Art of Writing Doctoral (PhD.) Research Proposal to Universities

Research Proposal to university

Let me share a story about a friend of mine who faced a tough time with his PhD research proposal. His experience is a powerful reminder of how crucial it is to structure your proposal properly, and how the right guidance can make all the difference.

My friend had a brilliant research idea, something that could really make a mark in his field. He poured his heart and soul into his proposal, believing that his innovative concepts would shine through. However, when he submitted his proposals to several universities, he faced a string of rejections. It wasn’t because his ideas lacked merit, but because his proposals were poorly structured.

He was understandably disheartened. He couldn’t understand why his proposals were being turned down. He was sure his research could have a significant impact, but the feedback he received from the admissions committees highlighted issues with organization, clarity, and coherence. Essentially, his proposals were too scattered, with no clear thread linking the various sections.

Determined not to give up, my friend sought the help of a research consultant. This consultant had a track record of helping PhD candidates craft compelling research proposals that met the rigorous standards of academic institutions. Together, they began the process of reconstructing his proposal from the ground up.

The consultant introduced my friend to the importance of structuring a proposal properly. They started by creating a clear outline that included all the key elements: a strong title, a compelling abstract, a thorough literature review, clearly defined research questions, a detailed methodology, and a realistic timeline. They ensured that each section flowed logically into the next, creating a cohesive narrative that would resonate with the admissions committees.

With the consultant’s guidance, my friend learned how to write with clarity and focus. He refined his language, avoided jargon, and ensured that each word contributed to the overall message of his proposal. They also worked on highlighting the significance and potential impact of his research, demonstrating why his study was not only feasible but also necessary.

When my friend resubmitted his revised proposal, the response was dramatically different. Universities that had previously rejected his work now showed interest. He received invitations for interviews and, ultimately, offers for PhD positions. His experience underscored the critical role that structure and clarity play in a successful research proposal.

This story is a testament to the importance of seeking guidance when faced with challenges and the power of resilience. It reminds us that even the best ideas need to be communicated effectively to gain the recognition they deserve. With the right support and a well-structured proposal, my friend was able to pursue his academic dreams and make a meaningful contribution to his field.

In my blog post, you’ll find valuable tips and strategies for creating a compelling research proposal that stands out to admissions committees. I cover everything from structuring your proposal to crafting a clear narrative, all aimed at helping you avoid common pitfalls and increase your chances of success. By following these guidelines and learning from stories like my friend’s, you can make your research proposal a powerful tool on your path to a PhD.


Universities require Ph.D. applicants to submit a research proposal before accepting a candidate for a Ph.D. admission. A research proposal is a comprehensive document of around 4000-5000  words, giving a broad overview of the research that a research scholar is willing to pursue.

A research proposal will help a research scholar to give shape to his innovative ideas and prepare an outline that he would like to follow during his Ph.D. studies.

In a research proposal, the candidate needs to provide details on what motivated the candidate to take up research in the specified domain; which research papers support his research problem under consideration; what objectives can be achieved within the time frame defined by the university;  how will he go about research, including approach and methodology; timeline and feasibility as well as any other considerations that must be made to progress the research, such as computing and machinery resources.

Many universities provide guidelines on writing research proposals that will help a research scholar to structure his ideas and meet the requirements of a specific university. Regardless of university-specific requirements, most of the research proposals usually include:

Here are the key sections typically included in a PhD research proposal:

  1. Title: A concise and descriptive title that reflects the focus of the research proposal.
  2. Abstract: A brief summary of the research proposal, highlighting the research problem, objectives, methodology, and expected outcomes.
  3. Introduction: Provides an overview of the research project, background information on the research area, and justification for the significance and relevance of the proposed research.
  4. Literature Review: An in-depth review and analysis of existing literature and research relevant to the proposed research topic, highlighting the current knowledge, gaps, and research questions.
  5. Research Questions or Objectives: Clearly states the specific research questions or objectives that the study aims to address and investigate.
  6. Methodology: Describes the research design, methods, data collection techniques, and analytical approaches that will be used to address the research questions or objectives.
  7. Expected Outcomes: Specifies the anticipated outcomes, contributions, and potential impacts of the proposed research.
  8. Timeline: Presents a detailed timeline or Gantt chart outlining the planned activities and milestones for the research project, including estimated completion dates for each phase.
  9. Ethical Considerations: Discusses any ethical considerations associated with the research, such as participant consent, data privacy, or potential risks, and outlines how these will be addressed.
  10. Budget: Provides a budgetary breakdown of the resources required for conducting the research, including any funding sources or external support.
  11. References: Lists all the references cited throughout the research proposal, following the referencing style or conventions specified by the institution or field.
  12. Appendices (if applicable): Includes any additional supporting materials, such as questionnaires, interview guides, or data samples, that are relevant to the research proposal.
PhD Research  proposal Presentation Steps
PhD Research Proposal Sections

It’s important to note that the specific structure and naming of sections may vary depending on the institution, field of study, and specific guidelines provided by the research program or department. Let us discuss these sections one by one.

