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, 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

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).
Biology

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 Year)

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.

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.

PhD in Biological Chemistry

You do not need to submit a research proposal for this programme. You should indicate on your application form which advertised project you are applying for.

Computer Science

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 500-1,000 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 500-1,000 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 (PhDs)

Please 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)

Please 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.

Electronic Engineering

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

English and Related Literature
  • PhD in English
  • MA in English (by research)
  • MPhil 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.
Health Sciences (MPhil and PhD)

Your proposal should:

a) be about 500-1,000 words in length and may include up to 10 relevant references
b) outline your research question and/or the hypothesis you wish to investigate
d) describe the possible methodology that you will use to conduct your research    
e) explain why your research is important and/or original, and it's potential impact

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.

History

Please upload 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.

Language and Linguistic Science

PhD Linguistics

  • In the 'Research Proposal' section of the main application form, please include only 100 words outlining your topic
  • 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/MPhil in Language & Communication 

  • In the 'Research Proposal' section of the main application form, please include only 250-350 words outlining your topic
  • 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 (all research degrees)

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).
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.

Medieval Studies

Please 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?

Philosophy (all research degrees)

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

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.

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).

Please note that 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.

Politics (all research degrees)

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 1500-2000 words in total.

Psychology

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 (200-250 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 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 (200-250 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.
Social Policy and Social Work (all research degrees)

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.
Sociology (PhD/MPhil)

Your proposal should be around 1500-2000 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.

Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media

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 looking for ideas that are necessarily 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 while on the programme, including title, logline, genre, setting, and an 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. Proposals should be 1,000 to 2,000 words 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).
  • You are required to look at the research interests of TFTI staff and identify a potential supervisor before submitting your application.
  • Applicants for a PhD by Creative Practice may also be required to supply a sample of creative work.
Women’s Studies (PhD/MPhil)

Please supply a draft research proposal of about 1,000 to 1,500 words 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

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