Common mistakes to avoid in your PhD research proposal

Prior to undertaking any PhD research project, your research proposal is the first document that you submit to your university for funding purposes. Although the submitted proposal is not expected to be “perfect” in all respect, it must provide clarity on the type of research that you will undertake. Your supervisors or project funder should also learn about the scope of your research and its viability, by reading your proposal.

Listed below are some common mistakes that you can avoid when writing your PhD proposal:

  • Communicate the importance of your project with aggression.
    Most research proposals do not communicate the student’s interest in the selected subject aggressively, neither do they convey the overall importance of the research work.
  • Not more than 1,500 words long.
    Though there is no word limit, do not make your proposal more than around 1,500 words long. Ensure that your proposal should include the proposed project title, abstract, research questions, basic concepts, methodology, and the time scale of your research. Avoid overuse of jargon in your proposal.
  • The subject of your research is ambiguous.
    A common mistake in most proposals is the research subject is either not clear or specific. Your research title must focus on the specific nature of the research.
  • Failure to interest the project funder.
    Most proposed research, though important, fail to raise the interest level of the funder. Ensure that your research topic is of interest to your funder, and is able to convince them on why you are qualified to carry out this research work. Research projects that are out of scope for your overall program or require unrealistic budgets can also get rejected by the funder.
  • Lack of planned time
    Your proposal must also contain the rough timeline of how you plan to complete your research within the deadlines. Include a monthly or quarterly estimate of the tasks that you plan to complete.
  • Poor presentation
    In the case of PhD programs where there are no personal interviews, your submitted proposal is the sole document that will determine the approval or rejection of your proposed research. Submit a neat document with good presentation to reduce the risk of rejection.
    A good research proposal always evolves in its content with the progression of your research. Consider your initial submission as the first draft and be prepared to revise it, based on suggestions and comments provided by your project supervisors.

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