How to Write a Ph.D. Proposal for English Literature

Written by steven hill
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How to Write a Ph.D. Proposal for English Literature
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If you have decided to pursue a Ph.D. degree in English, there are many programs around the world that provide the opportunity to reach your goal. Many, if not all of these programs will require you to submit a an essay-like piece of writing called a proposal. This proposal will outline to the board or committee that is reviewing prospective students what it is you intend to research in your academic career.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging


  1. 1

    Find your area of interest. If you are applying to a Ph.D. program, it is most likely that you have already completed a Masters degree at another institution. If you wrote a dissertation for your Masters degree, consider using that material as a starting point.

  2. 2

    Check proposal requirements for the program to which you are applying. Navigate to the website of your prospective Ph.D. and search for the requirements. Take note of the required length, as different institutions may desire a longer or a shorter proposal. For example, applicants to the University of Waterloo's English Ph.D. program are required to submit a 1,500 word proposal, while certain U.K. programs accept up to 3,000 words.

  3. 3

    Check the program's website to find any additional requirements peculiar to that program.

  4. 4

    Open your word processor. Set things like your font and paragraphs to conform with the requirements of the program (usually 12-point Times New Roman font, possibly double-spaced, with no additional spacing between paragraphs).

  5. 5

    State, clearly and succinctly, exactly what it is you intend to study. This first section is your thesis statement. Remember, a thesis is an argument. Take a stance on whatever it is your intend to write.

  6. 6

    Write an introduction. Here you expand upon your thesis. Be brief and to the point, while at the same time providing interesting information about your thesis. Do not attempt any tangents, as you have a limited amount of space.

  7. 7

    Write summaries for your proposed thesis chapters. Each summary provides a short outline of what it is you intend to write upon in that chapter. Use quotations from your sources when necessary, and be certain to mention any texts you intend to use for that chapter. Many English programs will want a minimum of five chapters.

  8. 8

    Write a conclusion. The conclusion for a proposal is similar to that of a regular English paper. You must summarise your thesis and its supporting arguments. In addition, you should also indicate where you intend your research to proceed after the completion of your thesis or dissertation. Doing so will demonstrate that your research is capable of being continued, rather than simply ending after you have finished writing. Place your research in the context of its field.

  9. 9

    Write a bibliography. In this section you must cite all of the materials referenced and used for your proposed dissertation. This bibliography will most likely follow the MLA format of citations, given that it is an English proposal, but double check the proposal requirements.

Tips and warnings

  • Failure to follow specified proposal guidelines as outlined by the program to which you are applying may disqualify you during the review of your work. Follow the guidelines.

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