Applying for Study

Research Proposals

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School of English

The criterion for a successful thesis, whether for the PhD, MPhil or MA, is that it should be 'an original contribution to knowledge'. There are many ways of interpreting this, but one way is to think in terms of the work being accepted by scholars as a useful contribution to the field. Projects could include the critical discussion of neglected texts, the exploration of a particular issue in the work of a writer or a group of writers, the critique of received scholarly or critical opinions, the development or critique of literary theory, or the editing of a text. The School of English not only covers a wide range of subjects, but is also pluralist in its critical methods, with members of staff pursuing many different critical approaches.

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School of History

The research proposal should be approximately 500-1000 words, covering the following points:

  • What is your project?
  • How are you going to do it? (for example, which core sources will you use)
  • Why are you the best person to carry out the project? (with reference to your educational background, skills - including languages, if applicable)

If appropriate, a one page bibliography of core works may be included.

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School of Languages, Cultures and Societies

We realise that writing a research proposal is difficult since at this stage you may well have only a vague idea concerning the area you want to work on. It may seem unfair to expect you to produce a detailed plan of how you see your research developing when you have not yet actually embarked on it seriously. However, you do need to persuade the readers of your application that you merit serious consideration as a potential research student. This means that your proposal must be well-written and well-researched; it is not something you can dash off in half an hour. If you are asked for an interview, your proposal will provide the basis for any discussion so it should show evidence of solid knowledge and suggest serious reflection upon a topic. Certainly you will be asked to go through your project with us in some detail. 

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School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science

The research proposal should be 500 words in length and include a short bibliography. It should outline what the motivation for your proposed research is and how you intend to go about pursuing it, with reference to what you take the central literature in the area to be. You should bear in mind the following:

  • the proposal must be focused 
  • you should identify why your proposed research fills a gap in relation to existing work (e.g. because the line you are proposing to take is new, develops work further or in new directions, shows why or how apparent problems can be solved, etc.)

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Pages in this document

  1. Applying for Study
  2. Research Degrees
  3. Application Process
  4. Research Proposals
  5. International Applicants