Advice about writing your research proposal

Advice about writing your research proposal

10 tips for writing a research proposal for the PhD in International Business and Strategy

We receive a high number of applications for the PhD programme in International Business and Strategy, we reject 90% of these. The information below will guide you as to how to make your application more successful. 

The single most important aspect of your application is your research proposal. Almost all the applications we reject are the result of an inadequate research proposal.  

  1. Please do not send us a ‘generic’ proposal. We are not interested in receiving a proposal that you have written for admission to another university, unless it fits our research interests.
  2. We like dissertations that are ‘academic’. Our aim is to train researchers who are interested in a career in academia, and are interested in academic publishing. It will give you an advantage if you have published (or tried to publish) in academic journals. We encourage our PhD students to write their dissertations as a series of publishable papers. If you want to do a PhD to enter into a business role, you should probably consider a DBA instead, which has a more practical aspect to it.
  3. Your proposal must demonstrate that you have a good understanding of the subject that you propose to research.  This means that you should have read (and cited) various core academic contributions to the relevant fields. 
  4. The International Business and Strategy unit combines a strong theoretical focus with sound empirical analysis.  We are expecting to see that you have read most of the core contributions to international business, and that you are familiar with the theoretical traditions of the fields.
  5. Examine the publications, both current and past of our staff, and try and link your research proposal to our current or past research publications. At the very minimum, it will improve the reception your proposal receives if you show that you are familiar with the themes in which our staff have worked on, both presently and in the past.
  6. Try and identify a potential supervisor by examining the published research of our staff. This will greatly enhance the possibility of your application being accepted - if your proposal fits the research interests of a specific potential supervisor.  This means demonstrating a familiarity with their research.  You may wish to send your proposal to potential supervisors for comments before submitting an application formally.  If there is nobody in our unit who has worked on a similar topic as your research proposal, we will probably reject your application.  We have limited supervision capacity, and we only accept students who work on subjects of interest to us.
  7. We are interested in seeing your ability to be analytical and critical in your analysis of the literature. This means that we are interested in students who disagree with us, as well as those who agree with our past work. We like students who extend our own work, even if it takes it in a different direction.
  8. Please ensure that your proposal is well-written, and without typos. Do not waste your time with complex colour graphics. We are mainly interested in your ability to communicate well, and to write in a clear and logical way.
  9. Always consider where you will be able to get the data for your proposed thesis. Demonstrating familiarity with publically available data sets, and secondary data sources is always impressive. If you have access to firms, private datasets or archives that will facilitate your research, please indicate this in your proposal.
  10. We take both an economics and a management perspective. This means that your proposal should ideally have a section that provides ‘managerial implications’ or ‘policy implications’ of your proposed dissertation.

We hope that you find this information useful, please get in touch if you require further information using the contact details on the right hand side of this page.