How to write your PhD research Proposal
For any PhD application, a research proposal is a must. For many people this is a painful headache. I had the headache for a VERY long time till I searched and researched repeatedly on how to do it. And here is my understanding of all the things I learned to help you write you PhD proposal quickly.
Download the university proposal template
At this stage hopefully you already have talked to your potential supervisor. If not, find your supervisor first because they will surely want you to modify some of your ideas. Once you have suggested topic, it is time to write the proposal.
Every university has their own research proposal template. Some wants 2 page, some wants 15-20 page. So depending on the universities you want to send to, you need to get their PhD research proposal template first. You might also want to know what citation format they use. If they use APA, then you should use APA, if they use harvard you should use the same too. Having their proposal template will help you.
If you are unable to find the proposal template you can ask the potential supervisor or the research office of that university.
Find the (research) gap
In your PhD you are meant to do original work. Therefore, it is very important that you find what has not been done. And the only way to do is to study prior literature on the area.
Hopefully from my previous post on finding your research area you have a topic that you want to address. So lets start with that. Once you start reading some articles, you will be able to come to certain understanding on what might be lacking. Start writing based on the potential missing parts – these are the research gaps you want to fulfill. Please do not worry too much at this point because once you enroll your course you may have to change the idea. So important is find it quickly and write it quickly.
But where to search for that “research gap” quickly?
A very good question I should say – where to find the gap. I am hoping you are still in a university and your university subscribe to this thing called web of knowledge by ISI. If you have that, then it gets much easier.
First you open the site by sitting in your university campus because usually they will have computer IP (Internet Protocol) address restriction. Once you open search for the keywords, variables and your system that you identified before.
Now once you search your topic you will come to the next page – which is usually sorted by the date of publication. Change this to by highest citation first. Once done, you will see it may be from many areas besides the area (main system) you are interested in. So refine those from the left side. Once you are there, now you also want to refine via recent years (latest 3 or 5). Because if no one has done anything recently it may not be an area of interest. Once you have done that you should have enough material to read and gauge what might be the research gap.
Now write it up!
So you have already done the literature review and you have found the potential gaps. What are you waiting for? Start writing. Once done take a break and come back later to see if you can find some more ideas. Make sure your english is correct and no spelling or grammatical mistake.
Once you are happy with the proposal send it over to your supervisor.
Do the changes supervisor asked
Every proposal I send to supervisor when I was applying for PhD came back with many many comments. Dont be afraid, it is normal to see all red!! Do the changed they asked and send it back to them.
This whole ping pong process can take some time so better do it early and quickly so that your supervisor still remembers what you are doing! The whole process should not take you more than a week but combine it with few other university you are sending to, it may take some months.
[Image courtesy of Batikart]