Cambridge PhD Proposal Writing Tips and Guide

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    Cambridge PhD Proposal Writing Tips and Guide

    Post By Admin On 17, May

    Are you thinking to apply for a PhD research programme at Cambridge? You will need to submit a research proposal to the university to complete your research. For crafting an excellent research proposal, it is mandatory to find a compelling research topic, carefully plan and describe your study aims and methods, find the correct references and more. This article will guide you on how to write a top-class Cambridge PhD proposal per the university's instructions and all your queries will be answered. Let's explore the topic further.

    What is a PhD Research Proposal?

    A PhD research proposal is a document that describes your research topic or the questions in detail. It includes a brief outline of what you are planning to research and sheds light on the expected results of your research. You will need to brief your reader about the significance of your research and how it will contribute to your area of study. Each research proposal will look different based on the subject you are studying and the type of research you are planning to undertake.

    What Should Be The Length Of a Cambridge PhD Research Proposal?

    The length of the PhD proposal you will write depends on the nature of the subjects you are studying . If you are asked to submit a research summary for your project, its length, per the University of Cambridge's official guidelines, must be less than 1500 words. However, if you are to submit a well-detailed research proposal, the length of this document will be greater than 1500 words. Footnotes, appendices, figures, tables, etc., are included in this word count, but references or bibliography will be excluded. The department will communicate the actual word count, so you must ensure that you check the instructions that might be sent to you in the applicant's portal.

    Do You Need the Help of a Research Supervisor When Applying for a PhD at Cambridge?

    If you want a particular person to be your PhD supervisor, you can indicate this in the relevant field on the applicant portal. You can also mention their names in the appropriate area if you have more than one preferred PhD advisor. You can leave the supervisor field empty if you do not have a preferred advisor. Finding a supervisor before applying for a PhD at Cambridge is optional.

    Note: It is important to remember that you may not necessarily get the same supervisor (s) appointed by mentioning the name of one or more preferred advisors. The university only accommodates such requests when the availability and compatibility of such academics are established with your proposed research.

    How to Write A Research Proposal for PhD Cambridge?

    The main objective of your Cambridge PhD research proposal is to explain the intent of your research and the need for it. It serves the purpose of convincing potential universities, funders, and supervisors that your research project is worthy of your support. The contents of a research proposal for your PhD proposal depend on your field of study and the research you are undertaking. It also needs to be tailored to the instructions issued by the university you are applying to for writing a PhD research proposal.

    Make sure that you revise your PhD research proposal at least once before submitting it to the relevant authorities, and you should ensure that your document has an academic tone, possess clarity and is factually accurate.

    Structure of a PhD Research Proposal:

    Regardless of the subject you are studying and the type of research you will undertake for your project, there is a general structure you will follow once you start writing your document. Here is a general structure to be followed for a top-class research proposal you should craft when you are applying to Cambridge:


    A research proposal starts with the title of your research project. The title should be descriptive in nature and simple. It should brief the reader about what exactly your research is about and whether it is being performed on realistic grounds or not. If you have not finalised your research topic so far, you can use the initial title of your project. The main research title will probably be changed or modified when your research work progresses, so there will be no need to fret about formulating a "perfect title" for your research at the first step of writing a research proposal.


    This section of your Cambridge PhD proposal should your research project and tell the reader about the initial details. It includes the background and context of the research title and the objectives behind undertaking the research. Apart from this, the following are the points that you should include in your research proposal:

    • The literature review already exists on the research topic
    • Any previous research (if) you have conducted on a similar issue before
    • The overview of your research title and topic

    Tip: A helpful piece of advice to grab the university's attention is to research the active research areas in the university and the details of the researchers involved in their work. Then, cite their top results in your research proposal; your papers will be more likely to be accepted by the university.

    Research Aim And Research Questions

    The following section after the introduction is the research aim and questions part of a PhD research proposal. Here, you define your research questions and explain their relationship with the current research work in your field.

    • The research aim refers to the purpose of your research work and highlights the importance of your research, along with shedding light on what you want to achieve.
    • The research questions should be designed to inform the readers how you will achieve your research aim and the expected outcomes.

