SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

How to write your Research Proposal

The research proposal is a vital part of the application and will be studied in detail by the department’s selectors. The proposal should be around 2,000 words. It is beneficial if you have made contact with a member of the department who shares your research interests prior to the submission of your application.


This can change, but make sure to include important ‘key words’. Make sure that your title goes beyond simply describing the subject matter – it should give an indication of your approach or key questions.

Overview of the project

This should include the following sections, but is not necessarily limited to them:

  • Questions and main arguments/hypotheses: What are the main questions that you ask in your project and what do you expect the main findings to be?
  • Literature review: This provides the background and context for the research problem. It shares with the reader the results of other studies that are closely related to the project and relates it to the larger, ongoing dialogue in the field. It basically delineates the ‘jumping-off place’ for your study. How will your study refine, revise, or extend what is now known?
  • Approach: Does your study employ a particular historical approach? How is your project situated in the field in methodological and theoretical terms?
  • Sources: What are the sources you will use for answering your research questions? What are the methodological challenges in using them? Have these or similar sources been used before? What will be your specific way to employ them? How does the choice of sources frame/limit your results?
  • Your work schedule: explain how you intend to research and write your thesis within the three-year period allocated for a full-time PhD research (six years part-time), knowing that:
    • the first year (MPhil) is a preparatory year during which you will take part in seminars, and focus on the literature review and the planning of the next two years. These will make the core of your upgrade (to PhD) paper.
    • the second year is the one during which you will conduct your field research.
    • the third year is devoted to writing your thesis.


Explain how you intend to fund your PhD years, whether private funding or scholarship. If the latter, clarify whether you have one already, or have applied to one or a few (which one/s?), or intend to apply (to which one/s?).


Attach a one-page preliminary bibliography focused on what is most relevant to your specific research topic and your methodological approach.