Deciding to start a research degree – either a PhD, Master’s by Research, or Professional Doctorate – is the first step to achieving something incredible.

Not only will you make a valuable contribution to your chosen field and be able to improve or challenge existing knowledge in the subject area, you will be enhancing your long-term career goals. We hope you will also enjoy the experience!

Applying might seem like a daunting part of the process, but it isn’t as complicated as it seems. You can take it step by step. Once you know what you need to consider, we’re sure you can succeed in the application process and beyond.

Some of the most important things to remember when doing your application: be clear, be concise, be confident in your research… and proof-read your proposal thoroughly.

Types of Research Degree

At UEA, we offer three types of research degree. Which one you decide to do depends on a number of factors.

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Common in Faculties of Science and Medicine and Health Sciences

This is when a PhD is advertised with a research proposal developed by a member of staff. With this project, you would need to explain in your application: why you are applying, your relevant knowledge and skills, and your training needs. Most importantly, we want to know why you are the best fit for the project.

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Common in Faculties of Arts and Humanities and Social Sciences

If there isn’t already an advertised project in your area of interest, you can apply with a research proposal you have written yourself. You will need to find an academic whose work is relevant to your interests and define the project you want to explore with them.

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

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These are designed to integrate professional practice with academic knowledge. Each professional doctorate is different: they usually have a taught component, but students also write a research proposal. This might be during your degree, or during the application process.

Your proposal needs to describe an original piece of research which relates to real life issues in your chosen field. This independent research project should contribute to theory and practice by adding to existing professional knowledge.

The Application Process

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  • Before you do anything else, you need to decide where your research interests lie. Take your time to review the information on our research areas and identify one or more UEA academic staff members who could be your supervisor. (If you can’t find a supervisor, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help: If you are applying for an advertised project the supervisor will already be identified.

  • Contact them, expressing your interest, and if you’re writing your own proposal use this opportunity to attach your preliminary ideas. Most potential supervisors are willing to discuss early drafts of research proposals, and it can help give them a clearer idea of your interests.

  • Try to read your potential supervisor’s academic papers that are recent and related to your research interest. References for these can be found on their individual webpages.

  • Check that you meet our minimum entry requirements before applying. Some projects have different requirements, so check the ones specific to your project.

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Now it’s time to fill in your application form.

  1. First you’ll need to create a login, so that you can save and track your application. Select Start your application.

  2. Having created your login, your next step depends on the different types of programme you can choose:

    • For applicant-led: Select ‘A postgraduate research programme with my own research proposal (includes SeNSS, CHASE)’. You’ll need to select the subject area, the research programme (i.e. PhD, Master’s by Research etc.) and proposed start date

    • For research-led: Select ‘A specific postgraduate research project which has been advertised’. You can then go on to filter by subject area and select the desired project

    • For professional doctorates/rotation programme: Select ‘A Professional Doctorate or PhD Rotation Programme (MD, EDESIA, JIC/TSL Rotation, EdPsyD self-funded, EdD)’. You can then filter by subject area and select the relevant programme. Some programmes will require a research proposal, and some a research statement, so check carefully. Please note, our Doctorate in Educational Psychology (EdPsyD) and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (ClinPsyD) programmes manage applications through a different website: AEP and Leeds Clearing House, respectively.

All PhDs are fairly unique so there may be occasional differences. But don’t worry, read the project listings carefully and if you do have any questions get in touch with as soon as possible - we’re happy to help!

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Next, you’ll need to submit your Research Statement or Research Proposal

  • Research-led applications will require a research statement of no more than 1500 words. Your Research Statement sets out why you’re applying for this project, an outline of how you’ll undertake the research, and your current knowledge, as well as any training needs.

  • Some programmes, such as Rotation-based PhD studentship programmes, may have specific requirements for the research statement, so we advise you to check the guidance for the programme you are applying to carefully.

  • Applicant-led applications will require a research proposal of 1500 - 2000 words (check the application form for your programme requirements). Your Research Proposal is one of the first big steps in your application, and it plays a vital role in shaping your future project. 

Writing a Research Proposal

The main aim is to provide an idea of your research interests and intent. You will need to set out the objectives, the original topic you plan to study, and the questions you’ll set out to answer. It should also clarify how your work will fit with the expertise and values of the university and justify why your work will be beneficial. A succinct proposal also identifies the existing scholarship your work will correspond with, as well as the methods you plan to use.

Once you have identified and spoken with a member of staff who could be your supervisor, and read academic papers relating to your field of interest, you’re ready to start writing. Proposals can be refined with your supervisor at a later stage, but your initial research proposal should include:

  • 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. Define what makes your proposal an original piece of work. 

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

  • Timescale: describe the phases of your research. 

  • Reference/Bibliography: provide a list of the sources you mention in your application. And remember references are included in the proposal word count!

Helpful Hints

  • Attention to detail counts. Read the guidance carefully before you begin. 

  • Make sure you don’t go over the word limit and check limits specific to your proposal as they vary. 

  • Proof-read a number of times before you submit. 

  • Know your own mind – your proposal needs to be all your own work, so make sure you can explain your arguments clearly if questioned at interview. 

  • Double and triple check the deadline – don’t miss it!

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Then you’ll need to enter your Personal Statement of at least 500 words. This explains your reasons for choosing the programme, and how the course matches your future career plans. You should explain what you hope to gain from the programme, and any relevant work or voluntary experience.

Finally, we will need two references. At least one of these should be an academic reference from your most recent place of study. 

Once your online application is complete and submitted electronically, the staff in the Postgraduate Research Service will check it before sending it on to academic selectors for consideration. Selection processes differ depending on the type of application. Unless you already have funding secured, you should allow at least four weeks to hear an outcome (possibly up to several months if your application is part of a funding competition). 

Helpful hints

  • You don’t have to complete the application in one go – you can pause and come back to it later.

  • Navigating between sections is easy, so you don’t have to do it in order. Our key will let you know which parts are incomplete and which are done. 

  • You can also see the percent you’ve completed, and roughly how long it will take to finalise your application. 

  • If you’re torn between topics, you can start multiple applications to begin with. 

If you have any questions or concerns around your application, we’re happy to help: