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

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Applying to study for a PhD in psychology

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.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371