A GUIDE FOR A FULL TIME PhD PROPOSAL
The tentative proposal should have a total number of words not less than 1000 and not exceeding 1500 words. The
following should be incorporated in the proposal:
IMPORTANCE OF THE RESEARCH
In more details, you can use the following points within your proposal.
Outline the general background to your research.
Identify the specific problem your research seeks to answer.
Offer any research questions or hypothesis you have identified.
Indicate what educational or theoretical basis will be used to establish and evaluate the research.
Indicate the methodological strategy or Philosophy you intend to follow.
Identify and define the major constructs (variable) in your study.
Outline the main strategy.
Relate the strategy to your research questions.
Identify any pilot work you expect to require or have completed.
Identify any aspects requiring special attention.
Identify the main features of your sample.
Describe your sampling strategy
Identify any limitation in your samples.
Outline the range of data required
Indicate how the data relate to your research variables.
Indicate where construction of measure may be needed.
Indicate any problems of access to data.
Writing a Research Proposal Your academic and professional background play a very important role in
determining your suitability for postgraduate studies, your acceptance into the Programme will be
based on both academic ability and the availability of interested and suitably qualified supervisors. Your
research proposal that makes the difference when it comes to finding research supervisors and given
the limited supervisor capacity of the business school. This part of the application is crucial. Top
The purpose of a research proposal is to provide the School and potential research supervisors with a
clear indication of the topic in which the students is interested. And also give an indication of the
student’s ability to identify and develop an interesting research question. Most potential supervisor will
consider research proposals as preliminary indicators of the applicant’s area of interest and will not
necessarily assume that the proposal defines exactly the research that the student will undertake. Thus.
The main concern when preparing a research proposal is to indicate the area in which the research will
be undertaken and the interesting and original issues which arise in that area which you wish to
examine in more detail.
The proposal will be considered in conjunction with your academic qualifications by the School. Your qualifications
will provide the School and potential supervisors with evidence of your academic ability; as a minimum we would
normally expect a first degree with honours in a relevant subject (either 2 (1) or GPA over 3 or equivalent): ideally
we would look for candidates to have a Masters degree in a relevant subject (average over 60% GPA over 3 or
Your research proposal will be used to determine whether there are staff in the School who are qualified and willing
to supervise in the area you have chosen and second to give an indication of your aptitude for research. You need to
demonstrate to the reader that you understand the area in which you plan to take research ; that you are able to
identify an interesting and original research question and that you have some understanding of how to conduct
A typical research proposal will be somewhere between one and two thousand words. While we do not insist on a
definite format. We encourage students to adhere to the following guidelines: Top
1. The proposal should begin by identifying the subject for research both in terms of theoretical issues and
relevant empirical applications. This section is an introduction to the research proposal, but it can also serve
as an explanatory background to what led you to the topic. Thus, if your topic emerges out of personal
experience pf long standing interest do not hesitate to convey this information; it communicates your
motivation in pursuing postdoctoral studies.
2. The introduction to your proposal should be followed by a brief summary of your research question. In 150
words or less you must state the key issues that your research intends to address. What empirical
phenomena or theoretical debates are.
3. Driving your research proposal? Try to be specific If your research is being driven by empirical phenomena
(e.g. e-commerce, global branding , etc ), what aspects of these phenomena are you trying to explain ? If
your research proposal is being driven by theoretical debates which specific points in these debates are you
going to focus on?
4. The proposal should then briefly review relevant literature and theories relating to the research area. At this
stage it is important to be able to demonstrate any familiarity with the major lines of argument which have
been developed in your area and to demonstrate an understanding of the ideas and findings of key
researchers working on your topic. Top
5. Depending on the nature of your subject it will then usually be desirable to give some indication of the
research methods that will be used in the conduct of research. Clearly a variety of different research
methods exist – you should seek to identify the approach that is most suited to your area of research – for
example, experimentation, participant observation, forms of textual analysis, econometric modeling,
ethnography, survey data analysis, the analysis of historical records etc.
6. Most doctoral work involves empirical research. The successful completion of doctoral work in the time
allotted thus often depends the ability to obtain the data needed. If your proposed research proposal
involves empirical work you should provide an indication of the form and location of that empirical work and
where and how you might collect any relevant data. For example you might like to say something about
access to particular source of information (whether you need on-line access to database, whether you can
use relevant archives etc). You could also comment on the country or geographical area in which the study
will take place (whether you have made a particular choice, if so why, and the advantages and
disadvantages of this choice). It is also worth saying something about the subject of the research (are you
looking at individuals, groups, texts, companies etc) and provide some justification for your choices.