Please note before submitting the research proposal just check whether you have few research publications in your name. The reason being, most of the universities keep research publications as one of the parameter for selection. If you have not published yet , please refer to my article on ” How to write a research paper ” . If you already have a conference paper , that you can extend it to a journal paper by referring to my article on Extending a “Conference Paper to Journal Paper”

How to Write a Research Proposal Title?

The research title plays a vital role in obtaining approval for a PhD research proposal. It serves as a decisive factor that can capture the attention of the reader and convey the essence of the research. When assigning a title, it is essential to consider both language and domain perspectives.

From a language point of view, the title should be concise, avoiding redundancy and unnecessary phrasing. Capitalizing key elements and using familiar abbreviations can enhance clarity.

From a domain perspective, the title should accurately reflect the research area, whether it is within a core technology domain or a multidisciplinary field.

Additionally, incorporating relevant keywords and terms specific to the research discipline can further enhance the title’s effectiveness.

Language Point of View

The following points should be considered from a language point of view while assigning the title for a research proposal.

  • As a general guideline, try to keep your Title between 50 and 150 characters so that it can be easily remembered.
  • Avoid redundant phrasing, such as, “A Study of,”,” An Analysis of”, “A Study to Investigate the…,” or “A Review of the….” or similar constructions.
  • Capitalize all nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs that appear between the first and last words of the Title.[e.g.“Design of New and Efficient Algorithms for Robot Path Planning”].
  • Rarely use abbreviations or acronyms unless they are commonly known. [e.g.: “Addressing HIV Issues Through Community Counselling” can be one of the Titles as HIV is an abbreviation well known. Whereas “Application of NN in  Solving Pathological Issues in Pomegranate Plant” Here NN (Neural Network) is not known to many, which may lead to ambiguity.

Domain Point of View

A researcher begins his research voyage by selecting the research domain –  the area in which he intends to carry out his research.  The research domain can be

  • Simply the core technology domain such as Cloud Computing, Big Data Analytics, or Image Processing where the researcher intends to add or improve framework or algorithms for the domain itself, or
  • A multidisciplinary domain such as Cloud Computing in Agriculture; Image Processing in Health Care or Data Analytics for E-Commerce, etc.

The researcher may work in specific sub-domains such as Pathology in Agriculture, PAAS architecture in Cloud, Liver Cancer in Health care etc. While selecting the Title of the research proposal,  the domains and sub-domains of the research proposal should be clearly part of the Title as it makes things more clear for the adjudication panel about the topic of the research proposal.

The following points should also be considered from a research domain point of view while assigning the Research Title

  • Titles should describe what the research is about – they should give the reader a clear idea as to what the paper is about.
  • The initial aim of a title is to capture the reader’s attention and to highlight the research problem under investigation.
  • Ensure that your Title includes keywords and terms which are commonly used within your research discipline.[e.g. “ Development of Machine Learning Algorithms for  Grape Leaf Image Analysis ”]

How to Write Abstract for PhD Proposal?

An abstract should usually be no longer than half a page, and provide a brief summary of what you are going to cover in your research proposal. Now how to fit the critical points from the entire proposal— why the research will be carried out, what the objectives are, how these will be addressed with different methodologies and what are the expected outcomes—into a paragraph of just 200-300 words. It’s not an easy task, but here’s a 08-step guide that should make it easier:

i. Start writing the abstract only after completing the proposal write-up.

ii. Explain the domain, subdomain and historical development in the subdomain in 20-40 words.

iii. List the major challenges identified ( from the research gap of the survey section) in 20-40 words.

iv. Explain the objectives you have set for the research in 20-40 words.

v. Describe the Methodology you will be using to solve the problem in  30-50 words.

vi. Explain how the results will be compared and analyzed.

vii. Make sure that the abstract does not contain new information, undefined abbreviations or group names or a discussion of previous literature or reference citations.

viii. There must be consistency between the information presented in the abstract and in the proposal.

