Wednesday, 4 April 2018

How to Become a Doctorate: 10 Amazing Tips to Write a Good Research Proposal


I am assuming that you have cleared your entrance exam, so you are now ready for writing your research proposal that will be submitted at the University and on which your PhD admission interview will be based on.


Some Departments of the University do not require a research proposal. For example, a biochemistry department may have an ongoing project for which they need PhD candidates and have funds allocated for it. In such cases, you have to present your academic credentials and convince the interviewer in what manner you can provide assistance and expertise to the success of that project.


However, in cases where a research proposal is mandatory, my top 10 crucial tips will be helpful for understanding its significance and how a great proposal can be built for the interview.



  1. Visit the university website or meet the department concerned for knowing details on what type of research proposal they expect you to draft. Universities do have varying formats and you have to adhere to their regulations and standards. There are peculiarities to be taken cared of like the layout, font, structure, American or British English, type of citation, footnotes, rules regarding plagiarism, look of the title page with the logo of the University, etc. Keep yourself thorough in policies and format so that you are far away from hassles related to rules non-conformity. Large number of students apply for PhD each year. Its a big challenge for the professors to check their written exam papers, then read their lengthy research proposals and frame questions for the interview. Frankly, they are waiting for shortlisting one name after the another and will pay no heed to your last minute requests and they will make no exceptions. Therefore, you keep yourself safe and give no excuses to the professors and the university office bearers to point out any fault in your work.
  2. In most cases, the research proposal format is the same. It involves - A. Introduction, B. Literature Review, C. Rationale and Scope of the Study, D. Research Problem or Research Question, E. Research Hypothesis, F. Research Methodology, G. Chapterization, and H. Bibliography. Thus, move with this flow.
  3. From a general study of your area of interest, this is now the time to narrow your interest and arrive at a specific and more focused problem that you want to research on. Remember, PhD is a long term study (anywhere from 3 to 7 years). So, your topic must be interesting first to you and then to others.
  4. Before writing, an idea must be strong in your mind about what you want to research. If you are not clear about the problem/research topic then in no way you can pen it down in simple words. And, even if you are able to write, you still have to explain and convince the interview panel that the topic you have chosen is important and how it is going to contribute to the knowledge that already exists. Therefore, do not make the mistake of plagiarizing other people's work and generating an overnight research proposal on which you fumble when asked questions during interview.
  5. Before you arrive at your topic, devote time to studying the existing materials on that topic. This will enable you to chisel your interest and further develop your key area of interest. Meet those who are already in that field and have done or doing research on that area actively. This will be your literature review. Mention in your research proposal, what is already been done till date. So that you can argue that "since 1950 there is no progress on XY area while XZ has been researched a lot, I would like to pick up from there and examine the problematics".
  6. The literature review itself will help you to generate research questions. PhDs unlike those done at science departments where new inventions or cure to a disease is found, Social Science research is more about presenting a new angle to the age-old problem. Therefore, only a thorough study of the literature on the chosen topic will clear your mind to see what are the loopholes, where research is lacking, and where you can step in and contribute.
  7. Hypothesis is the possible conclusion that you think will come out from your research. It is confusing at first because you are expected to write the research findings even before the research has started. But it is true that the interview panel expects you to be confident of your findings and know what your study will lead to. Thus, while you are not expected at this stage to know all the things regarding the topic, you are expected to know a lot a things.
  8. Writing a research proposal is tedious. It needs dedication along with a clear sense of what you intend to discuss with the interview panel. A research proposal must be realistic in the sense that it is doable under the given circumstances, time and duration. Do not propose to do research in areas that are difficult to stay and take interviews or requires a lot of funds. Also, research should be such that it is interesting to read for generations to come.
  9. Make the research proposal not longer than 10-20 A-4 size pages. It is just a synopsis or projection of an idea in front of the interviewers about what you intend to do for the next 3-7 years.
  10. Lastly, read your research proposal several times and get others who are expert in that field to read it too. This will help you in knowing your mistakes, the questions and laggards in your proposal. A good research proposal is similar to connecting the dots game wherein there is a seamless follow of information and steps to tackle a problem. Your proposal must be crisp and precise. Meaning, it should clearly state what is the problem, why you want to study it, what has already been done, what is the method you intend to use for examining it, and what will be the possible results.
A good research proposal is not a miracle finding or a puzzle you are about to solve. It is your commitment to a particular topic which with proper care and expertise will be turned into a Thesis one day and read by future scholars to come !


Click to read step 5: How to Impress the Interview Board and Secure your Place in the University.

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