Time needed to write a research proposal - PhD? Watch

alint
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Hi,

Does anyone know how long it takes to write a research proposal for a PhD application? Any difference for Oxbridge applications?

My desired research area is within the field of International Relations, though, I would be very grateful for general opinions from other social science disciplines.

Thank you.
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PhoenixFortune
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(Original post by alint)
Hi,

Does anyone know how long it takes to write a research proposal for a PhD application? Any difference for Oxbridge applications?

My desired research area is within the field of International Relations, though, I would be very grateful for general opinions from other social science disciplines.

Thank you.
Depends how good you want it to be. :teehee:

Seriously though, some websites say to research, write, rewrite, edit, and submit a strong proposal should take about 2-3 months. This will vary though, depending on when your application deadlines are (and how late you've left the writing process), and the amount of words/pages you are allowed. IMO, shorter proposals usually take longer, as they require more refining and making sure it's straight to the point. Also, if you are in contact with a potential supervisor/academic who is willing to give you feedback on it, the time it will take for them to read it and get back to you needs to be considered too (they are very busy people after all).

My proposal this year took just under 2 months to write (not including research) and it was 1000 words.
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alint
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(Original post by PhoenixFortune)
Depends how good you want it to be. :teehee:

Seriously though, some websites say to research, write, rewrite, edit, and submit a strong proposal should take about 2-3 months. This will vary though, depending on when your application deadlines are (and how late you've left the writing process), and the amount of words/pages you are allowed. IMO, shorter proposals usually take longer, as they require more refining and making sure it's straight to the point. Also, if you are in contact with a potential supervisor/academic who is willing to give you feedback on it, the time it will take for them to read it and get back to you needs to be considered too (they are very busy people after all).

My proposal this year took just under 2 months to write (not including research) and it was 1000 words.
Thank you for your answer

May I please also ask, how many hours did you spend daily/weekly writing on it during these 2 months?

And, if you also consider the literature research, how long did it take to have it done, from the very beginning to the final version of the proposal?
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alint
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Anything wrong with my question?...

To my background: I will start a Master's in International Relations in September. However, as deadlines for PhD applications are quite soon, i.e. starting from December/January, I intended to begin now doing the literature research and slowly prepare my research proposal.

I currently do not have any field knowledge. I come from a different background than IR, however still within social sciences.
I hoped someone could tell how long it actually takes to prepare the research proposal, including literature research and writing the proposal. In this way, I could have an idea about whether I have enough time until the deadline.

Thank you
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DrSocSciences
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If you work systematically and methodically, noting your key references and mapping the existing knowledge as you immerse yourself in your topic, 3 months is a reasonable timeframe. I’d allocate at least 3 weeks of your time to an intense phase of acquiring subject knowledge, to inform your literature review, followed by drafting your objectives, rationale and proposed methodology. It’s an iterative rather than linear process, which is why it’s so time-consuming. Three concerns though: will you have proper access to full online sources? Secondly, in my view, it’s ambitious to draft a PhD proposal before your Masters is underway: there’s a certain clarity and precision of thinking and register of language that is a huge step up from undergraduate standards. And finally, if it’s a competitive application, for a funded PhD, I’d recommend that you don’t apply this year, as you’d be competing with others who may have already completed their Masters in this field, whereas you have zero base knowledge and only a few weeks to acquire an informed, focused view.
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alint
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(Original post by DrSocSciences)
If you work systematically and methodically, noting your key references and mapping the existing knowledge as you immerse yourself in your topic, 3 months is a reasonable timeframe. I’d allocate at least 3 weeks of your time to an intense phase of acquiring subject knowledge, to inform your literature review, followed by drafting your objectives, rationale and proposed methodology. It’s an iterative rather than linear process, which is why it’s so time-consuming. Two concerns though: will you have proper access to full online sources? And secondly, in my view, it’s ambitious to draft a PhD proposal before your Masters is underway: there’s a certain clarity and precision of thinking and register of language that is a huge step up from undergraduate standards. If it’s a competitive application, for a funded PhD, I’d recommend that you don’t apply this year, as you’d be competing with others who may have already completed their Masters in this field, whereas you have zero base knowledge and only a few weeks to acquire an informed, focused view.
Thank you very much for the detailed answer I will definitely take into consideration each of the aspects mentioned. Thank you
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threeportdrift
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(Original post by alint)
Thank you very much for the detailed answer I will definitely take into consideration each of the aspects mentioned. Thank you
Alternatively, I wrote my Masters research proposal for Cambridge, coming from a different background, in about 8 hours. I'd only read one IR book before, there was no literature element. I just had an interesting research question which clearly hadn't been asked before and was timely, and I wrote a standard business plan structure around that, ie what my resources would be, how I could access them, how the argument might flow, barring the conclusion, the time plan etc. I got a place. I guess I spent maybe 20 hour in total on my PhD proposal, same deal, on point question, clear plan as to the resources, 3 different options s to the approach to take and how I might decide them in the 1st year etc. Got an offer both times. It really doesn't have to a massive research piece, it just has to contain a question that needs answering and a decent plan as to how you are going to answer it.
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DrSocSciences
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(Original post by threeportdrift)
Alternatively, I wrote my Masters research proposal for Cambridge, coming from a different background, in about 8 hours. I'd only read one IR book before, there was no literature element. I just had an interesting research question which clearly hadn't been asked before and was timely, and I wrote a standard business plan structure around that, ie what my resources would be, how I could access them, how the argument might flow, barring the conclusion, the time plan etc. I got a place. I guess I spent maybe 20 hour in total on my PhD proposal, same deal, on point question, clear plan as to the resources, 3 different options s to the approach to take and how I might decide them in the 1st year etc. Got an offer both times. It really doesn't have to a massive research piece, it just has to contain a question that needs answering and a decent plan as to how you are going to answer it.
To be fair, you wrote your PhD proposal after completing your Masters, rather than as an undergrad of a different subject discipline, so you already had a superior level of knowledge and academic attainment to the OP.
Last edited by DrSocSciences; 8 months ago
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alint
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(Original post by threeportdrift)
Alternatively, I wrote my Masters research proposal for Cambridge, coming from a different background, in about 8 hours. I'd only read one IR book before, there was no literature element. I just had an interesting research question which clearly hadn't been asked before and was timely, and I wrote a standard business plan structure around that, ie what my resources would be, how I could access them, how the argument might flow, barring the conclusion, the time plan etc. I got a place. I guess I spent maybe 20 hour in total on my PhD proposal, same deal, on point question, clear plan as to the resources, 3 different options s to the approach to take and how I might decide them in the 1st year etc. Got an offer both times. It really doesn't have to a massive research piece, it just has to contain a question that needs answering and a decent plan as to how you are going to answer it.
(Original post by DrSocSciences)
To be fair, you wrote your PhD proposal after completing your Masters, rather than as an undergrad of a different subject discipline, so you already had a superior level of knowledge and academic attainment to the OP.
Thank you very much for all the feedback and suggestions
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