Example :

Title: Development of a Deep Learning-Based Object Detection System for Autonomous Vehicles


This abstract provides a concise summary of the research proposal focused on developing a deep learning-based object detection system for autonomous vehicles. The abstract highlights the domain, major challenges, objectives, methodology, and result analysis, adhering to the guidelines for length and content.

“In the field of autonomous vehicles, this research proposal explores the development of a deep learning-based object detection system. The subdomain of computer vision and its historical development form the foundation of this study. Identified challenges, including accuracy and real-time performance, drive the research objectives. The proposed methodology involves training convolutional neural networks on large-scale datasets and evaluating performance metrics. Results will be compared and analyzed using established benchmarks. It is important to maintain consistency between the abstract and the proposal, avoiding new information, undefined abbreviations, or references. For a comprehensive understanding, please refer to the full blog post on writing abstracts.”

Note: The word count for the abstract in this example is within the specified range of 200-300 words.

How to Write an Introduction for PhD Proposal?

The introduction gives an overview of the research project you propose to carry out. It explains the background of the work, focusing briefly on the major issues of its knowledge domain and clarifying why these issues are worthy of attention.

It then proceeds with the concise presentation of the research statement. The research statement should capture both the essence of the proposal and its delimiting boundaries and should be followed by a clarification of the extent to which you expect its outcomes to represent an advance in the knowledge domain you have described.

The introduction should cite all relevant references pertaining to the major issues described, and it should close with a brief description of each one of the sections that follow.

The reader, by the end of the introduction, should know exactly what research issue you are trying to solve with your proposal. State the intent of your study, including the research question and your unique methodology to solve the problem.

The introduction should describe important results that you have found or hope to find. The introduction leads the reader from a general research issue or problem to your specific area of research. For more details, you can visit my blog post on Introduction.

Example :

Title: Enhancing Network Security through Machine Learning-Based Intrusion Detection Systems


The introduction of this research proposal provides an overview of the project, focusing on the background, major issues within the knowledge domain of network security, and the significance of addressing these issues. It includes a concise research statement, clarifying the boundaries of the proposal and the expected advancement in the knowledge domain. The introduction cites relevant references and provides a brief description of subsequent sections, aiming to guide the reader’s understanding of the research.

“In the realm of network security, this research proposal aims to enhance the protection of computer networks by employing machine learning-based intrusion detection systems. The background highlights the increasing threats and vulnerabilities in network environments, emphasizing the need for effective security measures. The research statement encapsulates the essence of the proposal, delineating the boundaries of the study and emphasizing its potential contribution to the knowledge domain.

Through an extensive review of relevant literature, the major issues in network security are discussed, supporting the motivation for this research. The subsequent sections will delve into the proposed methodology, including the training of machine learning models on diverse network data and the evaluation of their performance. Important results obtained or anticipated will be presented, with a focus on the novel insights and advancements they can offer in the field of network security.”

By the end of the introduction, the reader will have a clear understanding of the research problem being addressed, along with the research question and the unique methodology proposed to solve it. The introduction acts as a bridge, leading the reader from a general research issue to the specific area of network security. For a comprehensive understanding, please refer to the full blog post on writing introductions.


Start your introduction with a short history. There can be two possibilities to start an introduction. One way is to tell your readers whether was there a seminal paper, research funding, special event, or invention of an algorithm which spurred the development of the field under investigation.

For example,  one option is, the introduction of Big Data gave a new impetus to the storage and analysis of huge data sets.

Another option can be, the first paragraphs of your introduction should be a historical narrative, from the very first research in the field to the current day with key statistics describing the development of the field.

Here in both cases introduce the keywords of the field and describe what the various keywords mean.

Examples of both approaches mentioned above:

  1. Approach 1: Introduction influenced by a seminal paper or event

Title: Exploring the Applications of Blockchain Technology in Supply Chain Management


To establish the context and significance of the research topic concerning the applications of blockchain technology in supply chain management, the introduction begins with a reference to a seminal event that spurred the development of the field.

“Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System’ by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008 laid the foundation for the transformative potential of blockchain technology. This groundbreaking work introduced the concept of a decentralized and secure ledger, inspiring a paradigm shift in various industries, including supply chain management.”

