How to prepare a research proposal

A crucial part of a PhD application is the research proposal. This page provides guidance on writing a research proposal for business and management research at Lancaster. We provide a few suggestions on what to include and what to avoid.

In making an application, make sure that the specialist area you wish to study is covered by a member(s) of staff at Lancaster University Management School. You can do this by checking either individual staff profiles, or by reading our Doctoral Brochure or Lancaster University's Prospectus - both of which you can order online.

Normally a proposal should be between 1500 and 2000 words and will include the following:

A working title of the topic area

This should do more than convey the key words associated with the proposed research.

General overview of area

This should take the form of a brief abstract of the general area of study and identify the discipline(s) within which it falls. You might also refer to the way in which your own background gives you competences in your chosen area.

Identification of the relevant literature

In this section you should develop your proposal to demonstrate that you are aware of the debates and issues raised in relevant bodies of literature. References to key articles and texts should be made to show that you appreciate their relevance to your research area. A PhD is an original piece of research and so you should demonstrate that your proposed area has not been studied before. So you need to identify your niche which will lead on to the thesis preparation.

Key research questions

Since you need to demonstrate that the topic can be completed within the normal time period allowed, you need to demonstrate that it is manageable, and so focus on key questions within your niche area.

Methodology

You need to demonstrate an awareness of the methodological tools available to you and show some understanding of which would be suitable for your research. It may be that qualitative methods, including the analysis of interviews, is appropriate. Alternatively your approach may involve forecasting or statistical, financial or econometric modelling. In other cases you may be combining methodologies. You need to specify the approach you feel will be most appropriate.

Timescale/research planning

You need to demonstrate an awareness of the need for planning and the timescale of the research.

Bibliography

You should include a short list of references to key articles and texts included in the application.

Avoid

  • Broad topic areas which would be unmanageable as PhD topics
  • Vague descriptions of research areas
  • Subject areas where Lancaster University Management School has no expertise