A Complete Guide on Writing Research Proposal for PhD

Writing Research Proposal for PhD

Planning to apply for a PhD position, and not sure about how to draft your research proposal? Then this guide is for you. But first, let’s define the research proposal. A research proposal is an educational document that describes what you will investigate, why it is important, and how you will carry out your research. It should present your idea and expected outcomes with full clarity. It should also address why your idea is significant and its value to your field of study. There may be some variations in the sections, but the overall goal is the same. The format of the research proposal varies between fields, but most of them contain the following:

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Research design and methodology
  • Reference list

The length of the research proposal also varies with the fields and departments of your study. But usually, the length of a research proposal should not be more than 2000-3000 words. It requires you to present your idea clearly and concisely. Research proposals are important because they formally present your desired research area.
This article explains what you need to include in your proposal. Hence, an explanation of the elements you need to include is as follows:


An abstract is a kind of summary of your proposed research. It may be as long as a paragraph or 200-250 words. An abstract serves multiple purposes such as:

  • An abstract gives your reader a quick idea of whether to read the full part or not
  • It prepares the reader for the upcoming detailed information and analysis in your proposal
  • It helps readers remember the key points of your research

So, it is crucial what you include in your abstract for helping other researchers to find your research. Your supervisor may provide you with a set of guidelines to follow for the abstract. But if not, then you can draft it following some guidelines provided by search engines.


An introduction is the first part of your proposal. The reader will read this part of your proposal to have an overall idea of what you will do. So, what should you include in your introduction? The introduction part includes the chief goals and objectives of the research proposal. A brief and informative outline of the past research and recent discoveries on your topic. Start with outlining your topic, as the topic is the fundamental part of the research. The topic will reflect different angles and aspects of research. It would be best to start with general information and then narrow it down to the main part of the topic. In the introduction part, you should highlight the contribution that you will make to overall scientific development. The introduction should also explain:

  • What is the central research problem?
  • What is the topic of study related to that problem?
  • Method to analyze the proposed problem

Literature Review:

It’s important to show that you are familiar with past research on your topic. A literature review helps you in convincing your readers that enough information is available in existing knowledge. It also shows your readers that you are not repeating what other people have done in the past. Read extensively on the topic of your research. In a proposal, you don’t need to review the literature on a large scale. It’s just to show your awareness of the existing knowledge in your field. At the stage of the proposal, the literature review section is limited. It is because you will come across bigger literature as you start your research. Even on the day of the presentation of your proposal, panel members may suggest to you some other researchers. You can also study literature reviews of other authors in your field to extract an idea about review writing. However, if you are facing any difficulty, it is better to buy dissertation online from experts.

Research Design & Methodology:

After the literature review, bring the focus back to the main research proposal. The research design and method section should tell about the overall approach to complete the research. It should tell about the methods or ways to carry out the desired project. If your research is lab testing based, you should describe the experiments you will perform. In addition, if it is some survey or psychological type of research, you should explain how you performed that study. You can follow some steps explained below to write this section.

Explain your methodological approach

It would be best if you began writing methodology by introducing your overall approach to the research. It includes what type of research you are going to perform. Is it related to the characteristics of something or to exploring an un-researched topic?

Methods of data collection

After describing the methodological approach, comes the full details of your data collection methods. It includes quantitative as well as qualitative methods.

Describe methods of research

Next, you should tell about how you processed the data. You explain the procedure of the methods you adopted to carry out your research. Be careful; this is not the stage for describing the results of the study.


Last but not least, your research proposal must include in-text citations for every you used. Don’t forget to give the full details about the publication of the source at the end. This section aims to show the full range of literature that will support your research in future.

The format of the bibliography varies in many styles. Different styles have different formats. For example, APA, MLA, Harvard & Chicago all have different formats. It would be best if you used the style suggested by your supervisor. Otherwise, you can use any style which is popular in your field.

Revision & Proofreading:

Like any other academic writing, it is advisable to redraft, proofread, and edit your research proposal before submitting it. If possible, ask any professor or colleague to read and provide his feedback. You can take help from available online tools to eliminate grammatical or language mistakes.

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