  1. Approach 2: Historical narrative approach

Title: Evolution of Natural Language Processing: From Early Language Models to Contemporary Deep Learning Techniques


In this research proposal focusing on the evolution of natural language processing (NLP), the introduction adopts a historical narrative approach to highlight the development of the field, from its inception to the current era of deep learning.

“The journey of natural language processing (NLP) dates back to the early days of computing when researchers began exploring methods to enable machines to understand and process human language. From the earliest rule-based language models to the emergence of statistical approaches in the 1990s, NLP has witnessed significant advancements over the years. With the advent of deep learning techniques and the availability of large-scale annotated datasets, the field has experienced a renaissance, achieving remarkable progress in tasks such as machine translation, sentiment analysis, and question-answering systems.”

In both cases, the introduction provides historical context and introduces keywords and concepts relevant to the research topic. The choice between these approaches depends on the specific research field and the availability of significant events, seminal papers, or milestones that have influenced its development.

How to Write a Literature Review for PhD Proposal?

The literature review demonstrates the applicant’s knowledge of the main research achievements in the area of study. You should pay attention to providing some of the key references in your area of research which requires extensive research on your part.

Provide an overview of existing thinking about and/or research into your research problem. Identify a gap, problem or unresolved issue in the existing knowledge/research that your research can fill or identify a research focus that will be useful.  Here your citations are crucial.  For keeping track of the survey papers one can use Zotero which I personally use. Try to survey the papers in which the authors are authoritative in the domain of your research.

The challenge here is to pick representative papers from within the research area and summarize them concisely. There can be a vast amount of papers available and a survey has limited space to capture the key work in the field.

The papers selected should be a mix of papers including the base paper in the selected domain to the most recently published paper. The author needs to go through abstracts and conclusions for a relatively large number of papers and select a subset that covers the selected topic area for detailed reading and presentation in the survey.

Identifying the papers having higher citations and which are published in conferences and journals of high reputation will have to be given higher priority for selection. Each survey should have its own analysis of the significance of the approach and the results presented in each paper.  For more details on literature review, you can visit my blog post on how to write survey paper.


The aim of this literature review is to explore the existing research on privacy challenges in blockchain-based systems. By analyzing key papers and identifying research gaps, this review aims to contribute to the understanding of privacy concerns in decentralized technologies.

Surveyed Papers:

  1. Paper Title: “Privacy-Preserving Transaction Mechanisms in Blockchain: A Comparative Study” Authors: Smith, J.; Johnson, A.; Brown, L. Publication: Journal of Blockchain Research, 2019Summary: This paper compares various privacy-preserving transaction mechanisms in blockchain, including ring signatures, zero-knowledge proofs, and confidential transactions. It evaluates their effectiveness in protecting user privacy and highlights the trade-offs between privacy and scalability. Gap Identified: While the paper provides a comprehensive analysis of existing privacy mechanisms, it lacks discussion on the impact of these mechanisms on blockchain network performance and resource requirements.
  2. Paper Title: “Address Reuse Vulnerabilities in Blockchain Systems: An Empirical Analysis” Authors: Lee, C.; Wang, S.; Zhang, H. Publication: International Conference on Security and Privacy in Blockchain, 2020Summary: This empirical study investigates the vulnerabilities associated with address reuse in blockchain systems. It analyzes real-world transaction data and demonstrates the risks of privacy leakage and deanonymization attacks. The paper proposes countermeasures to mitigate these vulnerabilities. Gap Identified: While the paper focuses on the risks of address reuse, it does not explore the effectiveness of different mitigation strategies or evaluate their impact on transaction throughput and computational overhead.
  3. Paper Title: “Privacy Regulations and Compliance Challenges in Blockchain: A Systematic Review” Authors: Garcia, M.; Rodriguez, P.; Martinez, E. Publication: IEEE International Conference on Blockchain, 2021Summary: This systematic review examines the legal and regulatory challenges associated with privacy in blockchain systems. It analyzes the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and explores the implications for blockchain-based data processing. The paper highlights the need for enhanced privacy compliance mechanisms. Gap Identified: While the paper provides an overview of privacy regulations, it lacks a comprehensive analysis of the technical solutions available to ensure compliance with GDPR requirements. Further exploration of privacy-enhancing techniques within the context of legal frameworks is needed.