    Both the aim and questions of your research direct your research, so they make an essential part of a research proposal. Ensure that your research questions are appropriately crafted, keeping in mind the scope of your research. These questions should not be too broad or too narrow. Too general research questions will leave you with too much information to explore, and you will probably fail to answer the real question. Too few research questions will make it challenging to write an entire PhD as there will not be many things to explore during the research.

    Placement in the Research Proposal:

    These research questions and the research aim can be included in the proposal at the end of the introduction chapter or the after the literature review section. Ensure to check the structure requirements issued by the university, if there are any.

    Literature Review

    The literature review in a Cambridge PhD research proposal should be focussed on identifying the critical literature already existing on your research topic. It does not mean just bringing the existing literature to light but critically evaluating the individual studies and theories to measure and ascertain their accuracy and relation to the current research topic. Curating relevant papers, critically assessing them, and explaining the link between your research topic and the existing literature is essential.

    To get the relevant literature, you must read the recent editions of the top journals in your field. You can access such journals from your university's library or any other relevant repository. Finding a significant literature gap and the need to fill it with your research work will add value to your proposed research, and your proposal will be more likely to be accepted by the relevant authorities.


    The primary purpose of a methodology section in a PhD research proposal is to explain how you are planning to conduct your research and the theoretical or practical approaches you will take for doing your research. It usually involves justifying and describing the participants/samples you want to use, the research models or methods you plan on adopting, and your data collection and analysis plans.

    A good methodology section explains how you will spend the 3-4 years of the research project – so it must include a detailed plan to show the same. In this part of your research proposal, you should add all the essential methodological information related to your research.

    Ethics Section in Methodology:

    You should also include an Ethics section in this part of your Cambridge PhD proposal if you think it is relevant. If you choose to have this section in your PhD proposal, you will explain how your research follows ethical standards and adheres to the UK Data Protection Act (1998). You should also check the instructions of the university you are applying to on what to include in this section.

    Expected Outcomes

    Moving towards the final parts of your PhD research proposal, you will explain the possible and expected outcomes of your research work. It will also explain the impact of your research work and the effects on your study area. Remember that you will not need to identify and include every possible or expected result in this section; just mentioning the potential results will suffice.

    If you have already identified any existing research gaps in your field of research, you should summarise the contribution and impact of your research in filling those gaps. Ensure that your evaluators know why your research work is essential and why time, resources, and money should be invested in conducting such research. You can also include the probable research risks and the methods you will employ to mitigate those risks in your PhD research proposal.


    At the end of your PhD research proposal, you may be asked to submit a timescale of when you plan to conduct and jot down your research. Usually, you will be expected to set achievable deadlines in a period of coming three years. It is not necessary to stick to this plan throughout your PhD; what is essential is to show your assessors that you have planned your research thoroughly and you are committed to completing your research project most effectively.

    Your university will not hold you accountable for not sticking to the timelines you planned in your research proposal; instead, they will assess that you are capable of individually getting done with the project and are aware of the potential challenges you may face while you work.


    The last part of a top-class Cambridge PhD proposal is a bibliography or a reference list which briefs the reader about identifying all the relevant literature for your research title. The reference list should include all the sources you cite in your PhD research proposal. If your university has issued specific departmental guidelines for this part, you must follow those guidelines while crafting the reference list/bibliography for your research proposal. It is important to note that a bibliography is usually not included in the total word count required for writing a PhD research proposal.

    How Long Does It Take to Write a Cambridge PhD Research Proposal?

    The time it takes to write a first-class Cambridge PhD proposal depends on multiple factors. Some of such factors include the following:

    • The word count
    • Deadline for submission of research proposal
    • The elaborateness of your research plan

    Generally, most applicants take 2-3 months to research, craft, edit, rewrite, and submit a strong and convincing PhD research proposal.


    After reading this article, you will be familiar with everything related to the writing process of a Cambridge PhD proposal. We have included all the relevant details in this article, and we are sure that all your questions must have been answered in this article. If anything remains, feel free to email us or hire our PhD research proposal writing service to craft an impeccable proposal for your PhD. It will relieve all the academic stress and enable you to enjoy your time while an expert works on your custom papers.


    Cambridge PhD Proposal