If your area of interest is not advertised in our current projects, you can apply with your own research topic. You will need to submit a full research proposal. 

A personal statement is not acceptable as a research proposal. Your personal statement should address your motivations, qualifications and experiences to justify why you are applying to complete a PhD.

Please note that the requirements for professional doctorate programmes may vary and you will need to check the individual programme requirements to see if a research proposal is required and whether you need to identify a potential supervisor: 

1. The first step is to review the PhD programme pages for specific programme structures and entry requirements

Then read the more detailed guidance below to help you develop a research proposal and find a supervisor. 


2. Write a research proposal

A research proposal is a summary of your proposed research, including an outline of the topic, what is novel about the proposed research, your main research questions, and the methods you intend to use. 

A good research proposal is one of the most important aspects of your application. This should confirm the quality of your ideas, your ability to think originally and critically, to ensure that you really have understood the depth of investigation that your doctoral research will entail, and that you have a good understanding of the key theories and relevant literature.

Your research proposal is unique to your proposed research and, therefore, must be original and written by you.

Typical structure of a research proposal - when writing your proposal, you should consider the following structure:

  1. Title/research topic - identify the subject area
  2. Background and literature review - outline previous research in the chosen area and demonstrate knowledge of the relevant literature, identifying possible gaps where you can make an original contribution to knowledge.
  3. Research Questions and objectives - Explain the aims of your research and what you intend to achieve. Include any hypotheses or research questions you intend to pursue.
  4. Data and methodology - outline the theoretical/methodological approach you intend to use and why.
  5. Data - indicate what data (if any) you plan to collect and how you will collect it including any practical considerations such as access or ethical approval. 
  6. Timetable - create a realistic timeline outlining the various stages/milestones of the project, including data collection or fieldwork, corresponding to the time available for the project (usually three years for a full-time and 4-6 years for a part-time PhD, including writing-up).
  7. Expected outcomes and impact - articulate the potential contributions to the field, practical applications, or policy implications of the research.
  8. Budget and resources - identify and justify the required resources, such as equipment, materials, and travel expenses.
  9. References - all references to academic works should be presented consistently, in a standard  and consistent format. 
  10. Appendices (if applicable) - include supplementary materials, such as survey questionnaires, interview protocols, or additional data.

You are welcome to contact one of our academics to discuss your proposed project before making an application. The research interests of all our academic staff can be found via the links available in the Find a supervisor section below.


3. Find a supervisor 

If there is a member of staff whose research interest matches your own, we recommend that you contact them directly with a copy of your research proposal and discuss it further with them before you apply. 

Please visit the appropriate College below to view the details of the staff within the department to see which one has the most relevance to your area of interest. Alternatively, visit our Expert Directory.

Please be advised that a formal decision on your application can only be made once the formal application has been submitted via the online application form.

If you are applying for the Aston Business School and have not identified a supervisor, please contact the relevant Departmental PhD Lead with your Research Proposal: 

Dr Mahmoud Elmarzouky

Economics, Finance and Entrepreneurship
Vahid Jafari-Sadeghi

Marketing and Strategy
Reza Marvi

Operations and Information Management
Victoria Uren

Work and Organisation
Kanimozhi Narayanan

Aston Law School
Simon Lee


4. Continue to follow the steps on the How to Apply page