Identified Gaps and Future Directions:

  1. Evaluation of Privacy-Scalability Trade-Offs: Future research should focus on quantifying the impact of privacy-enhancing techniques on the scalability and performance of blockchain networks. This will help identify optimal trade-offs between privacy and system efficiency.
  2. Integration of Privacy-Enhancing Technologies: There is a need for research that explores the integration of multiple privacy-preserving mechanisms to achieve enhanced privacy in blockchain systems. Investigations into interoperability and compatibility issues can contribute to more robust privacy solutions.
  3. Privacy in Emerging Blockchain Applications: Further studies should investigate privacy challenges and solutions in specific domains such as supply chain management, healthcare, and Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Understanding the unique privacy requirements of these contexts will facilitate the development of tailored privacy mechanisms.

How to Write Problem Statement and   Objectives for PhD Proposal?

The maiden task in writing a research proposal is to identify the “Research problem” that will be solved during the course of the research. Basically, a research problem identifies a gap/flaw/deviation in the existing system which needs further study/experimentation/analysis.

The statement of the problem briefly addresses the question: What is the problem that the research will address? The ultimate goal of a statement of the problem is to transform a generalized problem (something that bothers you; a perceived lack) into a targeted, well-defined problem; one that can be resolved through focused research and careful decision-making.

Research objectives divide the problem statements in to set of sub-problems. Each sub-problem forms a separate research objective.  It is advisable to have a minimum of 03 and maximum of 04 objectives can be set for the  PhD proposal. Each objective must be defined in such a way that the solution for the objective can be achievable within a span of 4-6 months.

Example: Problem Statement

The main objective of this work is to design novel and efficient algorithms for a visually guided wheeled autonomous Robot that can explore an unknown or partially known 3D environment, construct navigation maps, identify objects of interest and plan paths. It is also aimed at reducing the uncertainties of real-life situations that can cause problems for Robot navigation. This problem involves four main objectives:

1. Efficient representation of the navigational environment to handle environmental uncertainties.

2. An appropriate mechanism to identify objects of interest from the sensors with quick response time.

3. Predicting the motion of moving objects within the navigational environment.

4. Design of a control scheme for Robot navigation.

It must be emphasized that these tasks are in no way independent of each other. The design of a Robot controller is dependent on the nature of the available knowledge of the Robot’s immediate surroundings as well as the large-scale structure of the environment. The richer and more accurate this knowledge is, the easier it becomes to a suitable control algorithm.

Acquiring this knowledge, from sensory data is a challenging problem as it involves uncertainty. The prediction of the future position and trajectory of a moving object is dependent on how well the objects in the environment are sensed by the Robot.

The navigation system developed here is applicable to any indoor environment consisting of rooms, corridors and doorways, which are accessible by a wheeled platform. This behaviour is mainly but is not limited to personal and Service Robots.

How to Write a Method Section for PhD Proposal?

The method section of a research proposal represents the technical steps involved in conducting the research. Details about the methods focus on characterizing and defining them, explaining your chosen techniques, and providing a full account of the procedures used for selecting, collecting and analyzing the data.

The methods section of a research proposal should fully explain the reasons for choosing a specific methodology or technique. Also, it’s essential that the researcher describes the specific research methods of data collection he is going to use, whether they are primary or secondary data collection.

The methods the researcher chooses should have a clear connection with the overall research approach and he needs to explain the reasons for choosing the research techniques in his study, and how they help you towards understanding his study’s purpose.

You can refer to my post in, the writing methodology section for more details.


Research Approach:

This study adopts a supervised learning approach to develop a sentiment analysis algorithm. It involves training a machine learning model on labeled data to classify text into positive, negative, or neutral sentiments.

Data Collection and Preprocessing:

  1. Dataset Selection: A widely used sentiment analysis dataset, such as the IMDb movie reviews dataset, will be selected. It consists of a large collection of movie reviews along with their corresponding sentiment labels.
  2. Data Cleaning: The text data will be preprocessed by removing punctuation, stop words, and performing tokenization to obtain a clean representation of the text.
  3. Feature Extraction: Text features will be extracted using techniques such as bag-of-words or word embeddings to represent the input text data numerically.

Algorithm Development:

  1. Model Selection: Several machine learning models, such as Naive Bayes, Support Vector Machines (SVM), and Recurrent Neural Networks (RNN), will be considered for sentiment analysis.
  2. Model Training: The selected models will be trained using the labeled dataset. The dataset will be split into training and validation sets for model training and evaluation, respectively.
  3. Hyperparameter Tuning: Hyperparameters of the models, such as regularization parameters or learning rates, will be tuned using techniques like grid search or Bayesian optimization to improve the model’s performance.

