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PHD Help

Deciding On Your Research Proposal

The first stage in locating your particular area of study is to isolate a specific area of interest. Clearly, you will already have ideas, probably too many, but you need to separate what are just ill-defined areas of interest and what could become the basis of a research proposal. Why not discuss this with colleagues and lecturers in your field?

You may have only a very vague idea at this stage of the precise nature of your thesis proposal. Don’t let this worry you too much as in fact it is possibly better initially to be aware of several areas of your chosen topic that you might wish to pursue.

You might be too rigidly attached to an idea if you were to have a fixed proposal from the outset which will both restrict your receptiveness to nuances inferred from your reading and also prevent you from being able to accommodate changes suggested by your supervisor: be keen and focused but be constantly open to suggestions, too.

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When you are narrowing down your choices, remember that the importance of originality cannot be over emphasised.

Clearly, the proposal must show how your research will add to the body of knowledge in your specialist field. This inevitably means that what you intend to write about has not been written about before. Indeed, you will need to ensure that this is the case before your final submission by checking texts, journals and online articles continuously. (This is in many ways the most difficult part of creating a thesis.)

However, this does not mean that your thesis has to be completely unique in its entirety (though of course it might be, especially in the Sciences) it is much more often the perspective that has the claim to innovation, rather that the subject matter itself in a thesis. After all, it would be practically impossible to say anything new about some topics, especially the older, established Arts subjects. Think about it: in over four hundred years everything that could have been said about Shakespeare probably has been, so it is usually a case of ‘new light through old windows’.

Another way of being original in your proposal is to change the traditional angle of vision. Put simply, this means looking at a familiar topic in a new way. (To be a little facetious for a moment, think what a different story you get if you tell the tale of Cinderella from the point of view of an ugly sister!) Altering the point d’apuis (to give it its proper name) can often facilitate the precise originality you need to make the thesis of your research proposal sufficiently convincing to a Ph.D. research committee for them to accept your idea for further research with the correct format.

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