Applying for a Research Degree

How to Apply for PhD Study in Business 

We welcome applications from those wishing to pursue research study at Lincoln International Business School. This page offers some guidelines to applicants - please read through this information in conjunction to the MPhil/PhD course information.

LIBS Research Groups

Before submitting your application we recommend that you take a look at the research groups that sit within Lincoln International Business School, as all research should fit into at least one of these groups.

You should indicate in your application how your proposed research specifically aligns to the interests of a named research group.

Guidelines for Research Degree Proposals

When applying for the MPhil/PhD programme at the University of Lincoln, a research proposal will be an essential part of your application. It will be used to assess both the academic potential of your proposed research and our ability to supervise and support you to a successful completion. The purpose of this document is to guide you in writing a research proposal. We are looking for approximately 3,000-5,000 word research proposal.

What is a Research Proposal

A research proposal sets out:

  • the broad topic you wish to research (substance)
  • the reasons for the research (rationale)
  • what the research hopes to achieve (aims and objectives)
  • how you are going to conduct the research (methodology)
  • how you plan to undertake the research within the time available (outline plan)
  • the expected results in relation to knowledge and understanding in the subject (potential outcomes or contribution to knowledge)

How to Write a Research Proposal

Evaluate the context of your ideas; read widely and relevantly to make sure that your proposal has originality, will add knowledge to the field and builds on existing literature. Then structure your writing as follows:

Context: set the context of your research and explain what you will research, why the research is of value and how you propose to go about it. You also need to demonstrate that your proposed research has a significant contribution to existing bodies of literature. That is, it should explain clearly how your research will either fill a gap, develop, complete or follow on from previous research.

Aim(s) and objectives: outline what you are seeking to achieve. This should provide a clear framework for undertaking the research, so be clear and concise; you cannot cover everything on the topic within a PhD project so be specific about what you are seeking to explore. Typically an overarching aim and up to 5 objectives works well, and then use these to justify the major approaches you will take.

Research questions: This follows from your aims and objectives. Explain the questions you want your research to address. This may include hypotheses you want to test.

Literature review: summarise current literature in your proposed area of research to determine the relevance and value of your research. Importantly, you need to make your contribution clear by demonstrating your knowledge of the literature on your topic and how your research would contribute to it.  It is through the literature review that you lay the foundations for your research questions, by critically evaluating what has already been done, how it could be improved, where the gaps are, or what the new frontiers are that your research will address.

Methodology: given your aims and research questions/objectives, consider your research approach (including your theoretical/conceptual framework), your main research design (e.g. qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods) and the most appropriate research methods for achieving them. Explain why the proposed research method(s) are the most appropriate methodology to effectively address your research questions/objectives. This includes a justification of the methodology by explaining what alternatives have been considered and why these have been disregarded.

Plan: outline the main stages of your research and how you would assess progress throughout the duration of the project. This may be supported by a project plan with indicative milestones presented in the form of a Gantt chart. In project planning, the scheduling of individual activities is typically worked backwards from the deadline. Of course, some tasks have to be carried out consecutively but other tasks can be carried out concurrently.

Outcomes: describe what you hope to discover at the end of your research and what new areas it might open up. This can prove difficult as you cannot know the research findings prior to completion, but there needs to be a range of possible outcomes or contribution to knowledge.

References: include a list all literature sources cited in the proposal using Harvard style of referencing.


Additional Tips

Make the Contribution Clear

This cannot be stressed enough. You need to demonstrate your knowledge of current literature on your topic and how your research would contribute to it. What would your research add to current literature and what would make a unique contribution to research on the topic? To do this, you need to draw on relevant research (not everything ever written on the topic but key articles/texts) and demonstrate critical reflection on this work and how your own study would add to it. 

Have a Good, Specific Title

Be sure to include important key words that relate to your research and make sure your title goes beyond just describing the topic. It should give a clear indication of your approach and research questions.

Define a Clear Aim and Your Objectives

This should provide you with a clear framework for undertaking the research, so be clear and concise. You cannot cover everything on the topic within a PhD so be specific about what you are seeking to explore. Typically an overarching aim and 3 – 5 objectives works well, and then use these to justify the major approaches you will take, in terms of concepts, theory, empirical approach etc.

Have a Strong Research Design and Methodology

Of course, MPhil/ PhD study often evolves as a result of developing the literature review, but having a clear method at the start will help you and potential supervisors determine the viability of your research. Set out in clear terms your overall approach (e.g. will it be mainly qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods research, does it involve primary data collection and if so, what methods will you use?). Justify your approach by engaging in literature on the pros and cons of your specific methodological choices so that you can, for example, justify why survey data might be appropriate, or in-depth interviews are the best approach, or indeed a combination of different methods. Also include a clear timeline for completing these tasks along with the other elements of your PhD (literature review, analysis, writing up etc.). A well-developed methodology section is crucial, so include how you will get the data you require and techniques regarding analysis and a rationale for these choices.

Don't Produce a Proposal for 'Mass Consumption'

If you are applying to multiple institutions make sure you understand and tailor your proposal to the relevant research being undertaken there. Research the University and department you are applying to, its staff and the research they are undertaking related to your topic. Readers can easily spot if a proposal has been produced for mass consumption.

Avoid Plagiarism

This one should be obvious. Make sure that all of your work is your own, written in your own words. You need to ensure that the literature review and the way the contribution is defined and developed, as well as all other elements, are correctly cited using appropriate references and that they are written by you. If not, your application will not succeed.

Let Your Passion for the Topic Shine Through

By constructing a clear and well written proposal, your interest in the topic should be clear. Demonstrate your interest in the topic and what the study aims to achieve – this may include contributions to theory, but might also have practical applications such as recommendations for policy and/or practice.

EU and International Students

EU and International students will require English Language IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in each element, or equivalent. For further information please visit the English requirements page.

Contact Us

Please contact us by email at if you have any further questions before completing an application.