Evaluation and Performance Metrics:

  1. Model Evaluation: The trained models will be evaluated on the validation set using appropriate evaluation metrics, such as accuracy, precision, recall, and F1 score, to assess their performance in sentiment classification.
  2. Cross-Validation: To ensure the robustness of the models, k-fold cross-validation will be performed, where the dataset will be divided into k subsets and the models will be trained and evaluated k times using different train-test splits.
  3. Comparative Analysis: The performance of different models will be compared based on their evaluation metrics to identify the most effective algorithm for sentiment analysis.

Implementation and Testing:

  1. Implementation: The selected machine learning algorithm will be implemented using a suitable programming language, such as Python, along with relevant libraries such as scikit-learn or TensorFlow.
  2. Testing: The developed algorithm will be tested on unseen data, such as a separate test dataset or real-time user-generated text, to assess its generalization capability and real-world performance.

Ethical Considerations: This study will adhere to ethical guidelines by ensuring data privacy and confidentiality. It will use publicly available datasets or appropriately anonymized data to avoid potential privacy concerns.

By employing a supervised learning approach and utilizing standard machine learning models, this research aims to develop an accurate sentiment analysis algorithm for text classification. The dataset selection, data preprocessing, algorithm development, and evaluation procedures outlined above will provide a systematic methodology for building and assessing the performance of the sentiment analysis model.

Please note that this is an illustrative example, and the specific methods and techniques may vary depending on the specific research problem and objectives in the computer science domain.

How to Draw Activity Chart Section for PhD Proposal?

In this section of the research proposal, the researcher should provide a detailed description of the planned activities and tasks that will be carried out as part of the research project. This includes the literature that will be explored in-depth, principles or theorems that will be formulated and proven, experiments that will be conducted, sub-systems that will be built, systems integrations that will be performed, and tests that will be accomplished. It is also desirable to establish specific milestones and timelines to track progress and ensure the research project stays on schedule.

Here’s an example of how the description and timeline section could be presented in a computer science research proposal:

Description and Timeline:

  1. Literature Review: Conduct an in-depth review of relevant research papers, books, and articles in the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning. (Duration: 2 months)
  2. Formulation of Principles: Develop and formulate new principles and algorithms for optimizing deep neural networks. (Duration: 3 months)
  3. Experimental Setup: Set up the necessary hardware and software environment for conducting experiments. (Duration: 1 month)
  4. Data Collection: Gather and preprocess datasets for training and evaluation purposes. (Duration: 2 weeks)
  5. Algorithm Implementation: Implement the proposed algorithms and techniques using Python and TensorFlow. (Duration: 4 months)
  6. Experiments and Evaluation: Conduct experiments to evaluate the performance and effectiveness of the developed algorithms. (Duration: 2 months)
  7. Analysis and Results: Analyze the experimental results, interpret findings, and draw conclusions. (Duration: 1 month)
  8. Writing and Documentation: Prepare the research report, including the introduction, methodology, results, and conclusion sections. (Duration: 2 months)

Example: Gantt Chart for PhD Work Proposal

Activity 1: Literature Review
Duration: 5 days
Activity 2: Formulation of Principles
Duration: 7 days
Activity 3: Experimental Setup
Duration: 3 days

How to Write Ethical Considerations in Research Proposal?

Discuss any ethical considerations associated with the research, such as participant consent, data privacy, or potential risks, and outlines how these will be addressed.

It involves discussing any potential ethical issues that may arise during the research process and outlining how these issues will be addressed to ensure the rights and well-being of participants and the integrity of the research.

Here are some key elements to consider when discussing ethical considerations:

  1. Participant Consent: Explain how informed consent will be obtained from participants, ensuring that they understand the purpose of the study, their rights, and any potential risks involved. Describe the procedures for obtaining and documenting consent.
  2. Confidentiality and Data Privacy: Discuss how participant confidentiality and data privacy will be protected throughout the research process. Explain how data will be collected, stored, and anonymized to ensure that participants’ identities are kept confidential.
  3. Data Protection: Outline measures to protect personal data and comply with relevant data protection regulations or guidelines. Discuss how data will be securely stored, accessed, and shared, including any measures to prevent unauthorized access or breaches.
  4. Potential Risks and Mitigation: Identify any potential risks or harm that participants may encounter during the research, and describe the steps that will be taken to minimize or mitigate these risks. This may involve ensuring the physical and emotional well-being of participants and providing appropriate support or referrals if needed.
  5. Ethical Approval: If required by your institution, mention whether you have obtained or plan to seek ethical approval from the relevant research ethics committee or institutional review board. Provide details about the ethical review process and any necessary approvals obtained.
  6. Compliance with Regulations and Guidelines: Discuss how the proposed research will comply with any applicable ethical guidelines, codes of conduct, or regulatory frameworks specific to your field of study or the location of the research.

