Writing a research proposal

Your research proposal

Your proposal should be 2,000 words (excluding bibliography) and will be assessed on the following criteria:

  • The original, rigour and significance of the proposed project
  • Skills, experience and characteristics required to pursue that project
  • Alignment of the project with areas of supervisory expertise 
  • The candidate’s preparedness for doctoral study

This means that your proposal needs to persuade us that your research will generate new insights in your chosen field of study, through appropriately rigorous research. Although your proposal is not ‘set in stone’, the best proposals are focussed and specific. A good proposal will also demonstrate that you already have some expertise in the area – and that you’re passionate about it.

Structuring your research proposal


A common format for a title is a ‘catchy’ phrase, followed by a fuller explanation of the research. As we consider research on a range of topics, please use your title to define your field and discipline.


Provide a short overview of the field you are researching. You should refer to key publications and, where relevant, artistic practice and policy on this topic. Be as specific as possible in identifying influences or debates you wish to engage with (but keep it an overview – don’t start writing the thesis). The point of this section is to identify the gap or problem in current knowledge that your research will fill.

Research aims and questions

Explain what is required to address the gap or problem and how your research will contribute to this. A common strategy is to summarize these aims as a series of research questions – usually one main question and two sub-questions. Craft your questions so than answering them generates new knowledge.

Research design & methodology

Explain the methods you will use to answer your research questions. Include the methods you will use to generate new data (for example, observations of your own or other people’s artistic practice, artistic experiments, surveys and so on), but you should also outline the particular disciplinary, theoretical, philosophical or conceptual framework that frames your project. Once it is clear what you are doing, include a short explanation of why this is the most appropriate approach. Show that you have anticipated potential issues of access, validity or ethics.


Summarise what new insights, data or perspectives will be produced as a result of your research. Explain why it is important, and for what communities.


A strong bibliography demonstrates that you have a good sense of existing literature. Include all the sources you reference in the proposal. If you would like to add others, put them under a separate heading (eg ‘additional sources’).

Download a template:
Research proposal template.docx