English PhD/DPhil research proposal

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AngloSaxonist
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#1
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Hi all,

I'll be submitting an application for a PhD/DPhil in English for the 2013 entry, and wanted to ask if anyone had advice on writing a good, solid research proposal for the likes of Oxford or Cambridge. I have a first class undergraduate degree in English Literature, plus I've also had conference papers accepted and recently had a piece selected for publication in a print journal. I'm also on the editorial board for an online graduate journal, and will be co-organising an academic conference next year.

But despite the above it nevertheless seems that admission understandably hangs on a great research proposal. As my MA (2012-2013) is a taught program, I've had no experience of writing something like this before.

Is anyone currently on a PhD/DPhil in English at Oxford, Cambridge or elsewhere? If so, do you have any advice on what makes a 'good' research proposal? Oh--as my name suggests--my field (broadly speaking) will be Anglo-Saxon literature and culture.

Thank you in advance for any help offered!
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returnmigrant
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The advice I got from the woman who is now my research supervisor at a top Russell Group Uni (yes, I got in!) was this:

1. Why this subject/area/project/idea?
2. Why this University/Dept?
3. Why me?

Address all three of those questions in a calm, rational way. Make the proposal flow in a logical sequence, but break it up into these three specific areas.

Remember, academic staff are busy people. They dont want to read your life story or anything so dense and complicated they loose interest half-way through. Make it easy for them to pick out the info they want to see. Use bullet points. Use short paragraphs. Make it tight, succinct and relevant.

Good Luck!
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AngloSaxonist
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Thanks--do you not have to go in-depth with your proposed PhD work, though?

I thought research proposals might have to breakdown the three/four years of work, and talk about the content of the PhD--argument, possibly even chapters, etc. Did you not do this in your proposal?

Thanks for your reply.
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nonswimmer
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My proposal, which was for AHRC funding for Humanities project at fairly decent university, was capped at 750 words.

By necessity, it only gave very a brief account of the research and the expected outcomes. Unless you are specifically advised otherwise I can't see a huge benefit in going into the level of detail that you suggest, especially as these are likely to change quite radically during the research process.

Indeed, there is even potential for a proposal that looks so rigid to be a little off-putting. You will need to show that you expect, and can cope with, substantial changes to the shape of your project as the research progresses.

It might be worth asking for some advice from staff in your current department, as well as for some guidance from admissions at your prospective university. They will be able to suggest some basic parameters and asking will not prejudice your application.

I must say, that if you keep up your academic record so far, you will waltz onto a PhD course at a decent university. Funding is always something of a game of chance, but you'll have a good shot there, too. Don't fret about this too much.
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returnmigrant
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Agree entirely with the above re. the nitty-gritty of the actual research topic. I am also currently on an AHRC studentship.

All you have to show is that you have an enthusiasm for and existing knowledge of the 'area' - to the extent that you know what issues/problems etc you might encounter. They arent looking for an in-depth analysis or a blow-by-blow account of how you are going to do it - that can be discussed (vaguely) at interview should you have one.

.
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sll1
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(Original post by AngloSaxonist)
Hi all,

I'll be submitting an application for a PhD/DPhil in English for the 2013 entry, and wanted to ask if anyone had advice on writing a good, solid research proposal for the likes of Oxford or Cambridge. I have a first class undergraduate degree in English Literature, plus I've also had conference papers accepted and recently had a piece selected for publication in a print journal. I'm also on the editorial board for an online graduate journal, and will be co-organising an academic conference next year.

But despite the above it nevertheless seems that admission understandably hangs on a great research proposal. As my MA (2012-2013) is a taught program, I've had no experience of writing something like this before.

Is anyone currently on a PhD/DPhil in English at Oxford, Cambridge or elsewhere? If so, do you have any advice on what makes a 'good' research proposal? Oh--as my name suggests--my field (broadly speaking) will be Anglo-Saxon literature and culture.

Thank you in advance for any help offered!
where are you going to do your MA? Just wondering, as not many MAs offer anglo saxon lit. I'm a fellow medievalist btw.
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AngloSaxonist
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Thanks for the advice nonswimmer and returnmigrant, I'll keep it in mind. Glad to hear that a super in-depth proposal isn't required, as--like you both said--after working through additional reading, the PhD is likely to change somewhat during the first year. I appreciate your words of encouragement, too, nonswimmer.

And Sll1, I'm at The University of Manchester for the MA in English (and American Studies), from September. I studied for my BA (English Literature) there too--the University has offered a number of great early medieval literature courses while I've been there, and the supervision is also available for Anglo-Saxon dissertations. I'll be writing my MA thesis on the Wonders of the East, I think. Glad to hear you're a fellow medievalist!
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evantej
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(Original post by AngloSaxonist)
Hi all,

I'll be submitting an application for a PhD/DPhil in English for the 2013 entry, and wanted to ask if anyone had advice on writing a good, solid research proposal for the likes of Oxford or Cambridge. I have a first class undergraduate degree in English Literature, plus I've also had conference papers accepted and recently had a piece selected for publication in a print journal. I'm also on the editorial board for an online graduate journal, and will be co-organising an academic conference next year.

But despite the above it nevertheless seems that admission understandably hangs on a great research proposal. As my MA (2012-2013) is a taught program, I've had no experience of writing something like this before.

Is anyone currently on a PhD/DPhil in English at Oxford, Cambridge or elsewhere? If so, do you have any advice on what makes a 'good' research proposal? Oh--as my name suggests--my field (broadly speaking) will be Anglo-Saxon literature and culture.

Thank you in advance for any help offered!
I do not know if they still do it or not, but Oxford used to publish successful research proposals on their website for people to look at. Have a look and see if you can find any of them.

Ultimately, a research proposal is just the same as all academic writing. You will have had word limits in the past and you just have to deal with it as best you can this time. Your academics are stellar so I would air on the side of caution and keep your proposal as simple and clear as possible. Given the number of proposals the university will have to read through it is always best to be one of those which did not require a second read for basic comprehension.
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Oxfordagain
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I would recommend contacting an academic in your area of interest at your prospective university. If your potential supervisor is excited about your proposal, he or she will help you hurdle the barriers. That was the case with my DPhil in English I'm starting next month. Of course, I had the good fortune of working with my supervisor with my master's at Oxford. A little incestuous, but, hey, it works for the royals.


This was posted from The Student Room's iPhone/iPad App
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AngloSaxonist
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(Original post by Oxfordagain)
I would recommend contacting an academic in your area of interest at your prospective university. If your potential supervisor is excited about your proposal, he or she will help you hurdle the barriers. That was the case with my DPhil in English I'm starting next month. Of course, I had the good fortune of working with my supervisor with my master's at Oxford. A little incestuous, but, hey, it works for the royals.
Good advice, I'll do that. Cheers.
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englishgalxx
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Hey - Oxford again - would be able to submit a sample of what you wrote? I am applying for a masters in english. I absolutely love english and yet do not have a particular focus I am interested in. I would love to know how specific or broad it should be and how detailed into the research it needs to go. thanks so much!
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