How to Structure and Write a Good PhD Research Proposal

How to Structure and Write a Good PhD Research Proposal

How to Structure and Write a Good PhD Research Proposal


Research proposal Title

This manuscript is more concerned with proposal writing than with the formulation of research ideas.
It should be succinct and descriptive in nature. The sentence “An investigation of…”, for example, might be deleted. Frequently, titles are expressed in terms of a functional connection, as this clearly indicates the relationship between variables. However, if possible, use a title that is both instructive and appealing. Not only does an excellent title spark the reader’s curiosity, but it also predisposes him/her to favor the idea.



It is a concise synopsis of about 250-300 words. It should include the research question, the study’s motivation, the hypothesis (if any), the technique(s) undertaken (methods), and the preliminary findings (if available). The method’s description may include information about the design, methods, the sample, and any instruments that will be utilized.


The introduction’s primary goal is to establish the appropriate context or backdrop for your study problem. The most difficult aspect of proposal writing is probably framing the research problem.
When placed within the framework of a broad, rambling literature review, the research problem may look minor and boring. However, when the same subject is contextualized inside a very specific and contemporary research area, its significance becomes apparent.

Regrettably, there are no hard and fast rules for framing a research topic, just as there are no guidelines for writing an engaging and informative beginning paragraph. Much is contingent upon your inventiveness, your capacity for clear thought, and the breadth of your understanding of issue areas.

However, attempt to contextualize your research question within either a current “hot” area or an older but feasible area. Second, you must provide a brief but pertinent historical context. Thirdly, establish a contemporary background for your suggested research subject. Finally, identify “important players” and include references to the most authoritative and representative publications. In short, attempt to paint a broad picture of your research question while also emphasizing its significance. The introduction typically begins with a broad statement of the problem area, followed by the rationale or justification for the proposed study.

In general, the introduction has the following elements:

  1. Declare the research problem, which is frequently referred to as the study’s objective.
  2. Establish context and establish the stage for your research question in such a way that it demonstrates its necessity and significance.
  3. Justify your proposed study and demonstrate why it is worthwhile.
  4. Briefly summarize the primary topics and sub-issues that your research will address.
  5. Determine the experiment’s critical independent and dependent variables. Alternatively, you can specify the phenomenon that you wish to investigate.
  6. Indicate whether you have a hypothesis or a theory. You may not have any hypotheses for exploratory or phenomenological research. (Please note that the hypothesis is distinct from the statistical null hypothesis.)
  7. Delimit or define the scope of your proposed research to provide a clear focus.
  8. Provide definitions for critical terms. (This is a discretionary item.)


Research Problem and Objectives

This should contain the primary research problem you are trying to address. The research objectives aim to address the gaps highlighted in the research problem discussion. The research problem is formulated based on the review, synthesis and criticism of the related studies in the body of existing literature.



The research methodology describes all the steps you plan to carry out in order to satisfy the research objectives and in turn the gaps mentioned in the problem statement. This section is typically brief and does not go in great detail, as it often changes when the researcher is performing the actual research. So just a brief idea about the steps you plan to undertake would be fine here.


Preliminary Results

If you have any preliminary results, it is recommended to add them to the proposal, as this would help to convince  your readers that your research work is worthy to carry out. But again, this is only optional and not obligatory.


Survey of the Literature:

Occasionally, the review of literature is incorporated into the introduction part. However, the majority of academics prefer a separate portion to allow for a more in-depth examination of the literature. The review of literature serves numerous critical functions:

  • Ascertains you are not “reinventing the wheel.”
  • Appropriately acknowledges those who set the framework for your study.
  • Demonstrates your familiarity with the subject topic.
  • Demonstrates your grasp of the theoretical and research issues surrounding your study question.
  • Demonstrates your ability to conduct a critical analysis of pertinent literature content.
  • This demonstrates your ability to synthesize and integrate existing literature.
  • Develops novel theoretical insights or a new model to serve as the conceptual basis for your research.
  • Convinces your reader that your suggested research will contribute significantly and substantially to the text (i.e., resolving an important theoretical issue or filling a major gap in the literature).


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