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. 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, you should 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, you should 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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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 to 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).

PhD in Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment
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
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.

PhD in Biology (4 years)

You do not need to submit a research proposal for this 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.

MPhil in Chemistry and MSc in Chemistry (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.

Your proposal can build on your chosen supervisor's area of work and may be prepared with the help of your chosen supervisor. It should be about 250 to 500 words in length.

PhD Chemistry

If you're applying for a particular research project, you don't need to submit a research proposal for a PhD in Chemistry. If you're not applying for a particular project, 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. Your proposal can build on your chosen supervisor's area of work and may be prepared with the help of your chosen supervisor. It should be about 500-1,000 words in length. 

PhD in Biological Chemistry

You do not need to submit a research proposal for this course 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.

PhD in Intelligent Games and Games Intelligence

To apply for a place on the IGGI programme, applicants need to select a lead supervisor at one of the institutions of Queen Mary and York. You should check the list of supervisors (iggi.org.uk) and find those that most closely match the research you would like to undertake.

If you are unable to identify a supervisor, then you should check the four research themes of IGGI to see if your proposed research sits within one of these areas (iggi.org.uk). While IGGI PhDs will undertake research in a wide range of game-related areas, we particularly encourage projects which fit under the these Grand Challenge problems.We encourage you to have an informal chat with your identified potential supervisor, and this will help you to formulate the research proposal which is a vital part of an application to IGGI.

MPhil in Computer Science

For the MPhil in Computer Science, 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.

Your proposal can build on your chosen supervisor's area of work and may be prepared with the help of your chosen supervisor. It should be about 500 to 1,000 words in length. It must be in English and be your own words.

PhD in Computer Science

For the PhD in Computer Science, 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.

Your proposal can build on your chosen supervisor's area of work and may be prepared with the help of your chosen supervisor. It should be about 500 to 1,000 words in length. It must be in English and be your own words.

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.

Submit a research proposal of about 1,500 words, which covers the focus of your proposed study and the type of data and sample you envisage using for your data collection. When writing your Proposal, you should pay careful attention to the guidelines we provide. You should also tailor your application as close as possible to a specific member of staff in the Department to increase your chances of acceptance. You can read up on our research profiles and read up on the kinds of PhDs we would supervise.

MA in Education (by research)

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

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

  • PhD in English
  • MA in English (by research)
  • MPhil in English

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.

Your proposal should:

  • be about 500 to 1,000 words in length and may include up to 10 relevant references 
  • outline your research question and/or the hypothesis you wish to investigate 
  • describe the possible methodology that you will use to conduct your research 
  • explain why your research is important and/or original, and its potential 

The aim of providing a summary of your planned research at this stage is to ensure that you and your potential supervisor(s) have complementary research interests. You may wish to contact the member of academic staff you would like to work with to discuss your outline proposal.

 

Submit a research proposal of up to 1000 words outlining your proposed topic.

This should include a brief literature review, an outline of your research question(s)/hypothesis and methods and a short list of primary sources. You should specify how your dissertation will make a contribution to historical debates. Footnotes including sources will not count against your word limit.

PhD Linguistics

In your main application form, please include only 100 words outlining your topic, but upload a fuller research proposal as a separate document. This proposal should be between 1500 and 2500 words in length, and should contain at least the following:

  1. Title of proposed research project
    This should allow the reader to place the research, at a glance, within an academic sub-field, as well as identifying the main issue to be addressed. It should not be more than 20 words long.
  2. Background
    Outline the linguistic area in which you propose to conduct research. Why is it important and interesting? What is the need for further research in this area? You should provide a context for your research. Do this by referencing and briefly reviewing a number of key works in your chosen field, showing how your work is built on this prior research.
  3. Research questions
    You should give at least one overarching research question, plus a number of more specific sub-questions. Make sure these questions all emerge from and are firmly grounded in the literature you have reviewed. Ensure that these questions - particularly the specific sub-questions - are researchable; that is, they should not be too broad or too general. You should also explain how these research questions can be considered original.
  4. Data and data analysis
    All projects will involve the collection of data of some kind. In some cases, this will be based on native-speaker judgements. Other projects will require experimental data, the use of existing or specially-created corpora, longitudinal observation, or sociolinguistic interviews - to name but a few data sources. Will you be able to gain access to the data in the quantities required? Are there ethical concerns which need to be overcome? You should also be as specific as you can at this stage about the kinds of analysis you will perform. What specific techniques will you use? What statistical analyses will you be performing (if any)? Mention any software you envisage using.
  5. Fit with departmental research interests
    Before you formulate your proposal, you should look carefully through the Department of Language and Linguistic Science web pages to identify staff members who might be able to supervise your research. You may mention the person or people by name. You are also encouraged (though you are not obliged) to contact individual staff members to find out if they believe your ideas to be viable and if they would in principle be interested in supervising your project.
  6. References
    You should provide a list of the works you have referred to in your proposal. Don't list other works which may be relevant: this is to assure the reader that you have read and understood the literature you have cited.