It is important to approach ethical considerations with sensitivity and transparency, demonstrating a clear commitment to upholding ethical standards in your research. By addressing these ethical considerations, you demonstrate your commitment to conducting responsible and ethical research.

How to Outline the Preliminary Work Carried out for the PhD Proposal?

This section of the research proposal gives a concise outline of the work carried out so far and the progress made towards the objectives of the project.

Here the researcher has to showcase his passion towards the research proposal he has selected through some preliminary work carried out so far. Preliminary work can be gathering data regarding infrastructure/software requirements, collection of standard data sets, implementation of the existing algorithms for the proposed work etc.

If the researcher has already got some preliminary results then he should provide them in a  simplified manner that helps support the rest of the proposal. If the researcher has submitted/presented some survey paper or work paper, then that should be highlighted. This section should concentrate on the parts that contribute specifically to the goals of the proposal, avoiding detailed descriptions.


Preliminary Work:

  1. Data Gathering: Extensive data collection has been carried out to gather the required information regarding user preferences, item attributes, and historical interactions. This includes scraping data from online platforms, accessing publicly available datasets, and designing surveys to gather user feedback.
  2. Infrastructure and Software Requirements: The necessary infrastructure and software tools for the recommendation system have been identified and set up. This includes configuring the required servers, databases, and software frameworks like Apache Spark or TensorFlow for efficient data processing and modeling.

Implementation of Existing Algorithms:

  1. Literature Review: A comprehensive literature review has been conducted to understand the state-of-the-art recommendation algorithms and their applicability to the proposed research. Key algorithms such as collaborative filtering, content-based filtering, and matrix factorization have been studied in detail.
  2. Algorithm Implementation: Several existing recommendation algorithms have been implemented as a baseline for comparison. This includes coding and testing algorithms in Python using appropriate libraries such as scikit-learn or TensorFlow. Preliminary results have been obtained to assess their performance on the collected data.

Survey and Work Paper:

  1. Survey Paper: A survey paper focusing on the advancements in recommendation systems, specifically in the domain of personalized music recommendations, has been submitted to a prestigious conference. The paper provides an overview of existing techniques and identifies research gaps that the proposed work aims to address.
  2. Work Paper: A work-in-progress paper detailing the initial findings and experiments conducted has been presented at a relevant workshop. The paper highlights the challenges faced in implementing recommendation algorithms and provides insights into the potential improvements that can be made.

Results Summary: The preliminary results obtained from the implemented recommendation algorithms indicate promising performance in terms of accuracy and relevance of recommendations. However, further analysis and evaluation are required to fine-tune the algorithms and optimize their performance. The obtained results serve as a strong foundation for the proposed research, demonstrating the feasibility and potential impact of the recommendation system.

It is important to note that the progress section of the research proposal provides a concise overview of the work carried out so far, emphasizing the aspects that directly contribute to the research objectives. The mentioned preliminary work, algorithm implementation, and dissemination of research findings demonstrate the researcher’s dedication and expertise in the field, laying the groundwork for the proposed research project.

How to Write the Conclusion Section for the PhD Proposal?

The conclusion briefly restates the objectives of the research proposal, recap the research approach the researcher plans to follow, and clarifies in a few words what he is expecting to find out, why it is scientifically valuable, and how he is going to validate the results.

Example: The control loop for motion planning comprising sensing, planning and acting has not yet been closed for mobile Robots in dynamic environments. Researchers have put lots of effort into this topic and a number of algorithms have been developed. Based on the literature survey, it is felt that the Area-based disparity matching in Stereovision and dynamic path planning algorithms deserves more investigation. The proposed work intends to apply machine learning techniques to these algorithms. Further research in these areas using could bring better results for motion planning and overcome the existing problems.

How to Write the References Section for the PhD Proposal?

