How to Write Your Research Proposal

A research proposal is an outline of the research project that will be the focus of your doctoral thesis. Your research proposal will be the core of your application and allows you to present your academic perspective and creativity. Successful proposals will address research questions that lie within our areas of research.

The following guidelines may be helpful in writing your proposal. However, keep in mind that a research proposal should always reflect your personal academic perspective and research interests. We appreciate being challenged by an innovative research question and approach!

First, present a concrete issue.
  • What is the issue?
  • Why have you chosen this issue, and why is it relevant?
In relation to this issue, pose a central research question. This question is the focus of your project and should be specified clearly.
  • What is the central question you aim to answer in your thesis?
  • Why is your research question relevant for the academic debate?
  • Where is the gap in literature that you intend to address?
  • What are some sub-questions or hypotheses relevant for answering your question?
Address the specific theoretical perspective that you will use in analysing your issue.
  • Why did you choose this specific theoretical perspective?
  • How does current theory help to answer your question, both in general and in particular?
Based on your theoretical foundation, detail your planned methodological approach.
  • What kind of methodology will you use and why (e.g. qualitative or quantitative analyses, single case studies, process tracing, small or large N, discourse analysis, critical theory, etc.)?
  • What are some relevant sources of information (e.g. document analysis, field research, database, interviews)?
Finally, reflect on the content.
  • What will be the main arguments of the thesis?
  • What might be the outcome of, or answers to, these arguments?
  • How will you structure your thesis, and why?

Please also enclose a timetable indicating the timing of the main steps of your project including periods for research, analysis, and writing.

Your proposal should be no longer than 5,000 words (without reference list); the quality of your text is more significant than the quantity.

Please consider that the focus of your research should relate to the research interests of at least one BTS faculty member.

Freie Universität Berlin
Logo Hertie School