Research proposals

Your research proposal must outline the topic of your proposed research, the questions it will address and some indication of how you will conduct your research. It is an integral part of the application process.

The purpose of this exercise is to establish whether you, the academic department and your eventual supervisor(s) are sure that you and the University are well-matched and can make progress. This is achieved through discussion and correspondence, towards defining your research topic before you start your course.

How long should it be?

Unless otherwise stated, your research proposal should be between 250 and 350 words in length. It must be in English, and be your own work.

You won't be able to edit your proposal after you've submitted your application.

For paper applications

If you're submitting a paper application, please download and complete the following document and submit it along with your application.

Pre-arranged or advertised research projects

If you're applying as part of a pre-arranged/advertised research project, please make it clear within your application.

If you've already reached agreement with an academic department about a particular project, you must provide brief details of that project within the application form. You must also state the name of the academic member of staff that you have been in contact with.

Departmental guidelines

Details of what to include in your sample of written work will be provided during the application process. To help you to prepare before you start your application, you can find out about course-specific requirements below.

Contact us

Postgraduate Admissions
pg-admissions@york.ac.uk
+44 (0)1904 322142

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Archaeology (all research degrees)

Applicants to our PhD/MPhil programmes are asked to submit a clear, well-structured research proposal as part of this process.

It should usually be about 1,000-2,000 words in length (it can be useful to formulate this proposal in consultation with the staff member who will potentially supervise the work, if this is known).

The proposal should include:

  • provisional title of research
  • summary of the topic to be investigated
  • previous research in this sphere
  • your broad aims, and specific questions within this
  • information about methods to be used, data sources to be mined, their quality/accessibility etc. (as far as may be possible at this stage). Please provide a summary of your research interests or an outline of your proposed research topic.
Biology
  • PhD in Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment
  • PhD in Combating Infectious Disease: Computational Approaches in Translational Science
  • PhD in Mechanistic Biology

You do not need to submit a research proposal for this Doctoral Training Programme as all applications should be submitted against a particular research project and member of academic staff. You should clearly state these in your application. We strongly advise you to contact the member of academic staff directly to discuss your suitability for the project.

MSc in Biology by research and PhD/MPhil in Biology

You do not normally need to submit a research proposal for Biology research degrees. You should clearly state the area you wish to work in and choose two to three academic staff you would like to work with.

You may wish to contact the member of academic staff you wish to work with, who may provide you with a research outline or ask you to submit a research proposal.

Chemistry

MPhil in Chemistry and MSc in Chemistry (by research)

You do not normally need to submit a research proposal for Chemistry research degrees. You should clearly state the area you wish to work in and choose two to three academic staff you would like to work with.

You may wish to contact the member of academic staff you wish to work with, who may provide you with a research outline or ask you to submit a research proposal.

PhD Chemistry

You do not normally need to submit a research proposal for Chemistry research degrees as most applications should be submitted against a particular research project.

If you are not applying for a particular research project, you should contact the member of academic staff you wish to work with, who may provide you with a research outline or ask you to submit a research proposal.

Computer Science
  • PhD in Computer Science
  • MSc in Computer Science (by research)

The research proposal needs to outline the nature of your proposed study and give some indication of how you will conduct your research.

The purpose of this exercise is to ensure that you and your potential supervisor(s) have matching research interests.

It should be about 250-350 words in length. It must be in English, and be your own words.

Economics (PhD)

Your research proposal should provide details on:

  • your main research question
  • the relevant literature and your planned contribution to the current research in the area
  • the econometric and/or theoretical modelling methods that you plan to use
  • the data source (only if you envisage empirical work).

The proposal should be of about 1,000 to 2,000 words.

Before drafting the proposal you should make sure that your research interests are aligned with the Department of Economics and Related Studies.

The Department has five main areas of research (clusters):

Find out more about the research interests of the academic staff.

Education (all research degrees)

Please submit a research proposal of about 1,500 words in length which covers the focus of your proposed study and the type of data and sample you envisage using for your data collection.

Electronics

Please provide a summary of your research interests or an outline of your proposed research topic.

English and Related Literature

PhD in English

Please write a preliminary outline of your proposed research topic. You should provide a summary of between 250 and 350 words in length and then upload a longer version.

  1. Describe any previous work you have done in this area, with reference to relevant literature you have read so far.
  2. State the academic factors, eg University facilities, resources or staff, which have led you to apply to York.
Medicine (Hull York Medical School)

DM in Medical Sciences

Your research proposal should provide a clear outline of the question or problem you wish to research, how this will contribute uniquely to the current research in this area and the research methods you intend to employ to achieve this.

To study an MD you must have a proposal that addresses issues of diagnosis or management in a clinical environment.

All other research degrees

Your research proposal should provide a clear outline of the questions or problem you wish to research, how this will contribute uniquely to the current research in this area and the research methods you intend to employ to achieve this.

Language and Linguistic Science

PhD Linguistics

In the 'Research Proposal' section of the main application form, please include only 100 words outlining your topic, and upload a fuller research proposal as a separate document, in the 'supporting documents' section.

Please see guidance on what to include in your research proposal for PhD in Linguistics.

PhD Language & Communication

In the 'Research Proposal' section of the main application form, please include only 250-350 words outlining your topic, and upload a fuller research proposal as a separate document, in the 'supporting documents' section.

Please see guidance on what to include in your research proposal for PhD in Linguistics.

Law (PhD)

A proposal should be around 1,500-2,000 words (excluding bibliography).It should include the working title of the project; the key words associated with your research; and an idea of the original aspects of the project.

