addresses the need of doctoral-level expertise at small, high-tech businesses. The base stipend is $78,000 per year with optional individual health and life insurance, relocation assistance (company dependent), professional conference travel allowance, and professional development funds.  

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education Individual Postdoctoral Research Fellowship This fellowship is for postdoctoral researchers to enhance their research knowledge, skills, and practices of STEM education research. If the fellowship is granted, the fellow is expected to remain affiliated with the host organization and PI sponsoring them. The fellowship can last up to two years with an annual stipend of $70,000, with fellowship expenses of $15,000.  


CyberCorps® Scholarship for Service This program is for students earning their associates, bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in cybersecurity. A stipulation of the program is that the recipients must work after graduation in a cybersecurity mission of the federal, state, local or tribal government for an equal amount of time as the scholarship's duration. It will provide full tuition and fees plus a stipend of $27,000 per academic year for undergraduates and a stipend of $37,000 per academic year for graduate students, in addition to a professional allowance of $6,000 for all levels. 

NSF-NIST Interaction in Basic and Applied Scientific Research This supplemental funding request is for NSF-supported researchers to collaborate with researchers at a National Institute of Standards and Technology facility. It can be used for travel expenses and per diem associated with on-site work at NIST. It is available for NSF-supported PIs, co-PIs, postdoctoral scholars, graduate and undergraduate students and other personnel associated with the research. PIs should contact their NSF program director for their award before applying. 

This extensive list shows the ways in which NSF helps train the next generation of STEM researchers. If you are interested in learning more about any of these programs, reach out to contacts listed on the award webpages.  

If you are interested in awards for high school students, undergraduates and post-baccalaureate scholars, check out our previous NSF101 for more information! 

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Research programmes

Before applying to study for a research programme at the University, ensure that you can meet all the entry requirements. The information below includes details on how and when to apply for our research programmes.

Finding a supervisor

As a prospective PhD, MSc(Res), or MSt(Res) student, you will apply to work with an individual supervisor or supervisory team within a School or institute, and not a specific programme of study. It is therefore important that you look at staff research interests within the University and ensure that your project matches an existing area of research .

If you are unable to identify a possible supervisor, please contact the School directly, who will be happy to advise you of the most appropriate academic for your chosen research area.

Applicants applying for the MFA, MRes or MPhil programmes are not required to contact a possible supervisor before making an application.

Entry requirements

Admission to research study within the Faculties of Arts and Divinity is normally on the basis of a good Masters degree which must be related to your area of research. Research applicants within the Faculty of Science require a good first degree with Honours at 2.1 (UK) or the overseas equivalent – more details can be found at entry requirements and country information .

The degree of MD (Medicine) requires a medical qualification that is recognised by the UK General Medical Council .

English language requirements

Applicants whose first language is not English must provide evidence of English proficiency. For further information on what evidence of English proficiency is required, please see the  postgraduate English language requirements web page or email [email protected]

Supporting documents and references

All applications must include the required supplementary documentation before a decision can be made. This varies by programme but includes:

  • CV or résumé. This should include your personal details with a history of your education and employment to date.
  • A research proposal – see School-specific details below.
  • A sample of academic written work in English – see School-specific details below.
  • Two original signed academic references.
  • Academic transcripts and degree certificates. Please only send certified copies with official English translations if applicable. Do not send original documents as they cannot be returned.
  • English language requirements certificate.

Research proposal

Applicants intending to read for a PhD, DLang, MPhil, MSc(Res) or MSt(Res) award should include an outline in English of not more than 500 words, with the following exceptions:

  • School of Art History For MSt(Res) programmes, 800-1000 words. For PhD programmes, 1000-1500 words. Where appropriate, proposals should be accompanied by properly captioned images. All proposals must also include a substantial bibliography listing relevant publications.
  • School of Classics 1,000 words and personal statement of no more than 600 words.
  • School of Chemistry No research proposal or writing sample is required, but we would encourage applicants to indicate which research projects they are interested in, or supervisor they would like to work with.
  • School of Earth and Environmental Sciences No research proposal is required however a personal or motivation statement should be submitted. Statements should be around 1,000 words and include why you have chosen St Andrews and the particular project. Also, explain how your current study and future career plans fit with the project. The selection committee and external funding bodies put great emphasis on this statement, so it is important it clearly applies to your chosen project. If you apply to more than one project, provide a personal statement for each. 
  • School of Economics and Finance 2,000 words.
  • School of English 2,000 words, including draft title and chapter outlines where possible.
  • Department of Film Studies 1,000-word research proposal.
  • School of Geography and Sustainable Development 1,500 words and personal statement of no more than 600 words.
  • School of International Relations If applying for the PhD, a 1000-word research proposal (word count excludes bibliography and footnotes) and personal statement (statement of purpose) is required. 
  • School of Management 1,500 words, excluding references.
  • School of Modern Languages 2,000 words.
  • Department of Philosophy PhD 1,000-word research proposal.
  • Department of Philosophy MPhil a short summary of research interest (200 words maximum), plus the name of a proposed supervisor at either St Andrews or Stirling.
  • School of Physics and Astronomy No research proposal is required, but we would encourage applicants to indicate which research projects they are interested in. A list of  currently advertised research projects is available.

