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Discovering Your PhD Potential: Writing a Research Proposal

via FutureLearn


Learn how to construct an excellent research proposal

A carefully prepared and thorough research proposal is crucial for advanced or doctoral applications and can provide the launchpad for the first stages of that postgraduate study.

This five-week course from the University of Leicester will give you the skills and tools to write a well thought-out and achievable research proposal, helping you improve the quality of your applications. It will also give you a taste of the self-study needed in postgraduate doctoral research.

Discover the best approaches for problem definition

As this will be a long-term project, it is critical that you choose a topic that is of personal interest, is feasible to conduct, and can deliver strong outcomes.

You’ll look at how to define the problem area and begin to shape your research question, starting with your own interests relating to your previous academic experiences. You’ll learn the different research approaches you can take and the ways that you can formulate and write research questions.

Explore research design concepts and various research methodologies

On this course, you’ll assess research philosophy, specifically ontology and epistemology, and how it plays into your research proposal.

You’ll then examine quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis to build the framework for your research before exploring the different research methods you can use and which ones are right for your research question.

Pull your skills together to build your PhD proposal

The final week of this course will guide you through how to sell your research topic step-by-step, from choosing the right title to detailing your research question, methods, and provisional timetable.

Once you have completed this course, you’ll be ready to write the first draft of your doctoral research proposal.

This course is designed for postgraduate research applicants looking to improve their research proposals. It may also be of interest to anyone wanting to learn more about developing well-founded and challenging research bids.


  • Introduction to doctoral research
    • Welcome to the course
    • What are your expectations of a PhD?
    • Funding
    • Review of the week
  • Problem definition and research question
    • Defining the problem
    • Research approaches
    • Research question
    • Review of the week
  • Literature review
    • Getting started on your literature review
    • Finding the right literature
    • Organising and planning your literature
    • Review of the week
  • Research Philosophy, Research Design, Research Methodology and Research Ethics
    • Introduction to research design
    • Research philosophy
    • Research design
    • Research methodology
    • Review of the week
  • Bringing the proposal together
    • Introduction
    • Building your proposal
    • What next?

Taught by

Neil Christie


4.9 rating at FutureLearn based on 103 ratings

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