10 Things to avoid when writing your proposal (part 1)

Your PhD proposal is an opportunity to convince your prospective university and supervisors that you are capable of successfully completing a PhD. Through the proposal you must show that you are both academically capable and have identified a research question that will allow you to make an original contribution to existing knowledge. It is crucial, then, that you make the proposal as strong as possible. The aim of this article, which will be published in two parts, is to help in that endeavour by identifying 10 things you should avoid when writing your proposal.

1. Avoid leaving your proposal to the last minute.

This is a good rule of thumb for all academic work. Give yourself enough time to make the proposal as good as possible. Things tend to take longer than you anticipate and leaving things to the last minute gives you no leeway for unexpected delays.

2. Avoid plagiarism.

As with any piece of academic writing, your proposal should be your own work and should be fully referenced.

3. Avoid an overly broad research question.

Your research question, and its justification, provide a good insight into your ability as a researcher. An overly broad question suggests both a lack of familiarity with the relevant literature and a lack of understanding of the demands of a PhD thesis. It might help to think of a research question and then narrow it down by isolating a research question within your initial question.

4. Avoid any avoidable errors.

Make your proposal as professional as possible. Proof read it carefully and correct any typographical, spelling and grammatical errors. Double check your facts and make sure you are as up-to-date as possible.

5. Avoid informal language

As a piece of academic writing you should use a formal style: avoid contractions, such as “it’s”; avoid using personal pronouns, such as “I”; avoid abbreviations; and only use acronyms if you have first written the terms out in full. For example, you should first refer to the United Nations (UN),¬†before using the UN as a shorthand.

Part two of this list will follow in a subsequent article. In the meantime, if you need assistance with your proposal, the PhD Consultancy has a wide range of experts who can provide any necessary support.