Written work sample

All applications submitted to the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Divinity should include a 2,000-word sample of written work in English, with exceptions for:

  • School of Classics provide a sample of written work between 2,500 to 5,000 words in length; this should be written in English
  • School of English submit a 3,000 to 5,000-word critical essay. This can be an extract from a previous project or essay, or part of your dissertation.
  • School of Geography and Sustainable Development The School of Geography and Sustainable Development offers Arts and Science PhD programmes. Please provide an academic writing sample which should be your undergraduate or Masters dissertation, a published article, or something similar; this should be written in English.
  • School of Management a piece of academic work by you in the area in which you intend to study (maximum of 3,000 words).
  • Department of Philosophy provide a sample of written work between 2,000 to 4,000 words in length.

Applicants who cannot provide a sample such as this should contact the appropriate School directly for further guidance.

Students applying to the Faculty of Science are not expected to submit a sample of their written work.

  • Two referees must be supplied per application.
  • university or business
  • country of their university or business
  • university or business email.
  • The online application system will automatically generate an email to the referees.

We will automatically contact your named referees only when you have submitted your final application. On submission of your application, you will receive notification that we have contacted your referees requesting a reference; we will require one from each referee.

Your referee will be emailed a link to a web form to complete a reference online or to upload a document. You and your School will receive a notification when each referee has successfully uploaded a reference.

Referees who do not provide a reference within two weeks of the first request will be automatically emailed once more. Beyond this, it is your responsibility to ensure that your referees provide references.

Important dates and deadlines

For the majority of Schools, there is no deadline on applying for research. However, the following Schools have specific deadlines each year:

  • School of Classics All complete PhD applications received by Thursday 30 November 2023 will be considered for SGSAH scholarship funding (there will be a limited number of studentships available for international students including EU). All complete applications received by Monday 15 January 2024 will be considered for School and University funding (Home, EU and Overseas students).
  • School of Divinity Applications received by Friday 3 November 2023 will receive first consideration both for acceptance and for School and University funding; applications received after that date are considered on a rolling basis if and as places are available.

Applicants who wish to be considered for  any  funding first need to submit their University PhD application by Wednesday 15 November 2023, 5pm (GMT). Applicants applying for SGSSS or/and SGSAH-funded PhD studentships must notify the School of their intention to apply for this funding by emailing  [email protected]  by Wednesday 15 November 2023, 5pm (GMT) and must have secured a supervisory team before applying  for either funding route. Applications for SGSSS are submitted via their portal  Student-led Open Competition 2023/24 – Scottish Graduate School of Social Science (sgsss.ac.uk) . The deadline is Friday 1 December 2023, 5pm (GMT). Applicants for SGSAH  Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities - Prospective Students - AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership (sgsah.ac.uk)  must email their nomination form to the School  [email protected]  by Friday 1 December 2023, 5pm (GMT). Nomination forms  can be downloaded from the SGSAH website. Self-funded applicants must submit by Thursday 11 January 2024, 5pm (GMT).

  • School of Psychology and Neuroscience Only complete PhD applications received by Monday 8th January 2024 will be considered for scholarship funding. There is no deadline for applicants not seeking funding.

For all other Schools or Departments, applications can be sent in any time throughout the academic year. However, it is important to remember that if you are applying for any scholarships or funding, then the deadline for this may be early in the year.

Start dates

We strongly encourage students to begin their studies in September, but the start date for research study can be flexible. Your start date will be decided between yourself and your supervisor, but you may indicate your preferred start date on the application.

Start dates are:

  • 27 September

Fees and funding

Tuition fees will vary depending on what programme you are studying and where you live. You may be able to apply for help with funding your studies at the University.