PhD/MPhil in Language & Communication

In addition to the 250 to 350 word summary which you should provide as part of your main application form, please upload a fuller research proposal. The proposal should be between 1500 and 2000 words in length, and should contain at least the following:

  1. Title of proposed project
    This should allow the reader to place the research, at a glance, within an academic sub-field, as well as identifying the main issue to be addressed. It should not be more than 20 words long.
  2. Background 
    Outline the area in which you propose to conduct research. Why is it important and interesting? What is the need for further research in this area? You should provide a theoretical (linguistic, psychological), social or pedagogical context for your research. Do this by referencing and briefly reviewing a number of key works in your chosen field, showing how your work is built on this prior research.
  3. Research Questions
    You should give at least one overarching research question, plus a number of more specific sub-questions. Make sure these questions all emerge from and are firmly grounded in the literature you have reviewed. Ensure that these questions - particularly the specific sub-questions - are researchable; that is, they should not be too broad or too general. You should also explain how these research questions can be considered original
  4. Data and data analysis
    All projects will involve the collection of data of some kind. Most projects in Language and Communication use naturally occurring data, such as everyday conversations, classroom interactions, clinical encounters, or on-line interaction. Will you be able to gain access to the data in the quantities required and within an appropriate timescale? Does your data have particular technical requirements such as video? Are there ethical concerns which need to be overcome? You should also be as specific as you can at this stage about the kinds of analysis you will perform. What specific techniques will you use? Mention any software you envisage using.
  5. Fit with departmental research interests
    Before you formulate your proposal, you should look carefully through the Language & Communication web pages to identify staff members who might be able to supervise your research. You may mention the person or people by name. You are also encouraged (though you are not obliged) to contact individual staff members to find out if they believe your ideas to be viable and if they would in principle be interested in supervising your project.
  6. References
    You should provide a list of the works you have referred to in your proposal. Don't list other works which may be relevant: this is to assure the reader that you have read and understood the literature you have cited.

A proposal should be around 1,500 to 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.

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).

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.

Give a description of at least 1500 words of your proposed research topic including the questions or hypotheses to be addressed, the sources to be consulted and the methods to be used. We are looking for your ability to articulate the problem or the area on which you are intending to focus. What challenges do you anticipate? What do you expect to find? Above all, how does your research fit with and add to what has already been done by other scholars in this field?

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

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're applying for an advertised research project, which gives full details of the project, you do not normally need to submit a research proposal. You may wish to contact the member(s) of academic staff named on the advert, who may ask you to submit a research proposal. 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 / project outline.

The 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 to 350 words in length. It must be in English, and be your own words.

PhD in Plasma Science and Fusion Energy

You should use this section of the application form to address the following points:

  • Referring to the Fusion CDT website, you should provide a preference-ordered list of the advertised projects in which you are interested, with a brief (one or two sentences) description of what interests you about each of these projects.
  • Explain, with justification, your relative interest in analytical theory, computational simulation, data modelling and experiment. (It might be that you are interested in all these areas or only one of them - either is fine, but it is important that we understand your interests as clearly as possible).

Regardless of the preferences you express here, you will be considered for all available plasma strand projects.

This section should be no more than 500 words. It must be in English and be your own words.

A good research proposal will typically include the following:

  • A working title
  • A brief overview of the general area of study
  • Identification of the relevant literature, theories and concepts
  • Key research questions
  • Methodology
  • Timescale / research planning
  • Bibliography

As a guide, research proposals should be between 1500 to 2000 words in total.

PhD in Global Development

1,000 words outlining the project and its importance; the proposed interdisciplinary methodology, and the project's contribution to the Interdisciplinary Global Development Centre (IDGC) research themes.

MPhil in Psychology

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) Research proposal summary

The research proposal summary (200 to 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.

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 two to three 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) Research proposal summary

The research proposal summary (200 to 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

As we expect you to have developed your research proposal in collaboration with your potential supervisor, you need to name your potential supervisor in the preferred supervisor or research group, or field of research, not a more general research group or field of research.

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 an 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.

Research proposals should be between 2,000 and 3,000 words (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.

Your proposal should be around 1500 to 2000 words. It should contain at least the following elements:

1. A provisional title: This should indicate the focus of the PhD. It should include any key concepts, empirical focus, or lines of inquiry that you aim to pursue.

2. An overview of the research: In this section, you should provide an overview of your research. What questions are you trying to answer, or what hypothesis/ argument are you trying to explore? What are the main research objectives? What are the key aims of the research?

3. A rationale: key literature and identify a gap in the literature: You need to ground your research in existing literature. In this part of the proposal, you should include the most important texts related to the research, in order to demonstrate your understanding of the research issues. You should highlight how your research will contribute to the existing literature. How does your work relate to the expertise within the department you are applying to?

4. Research design and methodology: You need to explain how you are going to conduct your research; what information you would need, how you would collect it and how you are going to analyze it. You will rework on this with your supervisor(s) should you have been successfully admitted to the PhD program.

5. Timetable: You need to provide a realistic time table for the completion of your research.

6. References: You need to list the main published literature that you use to guide your research, as well any available data sources you may draw on.

MSc/MA in Interactive Media (by research)

The research proposal should be one to two pages in length and outline your particular research question, its context and the proposed methodology.

MA in Filmmaking (by research)

Applicants need to provide a proposal as to the film they would be looking to create over the year. This should include a basic story idea and outline of how you would approach production. A major part of the course involves script development so we are not necessarily looking for ideas that are finished but rather want to confirm that you have a clear sense of what you are looking to do with a reasonably realistic view of how it can be done. Note that more than one film may be produced as part of the degree depending on the proposal. For example, it may be possible to produce a number of very short form pieces around a common theme. We consider each proposal based on its objectives and merits.

MA in Screenwriting (by research)

The proposal should be two pages. The first page should outline the script you plan to write whilst on the programme, including title, logline, genre, setting, and overview of the story. The second page should be a personal explanation of why you want to do the MA by Research, including references to relevant films or television programmes.

All other courses

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. You are required to look at the research interests of TFTV staff and identify a potential supervisor before submitting your application.

Please supply a draft research proposal of about 1000 to 1500 words to include:

  1. Aims of your research
  2. Main research questions
  3. Rationale for research
  4. An indication of existing research in the field
  5. Proposed research methodology/methods
  6. Timetable to completion
  7. Bibliography

Contact us

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

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