How To Write Good PhD Proposal
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How To Write Good PhD Proposal – PhD Application?

Every PhD requires a good proposal for its perfect accomplishment. Writing a good research proposal is often a crucial part of the PhD application and also the first step when starting with research. The purpose of writing a research proposal is to present your interest or passion for a particular subject, to define a problem in that field of study, to put forth your ideas and approach to solve the problem, the expected outcome, and its significance. It is a document that helps the reviewer to evaluate a PhD candidate as well as for the candidate it is a plan for conducting research. Hence, selection for PhD and its execution is dependent on a good research proposal.

In this article, we have mentioned a few steps which can help you – How To Write Good PhD Proposal.

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PhD proposal

A PhD proposal is primarily an outline of the proposed research work. This helps the reviewer to evaluate your understanding, clarity, and foresight about the proposed research work. So, it is important to provide the details of approach, methodology, feasibility, and timeline. It is a plan according to which a research work can be executed but is essentially flexible. A proposal should define a question or a research gap in a subject area and provide an approach to solve it. It should highlight the originality of the idea, explaining the significance of the probable outcome. Ultimately it should reflect the potential funders or supervisors, the importance of the proposed research and your eligibility to undertake it.
The usual length of a PhD proposal may be in a range of 2000 – 3000 words and has a specific format. Both the length and format vary depending on the specific requirement of an institute. Hence, it is important to check the rules, format, and requirements for proposal writing at the institute website before applying.

Purpose of PhD Proposal

A potential applicant can showcase his/her ideas and passion for the respective field of study through PhD proposal. So, it should be persuasive enough to grab the attention of the readers and convince them about the significance of the study. To achieve this, it is important to present your idea clearly and briefly. Often writing a good proposal is considered as an attribute for a potential researcher.

For a reader, often a potential supervisor, tutor, research sponsor or selector, a PhD proposal is a way to assess the applicant. One can judge the originality and quality of the idea, the depth of knowledge and skill, clarity of thinking, analytical power, practicality and feasibility of research project from a good proposal. A proposal also gives a view of the timeframe, resources and expected expenditure required for the research apart from the anticipated outcome.

A research proposal shows your knowledge about the existing research done in the same or allied fields. One can focus on the knowledge gap and propose a solution for the same or propose a methodology to test something. All these must emphasize on the significance of the proposed research. Often a proposal can help a candidate get selected to an appropriate research team in an institute. If one is quite focused on joining a specific lab, then it is important to visit the lab or its PI and discuss his/her interest, get to know their research and requirements, prior to writing a formal application.

Features of a PhD proposal

A good proposal needs to be crisp, written in accordance with the set format and word limit. It should provide a literature review about the research so far done and highlight the knowledge gap. Formulating a clear, innovative, and original aim with the capacity to address a significant knowledge gap is the essence of a good proposal. The objectives designing must be done very carefully with proper thinking as it will reflect the depth of knowledge and understanding. A clear research approach and methodology along with expected outcome must be included in a proposal. It should be persuasive writing to convince the reader about the significance of the study. Have a check on the scope, timeline and budget as often they may not be reasonable or feasible. Try to match the scope with the research work going on in the department. Moreover, the most important aspect is, the proposal should be flexible and not fixed. A good proposal evolves with the progress in research in accordance with results, comments, approaches and even review of the literature.

A good research proposal needs to be well structured and in case applying for more than one department, then take time to write a separate proposal for each. Never follow the practice of making generalized aims or objectives. Often these parameters are looked for during the selection process.

Parts of a PhD Proposal (How To Write Good PhD Proposal)

An important part of How To Write Good PhD Proposal is its structuring. The structuring of a research proposal varies from one institute to another. Hence, it is very important to check the format thoroughly and follow it. In many cases, as such no format/template is specified then a general format can be followed. Sometimes the research proposal is written after admission to an institute or selection, then the pattern may change a little. A good research proposal must include the following subheadings:

1. Title,
2. Supervisor (in case after admission and supervisor allotment a proposal is written),
3. A short review of literature,
4. Aim or objective of the research,
5. Work plan,
6. Methodology and Resources,
7. Expected Results,
8. Synopsis, and
9. Reference.

1. Title

The title is the first way to introduce your topic. So, framing the right title is a key task. Better to keep it short and simple rather than long and complicated. It must clearly indicate the proposed research topic highlighting some keywords like maybe the key question or the key approach.

2. Supervisor

Details of the Supervisor may be included only if the proposal is written after the selection and supervisor allotment or someone has agreed to supervise prior to official selection. One can state the name, designation, and department of the supervisor.

3. Review of literature

Under this section, a short review of the research topic on so far work done must be included. It should give details of the existing knowledge, literature, data, etc. and identify the research gap (theoretical or practical) where your work can be fitted in. Mainly review of literature gives an overall view on the research status in a specific field, helps to identify the gaps and shows the future prospect. It would be wise to sight some existing research on the topic from the department/institution you are interested in to establish the suitability of your work.