Early application is strongly advised if you are applying for a scholarship. Many have an early closing date (often between December and February) and most scholarships require you to be holding an offer in order to be considered for funding.

We continue to accept self-funded applications even after scholarship deadlines have passed. If you need further guidance on this, please contact the School that you are applying to.

For more advice on scholarships and funding, please go to postgraduate scholarships . You can also find out about our current tuition fees .

Applicants with special needs or disabilities

Applicants should disclose the details of any special needs or disabilities that they have in the relevant section of the application form. This information will be passed on to the Advice and Support Centre's disability team. Applicants with a special need or disability are encouraged to get in touch with the disability team (email  [email protected] ) as early as possible to ensure that their needs will be met by the University.

If you are a student with a special need or disability, and the University has not been made fully aware of your disability requirements prior to an offer being made, we cannot guarantee that suitable resources will be available on your arrival in St Andrews.

All applications are assessed purely on academic merit, and the impact of a disability will be considered only after a final decision has been made.

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ASPIRE program seeks 2024 faculty research proposals

The Office of the Vice President for Research is pleased to announce a 2024 ASPIRE funding program request for proposals (RFP). Since it was founded in 2012 the ASPIRE program has evolved and changed; the 2024 awards cycle will be consistent with the changes made last year: 

  • ASPIRE 2024 will prioritize funding the work of early career faculty (within 10 years of completing their terminal degree) who intend to pursue subsequent extramural funding.
  • All ASPIRE 2024 proposals will be considered part of one funding competition – the program will not offer separate funding tracks.

Complete details about applying for ASPIRE are available in the ASPIRE 2024 RFP (pdf) , and all relevant templates, etc., are available on the ASPIRE program page . ASPIRE 2024 applications are due via USCeRA before 5:00 p.m., on Thursday, April 4, 2024.

ASPIRE proposals are submitted through USCeRA , the University of South Carolina electronic research administration software system, but some forms must be completed outside of the system, and then attached. 

For questions about ASPIRE, please contact Beth Herron or Julie Morris with the Research and Grant Development Office , [email protected] or [email protected] .

15 February 2024

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.

Sealy Center on Aging


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research proposal for funded phd

Welcome The Sealy Center on Aging at UTMB: Leading Aging Research Since 1995

Quick links.

  • Texas Resource Center on Minority Aging Research (RCMAR)
  • Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center (OAIC)
  • World Health Organization / Pan Merican Health Organization (WHO/PAHO)
  • Center for Comparative Effectiveness Research on Cancer in Texas (CERCIT)
  • Health of Older Minorities Training (T32)
  • Medical Student Aging Research Training (MSTAR)

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The Sealy Center on Aging focuses on improving the health and well-being of older adults through interdisciplinary research, education, and community service by integrating the resources and activities relevant to aging at UTMB. The Center also implements our research findings in hospitals and clinics, bringing excellence and visibility to our health care system, and improving the health of older adults.

Current Events

research proposal for funded phd

University of Texas Medical Branch Sealy Center on Aging (SCoA) 301 University Blvd. Galveston, TX 77555-0177 Directions and Maps Phone: (409) 747-0008 Email: [email protected]

Call for Pepper Pilots - LOI Due March 18, 2024

  • Geroscience and fundamental mechanisms of aging
  • Interventions to enhance function and recovery from illness
  • Resilience and functional reserve
  • Health disparities and equity

The UTMB Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center is funded by NIH grant #P30 AG024832.

Download 2024 Call for Pepper Pilot Proposals

Research Programs Supported in part by the Sealy Center on Aging


The Texas Resource Center on Minority Aging Research

Claude d. pepper older americans independence center.


World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization

Comparative effectiveness research on cancer in texas.

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Health of Older Minorities Pre and Postdoctoral Training

Medical student in aging research program.


Rebeca Wong, PhD

Sheridan Lorenz Distinguished Professor in Aging and Health, Professor, Department of Population Health and Health Disparities, School of Public and Population Health; Director, WHO/ PAHO Collaborating Center on Aging and Health; Co-Director, Claude Pepper Older American Independence Center; Director ad interim, Sealy Center on Aging


James S. Goodwin, MD

George and Cynthia Mitchell Distinguished Chair of Geriatric Medicine; Co-director, Claude D Pepper Older Americans Independence Center; Senior Associate Director, Sealy Center on Aging

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UTMB Sealy Center on Aging


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