School of History

How to write an application



Your research proposal forms a vital part of your application to the PhD programme. Its quality, originality and feasibility will all be judged in the entry process and assessed for studentship applications.

The best proposals are developed in close consultation with potential supervisors and prepared some months before the funding competition deadline.

This page outlines how to frame and write your research proposal.

Framing your research proposal

Good proposals open up new research questions and have a clear set of theoretical objectives. 

Your proposal should demonstrate a good awareness of the existing historiography around your chosen subject. You should show an understanding of how your own research will contribute to, as well as further, the scholarly debate. 

You also need to demonstrate a practical sense of the project’s feasibility. Your proposed programme of work should be achievable within the space of 36 months of full-time study.

You should be able to complete your project within the necessary financial constraints of a studentship award or self-funding.

Research proposals should be no longer than 1500 words.

Writing your research proposal

Every year, the admissions committee reviews a large number of applications, so it is important that your proposal is well written and clearly presented. 

Try to use short sentences, paragraphs and subheadings to provide clear structure. The research proposal should not exceed 1500 words.

Your proposal should contain the following information:

  •  Your name
  •  The proposed title of your thesis
  •  The name of your proposed supervisor

It should also include:

A detailed summary of your aims and objectives

Outline the central research questions you intend to pursue. Demonstrate the originality and significance of your approach (in and beyond academia).

A clear rationale

Show how your work builds upon the current historiography (refer directly to wider scholarship), and establish the distinctiveness of your own theoretical position.

A working methodology 

Show how you intend to pursue your research. Outline proposed sources of information (physical or digital archives) and the methods and perspectives you will use in analysing them. 

A timeline

Include your proposed programme of research, writing and dissemination to demonstrate that the project can be completed in 36 months of full-time research or 72 months part time.

A bibliography

Provide a short outline list of the relevant literature in your research area.


If you have any questions about writing your research proposal, please refer in the first instance to your prospective supervisor. General enquiries should be directed to: