MPhil/PhD Research Opportunities in Architecture

PhD Proposal Guidelines

A research proposal is a very important part of the MPhil/PhD application. It provides the basis for decision-making by the School and also helps to ensure that you will be assigned the most appropriate supervisory team. The proposal serves a useful role in focusing your early research activity as well as discussions with your supervisors. Research in the School varies considerably so we do not insist that you adhere to a precise format. However, these guidelines are designed to help you provide the information the School needs to evaluate your PhD proposal. All proposals aim to answer basic questions about your intended research – What is your research focus? Who else has addressed similar research issues or concerns and how will your intended research build upon or critique existing sources? How will your research be carried out? And what do you expect will be the ultimate value or significance of your research findings? The proposal should contain the following:

Working title:

Begin with a provisional working title. A working title should be descriptive, concise and informative, but it should not be restrictive. Prepare a working title that that clearly sets out the focus of your research and the research questions to be addressed.

Research problem(s): 

What is the proposed research trying to achieve and why is it important? Clearly define the problem(s) you intend to explore, highlighting the key issues to be investigated. Include a justification for why the problem is important in relation to your own practice or discipline and worth exploring in a wider academic context. Also indicate the scope of the research, remembering to limit your research to something feasible.

Research questions and objectives:

Provide a succinct research question or set of questions that will serve as a focus for the research and guide investigative activity. We fully understand that your research questions may be amplified, altered or shift in focus during the three years of your research programme. Questions may be used to develop a tentative proposition which may be used as the basis for an argument. Research questions should be formulated with care and precision. Objectives are specific actions or goals that enable you to achieve your aim(s). It is advisable to limit your objectives to three or four.

Context for the research: 

How has the work of others helped shape or inform your research questions? Why is the topic of interest to you and to the wider research community? Locate your proposal within the context of relevant existing research. Context includes both the current state of knowledge and debates within your particular field of enquiry. Show that you are familiar with some (not necessarily all) of the theories, works, practices or other sources that are relevant to the research you want to undertake. You may need to draw on literature from several fields to demonstrate where your project is situated. In the case of research, questions which will serve to expand your own practice must reference wider areas of theoretical, philosophical or historical debate, and/or relate to comparative practices of other practitioners.

Possible research methodology:

How will you go about doing your research? Describe the methods, approaches and/or procedures that are most suitable for you to use in addressing your research problem or questions. Explain and justify the practical, conceptual and/or theoretical framework that you will employ.

Resources and support:

State what specific resources you will need to complete the project. These could include studio space, specific equipment or facilities, access to libraries or collections, specialist materials, software or other information resources.

Research outcomes:

Provide a clear description of the anticipated product(s) of your research, particularly specifying the balance of textual material and, in the case of practitice research, other outcomes such as constructed objects or art-works, exhibitions, displays, films and/or videos.

Contribution to knowledge:

Indicate the potential contribution your research will make in your field of enquiry. How will your research fill gaps in existing research, re-interpret, re-contextualise and/or extend knowledge or understanding in your research domain?

Provisional timeline:

Set out the proposed stages of the research project keeping in mind the duration of a PhD is three years full-time. The timeline should be as specific as possible. It should identify goals and milestones in the project and estimate the time required to complete each component of the proposed work.


Include a working bibliography, in a recognised academic format, of up-to-date scholarship in your subject area. This should consist of more than references cited in the proposal; it should also demonstrate the breadth of your previous research in the field and suggest the parameters of the project.

When you have finished writing your proposal, ask yourself the following questions:

Do you have valid and appropriate research questions for which research sources are available?

Does your proposal show that your intended research is appropriately grounded - does it show how the work of others was influential in shaping or informing your research questions?

Have you demonstrated that you are fully conversant with the ideas you are dealing with and that you grasp their methodological implications?

Does your proposal clearly articulate the contribution your research results will make to knowledge or understanding in your research domain?