7. You should give special attention to the feasibility of collecting the data. Your proposal may contain
interesting and highly relevant research question, and it may be well grounded in the literature, but it may
not be a practical research enterprise. You must balance the scope of your proposal against the practical
problems of data gathering. Does your research proposal call for special access to manager or organization
? How many potential variables or factors does it contain ? Can you cover all of them? Taylor your data
gathering to your research question and vice-versa: shape your research question to reflect your data
8. Finally, although no indication of the research finding can be presented, it is often beneficial to conclude the
research proposal by indicating how you envisage your research will contribute to debates and discussions
in your particular subject area. This means providing some indication of how you feel your research can
make an original contribution, how it may fill gaps in existing work and how it may extend understanding of
particular topics. Top
The research proposal is not only judged on content. It is also judge on form . Your research proposal must look
professional. It should be typed and it should be written in good English . It should be well structured. With section
headings clearly indicated. If you are submitting a photocopy. Make sure it is a photocopy of the highest quality.
Finally always include a bibliography (in a standard format – e.g. Harvard ) with your research proposal that lists
books and articles to which you make reference in your discussion of the proposed research.
You should avoid making any substantial changes to the broad direction of your research after acceptance into the
Programme . It is natural for ideas to evolve and change . So you will not be forced to adhere to specifics of your
proposal. However. The proposal is the foundation of your working relationship with your supervisor and thus it
cannot be radically altered without discussion and consultation with your supervisors. Top
Hints for PhD Proposal Defenses
PhD proposal defenses in Computer Science allow student audience; this is a good
opportunity to find out what works and doesn't from your more senior colleagues.
Proposal defenses consist of four parts: first, the candidate introduces themselves, then
presents a summary of their work, interrupted and followed by questions from the
committee. Finally, the committee meets in private to discuss the presentation and the
While most of the committee will have read most of your proposal, you cannot assume
that everyone has read every page in detail.
Avoid high-level talks: "... they usually fail to convey the intellectual substance,
creativity, ingenuity of the speakers' accomplishments - what takes the work out of the
routine. Naturally, these comments apply to all of our speakers who want to impress
people with their ability as opposed to the breadth of their knowledge or the size of their
project." (Ed Coffman)
When presenting experimental work, be prepared to defend your methodology. What was
your sample size? Confidence intervals?
Standard presentation guidelines apply:
o Talk to your audience, not to your slides.
o Project; speaking softly conveys the impression that you are unsure of what you
o Make sure that all your graphs are readable. Check this in the actual presentation
environment (using a video projector), not just on your laptop screen. A common
problem is that the lines are too thin.
o Avoid flashy or cheesy animations, such as animated GIFs, or PowerPoint word
art. This is not a sales talk and these gimmicks distract from the message and
make you look unprofessional.
o Keep to the allotted time of no more than 45 minutes.
Your presentation needs to address the following:
o What is the problem you are studying?
o Why is it important?
o What results have you achieved so far and why to they matter?
o How is this substantially different from prior work?
o What do you need to do to complete your work?
Your workplan should be sufficiently detailed so that the committee can judge whether it
is realistic or not. You don't have to account for every day between the proposal and your
thesis defense, but a roughly monthly or quarterly granularity is to be expected,
depending on how far away your anticipated graduation date is. Specify the experiments
you need to run, the software you need to write and the algorithms you want to try out.
This should not just be one page that says "I will do miraculous things".
The committee should be handed a copy of your slides.
No more than 25 slides, plus "back up" slides with additional material in case of
questions. The committee will get anxious once the presentation lasts longer than 35-40
List your contributions early and explicitly. You don't want to create the impression that
related work is yours, and vice versa.
One of the most important concerns during the proposal is to convince the audience that
you are aware of all related work. Since some of your work may date back a few years, it
is not sufficient to just copy the reference list from your first paper. Check common
recent conferences to see whether any recent work applies to your thesis. If applicable,
point out your work predates work presented by somebody else done more recently.
(Given the duration of most theses, it is not uncommon that others pursue a direction after
you have stopped working on it.)
When presenting your contributions, be sure to use "I" and not "we" so that the
committee will know what aspects of the work where yours, and which were group
You must convey a clear plan how you are going to evaluate your work systematically -
by measurement, simulation, user experiments. This is a core part what makes computer
science science and not just software-building.
Be prepared to back up any comparative statement with facts, in particular statements like
"works better", "faster", "scalable" or "optimal". If you are presenting a protocol, how do
you know that it works correctly? If your algorithm is optimal, can you prove that it is?
(If not, avoid the term.)