  • Introduction: This section should briefly delimit the area of research, and identify the major issue, problem, or gap in knowledge which forms the background to your proposal, including any recent literature.
  • Key research questions: You need to explain the issues you are addressing which have not been studied before, or not in the way that you intend to address them. Identify existing literature: candidates need to identify the main literature in the area and to demonstrate awareness of the major existing debates.
  • Methodology: You should show awareness of different methodological tools that could be used to answer your research questions.
  • An outline and timescale for the research: This schedule should attempt to break down the work required into manageable segments, which will often be based on sections of the thesis.
  • Indicative bibliography (does not count towards the word limit proposed above): The bibliography should include work that you have cited in the rest of the proposal as well as references to literature that will be followed up or used in the research project.
Management (all research degrees)

As a guideline, a proposal should be around 4,000 words and should contain the following principal headings:

  • working title of the project
  • general overview of the research area
  • identification of the relevant literature to indicate you are familiar with the key academic debates within your proposed research (including a bibliography of cited references)
  • overview of the key research questions / hypotheses you wish to address/test
  • justification for the proposed methodology to be employed (for example, quantitative/ qualitative or mixed methods)
  • an indication of the timescale involved (for example, in the design, dissemination and analysis of questionnaires; gathering of quantitative data and checking for outliers).
Philosophy (all research degrees)

Please provide an outline of your proposed research topic. It should be between 1,000 and 2,000 words long.

Physics

Advertised research projects

If you are applying for an advertised research project, which gives full details of the project, you do not normally need to submit a research proposal. You should contact the project leader, who may ask you to submit a research proposal.

Research proposals

If you are not applying for a particular research project you should contact a potential supervisor, who may provide you with a project outline.

Your research proposal needs to describe the nature of your proposed study and give some indication of how you will conduct your research.

The purpose of this exercise is to ensure that you and your potential supervisor(s) have matching research interests.

The proposal should be 250-350 words in length. It must be in English, and be your own words.

Politics (all research degrees)

Research proposals should be 1500-2500 words in length and contain a discussion of the following.

  • A statement of the intellectual puzzle(s) underpinning the choice of research topic.
  • An indication of any questions that the student thinks will guide their research.
  • A discussion of the theoretical approach or approaches that the student is thinking of employing to address the intellectual puzzle and research questions discussed above.
  • A preliminary account (where appropriate) of the research methods the student feels they will employ to collect any data they will need to address the intellectual puzzle and research questions discussed above.
  • A complete bibliography listing any references that have been cited.

Applicants for the PhD in Politics should also include a working title, and indicate a preferred supervisor(s).

Psychology

Courses:

  • MPhil in Psychology
  • PhD in Psychology
  • PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging

For PhDs in Psychology/ Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging the only written work we require you to upload is the full research proposal (2 to 3 pages).

a. Attach a full research proposal (word document)

This should cover a summary of the topic that you propose to address that includes key previous research in the area, a statement of your broad aims and specific questions, and some information on the methods that you propose to use to tackle the questions.

Research proposals are typically 2-3 pages in length. We expect applicants to formulate this proposal in consultation with the staff member who will potentially supervise the work. For this reason, it is important that you contact a potential supervisor to discuss your research plans before submitting a formal application.

b. Type in a research proposal SUMMARY

The research proposal summary (200-250 words) should be an abstract of your full research proposal (i.e. cover the same broad areas, much more concisely).

Whilst your potential supervisor should help you formulate the full research proposal (see above), this summary should be entirely your own work. The clarity and quality of this summary will be assessed as part of your application.

Specific advertised research project

If you are applying for a specific advertised research project, we do not require you to attach a research proposal on this page; instead please:

  1. state that you are applying for a advertised project in the research proposal summary box, in the research proposal section and
  2. on this page, upload a short personal statement explaining why you are interested in and suitable for the advertised research project.
Social Policy and Social Work (all research degrees)

Research proposals should be between 2000 and 3000 words long (including references) and should contain:

  • A concise review of relevant literature.
  • A clear statement of the research question, hypothesis or objective, and of how this fits within the existing literature.
  • A clear outline of the research methods to be used and how they will be applied.
  • An accurate list of references.
Theatre, Film and Television (all research degrees)

Applicants to our PhD programmes should submit a clear and well-structured research proposal. Such proposals should be 1,000 – 2,000 words in length and contain the following elements:

  • A clear statement of the topic and the question(s) that your research will address. You should also explain why these questions are important and describe the value of the project in terms of the contribution it aspires to make to knowledge and understanding.
  • A discussion of existing scholarship and debates relevant to your field and research topic. You should indicate how your project will draw upon, engage with and contribute to these debates.
  • A discussion of your methodological approach or approaches. In the case of PhDs by creative practice, this should clearly explain how and why the creative component of your project is appropriate to the central research questions and the generation of new knowledge and understanding.
  • A preliminary bibliography (this can include creative works as well as books and articles).
    Applicants for a PhD by Creative Practice may also be required to supply a sample of creative work.
Women’s Studies (all research degrees)

Please supply a draft research proposal of about 1,000 – 1,500 words long, explaining:

  • the aim of your research
  • the research questions to be asked and rationale
  • what work has already been done in the area and your methodology.

This is just a draft proposal so we can get an idea of your research and doesn’t need to be perfect at this stage.

Contact us

Postgraduate Admissions
pg-admissions@york.ac.uk
+44 (0)1904 322142

Related links