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

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5.1 The research proposal

Your research proposal will bring together your thinking about the points covered in Section 1 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . You may not have space to cover all the points in much detail but your aim is to address an academic reader in order to:

  • inform them about your proposed research, including the question or issue you want to address
  • demonstrate your academic skills (see Session 1, Section 2)
  • indicate the importance of the research e.g. its potential impact
  • indicate your suitability as the researcher.

University websites provide specific advice on the requirements for a research proposal. The advice varies but commonly includes the following points.

  • The proposal is divided into sections e.g. Introduction, Research topic and focus/research question(s), Background literature, Data collection and analysis, Potential applications and impact.
  • The reference list includes key theoretical sources and relevant recent research
  • The length is 1000–2000 words, excluding the references.

This is an initial research proposal and it is likely that you will develop it during the application process, for instance, in response to discussions with prospective supervisors and/or to fulfil the specific requirements of a funding application.