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Applying to study for a PhD in psychology
Applying to study for a PhD in psychology

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4.1 Thinking through your proposal

Activity 3 will help you prepare your proposal. The following questions are prompts to help with your thinking. (The questions marked with an asterisk will be referred to again in Section 3 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .)

Activity 3 Thinking through your proposal

Use the following questions as prompts.

  1. Where will your proposed research fit within the wider field of psychology? (This is where you can refer to cognitive experimental psychology, forensic psychology and so on.)*
  2. What general area or topic will you investigate?
  3. What theoretical position informs your proposed research?*
  4. What previous research informs your proposed research (including recent and ongoing research)?*
  5. What specific issue or question to do you want to investigate?
  6. How will your research be different to previous research, and what will it contribute that is original (e.g. a new understanding)?*
  7. What data collection and data analysis will you conduct? (Your choice of approach will probably be partly dictated by your research area and topic. For example, if most research around your topic is qualitative field research, it will probably be inappropriate to propose an experimental study.)
  8. Why have you chosen these approaches to data collection and data analysis?
  9. What challenges will you face when you conduct the research ? (For example, will you need to obtain extra permission beyond the ethical approval required by all universities? Will you need to obtain or develop special equipment or technological aids? If your research involves human participants, how will you recruit them, and how will you protect them? What categories of people will you recruit e.g. by age, nationality, gender etc? Why have you chosen those categories?)
  10. What wider significance will the research have? (Think about applications, impact and topicality.)
  11. How will you disseminate the research findings to non-academic audiences? Will this dissemination be part of the PhD project or a potential follow up?
  12. What schedule are you proposing? (A common plan for a three-year PhD is to spend the first year reading and developing ideas, the second conducting data collections and analysis, and the third year writing up, but this is very approximate. Your schedule will change but, as with all these questions, it’s important to think about it in advance.)
  13. Why are you the appropriate person to conduct this research? You might cite your qualifications, skills, previous experience and also your personal identity, for example, as a person of a certain gender, age and ethnicity.
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