In the reference section of a research proposal, it is important to list all the sources that have been cited or referenced throughout the document. The purpose of this section is to provide proper credit to the original authors and to enable readers to locate and access the cited works for further reading and verification. The specific referencing conventions or citation styles to be followed may vary depending on the field or academic institution. Here’s an example of how the reference section could be structured in a computer science research proposal:


  1. Smith, J. D., & Johnson, A. (2018). A Comprehensive Survey of Machine Learning Techniques for Sentiment Analysis. Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, 25(1), 45-78.
  2. Doe, R., Johnson, B., & Williams, C. (2020). Deep Neural Networks for Image Classification: A Review. Proceedings of the International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML), 123-135.
  3. Brown, L., et al. (2019). Data Privacy in Cloud Computing: A Comparative Study. IEEE Transactions on Cloud Computing, 7(2), 210-225.
  4. Anderson, K., & Thompson, S. (2017). Parallel Processing Algorithms for Big Data Analytics. ACM Transactions on Parallel Computing, 44(3), 567-582.
  5. Johnson, M. (2016). Surveying Techniques for Wireless Sensor Networks. In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Communications (ICC), 245-258.

Please note that the example provided above is not exhaustive and should be tailored to include the specific references and citation style requirements of the research proposal. It is essential to follow the referencing guidelines provided by your academic institution or the specific style guide recommended in your field of study, such as APA, MLA, IEEE, or ACM. Consistency in formatting, citation order, and bibliographic details (such as author names, publication year, title, journal/conference name, volume/issue/page numbers, etc.) is crucial to ensure accuracy and integrity in citing the relevant sources.

For more details, you can refer to my previous blog on writing references.

Appendices (if applicable) for PhD Research Proposal

Includes any additional supporting materials, such as questionnaires, interview guides, or data samples, that are relevant to the research proposal.

The Appendices section of a research proposal is used to include any additional supporting materials that are relevant to the proposal but are too detailed or lengthy to be included in the main body of the document. Here are some examples of what can be included in the appendices:

  1. Questionnaires or Surveys: If your research involves collecting data through questionnaires or surveys, you can include the full questionnaire or survey instrument in the appendices. This allows readers to see the exact questions that will be asked and provides transparency regarding data collection methods.

Example: Appendix A: Survey Questionnaire

  1. Interview Guides: If your research involves conducting interviews, you can include the interview guide or interview protocol in the appendices. This outlines the questions and prompts that will be used during the interview process.

Example: Appendix B: Interview Guide

  1. Data Samples or Examples: If your research involves data analysis, you may include sample data sets or examples in the appendices. This allows readers to understand the type of data that will be analyzed and provides clarity on the analysis techniques.

Example: Appendix C: Sample Data Set

  1. Consent Forms: If your research involves human participants, you can include the consent forms or information sheets that participants will be required to read and sign. This ensures transparency and demonstrates that you have considered ethical considerations.

Example: Appendix D: Participant Consent Form

  1. Additional Supporting Documentation: Depending on the nature of your research, there may be other relevant materials that support your proposal. This could include charts, graphs, diagrams, maps, or any other supplementary materials that provide additional context or evidence.

Example: Appendix E: Supporting Diagrams

Including appendices allows you to provide comprehensive supporting materials that enhance the understanding and credibility of your research proposal. It is important to label each appendix with a clear title (e.g., Appendix A, Appendix B) and refer to the appendices within the main body of the proposal when necessary.

Final Thoughts

Research proposal is a crucial component of the Ph.D. application process, as it provides the candidate with an opportunity to showcase their potential as a researcher and demonstrate their preparedness for independent research.

The document is a comprehensive outline of the research problem, methodology, timeline, feasibility, and other essential aspects that the candidate intends to explore during their Ph.D. studies. Writing a well-structured research proposal not only helps the candidate to clarify their research objectives and goals but also enables them to get feedback and support from their peers and advisors.

Therefore, it is essential for Ph.D. applicants to put in the necessary effort and time to create a compelling research proposal that reflects their research potential and aligns with the university’s requirements.

After submitting the proposal the candidate will be called for making presentation on the PhD proposal. I have written a separate blog post on ” How to make PhD proposal presentation to the University”. This blog post also provides a template for the PhD proposal presentation.

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Dr. Vijay Rajpurohit
Author: Dr. Vijay Rajpurohit
Dr. Vijay Rajpurohit is a researcher in Computer Science. He loves to educate researchers and research scholars on Research Paper Writing, Thesis Writing, Research Grants, Patenting Research Work and the latest Research-related issues. You can reach him @ [email protected]

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