Undertaking a research degree, whether it’s a PhD, Masters by Research or Professional Doctorate, is a great way to enhance your career and create a wealth of opportunities post study. But writing a great postgraduate research proposal may seem a daunting proposition – this is why we’ve put together a handy infographic below to give you advice on how to succeed within the application process such as what you should consider before applying and our top tips.

Infographic showing how to write a research proposal.

Writing a postgraduate research proposal

From what to include, through to different types of projects, we have it covered

Be clear, be honest, be precise…and proof-read your proposal!

Types of Research Degree

At UEA, we offer three types of research degree opportunity:

  1. Research-led projects
  2. Applicant-led projects
  3. Professional doctorates


Research-led projects

(Common in Faculties of Science and Medicine)

In this kind of project, a PhD is advertised where the research proposal will already have been written by a member of academic staff.

You will still need to upload:

  • why you are applying
  • your relevant skills/knowledge
  • your training needs.

Most importantly, set out why you are the best fit for the project.


Applicant-led projects

(Common in Faculties of Arts and Humanities and Social Sciences)


If there isn’t an advertised project in an area which interests you, you can apply with a research proposal that you have written yourself.

Find an academic whose work is relevant to your interests, then define the project you want to explore.

Your proposal needs to give an idea of your research interests and intent and can be worked on with your supervisor.


Professional doctorates

Professional Doctorates (such as the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology) are designed to integrate professional practice with academic knowledge.

Each Doctorate is different: they usually have a taught component but students also write a research proposal. This may be during their degree or during the application process.

Your proposal should describe an original piece of research which relates to real life issues in your field.

The independent research project should make a contribution to theory and practice, by adding to professional knowledge.


Starting your proposal

Before preparing your application, we recommend you:

  1. Look on our website and identify at least one member of staff at UEA
  2. Read academic papers related to the
  3. Contact the member of staff to express your

If you can’t find a supervisor we still welcome your application! Get in touch and we’ll see how we can help.


Research proposal – top tips

The main aim of the proposal is to provide an idea of your research interests and intent:

  • Attention to detail counts – read the guidance carefully before you begin.
  • Don’t go over the top – make sure you know the word limit as it can vary.
  • Check and check again – proof-read carefully before you submit!
  • Know your own mind – it’s important your proposal is all your own work so if questioned at interview you can explain your arguments clearly.

Research proposals can be refined with your supervisor at a later stage – but your initial research proposal should include the following:


Your research topic: identify your subject area and indicate your research question(s).

General literature review: describe the general  field of your study and your reasons for choosing it.

Specific literature review: provide a review of the literature which demonstrates clearly the key debates or ideas. Give references to key articles and research texts. What makes your proposal an original piece of work?

Method: show how you will answer your research  questions and explain which techniques you will use and  why. Reference other studies or papers in related themes of research.

Timescale: describe the phases of your research e.g. a social science proposal could include time for  literature review, methodological design, field  study and writing up.

References/Bibliography: don’t forget to provide
a list of the sources you mention in your application. Remember that references are included in the proposal



Don’t miss the deadline!


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