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4. Aim or objective of the research

This an important section of the proposal that mainly describes the research question and the reason behind it, thus an important step one must know about How To Write Good PhD Proposal. What exactly you are trying to do through this research, find a solution or test something or expand some knowledge base, prove something or disprove something? The answer to this question needs to be given in a simple clear statement, that is the aim of the research.

To fulfill the aim stepwise approach is needed and these are the objectives. Objectives, breakdown the aim and should be in logical order to achieve the intended outcome. They need to be concise and clearly framed which can give a stepwise solution. Each solution should link the next objective and the final objective must help to achieve the intended outcome.

5. Work plan

A work plan is like a research design or layout of the research describing the structure and major approach. The approach of research might include theoretical, conceptual, practical or empirical study. A work plan must clearly discuss the approach and the rationale behind choosing it. Any specific parameter or objective might also be mentioned under this. Moreover, it must include the proposed timeline for achieving this and its feasibility.

6. Methodology and resources

This section describes the methodology and techniques one is planning to use. What is the equipment and resources needed to conduct the research? How the experiments will be conducted? What way data collection will be done and further analyzed and represented? A detailed description of all these must be included in this section. These are the basic sections which one must know about How To Write Good PhD Proposal.

Further, this section may describe the rationale behind choosing those resources or methods. What way it might be better than other existing methods? What could be the advantage and/or significance? Any limitations are expected and if so, then how they can be tackled? It should also emphasize on the feasibility and expected timeframe to get the results.

Often this section includes budget, specifying the proposed expenses in equipment, resources, data collection, traveling, etc. This makes the PhD proposal more realistic and highlights your passion for the research, thorough understanding of the topic and clarity of thinking.

7. Expected Results

Here one can focus on the expected outcome of the proposed research and highlight the expected contribution in a specific field. A detailed discussion on this is important to establish the originality of the research work, emphasis on the existing problem/knowledge gap and show the significance of the research in solving the problem or expanding the existing knowledge.

8. Synopsis

The synopsis is a brief summary of the proposed research. It provides an outline of the key features about the investigation like what is being studied, why it is being studied and how the study will be done, etc. Along with these aspects, it must also briefly describe the expected outcome and its significance.

9. Bibliography

This section includes all the references like articles, book chapters, books, conference presentations, etc. or any such written material followed by you for the present proposal. It is important to select appropriate texts rather than enlisting all that is available without a critical analysis of its suitability.


So by now you must be having some idea on – How To Write Good PhD Proposal. PhD proposal is the heart of any research work and often an important part of a Ph.D application. It the best way to represent the research idea by a candidate and to assess an applicant by the potential supervisor or sponsor or assessor. Hence, writing a good proposal is a critical criterion for selection. A well-structured proposal should be according to the institute format and include title, review of literature, aim/objectives, work plan, methodology, results, synopsis, and bibliography. It is important to write a clear, crisp, realistic, and engaging proposal aligned to the scope of work going on in the respective department to make it convincing. A convincing proposal is equivalent to successful Ph.D selection.

About the Author
Dr. Sunita Adak, a pro-active faculty member of Biotecnika. She has specialized in Microbial Biotechnology Biophysics: Introduction, Eligibility, Career Scope, Companies Hiringfrom IIT Kharagpur and is experienced in subjects like Cell Biology and Immunology. She encourages each one to reach their full potential and has been an influential role model.

Editors Note : How To Write Good PhD Proposal, Writing PhD proposal, Steps for Writing a good PhD research proposal, Filling PhD application form.

Perfection is her hobby, Reliability is a synonym, Editing is her passion, Excellence is her Goal, Tactfulness is in her genes, Yellow is her Fav color. Preety is the name of the Professional on whom entire BioTecNika relies when it comes to its website. A Gold Medalist in Biotech from SRM University, Chennai with a 9.9 CGPA ( was awarded the Gold Medal by Honorable Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi , as seen in the pic ), She decided to join forces with BioTecNika to ensure India's largest BioSciences Portal expands its reach to every city in India. She has redesigned the new avatar of BioTecNika from scratch and heads the most dynamic, vibrant and well informed Online Team at Biotecnika Info Labs Pvt Ltd


  1. The article is very clear and to the point..I am a DBA student struggling with crafting one research proposal which I have to present sometime in March 2020..i find this information handy..

    Can i hand over my draft proposal when it’s done for your editing? what are the fees? good day

  2. DEAR,

  3. Dear sir/ madam
    I am continuing PhD in mathematics education.
    Please I want to write thesis on The effect of three- tier model for teaching in context on primary school pupils’ performance in fraction

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